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people, customers, startup, problem, app, product, company, solve, market, founder, apple, bigger, business, thinking, idea, year, india, build, funding, team
Sunil Patro, Krishna Jonnakadla, 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 profession located in town and startup mentor, bringing you the stories. Hey, everyone, this is your host Krishna from Maharajas of Scale. Today, I have the privilege and pleasure of hosting someone who's done a phenomenal job of growing a startup. And his it is Sunil Patro of SignEasy. And when you hear the story, you'll understand what a fabulous job he has done. Growing get in the weeds in a silent manner focused on doing the right thing, building the product getting customers SignEasy is a platform where you can send documents between each other for electronic signatures. And the last time you had frustration where somebody said, okay, sign this scan and send it to me either as a PDF or fax it to me. That's where and if you had a moment of frustration right there, that's the problem that SignEasy solves. So Sunil, welcome to the show.
Sunil Patro 01:25
Hey, Krishna, thanks for having me here and excited to be having this conversation today.
Krishna Jonnakadla 01:31
Wonderful. Where in the world are you today?
Sunil Patro 01:35
I am in North America.
Krishna Jonnakadla 01:39
Okay, any, any particular location in North America?
Sunil Patro 01:43
Right now I'm based in Mexico City, but I actually work out of Dallas.
Krishna Jonnakadla 01:50
That's fantastic. I think this is the first time we have someone who's going to be joining in from Mexico City. That's awesome. I've visited that city. I think it belies expectations is huge. Even most Indians who've seen cities like Delhi and Mumbai, who visit Mexico City will acknowledge that it's gargantuan in size. And you and when you fly in a really you will the city just seems never it never ended.
Sunil Patro 02:17
Yeah. Yeah, for sure. It's like Bombay or New York. Seems infinite. It seems. It has the feeling of the hustle and bustle and the diversity of the rights.
Krishna Jonnakadla 02:30
Right. Right. Awesome. So tell us a little bit about yourself and what you're working on right now.
Sunil Patro 02:39
Okay, so a little bit about myself. I am originally from Odisha, which is the Eastern State in India, I grew up in Odisha for most of the times, then did my Under Graduation from IIT Kharagpur, then went to do my master's at Purdue University in the US, right after that worked for some of the biggest software companies in the world. And then after, I guess, close to seven years, or six years, quickly realized that I need to work in a startup, just be closer to customers and project innovation. And work for a company called top box in the video, collaborate video conferencing space at the time after work for another one or two startups. And then yeah, then then decided to build on my own idea. And that is what I'm working on since for the last 10 years. It's SignEasy.
Krishna Jonnakadla 03:47
Interesting. Talk to us about those initial days. You said you were working for these technology companies, where was it all? Was it in India or was it in the US?
Sunil Patro 03:59
Now, this is a most of my professional experience has been in the US. This is for companies like Microsoft Juniper Networks talkbox and tweli. No, in it. I did work for an Indian company called clear trip and as all of you know, clear trip, but that was you know, once I moved back to India, after my professionals trained in the US.
Krishna Jonnakadla 04:24
Interesting, and this was supposed the.com bust time I'm thinking?
Sunil Patro 04:31
Yeah, yeah, like I said around in 2000 to 2003.
Krishna Jonnakadla 04:35
Sunil Patro 04:36
When, right after my masters in the US joined Microsoft as a software developer in their in their windows messengers last office communicator, which is today now now it's kind of evolved into ms teams, Microsoft Teams and Alright, that is on the first enterprise focused messaging and communication products.
Krishna Jonnakadla 05:04
Was this in Palo Alto or Silicon Valley or Seattle? Seattle?
Sunil Patro 05:08
Seattle. Yes, yeah. Okay. So when did the startup bug actually hit you? You mentioned at some point in time, you wanted to work for startups? And Was this your desire to work for startups or be an entrepreneur? Or both? No,Yyeah, I think it was, it was mostly around a desire to, to work on an early stage product, which is innovative, right. So after, after five years of working in large software companies, and had moved down to the Bay Area, at the time in 2006, and seven, and being surrounded by so many other startups and looking at the dust plus they are making in terms of no new ideas, disrupting existing market. So status quo pain points, you can start, you know, realizing, hey, if you want to make a bigger impact, but in a smaller team, and also work on lot more New Age problems, which can be more challenging, the solution doesn't exist, maybe you would have just more fun, right. And I felt that's also another way to get closer to the customers. because it'd be companies you work on. projects and ideas for sometimes you don't hear the feedback from the customer directly, you have to rely on other functions to tell you that feedback when your startup being 20 member, or maybe 3050 member team, everybody knows pretty much everything that's going on, right on marketing side, customer side, product side, business side. So that was mainly one of my desires, desire, or curiosity, right, I would like to be lot more involved in the customer success, and also in the business success, the success of the business and I'm working for. So I didn't start up was it was a way to experience that not working in working in a startup, right? I don't think I ever thought I would be starting a company anytime soon at that time.
