From Amazon Dream Team to Making Crypto Buying Super Simple
Understanding users and scaling your startup
Understanding users and scaling your startup can be a scientific method only if you did it scientifically. An old dictum states that one should not boil the ocean. But what if you have built a product that the whole world can use. Think of Google or Whatsapp or Facebook or products which practically the whole connected uses in some form or fashion. How would you scale that product?
If you build a product that is for everyone and market it to everyone as a startup, you are going to fail. However, if you market it to a niche, you might eventually win.
How to build scalable startups?
As the famous Y Combinator credo goes, Build Something People Want. But we believe this violates Einstein’s quote – Everything must be made simple, not simpler. We should build something People Want – this has been made simpler but the real question is – what do people want? And how to find out what people want? As Larry – The Cable Guy quips in an advertisement, America is a land that creates products that people did not even know they wanted.
The answer lies in one of the world’s most frequent ways in which startups start – when an entrepreneur has a personal problem and he or she decides to solve it. As we can see in the infographic below, most startups were started when the founder had a problem and tried to solve for it. If you are one of those founders, the question is how to scale your startup. The answer lies in understanding your users and scaling your startup thru reach outs, conversations, offers of value, etc.
Ashish Singhal is a lifelong problem-solver. Most people consider working for a high powered Jeff Bezos team as their end game, a “dream scenario”. Not the case with Ashish. For him, Amazon was just his starting point.
Having cut his teeth with Bezos team at Amazon, he went on to found Urban Tailor and eventually CoinSwitch with a vision to make Crypto buying as simple as buying groceries. While discussing his story, he gives out a lot of secrets building a user base of millions. If you know what secrets to look for, you will find them. DON'T MISS THIS EPISODE.
Here are excerpts from the Episode:
What Ashish Learnt from Hackathons!
But I learned about startup being counterintuitive through hackathons. I lost seven hackathons, one after the another, which made me realize that probably I’m not as good as I think I am. But when I look back, I realized that hackathons were not about building things. They are about ideas.Ashish Singhal 6:16
But how would you succeed at a startup is by actually solving all those pieces together.Ashish Singal 19:29
Ashish Talks About Starting UrbanTailor
I started a company called UrbanTailor. We were trying to create fit and size, you know, creating custom clothing for people. And we always thought that, oh, if I give you have clothing in your size and fit, why would you go to a readymade outlet when I can give you at the same price, the same clothing?Ashish Singhal 25:28
And when I look back into that journey, that one thing that I realized was my relatability to the problem wasn’t there, I was still wearing readymade clothes.Ashish Singhal 25:28
Thought Behind Starting CoinSwitch
We wanted to build something like make my trip for ourselves where at any given point in time, we can see which exchange has the best rate, and quickly convert through the API, and have the extra edge, which other people don’t have in the market.Ashish Singhal 35:17
So the parameter that we kept for ourselves is that the day our parents can buy cryptocurrency is the day we will tell that we have simplified and we have simplified crypto and we have solved that use case.
But after RBI ban we couldn’t innovate in India anymore. So we had to go outside, we had to do this business in 160 plus countries and grow there, you know, keeping up with being a crypto company, another set of challenges hit with the Google banning crypto ads, Facebook, banning crypto ads, Twitter, banning crypto ads.Ashish Singhal 38:07
In 2018 and 17 when we launched, trust was the biggest factor, because crypto was just picking up, right? And people didn’t know what services to trust, because people could just take away your money. And you would never know, how would a person sitting in, say, Amsterdam trust a service built in India. Right?Ashish Singhal 45:52
Amazon taught me the biggest lesson of my life, you know, understand your users, empathize with your users, users are everything. Business is secondary, your product your users are first. And that is the lesson that we keep with us. Always fighting for the user. Always trying to help themAshish Singhal 57:39
Ashish Talks About Growth
I think when people think about growth, they think about flipping a switch. Today, they are nothing today, they will do something that tomorrow they will be everything. 99% of the companies and obviously, there are exceptions, which are out there. 99% of the companies don’t grow like this, right? Even if I take our example, we didn’t grow like thisAshish Singal 1:15:17
Watch On Youtube:
Ashish on Twitter: @ashish343
Ashish on LinkedIn: Ashish Singhal – Founder & CEO – CoinSwitch
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Here’s what the word cloud for this episode looks like:
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crypto, users, people, hackathon, solve, building, amazon, problem, india, startups, started, sequoia, point, money, company, called, product, idea, tailor, journey
Krishna Jonnakadla, Ashish Singhal, Tania Jadhav
Krishna Jonnakadla 00:01
This is Maharajas of Scale, a podcast where we go behind the scenes and talk to founders who are demolishing the myths around building and scaling a big business in India. These are the stories that have shattered the assumptions around Indian consumers and of changing the game completely. I am Krishna Jonnakadla, serial entrepreneur, co founder of FLIT the fashion located in town and startup mentor, bringing you the stories. Hey everyone, rainy, gloomy cloudy afternoon, Thursday afternoon. In the month of December in Bangalore, we have a young entrepreneur amongst us today. And the funny thing is this recording is happening during a real winter, but possibly a crypto summer. And with Bitcoin again about to touch its peak of around $20,000. We are speaking to Ashish Singhal of coin switch who seems to be making big strides in that. Ashish, welcome to the show.
Ashish Singhal 00:58
Thanks, Krishna. Happy to be here.
Krishna Jonnakadla 01:01
Awesome. So Ashish, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you're working on right now. And and if you could do a little bit of intro about coin switch as well in that, that'd be great.
Ashish Singhal 01:09
Sure. Awesome. So myself actually, I come from a computer science background and engineer myself coming from NSIT Delhi, started my career with Amazon, then Livespace founded urban Tailor and then coinswitch, which is now changing the way people invest in cryptocurrencies in India. Been an hacker at heart, I've won almost every major hackathon in India, me and my team together.Being a hacker at heart is what has helped us navigate this crypto journey or any journey of entrepreneurship in our life. And happy to touch upon those points as we go on in our conversation.
Krishna Jonnakadla 01:45
Awesome. How did you how did you end up doing? or How did you end up being in the place where you are at right now?
Ashish Singhal 01:52
So I am a problem solver at heart from even my school days, right? I love to solve problems. Right? And although it may seem like a, you know, a thing that a lot of people talk about an it's it's kind of frowned upon now, but I always wanted to change the world, like coming to Steve Jobs, right? make a dent in the universe. Right. So that is what I always got fascinated by. And I always wanted to do something big, something big, not in terms of monetary or, you know, creating a big value company, but solving a problem. I was always fascinated by Google, right? How this simply changed the world entirely. Right? I was, in my early days of school, I was really fascinated how Google kind of simplified the way people find information, right. And I wanted to build in my career over time to be something like this to be involved in something like this, right. And after my graduation from computer science and society, I joined Amazon, I worked in a lot of teams there, I was lucky to be part of three Jeff B teams. So if you know if you don't know what Jeff meetings are, Jeff Bezos himself take, like 20 people out of the company, put them in a room and give them an impossible task. Right. And you have to do that task within a certain timeline. Right. And I was leading prime now was the one our delivery service was one such Jfb team, which was I was leading from India, which launched Amazon's one hour delivery service in New York, data got expanded to eight more countries, including India, in India, it's called prime now so so yeah, so that's where that problem solving is, has been throughout my life. Being an engineer, I was really fascinated by cryptocurrencies by trading Bitcoin white paper in 2014 got a little bit engaged into running Bitcoin nodes in 2015 16. And finally, in 2017, I realized my decision of you know, of simplifying cryptocurrencies in in the global world by forming coin search with my very close friends, we've been friends for 13 years, Vimal and Govind, who are obviously my hackathon partners as well. And that's where we started our journey. And, you know, that's, that's what it leads us to today. We are we are building the biggest and simplest cryptocurrency exchange in India CoinSwitch Kuber which lets you buy cryptocurrencies in a single click, as simple as ordering food online on swiggy. Right, so so yeah. So that's where we are. And this is the part that led us to this point.