Krishna Jonnakadla 07:12
And you will, but you are still leaving the safe confines of a larger company and going into a startup that sometimes scares some people because you established a certain lifestyle. Like they say, a lot of people talk about how hedge fund traders and investment bankers in Wall Street make millions of dollars of money. But every year, which most people only make in a lifetime, but then you start looking at how they have actually jacked up their whole lifestyle to actually pay for all of the money that they're making on an annual basis, they keep very little of it. And the prospect of actually going to work somewhere else terrifies them, because that means they have to give up all the perks that they've been enjoying. But at that time, did something of that sort as a smaller version of that play out in your mind at all.
Sunil Patro 08:02
I think to some extent, you know, I was I had only worked for other company for five years, right? So it was not like I was making a huge salary, like, you know, nowadays, the way most funded companies pay you, right? At least instead of employees in those days, startup price would probably would take like maybe 20 to 30, or maybe up to 40% of a drop in market salary compared to bigger companies or established public companies are working for. So I wouldn't know, I wouldn't say I had I was I had my living costs already jacked up so much that I would I would have to compromise a lot if I worked in a startup. But I do remember I did take a 20-30% of our pay card but again, that's for the your exchange your trading of learning and fun for a little bit of less money, right? But in the longer run, if the startup does well, you have equity or the startup does well and you are responsible for critically responsible for making a big portion of that impact. Then usually startup reward you with with more salaries, more equity down the road, right. And you can take the same experience and later on go to a bigger company or a larger company and you know, make up for whatever you had less in terms of salary. So I always took a long term view on that. But also I don't live a very luxurious lifestyle, you know, you can have wealth, but not necessarily with live a rich lifestyle with a rich lifestyle requires expenses. But having wealth is more about peace of mind, right? And also thinking about you know, what can you do with that wealth instead of just splurging it? Maybe you want to you know invest or maybe you want to open businesses or you want to start my DS or do maybe charity a bit right. So that's Think about wealth and and not necessarily about, you know, living a super rich lifestyle.
Krishna Jonnakadla 10:06
Having the long view the 15 year, it's very rare for someone to think, take a 15 year view or 20 year view on things and then expect that it will work out. But if you do look back, you will see that most people when they've taken that, and if the foundation values are right, it actually does play out eventually. Right? short of a catastrophe happening on the planet. But whatever you're working on does work out. And then so topbox. So I suppose this was around the same time, Eric Yuan was working for Cisco and then dreaming up this Zoom product.
Sunil Patro 10:41
Krishna Jonnakadla 10:42
Two separate people working for web conferencing. Yeah.
Sunil Patro 10:45
Yeah, I think we were fewers. Yeah. 2008 is when I joined talkbox. It was funded by Sequoia Capital and Bain Capital. And they were one of the first to to imagine, in no download, no installed version of video conferencing, right? You just go to the website, log in, and you open up a two party or a multi party, live video conferencing. Right. So those are really on the first place in that space. But we were probably a bit too early in terms of maturity, the technology, and our live streaming library call it technology to be to be, you know, super good in terms of, you know, quality, right, high resolution, less latency, low, like high echo cancellation from a noise reduction perspective. But yeah, I mean, I worked there for close to a year and I saw what it feels like to work in a fast paced, yet chaotic, right. But still have the fun because you're just you know, day in and out you are solving new problems, almost a new problem every day and scrambling for resources thinking creatively to work in a small team, but look at big problems and have big ambitions. And I think 2011 2012 is when I think Eric from x WebEx, WebEx Cisco days, he was probably working on zoom. I can't be for sure. But yeah, people usually think about similar problems in a similar, you know, horizon or time frame. Right? You're thinking about something most likely in the world, there's a high likelihood somebody else is also thinking about solving the same problem.
Krishna Jonnakadla 12:31
True. True, I totally agree with that. There is a fair chance another three or four teams are attempting the same problem. And it all depends on how resourceful how much of a hustle they have, and also the context around them that will help them win.
Sunil Patro 12:46
Yeah, and I will say one thing, right when startups are usually tenure, or at least at least 10 year journeys, right to get to a meaningful scale. For you to define it as a success, right? Not just taking funding as a success, but actually having customers and having a good product out there, which can last sustainably for long term, I really feel sort of solid. And I just picked up the size, right or ambition, they are marathons with a lot of Sprint's in between, right? So even the few even though few teams might be working, you know, they may be better than you in terms of talent. But whoever takes a longer view, you know, if you could, if you have more stamina, and which which, which can give you more perseverance, and more patience to actually think as long as possible in terms of your horizon, right, you would end up at least you end up making your chances to be successful in your own definition, right, without worrying a lot about, you know, who else is solving how big they are? And what is their internal definition of success writing within a timeframe? If your timeframe is infinite, then you can keep going at it.