Krishna Jonnakadla 04:29
Interesting. Are you an IIT grad?
Ashish Singhal 04:32
No, I am from NSIT. Delhi College of Engineering, if you know the sister college.
Krishna Jonnakadla 04:37
Right, so you said you've always been a problem solver. And the funny thing is, when I see some entrepreneurs, they demonstrate these streaks very early on in their life, right? It would be a little bit of it would be a little immodest to quote my own example, but right now I'm not getting any any other, I think in the year 1994 or 1995CK, Michael Port Gary Hamel and CK Prahlada, two well known management gurus, wrote a book called The future of competition. And in that book, there is a theory called the theory of core competence. Essentially, if you see most successful companies, they've stripped away, for instance, Steve Jobs famously, you know, the off quoted aspect is, it's in anything in strategy, the most toughest thing is to say no. And it is about the projects that you don't do that make a difference versus the projects that you actually do. And, and that is, what core competence, competence, the theory of competition, the future of competition, and when I read that book, I think I was all 14 years or something. And when I read it, it was when I read it, and I read their interviews in paper, I'm like, this is like a no brainer. It is, why do you need a whole book to understand this concept, you just can't understand it easily. And I was fascinated with enterprises and startups from a very young age, and then that streak has continued. So what part of your problem solving streak did you demonstrate when you were a youngster when you were in high school and things like that?
Ashish Singhal 06:15
Sure. So I've solved a lot of problems when I was young, when I was in school, always, you know, trying to ace exams, always trying to build things, build programs, even in schools, trying to hack my system, hack the system, right? That's always been my approach, trying to figure out what kind of questions would come in the exam, and rather, preparing from them rather than preparing the entire course, has something of that I always, and, you know, looking at those questions in the exam, I knew that, you know, I would ace it anyway, because I prepared for those questions. Right? So those kind of hacks, but what really, you know, like, like you pointed out, right, saying no to projects, is what makes you a good entrepreneur. You don't learn this lesson on day one. And if somebody tells you on day one saying no, then you would just be finding ways to say no to things, right. But when you look back in your journey, then you relate and understand where that where you are, it has, why what has led you here is by saying no, to a lot of things and say saying yes to the right things which has led you to this point, right. One such if I have to look back, obviously not in school and some in college. But what I would say has put me here today is by learning that startups are not what they seem to be, right. People believe startups are about ideas. Tomorrow, I'll wake up have an idea about iPhones, which will change the entire world. Right? And my iPhone would be used by everyone in the world. Bill Gates had an amazing idea of personal computers, which I, which now every one of us is sitting in front of a computer, right? They think that startups are like that, right? But when I look back in my, in my journey, what I have learned that startups are counterintuitive in nature, right? startups are not about idea. They are about building things, right? building things consistently and pushing through all the things that you get across, right, and how I get to this point by learning about counter intuitiveness is, again through hackathons. If you think about hackathons, you would believe that hackathons are about, about building things. a coder, getting into a room for 48 hours building an amazing code out there, right? And through my hackathon journey, I learned that there are things in life which are counterintuitive, which we don't learn in school colleges, because in school colleges, almost everything is very straightforward. There is an exam, you know that you have to study this to ace that exam. You have a company coming on campus, you know what kind of questions to prepare to, is that interview, right? But there are things in life which are counterintuitive, startups being one of them. But I learned about startup being counterintuitive through hackathons, right? And I learned through hackathons. In first year of my hackathon journey, I lost seven hackathons, one after the another, which made me realize that probably I'm not as good as I think I am. But when I look back, I realized that hackathons were not about building things. They are about ideas. They are about selling things better, making things good, but selling things better. So in an in an hackathon, you can simply say that I will build a habitat on Mars. But what you can do is sell that we can build a habitat on Mars by showing that we can build a rocket which will take us to Mars, right? startups are completely opposite. for startups to succeed. You have to actually build a habitat on Mars, to be able to building a rocket will not help you, right, getting to Mars and realizing that on the way whether Mars is the right planet, or even Venus is the right planet and figuring those things out would make you succeed at a startup, right? So to be honest, I can't point to a single point which kind of, you know, I can showcase which led me to here But there are when I look back, these are small points which I can, you know, walk through, which helped me understand startups or where I am in my journey a little better connecting the points backwards, not forwards.
Krishna Jonnakadla 10:13
Very interestingly put, I should say, and I'm glad that you're, in some sense, focusing on the execution, the building aspect of it. And, and last year, there are a couple of entrepreneurs who are wildly successful in a different sort of a sort of a business. And there was this man who's actually Indian. He's a multimillionaire entrepreneur, in direct distribution in the US, and he happens to be a friend's friend, and we sat down, and we were in general talking about startups in India, he was talking about startup scene, and he made a comment. And, and I kept telling him how in the Indian context, there is, so to a certain degree, there is so much importance attached to conceptual things. And even even today, there isn't a degree of pragmatic or reality driven thinking in in many places, we still hang on to old notions. And he said, Krishna, this is sort of endemic of what happens here. We have a lot of mysticism attached with practically everything. And it actually starts with this with the spiritual things that we have, where, you know, somebody has achieved Nirvana or whatever, whatever. And then everybody else is just following that person. And not really, actually practically exploring what it is what it means to be in Nirvana. And what it what does it take to be, you know, traverse towards Nirvana, right? And then if you see that same thing repeats in other places, and then we contrast that to other ecosystems across the world, maybe the Israeli ecosystem, and it this is not just endemic of the startup system, but it is sort of in the work culture, right. But he says, the focus is on somehow mystifying things, as opposed to being the stoic and then saying, This is exactly what's working. Let's just do it. So you're absolutely right, that there should be so much conversation about building it execution, whereas the conversation is all on the other side. Right. And it is, it is all about ideas. Ideas are important. I think it would be sort of a wrong notion to say that ideas are unimportant. But on on on any given day, a beautifully executed average idea will look 10 times more better than a badly executed or, or even an idea on paper. Right. So you're very aptly put. So I have an interesting question about the hackathon part. So in in what you said, you actually contrasted hackathons and startups as direct contrast with each other, right? a hackathon is about selling that while a startup is about...
Ashish Singhal 13:05
Krishna Jonnakadla 13:06
providing that experience.
Ashish Singhal 13:08
Krishna Jonnakadla 13:08
It's it's much more than building it, isn't it? Because, for instance, in I wrote a post on the, on our site with about MVPs, and then I quote, two very famously quoted people, Henry Ford, and then Steve Jobs when Henry Ford was asked why he doesn't do market research. He's he quipped, apparently that if I asked consumers what they were, what they wanted, they would just tell me they want faster horses. And then Steve Jobs says that in a different way. He says consumers don't know what they want until you show it to them. Right. So in some sense, startups are that because you can't just say, I'll put you on there. I'll do a colony on Mars. It This is the rocket, this is what this test drive looks like. And then you put them into that maybe zero gravity capsule, and then make them feel that until and unless you show that they cannot they cannot even fathom that. But that's a I've never heard anybody do that contrast. And you use you all of a sudden changed my own notion of what a hackathon actually stands for I was under the impression that it is sort of this compressed timeline in which you take on some seemingly impossible idea and made it look possible. Was that always the case? Or when did you change your perspective on hackathons?