Krishna Jonnakadla 14:04
Right, right. Amazing. I think you touched upon so many crucial concepts. But I'll pick on a couple you touched upon a couple of minutes ago. One is the concept of making a big impact. And being able to see that you had such a big role to play in that impact. That's one, which is what you which is what happens at startups. The second one is the fact that you are solving so many problems on a daily basis. For most people, every product looks very simple. But there's a great deal of architecting that has happened to the backend. But if we start feeling that there are so many every high level problem has a hierarchy of low level problems that it is creating in operations in technology, in pricing in finances. So for someone who is excited about being at the cutting edge of things, startups are definitely the great place to be there's no doubt about But what the interesting aspect is that impact part, which I don't think is widely not understood. A lot of people, especially in the indian indian case, a lot of people work remote. And they work on products, once they're established, they are mature, because there is always a fear that if once a remote team comes in supporting it, what is the customer miss out that but it also creates a situation whereby they very rarely meet with the customer, they don't understand the cultural context in which the customer is actually living or going through. So that creates its own set of advantages and disadvantages. But if those people want to cut their teeth on products, the best place is to work on a startup. Right. So amazing. So let's, so then top box and and then how did signeasy coming coming to play?
Sunil Patro 15:57
Yeah, by the way, I think I'm not sure if I'm hearing You're right. It's topbox. t o. k. talk box.
Krishna Jonnakadla 16:04
TOK Box. Oh, yeah. Yes, I know. talk box. Okay. I was I was hearing it as top box because I know talk box. Because for mango mobile TV. It existed in the two year 2011-12 as well, isn't it?
Sunil Patro 16:20
Yeah, it still exists. It has been acquired. But the fundamental I think they have become an API platform to embed live video conferencing into other solutions. In fact, I don't even Riverside is using talk Bach, I don't know, the tool that you're using for right recording this podcast. Right, right. Right. These are the these are the applications that can be built. On top of their technology now is the developer platform mostly? Right? Right. This is this shifted from being a SaaS product, developer product?
Krishna Jonnakadla 16:50
Well, I remember top box very well, because we had integrated top box into our application at that time, those were the days where you could launch apps on Facebook. And we had a particular use case where before a film is released, we would get the actor who was in the film actually come out and then talk to his audience. And yeah, the best way to do that was through talkbox. Yeah, okay. Yeah. And so I know, that amazing product, and the ease with which we could integrate it into both our web application as well as the Facebook application was something and the beauty was, it was highly affordable, which is what even enabled us to integrate and offer such high quality service at that time.
Sunil Patro 17:37
I'm glad to know that I could make I could make some impact in whatever way in early stages on your own product. It's up to
Krishna Jonnakadla 17:46
Go figure. I didn't know your magic hand was in it.
Sunil Patro 17:50
Krishna Jonnakadla 17:52
And then, so then how did SignEasy happen?
Sunil Patro 17:56
So right after working at up top box, I, I saw what excitement is about, realized what the fun is about. Then I thought, what if I could scratch my own problem and come up with a solution, right? So I've been an engineer for a long time, almost seven, eight years by the time and I felt I could probably have a bigger impact. Now even more bigger on impact, there may be more meaning, right, more meaning and more purpose. If I solve a problem that is very close to me, either myself or my friends, or people that I know, if they experience a problem, then I would like to solve it. Right. So looking for an idea like that, you know, I participated in a couple of hackathons. This is the time 2009, when iPhone had just come out, iOS SDK was out for developers to you know, build more apps or solve more mobile centric problems, right. And so I built an app called Quick Hindi to to translate to translate from English to from English to Hindi right now, just as an experiment, right? This is before Duolingo. And all the other apps became more popular for launch that quick. And they also launched with a small team called an app called lift with the name l i f t. Right, not the lift that we know and why FT. But la FC, but the idea was to open your phone and get a cab or get a taxi order, right? So so these are some of the ideas that I either played with, or I launched an app with a small team just hackathon teams, but they didn't go go too far because we didn't have a solid team who are passionate to you know, invest their time in our in a more committed manner. Right. So but that Give me the exposure, what does it feel to take an idea from a captain or from a piece of paper write like a napkin paper, and then and then build a prototype per se. And I was just waiting, I was just waiting for another big problem to come to my attention. And that happened in a place I could have never thought of right. After I left talkbox, I was interviewed at another company, the Bay Area startup based in Palo Alto. And while I was waiting to hear about any potential job offer from them, I took a small vacation in Mexico, where the and this is in Cancun near Cancun in the, in the Riviera Maya region of Mexico. And while I was there, I suddenly heard the news from them over email here, they would like to, you know, offer me the job. And they wanted me to sign the offer letter and send it as soon as possible. And that's what I hear I was just having a vacation in a remote town, which down there, and it took me a few hours to scramble for a printer, print those pages out, sign it, then figure out a way to scan or fax it back. And just, you know, felt like a very, you know, a lot of pain felt like a lot of inconvenience. Of course, you