Ashish Singhal 14:25
So, I started my Amazon journey in 2011, right? I always thought of myself as a good coder, right? If you throw a problem at me, I can code it out. Right? So when I see what I was doing one of the biggest hackathons of this first time in 2013, called Sequioa hack, right? And at that time, I thought, okay, I'll participate in this and I'll definitely win it right. I'm a good coder. I am smart. Why wouldn't I win it? Right? So I went in there, I went in with a great idea that okay, you know, this idea of I can implement this, this would change the world, right? So I went in there, I coded till 7am, me and my team coded till 7am. The results or the submission was at 3pm. And at that time, we realized that we didn't have enough time to code the entire right. And that's where I left that hackathon broken a bit, doubting myself a bit, whether I'm as good as I think that I am. Right. And at that point, I thought that probably I'm not good. I have to learn more, I will participate in next. And hackathons that happens that year, and try to win at least one of like, I participated in seven more hackathons. And I lost each and every one of them when I looked back. So in 2014, when I looked back, right, why did I lose? What was the difference between me and the other participants who won that hackathon, right? So I realized that, although their ideas were great, as well, but what they were showcasing was something else, right. So what they were showcasing was just a part of it, they didn't have to prove that this can to do tomorrow, become a company, if with this code, I push it tomorrow to users, this becomes a usable product, they what they were solving is an important aspect of that problem, right of that idea, rather than solving the entire idea itself, right. And that is what made judges realize, oh, if these guys have solved this, then they can realize that big idea, and now they can relate to that big idea. And think of it as a grand thing that people have solved, right? So once we realize that, I, I, you know, kind of formalized it in a in a single sentence, make something good, but sell something better, which which may sound To be honest, as like, you know, build something random and just sell it. But it was about building that rocket, right? Show them a path to reach Mars, right? You don't have to build an habitat on Mars, show them a path to the to Mars, and then tell how you will set up on Mars once you have that rocket up and running. Right. So it was about that. And from that point onwards, every hackathon that I participated on, I have won. And being Luckily, the last hackathon that I participated in, was 2015. Sequoia hack again, and that we not only won the the category price, but we won the overall hackathon, the best hack of that hackathon, right. And that's where we ended our hackathon journey, because we achieved what we wanted from that, right, a validation, as well as understanding of what hackathons are right. So this is how this is the journey on how we understood what hackathons what, and how to raise them. To be honest.
Krishna Jonnakadla 17:51
Very interesting.I think it's, it's sort of like pitch that you would do to a potential investor, isn't it? Because the the, the fundamental thing is you have this vision that you're painting. And in some sense, it's it's a bit foolhardy to think that you can at least provide a big window into that vision in just a couple of days of time that you have, right? There are some that sneak up on you. So for instance, if I've seen these financial hackathons where a bank unleashes, you know, a big amount of data, and then the bank doesn't themselves know what they want to want with it. And then they'll give you access to the data and say, What can you make out of it, and over a period of maybe 24, to 36 hours of ever teams of programmers and maybe cross functional people are looking at it. And then they look at patterns of data. And from that they form a hypothesis. So that's a different kind. But in this case, it's a different kind, you have some sort of semblance of an out contour that's provided. And then they'll tell you, okay, this is a problem we are solving. Or rather, this is the problem universe or the problem topic, on which you come up with interesting perspectives. And you have a vision for that. You provide a microcosm of an example of how that works and say, I do not have these pieces today. But this is how I will get to these pieces. And when so then what it actually demonstrates is the depth and the width to which you are able to think through and then articulate that, right. So it's sort of a masterclass in selling or even positioning that you went through right now, very aptly put.
Ashish Singhal 19:29
You rightly pointed out, it's like similar to how you pitch to an investor right on day one, your company would not have even enough resources, enough power to build the entire vision that you set out for your company, right, right needs time, patience and continual effort, right. But for an investor, what makes more sense is if you tell them, this is what we have today, this is what we have solved. These are the next few problems that we would be solving to achieve that final outcome. Right, right. And that is how you seltl them. But how would you succeed at a startup by actually solving all those pieces together.
Krishna Jonnakadla 20:03
So let's get out of the Amazon angle A bit. You were with Amazon in India, I suppose.
Ashish Singhal 20:10
So I've worked across multiple countries as well, based on projects. So I worked a little bit in Seattle as well, New York as well. But most writing I was employed in Amazon India, but traveling across to solve certain projects. Yeah.
Krishna Jonnakadla 20:25
Sure. So 2011 is way before anyone, while Amazon was known in India, and in some sense, even then it was still very much a US centric company may be vastly widely known in the US, and the Western Hemisphere more than India, so, and the Indian business had barely begun, maybe not even existent at that point. Right. So in effect, you were working on their global businesses. And that would make it you know, in some sense, a dream job for a lot of youngsters today as well, right? Not withstanding the fact that Amazon has India operations, how did you end up at Amazon? How did that happen?
Ashish Singhal 21:05
So just a college campus placement. So Amazon came in, it was obviously, the dream job. Obviously, Google, Amazon were the two places that we want to be. I couldn't go when I went through Google got rejected. Amazon was the next choice. And I luckily got through and that is how I ended up joining Amazon.
Krishna Jonnakadla 21:28
So from a dream job on to leaving the dream job, yes. Right. How did how did that happen?
Ashish Singhal 21:36
So I always wanted to learn more, do more, I could see my efforts at Amazon, being highly appreciated at Amazon as well, my managers were amazing work with some some of the most amazing folks that I could ever work with, at Amazon. And but the learning curve kind of changes, right? And you want to aspire for something more? Right? My father always say that, you know, work for yourself. And that has been that is something that since childhood, I wanted to do, right, I wanted to stand on my own feet. I don't mean to, you know, say that people who work at Amazon don't do good for themselves. But I want to see that, for me, particularly me, what was important was to solve a problem, which others are not solving, or which which I could relate to, and I would want to solve, right. And it doesn't matter what the outcome lies, probably I will learn a lot from that experience. Right. So for me that learning was the shift that I wanted. And that is the reason I ended up leaving Amazon in 2015.
Krishna Jonnakadla 22:43
Very interesting. In some sense, people would call that passion, where you have a certain passion, It is one thing to solve problems, you know, the what the what the fascinating aspect of what you said right now is I've constantly maintained that 1000s and perhaps lakhs of hundreds of 1000s of people in India, both software side and the non software side work for all these global corporations, they've never truly met the customer. And many of them are not even involved in the sales process. And any part of the sales cycle, most of them are a lot, a good chunk of them are support jobs, and everything around it. So they don't have they don't have an understanding of what are the emotional aspects of that consumer? What are the contextual cultural aspect of that customer or that consumer? And therefore, there is a great degree of distance, right? So there's absolutely no understanding, and it would be impractical to expect empathy when there is no understanding about that consumer.
Ashish Singhal 23:51
So I would I would disagree a bit here, Krishna. Okay, actually, all my customer empathy comes from Amazon. Right?