know, for a little thing to where you want to just sign and send something back. Specifically when when you have smartphones like iPhone in those days, I felt this could be done in a much easier way. Right. And that led to the idea of a mobile app at that time. What if any consumer or a user can simply upload an attachment from their email to an app, and then sign using their finger on a touchscreen device, then insert the signature, put your put your name and date and send it back, right. So none of the earliest version that I could conceptualize at the time. And that idea kind of stuck, stuck in me for another six months, even though I went ahead and joined other startup jobs. This idea was always in my, in my mind in the nights and weekends. And at some point, I just couldn't wait any further and decided to use my iPhone development experience to start prototyping the app. And once I saw some technical feasibility of it, I became more and more confident that yes, we could build an app, this would be actually useful at that time. For many more people like myself, whether you are a business traveler or executive, or you're just a consumer, you don't want to sign an offer letter or want to sign a loan application or maybe a lease rental lease, whatever it is that you sign as a consumer, this would be cool up to do cool up to us. So after around, after around, maybe eight months of working in the startup, I decided no, this is what I want to do. Take a chance, take a chance and see where it goes. And that's how I started working full time on the on the idea of a mobile app to sign and send documents on the go.
Krishna Jonnakadla 23:28
We'll jump into this. But let's go back to the other two ideas that you worked on. One is the Quick Hindi. And for for those listeners, perhaps you and I, we were there. It was not unheard of. We used to see Rosetta Stone advertisements everywhere you get off the plane, you see all these translation Duolingo equal and that you're talking about right now. And given the number of Indians and the outsourcing boom that it had. So quick Hindi could have possibly gone somewhere. That's one. The other thing is Lyft. And those were the days where Uber and Lyft were both in their early days, I'm not quite sure about lift lifts founding story, but I know Uber was already taking root or some shape in San Francisco Bay Area at that time. So both of them while quickly possibly a little more of a niche audience which could eventually grow into something larger lift or salad language for the for the other languages. So lift was lift had all the trappings of solving the urban mobility problem. How did you you just made a quick passing mention that perhaps the teams were not that committed? were you working full time at that time and this was something which was a side hustle. And what made you Yeah, was it anything other than teams that said, okay, maybe it's not the right timing or something else that you that that sort of forced you to give up.
Sunil Patro 25:06
Yeah. So mainly about the lift within reason I left here, right, lift up, we even registered domain at that time lift app.com. I think it was the people that I worked with it, we all got together in a in a weekend. hackathon somewhere, right? Okay, so we really didn't know each other. We didn't like, you know, we haven't worked with each other or within like, we are friends or anything. So there was no relationship, strong relationship, red. wine, everybody thought, you know, hey, we could you know, everybody had a full time job. And we thought, hey, let's spend a month or spend another month after the hackathon ended. To see if there is more, there is real demand for something like that. And beyond demand, also, you need to have the expertise, right? expertise of, or at least the interest to dive further to learn what else is needed to make this to make this real life app, and we are talking about usability, talking about GPS limitations of that time, GPS were not as advanced as what they are today, right on the mobile phones. And I think I would say lack of lack of knowing each other really well. And also lack of enough conviction to give up your full time jobs and spend more time or at least even, even if you don't give up full time jobs. Most times what happens is whether it's founders, engineers who start a new idea, the worker for six to 12 months on the side, right? Before they really think it is it can go somewhere. So maybe it's more about in retrospect, it's more about not knowing each other really well enough to put that side hustle into, into into motion. That finally was you know, led to differences. And this is not something you want to do. And that chemistry was missing, to know to really solve a hard problem like this at that stage. And also turn our passion, right, sometimes passion develops over a period of time. I wasn't around the same time, I wasn't going to be in the US for too long, I was already thinking about moving back to India. So does that means you have to be in that market to really experience the problem first time, right? If you don't spend enough time in the market, you won't know your customers, they won't know what they want. So how can you solve a problem as a founder, if you are not in the market.
Krishna Jonnakadla 27:39
Right, right. So let's so when so you're still in the hunt for an idea. But I'll still ask this sort of obvious question. That commute problem was still large enough. And and you use this expression called scratch your own itch, kind of an idea. Perhaps you'd I don't know you didn't face that problem. While the team, there are some ideas. So for instance, there is a timing issue with an idea where you talked about talkbox, early on, and maybe the readiness of the ecosystem itself to offer some things. And then there is the and then there is your own relatability to that idea, which possibly, is what you are hinting when you meant passion. So the so were there other filters that you used to say, Okay, I'm not going to work on the lift problem or the commute problem because of so and so. And therefore, I will continue to look for some other idea. And so how did you really zero in on the document signing? idea itself? Be very aware and aware, there are others that you were throwing around at that time? Yeah.