Krishna Jonnakadla 23:59
So, hold there hold it. I'm not talking about you. I'm saying largely large swaths, swaths of them. They but in in your case, you're working on a product prime now, where you had to be part of a team, you were part of a team where that customer understanding is very crucial, right? So you're at the at the bleeding edge of that product. Right? But what happens is, in most of these cases, people are not even working anywhere closer to near a customer, they have no clue how money is earned. What is the sales cycle? So what what is that what that has created is set of people that are just focused on certain outcomes. I'm perhaps, you know, I'm oversimplifying it, and I'm admitting to that, but there are a few people that actually take a step back like you and say, if this is what I could do with prime Now, the next evolution is this energizes me I want To solve a problem, which I can directly relate to, or be passionate about, and I want all my efforts to translate into extraordinary outcomes for that problem and the people that are facing that problem, right? You, you actually went a step further and said, I relate to that. And, and, and it also comes with the other side of having your own freedom and flexibility. Right. So that's interesting.
Ashish Singhal 25:28
So let me add one point here, Krishna, you pointed out very absolutely, brilliantly on, you know, solving the problem that you could relate to. and be honest, when I left Amazon, I didn't think of it right. And I made a mistake. Let me let me tell you that story, right. So after leaving Amazon, I started a company called UrbanTailor, right? We were trying to create fit and size, you know, creating custom clothing for people. And we always thought that, oh, if I give you the clothing in your size and fit, why would you go to a readymade outlet when I can give you at the same price, the same clothing? Mm hmm. At that point, and you know, we raised a lot of money, we had an amazing team out there. And we were too passionate to solve this problem. But after a year, the number of problems just kind of increased so much that we couldn't solve it. And even though we had money in the bank, we decided to take, call it off, right. And when I look back into that journey, that one thing that I realized was my relatability to the problem wasn't there, I was still wearing, you know, readymade clothes. And I wasn't too worried about, you know, custom clothes myself. Although we were smart people and some one out there would definitely solve that custom fit problem. And we could have given it more hard work and you know, more passion to solve it. But where I gave up was because my relatability to the problem kind of fell apart, right? And that's where I decided that I will not do a startup just to do a startup to build something on my own, to have flexibility and things like that, to be honest, those things, for me, at least doesn't matter at all. For me, what matters is the kind of problems that I'm working on, that I'm kind of problem even under someone that is absolutely fine. Even in a big company that is absolutely fine, as long as the scale of the problem is very high. And I can relate to that problem. So today, when we started CoinSwitch, we didn't started as a company, we started as a hack, which we built for three of us, which later became a company once we realized that the same problem which we are facing, right, so that relatability has driven us till today. And today, even after three years of this company formation, we keep on fighting with the same passion and energy because we could relate to that problem so well. Right? So your point is absolutely absolutely valid. But some people realize it a little later. Right? They don't realize it at the point of when they're making that decision. Right? They may they may make that decision, like I made a mistake. And in that maybe because of other factors. Maybe I wanted to learn how the how the different cycles work, rather than figuring out is this the right problem for me to solve? Right. So So yeah.
Krishna Jonnakadla 28:17
Very interesting. I have personally, in all the things that the the only time I have personally built something I don't know, maybe that's just my own nuances. The very first startup that I did did, which was a startup called e advocate, a case for automation software for legal firms. That was an outgrowth of my co founder whose neighbor was an attorney, and he was trying to solve that problem for him. But from everything that I've done after that, he falls into this scratch your own itch, you know, kind of a kind of a problem. In the US, I would routinely go into electronic stores. And then before I, before I had to pick up a product, there was no way I had any information, you know, is this product well rated? How many people have bought it? What are they saying? So I'm at the electronic store. And I have no such information. So the first product that I built was a review aggregation, review aggregation tool, when I could just text and this was pre smartphone, I could text the name of the product. And then the server would actually give you the crawl the web, dynamically aggregate all the reviews and give you a one page summary. Now it got completely you know, lambasted by the smartphone era because we were just about six months prior to that. And then Ever since then, I wanted to watch a lot of Indian films, and they were there was no easy way to watch them. And Mango Mobile TV that I built as a streaming platform was an out you no outgrowth of that. So what I'm working on right now is also problem that I have faced personally. But you're absolutely right somewhere in between. There was a there was a period where I went astray. And when I did that, I remember, you know, I faced a lot of confusion. I was lost for, for a certain amount of time, I was not able to articulate what is the problem I'm solving Who am I solving it for it feel felt like there was a notional set of people. We were lost for 18 months. And but at the end of 18 months, we it was in the same fashion industry. But in the, at the end of 18 months, we had absolute clarity on the model that we were working for. We had run out of energy and money, that's a different thing altogether. But so the problem relatability is an absolute.
Ashish Singhal 30:43
I call it in two ways. So either you are an empathetic, so empathetic of a person that you can relate to other people's problems, and make it your own and work on it. Or it has to be your problem. Right? For me, at least in my limited understanding of startups. Right. These are the two factors, which will drive you to build something great.
Krishna Jonnakadla 31:05
But but I think it's a combination. Akio Morita, the founder...
Ashish Singhal 31:09
Obviously, over time, you can't be solving just your problem, you have to solve a bigger use case, I'm saying when you start up when you when you do that, first, take your first step. Right, right now the two things that that matters, at least at least in my experience, yeah.
Krishna Jonnakadla 31:24
So But first, let me go back to the Urban Tailor founding moment. So you you quit. Was it immediately after you quit Amazon? Or did you take some time finding, finding your fleet...
Ashish Singhal 31:35
Actually, I took a sabbatical from Amazon for three months, four months, actually. And at that time, I was exploring a lot of things. I couldn't find the thing that so at that point, I didn't knew that I should be I should not be finding startup ideas, right? I should be finding problems to solve, right? So that was immaturity at that point, and, you know, meeting Vasu, Lavanya. from Urban Tailor, I got really excited by their vision, and you know, what they are trying to solve. And I always thought that, you know, I could contribute to that solution. And being a problem solver, that problem seemed too amazing to pass on. From, and that, you know, during that sabbatical period, I decided, you know, to take this jump.
Krishna Jonnakadla 32:21
How did you meet them?
Ashish Singhal 32:23
Through a common friend, who was again, a mentor of mine from Amazon, who introduced me who knew what I was looking for. And he corrected me to say, similar minded people. And, you know, that's how we started talking about Urban tailor.
Krishna Jonnakadla 32:38
Interesting, interesting, you know, on the urban tailor business, though, I think you did went through, you didn't you did go through an evolution, right? Initially, it was about custom fit clothes. And then eventually, it was about getting a troupe of tailors to make sure they were altered properly. They were done properly, stitch properly. And since I have you I've always wanted I've always wondered, takes take swiggy and zomato. Today, for example, while we are starting to have cloud kitchens today, which do not have a b2c component, they're not directly serving any customers and then a patrons themselves, they are manufacturing all of it, which was in some sense, what urban Tailor initially was. And then in your pivot, eventually, you started having, you know, Tailor's clothes, getting picked up, stitched, and then delivered back. I always used to wonder, given the ubiquity of so many tailors across India, to the jeans and the tailors, there is, in every normal neighborhood, with the exception of let's say, Mahadevpura, Whitefield where, you know, they are just urban jungles, they haven't allowed for any of these kind of people to spring up. So that demographic I can understand is definitely a lot of businesses have been established purely for the Whitefield, electronic city, Mahadevpura user array, and it's a niche, but once it comes out of that, in a different set of cultural factors come into play, but I've always wondered for the non non that area crowd, leveraging the local tailor would have provided the necessary impetus. Was that ever on your mind?
Ashish Singhal 34:18
We were aggregating local tailor, so we didn't had any tailor on payroll? And that was the whole process is that through software and through our basically building an engineering arm, like Uber built an engineering arm over the aggregation of cabs, right, have existed before can still exist, but through the the facilitation happens through Uber, right? That is what we wanted to build as well, right. But we got into a different set of problems that quality control becomes the major major issue in terms of making sure that quality is getting delivered across the board with the tailor that we are aggregating onward, right So that had become a major problem. And that was one of the major reasons because of which we had to, you know, move away from that problem.