Sunil Patro 28:52
There are a few ways to think about this, right? When founders or anybody wants to build a product, and if that product ever becomes a business or not, that's, that is just natural evolution, right is very hard to predict, you know, scratching your own itch will will be a viable business or not. But at least it can be a viable product, because that's you just developing or you write your code, you show it to customers. And if they like it, that means you have a product that works, right. Whether that's a market fit for it for somebody to pay for it is a full enough scale, where other people are motivated to solve the problem that you think is one of the biggest problems to solve for the world should care about those are other reasons why something will mature into business or not right. But I think I thought about it as you know, timing was right, right. Phones had come out. Getting a cab was something everybody has faced this right. You have to wait, wait on the street and then and sometimes suffering, even a density it's easier if you're not in a dense city. Good. Don't live in a dense city or urban city, then you have to call a number and tell them where you are. And they'll come and pick you up. Right. So we knew the timing was right. But this is this slide that I always keep in mind by Bill cross, right? The person, the founder, be an idea, idea labs. Right, right. It talks about the five elements that are necessary for a startup to succeed or a company to succeed. Right. And, and this has been the rank of order, right, from a percentage of companies, which are which are ended becoming successful? Well, timing is the first, then it is the team, and your pace of pace and commitment for execution. Third, is the idea, you know, the rejected digital outlier idea at that time, fourth, and fifth third business model. And the last one is funding, how much resources do you have? Right. And that has been, I could relate, you know, how that has worked for signeasy. But at that time, when we were thinking about this other ideas, I think, was timing was right, team. Obviously, we didn't have a team, and we needed a team. Well, if you could build it yourself, for the first six to 12 months, you can figure out you can think about getting a team later on, because you don't want to wait for the perfect team to start on something. But I didn't have all the skill sets to do it on my own at that time. And at the same time, I didn't have a team, the team didn't really think, you know, they want to work on it together for too long. And the third was the idea itself. how passionate about how passionate you are about it. And for some reason, I guess it was missing at that time. And this is the problem. So a mix of you know, lack of a team for committed execution. And my own passion towards this was probably missing at the time. mandate. You only know about this, in retrospect, you don't you don't see this rule making these decisions. Sometimes it could be a miss also. Right? Right. Maybe I made a maybe I made the biggest mistake, but I don't think about like, I have something else. That that's keeping me busy and gives me equal sense of, if not the scale, but at least gives me a sense of both scale and purpose. Right. Right.
Krishna Jonnakadla 32:22
Right? Yeah. You don't know what you didn't know at that time. So it, there's no, there's no point fussing over it. Right. So. And so there's one other aspect that I want to touch on, which is again, sort of in your the six or nine month journey where you stayed with this idea that you spoke about, which is initially you were thinking about it in more generic terms, which was okay, somebody wants to send a document, and then you eventually, you went on spoke about people on the move professional sales professionals, people in real estate, people who need documentation to exchange documents. So it the markets started crystallizing in your mind. And this is something that I've always noticed that many ideas, even if they scratch your itch kind of ideas, we may know of maybe eight or 10 people that face that problem. And a lot of times we are dismissive of its impact for the fundamental reason that we cannot see beyond the 10 or the or the 20. And the way ideas actually catch on is when you solve for those 10 or 20, successfully, you start a lot of people who had that problem, but didn't even come out and said that they had that problem, because all you can see are only the 10 or 20 people that are saying, Hey, I have this problem. Once you solve it, emphatically for this 10 or 20 people, there are another 200,000 people waiting in the wings, who will come and tell you, I can't believe you solve this. So now all of a sudden, you just made a giant leap from a market size of about 20 people to 200,000 people. So that's how that is why some of these look like, you know, hockey stick curve. growth companies anyway. Right. So, so, so great. So let's continue so six, nine months and then So did you launch the product while you while you were employed?
Sunil Patro 34:13
No, my lasted six months after I left a company. I've been working for it for probably close to three, four months before he left the company. And then it took me 667 months to launch the first version of the app on Apple AppStore. Okay. And then quickly after that, within few months, I decided to obviously I saw downloads of the App Store people are leaving some really early reviews. So it validates that he has some people care about not just you but some other people also wanted. But to really get qualitative feedback. You have to start showing it to people in real life, right and i presenter at some tech conferences like you know, these, you know, technology Meetup group site where you will be showcased your newly launched product and etc. And then that's what I saw some I would say very engaged feedback. Yes. And I would I would love to use this. No. And some people even made a comment. For what what if this was a small feature inside Adobe Acrobat, I would even use it even more, right? If people could relate to a Adobe, Acrobat already opens PDF document, and what if they give a feature to try and insert a signature? Maybe not on the mobile, it will handle on the on the desktop case. But the problem is valid, right? Whether you're on the call or in your office or at your home, if you receive a PDF document to be signed and sent, what do you do, right, usually print. So. So the larger problem was already seen. And that's what I heard from them, what I was trying to solve is, can I solve it really well, on the go with the mobile, the mobile app in standard, right. And it's very important that there might be big men might be bigger problems that he could solve that he could solve. But as a startup, you have to be very focused on one or two key ways or key pain points, then think about it expanding a problem set later on, right. But it's important to be laser focused on that one idea that he could do much better compared to alternatives in the market.