Krishna Jonnakadla 35:08
Interesting. Interesting. And then you took some time to, yes. Did come out of a hackathon?
Ashish Singhal 35:17
So yeah, so we were working. So after Urban Tailor, I joined livspace. And I worked there for a year, I was always interested in cryptocurrencies. And in 2016, there was a point where it was, you know, kind of picking up, right. I've told all my friends that go buy crypto is gonna blow up and things like that. And every one of us were like, at the end of the evening, after, after, you know, working at livspace used to huddle together and try to figure out what more to buy, where to invest and things like that, right. At that point, we realized that since the price of a crypto depends on demand and supply, right there, every exchange has a different demand and supply. So the price of a crypto varies across exchanges, we wanted to build something like I make my trip for ourselves where at any given point in time, we can see which exchange has the best rate, and quickly convert through the API, right, and have the extra edge, which other people don't have in the market, right, because everyone is trying to trade and get the best deal, we would obviously get the best deal when we get the best rate to start. Right. So that was the idea that all of us, you know, kind of built together for ourselves. And then we thought that, you know, if this is our problem, I'm sure that you know, others would be facing the same issue as well. And we made it public. And within a month of our launch, we were doing a million dollars in gmv a day. Right? So with no marketing, even even today, right? Only in the last three months, we have started doing marketing. till last three months, we didn't even had a marketing team. And through our global product, we were doing over $300 million a month in gmv. And a profitable company making 10 to $15 million in revenue every year. Right before entering India. So after we entered India, our objective still remain the same, right? How do we give people the simplicity of getting into crypto crypto is too complex in itself, right? For a normal user to get into crypto is very hard, even today in India, right? So how can we give them allow them an experience which is same as Swiggy or Zomato just add to cart and checkout food is at your home, we wanted that kind of experience to allow retail users to get into crypto, just select whatever you want to buy, tell the amount. And that's it. Right. And that is what we built in India called one switch cafe. And in the last six months, we have seen amazing success in constituye. Today, we have over 800,000 users doing almost $5 million a day in gmv. And hopefully reaching 1 million users in the next 10 to 15 days. So it has been an amazing journey. All throughout, obviously, its ups and downs. But consistently, trying to solve user problems has been our mantra to reach where we are today.
Krishna Jonnakadla 38:04
So ups and downs talk about some of the ups and downs.
Ashish Singhal 38:07
So biggest down point I would say is 23rd April, when towards 2018 when RBI banned cryptocurrency. And we started officially started our company in December 2017. So just four months into the company, the ban happened. And we always thought that you know, India would be that market where we would simplify crypto. And the goal that I usually I kept for myself or my team. simplification cannot be quantified, right? Nobody can tell you when your product is simple. Simple is just a notional thing, right. Some people may say it's simple today. Some people may say no, it's still complicated, right? So the parameter that we kept for ourselves is that the day our parents can buy cryptocurrency is the day we will tell that we have simplified and we have we have simplified crypto and we have solved that use case, right? But after RBI then we couldn't innovate in India anymore. Right? So we had to go outside, we had to do this business in 160 plus countries and grow their, you know, keeping with being a crypto company, another set of challenges hit with the Google banning crypto ads, Facebook, banning crypto ads, Twitter, banning crypto ads. So a traditional startup usually grew by getting users through these networks, right? Because you are able to target very pinpoint target of your user segments, right. But we grew through other channels, through another, doing the right things doing SEO, doing organic growth, building referrals, building organic channels, which led us to our over 20 x growth in the last three years with spending $0 on marketing, right. So these were some of the challenges and some of the things that we had to do to overcome those challenges.
Krishna Jonnakadla 39:52
Interesting. So talk about that 20 x growth so that that I'm sure that's going to be a pretty fascinating thing to hear. Not every day, you know, you come across all sorts of articles. And then stories that say that talk about $0 marketing. But when you read when you click, and then when you read that there are all sorts of mythical things that they seemingly have done. But in your case, you have actually done it. So let's hear, Let's peel an orange a little bit and get in deeper.
Ashish Singhal 40:21
So, in the global market, obviously, we couldn't compete with the exchanges, which were out there if they had too much money. We were, we got, you know, funded by Sequoia. But we had limited funds. And we always wanted to build a company, which is led not by the freemium model, right, where you pay user to use your product we always wanted to solve. So we believe the day you read that the user is willing to pay for your service. At that day, you know that you have solved this problem, right? So we wanted to solve user problem and not just compete on pricing for advantage, right. So at that point, we knew that a lot of users are facing the problem. And you know, that is why our product exists. We start finding these users, where do these people exist? If they have a problem? What are they doing today, to get to a solution, three things come to mind. They're either asking their friends and family, they're either searching on Google, or they're going to forums to ask different users on solving their problems. So we started attacking these three fronts. And to solve these three, there is no growth hack or there is no hack at all right? You have to do things incrementally, you have to start building on SEO, making sure that your content repository is good enough to be helping your users. And obviously, over time, Google will start to recognize that and start to rank your articles higher and higher. Right. At one point in our journey, we were covering 40% of overall worldwide crypto queries on Google on first page, and first three links, right. So that was the extent that we went to, to get in front of our users, in terms of community building on Reddit, on telegram on WhatsApp, and making sure that whenever our users has a problem, it doesn't matter whether they have a problem, particularly where our product can help. But helping crypto users in general has become our mantra. If people are having problem in terms of understanding what private keys are, we would go there and tell them about what private keys are, help them understand crypto better. And slowly they learn about who we are, and you know, relate to the brand that become that user centric front, right, which is there to help the user you're not pushing marketing content to you. We are helping you out. If you feel that this product could be helpful to you, please use it. If you don't see that this could be useful. Please find or we'll help you find a product that can help your problem, right? We started with these approaches. And I think these work wonderfully well for us achieving that 20 x growth without marketing dollars spent. And obviously once you solve these two, you inherently solve the third one where your users becomes your brand ambassadors. And they start promoting you to their friends and family. And they that's how they get to know about right. So nothing outstanding, but doing the basics right, has put us where we are today.
Krishna Jonnakadla 43:22
Very, very beautifully put very incredibly put I have never. So right now I am I've co founded a startup called Vouch, which is essentially a digital escrow product. So for there are a lot, there's a lot of payment fraud. And the funny thing is, when you said what is the relatable problem that you have, and I had faced it and even today, I have a transaction that's going on right now going on right now, the ability to have another person protect the money and act as a buffer plays a huge role, the amount of value. And I'm seeing that it's it's a problem that I'm regularly facing, not just isolated once in, so it's a high frequency problem. And when I looked around, a lot of people have that problem, right? millions of them. But for me for us the problem is sort of very generic in nature. But when you when we contrast that with crypto, it's an identified set of people who have said they hang out in these forums, they hang out on these threats. So you know that user type that user persona, and if for example the the what are alt coins, right? What are will Bitcoin go up in value. For instance, there's so much content and question set of questions out there. They have self identified themselves, right saying, okay, here are my queries, and therefore, it provides you a rich universe of options, but it still doesn't tell you who is a potential coinswitch User right in all of these queries? Possibly there is there are one or two queries, which we, where people are asking, Hey, I see the fees on x exchange are too high. Is there some place where I can find out where is the best, or the lowest spread, so that I lose the least amount of money for when I buy crypto, or when I sell crypto, right? So in 100 queries, or maybe in 1000 queries, there are only four or five people that are asking the asking those queries, which actually makes your job a little more tougher, because there is no way you can directly find those queries, you have to answer all these 900 odd and then in the process, you will stumble upon these. Exactly. And then you get to these users. And you have to continue, I would convince is possibly the wrong word, you have to earn their trust.
Ashish Singhal 45:52
In 2018 and 17 when we launched, right, so trust was the biggest factor, because crypto was just picking up, right? And people didn't knew which services to trust, because people could just, you know, take away your money. Right? And you would never know, how would a person sitting in, say, Amsterdam trust a service built in India. Right? So creating that trust. So let me tell you a story about our trust building exercises. Well, we were three co founders. We were the first one in the crypto industry that I know of. I don't I don't want to claim it. But we were the first one to introduce live chat. Because we knew people have so many questions that nobody's answering them in crypto, why not run a live chat and talk to our users directly figure out what their problems are, what the next problem they are having, even after using coin switch. And we used to cover eight eight hour shifts among ourselves to cover all 24 hours of the day, we did it for the two months of the launch, to understand more about our users more about, you know, where they hang out what they do, what are the next set of problems we should be solving and things like that, right? And that's how the evolution of coinsearch happened over time, right? In India as well, when we launched in India, right. When in March, the RBI ban was lifted in March 2020. And we decided to look back in India, this is exactly how we thought, you know, what we need to build in India is, again, comes to the same problem which we started in 2017. How do we make it simple that our parents could buy crypto in India? Right, we started with that notion again, and launch our product coinswitch Kuber are in India on June 1st 2020. And in the six months window, we have already grown to over 800,000 users, right? Obviously, in that we have some marketing help, but most of it, almost 70% of our users are direct, organic and reference. Right.
Krishna Jonnakadla 47:46
How did that happen? How did that 70% happen? That is, Is that that there's definitely a story behind that?
Ashish Singhal 47:53
Yes. So that is to do with emotions, right? So first emotion that come to retail user while investing in crypto is the risk is whether I lose all my money or not. Right. So our idea was a little different than other companies out there. So what we wanted to do, we wanted to give kind of a notional value. Whenever a user downloads the app to a friend and through reference, we wanted to give some amount of money in his wallet right away. He hasn't invested that money onto the app. But he now is to be honest, invested in the crypto market, because he has money lying there. So you can follow the ups and downs, he starts to get to learn why it is going up, right is going down. Right? So although it was a very small money, but the kind of emotions that get attached of that user to the application, what helped him eventually convert and you know, learn about this market? Obviously, we do a lot of things in education, helping him grow. Why this crypto makes sense as an investment class, why is it so risky? What is the right word to invest in? Should you invest a big amount? We always say no, we always say invest, you know, 3 to 4% of your portfolio into a risky asset class. So guiding them through that process. And once they see that, they have some value already invested, and they see it going up and down. They could they get that curiosity to learn more, right. And that's how we were able to crack the referral part of it. Right. And that has given us a lot of growth, because people are now able to relate to it without investing themselves, they can still relate to the market and would want to learn more and more as the day goes by. Right? So that has helped me so creating those emotional connects with the user obviously simplifying the entire process, making it a one click Buy, Sell at the best rate without you know going to multiple exchanges and things like that has helped us in the product differentiation. And to be honest, even today, we don't have a direct competitor because the kind of technology we have built in two and a half years we applied that In India, and the kind of simplification we are able to do in India is nobody else is able to provide today. Right. But apart from that, I think these are the few connecting to the users emotionally. And, you know, helping them learn about this industry has helped us in our growth so far.
Krishna Jonnakadla 50:19
Fabulous, fabulous. That was fantastic. In fact, it hits so much more closer home, I can't tell you this is this, this is awesome. There is one, I, until recently, I used to work with a crypto company called switch blockchain labs, I was the global business head. And there were a couple of products that we were, we had just launched until COVID hit and a lot of things changed. But what you said is, then the discussions a mentor of mine and I, we would sit down and constantly ask us to say ask ourselves the same question, there is going to be a moment in the crypto industry where somebody is going to come along and say, This is all this key, this hash, this double ledger entry, this, all of this, they're going to take it all away. And then they're going to make it as simple as buying everyday things. That's one moment, which I think, you know, you guys are doing so, so three cheers to you. And the other aspect is the emotional side of people and users is not understood at all. The funny thing is, we live live life emotionally, and justified rationally, say that there is an old saying that goes people buy things emotionally and justified rationally. But I think we can actually say we live life emotionally, and justify it rationally and explain why it happened to us, though, the aspect that you need to understand the emotional side of users. And actually, you're not it's not a game. It's not you're not taking advantage of it or anything. You're saying, Hey, your emotions are important. We know you your emotions are important to you, your emotions are important to us as well. So when you get that equation, right, and you put a good product out there, it may not be a phenomenal product, because again, like you said, a simple product, a phenomenal product is an evolution. It's a concept, right? There may be a moment at some point in time where you said, if my parents are able to understand crypto, and then buy crypto like they do everything else then I have simplified you take take remotes today, for example. You Chromecast and then fire stick. The Fire Stick exemplifies what it means to have a streaming stick. Yeah, which parents can use. When I used to when I use Chromecast at home, my dad can't use it.And and for the world of me, I don't get it. Amazon definitely has a lot of things going so, so awesome. But the the refferal part, creating a small incentive, where you actually give them a stake in the crypto world without actually telling them, hey, that I'm actually giving you a stake. And as soon as somebody told you, I gave you that stake. And there's a funny story, Warren Buffett, when he used to give gifts to his grandchildren, and his children every year for Christmas, apparently never used to give him give them material things. He would always give them shares in companies. And these were very thoughtful, thoughtful, thoughtful companies, because these were companies that Buffett himself would invest. So what he gave his kids was the share. So the kids would look at it and say what is it? And then in some sense, he was initiating them into investing, right? It's very, very smartly done. But where does all this thinking come from Ashish? So let's so it is one thing to do all of this. But I'm more fascinated about how how where does this thinking come from?
Ashish Singhal 54:13
I think this thinking comes from so let me let me so you didn't ask one question Krishna, which I will anyway answer. Sure. Did. My parents ended up buying crypto after Kuber launch, I think within a one week of Kuber launch, they were able to buy themselves they didn't even tell me and they bought their first crypto,
Krishna Jonnakadla 54:35
You know, because I'm still under the assumption that that moment is not yet upon us.
Ashish Singhal 54:39
That that has happened to me. That was a very, very big moment for me, to be honest. Okay, then that kind of resonated a lot with me and pushed me to solve more problems in India. Right and probably that is one of the major reasons that we are doing so well is because we keep on pushing we keep on understanding our Users more and more, and try to solve their problems each day. Right? Coming back to your question. So if you might, if you don't mind repeating it once again.