Krishna Jonnakadla 36:36
Interesting. So the you got both direct feedback in person where you showcase this and you got remote random feedback as well, from people who had downloaded it. Most entrepreneurs that are building products will we'll put possibly just get energized with the first one right? There, you're seeing downloads, you're seeing people that are saying, Okay, this is fantastic. But I suppose it is in sort of your ethos to go in and say okay, I, I appreciate this feedback. But I want to understand the larger context around it, which is what which is why you went to that real world. Places. Interesting work.
Sunil Patro 37:18
If you really want you want to hear nos also, you also want to hear the nos, you know why somebody is saying no to you know, why is this not a good solution? Or why would somebody not want to use a solution? Right? Are their doubts they may have right? and other reasons, also you want to focus this is you're probably looking for partners to, to work with you, designers, engineers, you know, are they excited about this idea? And that's, that's how you hire people. Right? Right. When you when you haven't raised funding, or when you are not a serial entrepreneur, people don't know about your name, you know, they don't believe you will actually join you. Right, right. So this this sometimes, just interacting with the founder, helps you Hey, I would like to work with this person, because the idea seems cool.
Krishna Jonnakadla 38:07
And you launch it while you were in the US?
Sunil Patro 38:11
Yeah, last year in the US, I think it was in 20, late 2010. Okay, when that is the time when I decided to I had pre decided to move back to India. And then I just worked because even though I wasn't in the market for too long after I launched it, but I had lived in the US for 10 years, right? So I knew what customers were looking for. And also I was solving a problem for my own thing. So I am the first user of my own product. Right? Right. So I founders will have a gut sense, sixth sense of the first few features, you don't need to listen to customers, right, you know, the first few features of first two to three years, you know what you want to build, right? It's just, it's just some feeling. You can't really, you know, you can't really say it why, but you have some sense there. Yeah. So, so that helped me when I moved back to India. For the first few years. I was the product manager, you know, even though I was the founder, but I was a product manager and engineer myself, right? building this further.
Krishna Jonnakadla 39:17
Right? Yeah, I call it, you have an intuitive feel for the things that need to be in there. And there are other extreme ways. Some people say, you know, build with you can't build everything with the market. And like Steve Jobs says, until you show people something what they want, or they won't even know what they want, what they need. So you already have an intuitive feel for the product and what the product should say. And then you put it out and you start refining it. If you're expecting the market to bring you the bigger ideas, that very, very rarely happens. So there's a fundamental nuance there in building with, and then how to talk about that initial journey. I think before Do we do that? Let's talk about your scale numbers. What sort of scale Are you at right now? users downloads, revenues, that kind of stuff.
Sunil Patro 40:08
So, yeah, so we have a little over 7 million users in over 160 180 countries in 24 languages. And our mobile apps and our web app. We have over 160,000 paying users. And these paying customers or users span across 35,000 businesses of all kinds now, you could be a freelancer too. consultant to no small loss. So entrepreneurs like small office, Home Office enterprise to all the way to startups, medium comm medium to midsize companies with 1000 or 1000 to 5000 employees from for many industries worldwide. Yeah, and these customers pay us anywhere between 100 to $200. A year two all the way to 40 to $50,000 a year. So there's a varying spectrum of customers in that mix.
Krishna Jonnakadla 41:13
Awesome. So you're what like 25 million arr right now, around that figure?
Sunil Patro 41:19
No, no. We're not at that scale yet. Okay. But I'm, I'm happy to share you know, like, we have been growing at 40% year over year profitability. And we are we hope, we hope we can break the 10 million arr target right now in the high single digits. Okay, high single digit million error, we can make the 10 mil you know, the ideal scale number 10 million.
Krishna Jonnakadla 41:46
I'm thinking a significant profitability?
Sunil Patro 41:51
Yeah, we know, we know, free cash flow positive profitability in the low, low single teens. Okay, now, which is good, you know, we want to reinvest as much as possible into growth. Right. But while having some sort of sustainable angle to the, you know, to make sure we can control our own destiny.
Krishna Jonnakadla 42:13
Awesome. Awesome. 7 million users. 160,000 paying users 160 countries 24 languages. Oh, my God. That's Yeah. Have you been to 180 180 .Oh, awesome. And how many of those countries have you been?