Krishna Jonnakadla 55:12
My question was, It is one thing to implement all of these, or even. Because, see, I recently kicked off a column, which haven't which we haven't done justice to which I call The One K Column. So the first 1000 customers, those are very tender moments right in, in the world of humans, especially with babies. There is a it's not actually a disease, there is something called as a sudden infant death syndrome. And the funny thing is, the way it happens is you put the baby to sleep, you wrap the baby, and you go about doing your work. And somewhere along the, you know, some somewhere along the way, the baby will wake up, and it is wriggling trying to wriggle out of the wrap tie trap. And if the wrap is in, this is not just a cause of the wrapping loose, the baby will turn over. And because they don't yet have strength in their arms and legs, they'll die of suffocation, because the bed is possibly obstructing their nose, and they're not even aware of it. So in the world of startups, there is a sudden startup Death Syndrome. And that sudden start startup death is they don't they don't even know that they're, they need to do all these things. So they're unaware. So it is one thing to be doing it unconsciously and a totally different thing to be doing it consciously. In your case, something tells me that you are doing it consciously. And therefore, my question is, where did all of this knowledge come from? And it is your are a rarity amongst startups that I have seen. Because you started in 2017. By 2020, you have hit that big goal of getting your parents to buy crypto, you've simplified it. You have survived the Indian crypto ban, you have gone on to 800,000 users, you become profitable. You've gotten you've been funded by Sequoia. And that's all in the span of three years. That's a lot of progress. And I don't see that and that comes from it didn't happen by accident, for sure. It didn't happen because you are in crypto and crypto. Oh, everybody is in crypto, it didn't happen because of that it became because you personally, you personally have the three of you and your startup, you have a certain approach, you have an outlook. And when you follow that you're going to get there. Is that the case? And how did you develop that outlook?
Ashish Singhal 57:39
Sure. So I think that comes from Amazon. So that is where I was disagreeing to your point that Amazon didn't. Amazon taught me the biggest lesson of my life, you know, understand your users, empathize with your users, right? users are everything, right? business is secondary, your product your users are first, right. And that is the lesson that we keep with us. Always fighting for the user, right? Always trying to help them. It's not about pushing a product on them. It's about understanding their needs and solving that problem. And once you keep on solving user problem, you will succeed. There is no one who can stop you in doing that.
Krishna Jonnakadla 58:20
But let me go one level deeper. Ashish, the fact that you should be user centric, and you should focus on users is at one level. Yeah, I actually am I went to the next level, which is about understanding users emotions, take any product, a lot of products today, are still positioned and communicated and sold rationally. Yeah. So the most famous example I can give is take the iPod, right? While everybody gives credit to Steve Jobs for that, but I'm sure it's some clever marketing company that came came up with it. And the funny thing is, even after the iPod did that nobody seemed to change their track. So SanDisk and all of them said, 512 MB or two GB, three GB, whereas Apple kept saying 3000 songs, 4000 songs, 5000 songs. So that's that is user centricity. Right? So user doesn't think in terms of GB, I'd have no clue what GB actually means. But I actually know how many songs if I have 10 series, I know I need my iPod needs to at least hold 200 songs. Right? So but then again, 10,000 songs that fit in your pocket? Yes, that is a play on emotion and simplicity. in it. It goes beyond Yes, it's a nuance and understanding users. So my question is, you see that you you just went over like an aeroplane, you know flies over an entire city. You said we did this. We gave them a small investment in the crypto space and you actually gave them a stake And you play you, you focused on emotions, you did a bunch of things. So my question is, it cannot just be Amazon that's too simple an answer, I'm unwilling to take it as an answer.
Ashish Singhal 1:00:11
I again, that is not. So that is another property of Amazon, which Amazon has taught, right? Okay is hire people who are better than you. Okay? So always raise the bar, if you're hiring a person, then that person should be better than 50% of the people who are currently in the company. So your bar always goes up, right. And then smart people work together, they come up with smart ideas, right? I'm the first member of the team. So that's why I'm the dumbest guy in the team.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:00:43
I disagree with that. But we'll we'll we'll go on.
Ashish Singhal 1:00:45
So my team is, is one of the best teams, right? Obviously, I'm biased, but the kind of vigor that my team has of not giving up is something that I really, really appreciate, right, of, of figuring out fighting for the users, right, and having the same DNA that we have, right. And I think that is, is that is why we always love to fight these battles, right. Because there are people around us we learn everyday, they learn. And, you know, we together come up with these solutions and these ideas and implement these ideas. And, and you just know about the ideas, which of which are, which are kind of succeeded, right. But I haven't told you about the 99 ideas, which we worked on that failed, right? It's consistently trying to make sure that you do better, is what makes us or, you know, what has kept us going and what how we have reached so far is my team. It has nothing to do with who I am who my co founders are, right? It's absolutely my team. And the hard work the the kind of, you know, never give up attitude that they have. And obviously, they are smart people, right? So. So that is another thing that I've learned from Amazon, that when you are around great people, good things will happen. Right? So you will fail in a lot of things. But you don't have to succeed in everything. You just have to succeed in a few things, right. But as long as you keep on pushing, you keep on churning out hundreds and hundreds of ideas, some of them will succeed. Right? So this is this is just the outcome of Amazon's learnings only, but a little different outcome. And all credit goes to my team. Right? I am just there to, you know, take interviews and talk about concepts, but they are the ones who are actually getting things done.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:02:35
Interesting, I, I can't put a finger on that feeling. It's so relatable. Because I when we talk with our team members, internally, I keep telling them, I see my role as a servant leader, I do not believe in the fact that I have all the ideas. And you know, it should be an order taking universe where I'm coming up with all the ideas, and you're the ones that are implementing it. And each of us have to add value to each other and make it and all I'm responsible for is to create an environment where all of us can just, you know, put on our best show. Right? So it's you are in effect saying somewhat the same things, though, let's talk about the founding team. For a moment, you you you give us a little bit of an inkling that you've known each other for other college buddies?
Ashish Singhal 1:03:26
Yeah, so Govind and I were, we met at our NSIT counseling on day one of our college. We've been friends from ever since we both from computer science, same class, same batch, same hostel. Vimal is a friend of a friend of one of my best friend from my school. So the middle is his college mate. So ultimately, we ended up all in the nearby colleges, me and Govind in the same college,Vimal in the next college. And we kind of knew work together, kind of kind of our thinking always matches, right? It's about solving the problem. And you know, our our joy comes not because of making it big monetarily or things like that. But it comes from seeing smile on your user's face, right? And that's what drives us day in day out. Right. So we have known each other for 13 years, being hackathon buddies for years now. And you know, have started this together because this was our own problem. And we were ourselves solving our own problem. And obviously, Govind comes from Amazon, as well. He, like me, he joined Amazon right after college. He was, you know, head of their authorization team, which handles over 250 million user credential data security, so that he's a security expert and thats why Coinswitch is such a secure platform. And the Vimal comes from Zynga leading Farmville two which is one of the largest social game. So the all the engagement ideas that you think from Coinswitch comes from him, right? Because he's our engagement expert. Right? So we all come from different backgrounds, but with the same attitude. Right? So that's what has always kept us together and keeps kept us moving forward.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:05:12
Very interesting. Very interesting. This has been very fascinating. And I usually ask this at the very beginning, and you answered it, in some sense, solving a problem which fascinated you. Have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur?
Ashish Singhal 1:05:29
To be honest, I didn't knew that it. It's called entrepreneurship. To be honest, I always wanted to solve a problem and solve a big problem, right? either be part of it, I am totally fine being a part of the machine, which solves a bigger problem, but ultimately solve a big problem, which, which I could feel proud about, right? I didn't, I didn't knew at that time that starting your company gives you that feeling right. So I didn't know whether I wanted to start a company. But once I started the company, I get that feeling every single day. Right? And that what keeps me going.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:06:04
You make it sound so easy. See, I always long looked at people who who make difficult things look easy, you know, they're there. In some sense. It's like artists, they're just fiddling away. And then, you know, amazing music comes out of that, or, you know, their fingers just seem to be traversing the keys, and then you hear great music. And but it's an evolution. You don't get that in get there in a day. But it's in some sense, the journey you had with prime now. And then eventually, what happened with urban Tailor. So the best is yet to come, I suppose. Right? Let's touch upon the funding journey a little bit. You've had two startups that have both been funded. Talk about the funding journey in both of them.
Ashish Singhal 1:06:53
Sure. So Urban Tailor was was funded by a few of the great myntra guys who came on early, before even the company was founded. We had money in the bank to run those experiments. And we got our seed from USF. And, you know, again, I didn't think we did justice because we couldn't solve the problem. But we tried our best in solving that.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:07:18
Was there somebody that knew the connects with the with the myntra guys as a result of which the money came in?
Ashish Singhal 1:07:23
Vasu and Lavanya both comes from Myntra. And that is the reason. Raveen, who was a co founder of myntra already knew them very well. And yeah, you know. Yeah. So funded us with Ravin and Sanjay. Right? So you would know Sanjay as well. So Ravin and Sanjay both funded us before we even started. Right. And USF, obviously, we didn't do them right away, but have had connects from friends. And who could connect us to, you know, what their mission was, was aligned to what we are trying to solve, which is creating impact in in people's life, right. So it's the impact of in front. So that's where our synergies kind of lead and, you know, we started working with them. With Sequoia. And although I don't disclose a lot of funding details about Coinsearch, but Sequoia was our early backers. So we formed our company, officially on 13, December, on 23rd December, we had a term sheet from Sequoia. And that just because they liked us, they didn't knew crypto, they didn't knew anything about crypto, and they just felt like that, you know, you are the guys that we could trust to learn from. So they just give us the money at that point. But even after raising the funds, like I said, right, we never wanted to build a product, which is driven by money, but which is driven by user actually paying for solving his problem, right? So we always ran after profitability. Sequoia's money still lies in our bank account, which is a reminder of that funding and that support from them. And they've been an amazing partners. And it's not just about money. It's about helping us navigate these difficult waters. Shailesh who is the partner, MD at Sequoia has been an amazing, amazing guide, all three years and helping us reach where we are today and hopefully go much, much beyond from where we are from today. We have some other funding news, which would hopefully come out very soon, and I'll be able to share and shed light on it. Then, but yeah, so this has been our journey so far.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:09:38
Awesome. Did Was there somebody that made an intro to Sequoia How did that connection happen?
Ashish Singhal 1:09:44
So that was great. And I got to I got to know about it just recently, to be honest, who made the intro? So Kunal Shah actually was a yc partner and at that time we applied to yc and got selected So Kunal mentioned to sequoias partner that you know, there is a company was doing something in crypto, why don't you talk to them. And they ultimately we were working at Livspace at that point, they ultimately connected someone at Livspace, and that Livspace guy knew us. And that's how this connection happened. So thanks Kunal for making the intro. And I just got to know about it, I think two months back now when I was talking to Kunal, so So yeah.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:10:28
So what's in store for CoinSwitch, which now that some of the some of the key initial goals have been met? You made it simple you, obviously there is much distance to go. And there are millions and billions of people interested in the crypto world. And obviously, that's definitely you know, where you're headed. But in terms of your next few years, where is it headed?
Ashish Singhal 1:10:53
So CoinSwitch` started as a crypto company, because obviously at heart, we were all crypto lovers. But during our journey, we have realized one bigger problem that we wanted to solve. Right. And that problem is, I don't know if you would be able to relate to it. But the The problem is that when you have money, when you are an action, I say, right. Everyone wants to, you know, help you grow your money, you have a lot of avenues out there, you can go to Goldman Sachs, banks, give out your money to help you grow your money, right. But for retail users, there aren't any avenues, retail users first has to work hard to earn his money, then he has to work equally harder to grow his money as well. Right. So if coin switch can simplify the way people do investments, and can help them in this entire process, not becoming an expert in every field would be necessary for retail users. But can we give them data driven insights from the platform to help them make better and faster decisions into their investment journey is ultimately the goal of the company, right? Making money work for itself, rather than retail user working equally hard to grow their money, right. And that's why you know, we started with crypto very soon, we are diversifying into different asset classes as well. Helping users create a comprehensive portfolio, giving them opportunities across markets, which so I usually equate ourselves with how Robinhood kind of revolutionized the way investment is done in the US. If we could achieve even 1% of that in India, I think we would have done our job. Right? So that is where we want to reach simplify investments. I mean, not just the main crypto platform.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:12:42
Amazing, amazing, I'm, I'm sure the same simplicity of those that you have brought to CoinSwitch today It remains things are changing zerodha and a whole host of other people have at least started knocking on the doors of democratizing investing in India. And they've started putting together if if if, and not a day passes by, as not hearing about Zerodha, or Nithin, who was actually our, our, our, you know, the speaker on our first episode,a fabulous guy. And but even today, for instance, if we take the whole Warren Buffett's notion that when you actually buy a share, you're actually buying a piece of the business. Right? And, and it is very, it's not even counter intuitive. It is it is a very simple notion, people, when normal people, even retail investors make an investment when they make a fixed deposit. The funny thing about a fixed deposit is it's got a number on it, which says, You know, I pay 6% or 7%. But the fixed deposit is not a share in the bank. It just happens to be an instrument with a earning rate on top of it. But when it comes to a share, there is no interest rate on top of it, people still do a comparison. And instead of understanding the business and the intricacies of it, they go into charts and analysis which works at a different level, which doesn't work for the retail investor, right? So a quant driven one which is possibly betting on million shares here million shares there and a half split Penny leverage that will just drive a $2 million profit on that particular trade works for someone else. It doesn't necessarily work for you. So but you you have to think about this in a totally different way. And it's a fabulous goal to have. So it's been a fascinating conversation conversation. Ashish, I never saw an hour and a half passed by. You covered a great aspects on growing the basics of it. And I'm glad when we in the pre brief we discussed about not focusing on growth hacks and but rather the process of getting there and I think you did full justice to it. So I know there will be greater peaks that you will scale in coin switch, and we will come back to you and then have that conversation again to see what that vantage point looks like. Two words from you, for budding entrepreneurs and people who are struggling with growth right now.
Ashish Singhal 1:15:17
I think when people think about growth, they think about flipping a switch, right? Today, they are nothing today, they will do something that tomorrow they will be everything, right 99% of the companies and obviously, there are exceptions, which are out there. 99% of the companies don't grow like this, right? Even if I take our example, we didn't grow like this, we would, for the first six months, we were trying to find that hack. The hackers we are, but we couldn't find it. But once we look back, right, every idea that we implemented, keeps us incrementally pushing forward. Right. And when you look back that you then you can see that 20 x 100 x graph, right. But it's very unlikely that you would stumble upon an idea which would make your company go simply viral. Right. So my suggestion is not to stop looking for that viral movement. But start appreciating the smaller jumps that you see and start working on incremental growth. 5% monthly growth is good enough to make you a billion dollar company. Right? But how do you achieve that 5% growth becomes challenging as well. Right? So instead of just focusing on how do I grow to 200-300% a month, start focusing on smaller and achievable targets is something that could keep you pushing and you know, keep you giving, keeping you, you know, involved and keep on solving that problem.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:16:50
Very well put very well put. Reasonable growth for an extended period of time, done in a consistent manner, will look like extraordinary growth, when the outcome is actually achieved. Yeah. And then that that works very well for the world of investing as well. So we wish you the very best, and I know coinswitch which will change will change the face of crypto very soon as well.
Ashish Singhal 1:17:15
Thanks. Thanks a lot. Bye.
Tania Jadhav 1:17:18 We hope you enjoyed this story. If this story made a difference to you, tell us, by leaving the comment on the website or our social media channels. help us spread the love by subscribing, liking and sharing our show. We welcome speaker suggestions and collaboration. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org