Sunil Patro 42:33
Oh, you just picked the Wilfredo whether we have customers or not in those countries, and I am I like traveling to places to learn about people and culture and other things. So but I've been I've been probably close will maybe in close to 15 to 20 countries so far.
Krishna Jonnakadla 42:53
Sunil Patro 43:33
We, we are mostly bootstrap for late last year, we raised a very small round from our advisors, who happened to be operators or founders and CEOs of their respective companies. Okay. So it was mainly for their guidance, you know, okay, put some money and also give us the guidance and help we need as we think about our options to grow further. So there's not a it was more of a strategic advisory round. Right.
Krishna Jonnakadla 44:03
So I'll ask a different question. And because for people who have tried to use a product like SignEasy, will understand that there is a product called DocuSign. But at that point in time, today, DocuSign is a very, very large business. It is, if I'm not mistaken, it is the valuation is touted to be around a billion. What that actually tells us is around the time you launched it, and you saw traction, there was all possibility for you to showcase this raise funding and maybe put on a different growth path. So So it's one thing to bootstrap because you initially believe in it. And then when I say people don't see it, because there is this concept of notional value or latent demand that others don't see you are able to see it because you're in The weeds so that in some sense, entrepreneurs are best not to waste their time trying to convince others because you build it to a certain point you bootstrap it. And then when you realize that you've got all the scale levers in place, or the scale elements in place, then you sort of add a cocktail mix of funding. Again, not every company needs funding. MailChimp hasn't raised funding, they do half a billion in revenue every year, if I'm not mistaken, I don't think they raise funding. So talk about that bootstrapping journey, why did you decide to bootstrap and until last year, you seem to have there is a specific reason for you to raise funding, which is, which is have some skin in the game when you actually advisor so when your money is at stake, your advice is going to sound a lot different than when your money is not at stake. I suppose that's the thinking. So talk about that. Yeah,
Sunil Patro 45:52
yeah. So the reason I did not raise funding, in the first, I guess, 910 years of the journey, is a mix of serendipity. And also choice, right? serendipity is I had moved back to India. So you know, hiring, you know, working with a small set of engineers and designers is a lot more affordable. For the first three years of the company, when you're still building a product, you're still figuring out monetization. And, you know, seeing real scale to, to have enough money in the bank to support the payroll, right. And that was easy, it really, it was much easier to be done in India than in the US. And I think the first three or four years, we probably grew to 10 or 15 people, and to have the same set of people in the US and must have, I would have been forced to raise the funding, right? Because you can't hire engineers, designers, you know, without the funding in place. So, so I just, it felt like, you know, yes, if I can do this for a little bit more longer, without extra capital, let's do it right. And also spend the time and spend the time as a single founder, you don't have enough time to, to talk to customers and prospective investors at the same time, right. So time was also constrained. So time was a constraint I was in India. It just led to bootstrapping a lot more longer. In terms of affordability. And also on the side, I realized, when I was in India, I didn't have any connection to the investors at that time. And I just moved in from us. And I'm with an engineering background. Now, you know, trying to launch a product and grow, grow a company. For that was, I felt I had to explain a lot about why this idea is, is important. And this is something that, you know, the users want it right, in the US people would have listened to investors, because DocuSign existed at that time. And we were going from a mobile angle for the end user or the consumer or small business. So if I was in the US, I could have spent some time raising that money. But unfortunately, that is not the case. So you have to work within your means, right? You're doing it because of your passion, you're doing it because you feel this product is useful to you and lot more people like yourself, you think you could last longer without raising money. And you don't want to spend time talking to investors, right? So this is not as one dimensional decision, right? You just go with what feels right. And what is the need of the hour at the time, where is your time being spent through for the maximum impact that you could create. So that kind of quickly led to you know, are still being being bootstrapped for almost nine years. And you don't stop thinking about raising, you still think about it every few quarters, or every year you think about it is the right time to raise. But then you also look at your own growth needs. Now, how many people do you want to hire? How much know how much is your revenue? And can you still afford it? Okay, let's really take those calls, right? There's no right or wrong answer to be honest, whether to raise money or not money. But as long as your customers are growing, and they are happy with you and your product is becoming better. You are solving bigger problems. Those are the metrics that should tell you enough. Are you taking the company in the in the right direction?
Krishna Jonnakadla 49:31
So let's jump into the scale and the growth angle itself. How was the initial acquiring paid customers? What sort of challenges did you face back then? When did it really occur to you that yes, I think this is going to be a viable business. I allowed the nuance that you put out there where you said something could be a viable product, but is it a viable business, it takes some amount of time for you to find the out. So talk about those funds.
Sunil Patro 50:04
Yeah. So the, it took us three years to probably reach a million downloads on iOS and Android App Store. And our early monetization was one time upgrade is free to use download it, and free to use. But if you want more features, you just do a one time upgrade, like maybe first amateur $3. And then it was $10. Because we were in the era of non subscriptions, right, it was just Apple supported in app purchases for subscriptions had not taken off. So we relied on whatever business model was possible at that time. And being a small team. We became profitable, you know, probably around 2014, or 15. Now we reached this million few million downloads, and we were able to monetize. And we became profitable. And so what was the other question, Krishna? So
Krishna Jonnakadla 51:03
when you reach these, these millions of downloads, were there any growth strategies or tactics that you employed that work for you? Oh, okay. Sure.
Sunil Patro 51:12
Yeah. So and that's where that's where timing matters, right? When we, when we launched the we were pulling the oldest mobile esigning up today, that is independent, right, the real one, the first few ones, other companies have it the sat down required to start around the same time as the mobile side, mobile design. So Apple quickly realized that we were solving something very unique, it was innovative, in its own time, customers loved it, because they were reviewers on the app store, and our downloads will keep increasing, because we were launching iterations or improvements in em in a very fast cycle, and very consistent period. So Apple saw that, and they started featuring is more and more. So we used the partner like Apple's goodwill that had their platform, they want to promote more innovative developers and we around the first few months at the time. So it's a it's a virtuous cycle, right? We'll see more reviews, people are downloading and paying for it, Apple features as again, we get more reviews again. And that kind of led organically to those first few million downloads. And we also use after optimization, which is, which is Apple doesn't know, publicly, so what keywords we're using to optimize our app store descriptions, and the key, and the App Store, and the app name and description, also write the song description. So we also relied on that, making sure after optimization is in place, making sure the user experience is great. So Apple recognizes our design standards, making sure the monetization is is the product is packaged in such a manner. So people can feel users want to operate through a paid package, right? The packaging is packaging needs to be done correctly. So you see more conversions. So these are some of the very organic product focused, very obvious ones to recommend, you don't have the money to acquire you just using advertising. So you have to do all of these things that is within your hands. So that kind of along with timing of being one of the first few apps means more recognition. Just helped us to grow faster.
Krishna Jonnakadla 53:39
Interesting. So the one of the key aspects that worked was the Apple, Apple guys featuring you. That was one, was there any any other inflection point that sort of became the wind beneath your wings?
Sunil Patro 53:55
No, for the first six years, it's mainly Apple and Google, okay. We know. So because of innovation, ease of use, and just amazing customer love because of you know, the love of user experience. And the demand was not the demand is obvious. People would like to sign documents on an iPhone or iPad on an Android device or a tablet. So we heard from Apple's Developer Relations team, hey, they would like to do a lot more with us. So we got feature an apple commercial twice, one for iPads to increase productivity for small businesses. And the second was an iPhone ad to, you know, to use your phone on the go. But with the security and peace of mind and using Touch ID at the time, right. So those two ads, suddenly, you know, put our brand in front of a lot more users. We also got a lot more credibility among existing users, who would refer us to their friends and colleagues. And then we we wrote, We organically rose to the global ranks to top 100 business apps. In the USA, we even reached number one ranking in business apps for for grossing revenue for a few weeks, right. So this is the same virtual cycle basically kicked in again and again, right, not only App Store coverage, but also offering coverage to Apple ads, highly ranked app on the App Store. So more people discover it, even though they may not search for us know PDF signing or document signing. But the fact that in a year curious to see the who are the top 100 apps will give us a lot more exposure. For people, hey, I didn't know I have this problem. But now I can see why I would use this right. Like unaware of problems, but they know they will, they will use it if somebody tells them they come across it. So those are some of the inflection point in the in up till 2016. And finally, it ended up being very efficient Apple retail stores, you know, if you walk into any Apple retail store, you will imagine store in India imagine and some of the other Apple authorized resellers, right? There's a high chance you would see signage on the demo devices. And we have been working with them for the last four or five years with Apple, where every year we update our binary and they use the demo app to to showcase a capability to users or to visitors in retail stores. Right? So pure pure, you know product focus, customer obsession, Design Excellence, this is what kind of kept us going for the first five, six years, whenever this multi.
Krishna Jonnakadla 56:48
So quote, unquote, a signature app and literally a signature app. And that brings out the signature touch features of that application,
Sunil Patro 56:57
Right? It's a nice way to say the signature signing up, right,
Krishna Jonnakadla 57:01
A signature app showcasing the signature ability of that particular device and solving that problem. Interesting, so focused on the basics, and I want to maybe just spend a minute in passing on the App Store optimization part, most most mythical understanding of that goes stuffed with keywords, put your, you know, description with keywords, that kind of stuff. But that's Yeah, that's a very misguided way of thinking about it. Because ultimately, the whole point is, what are the users using to describe their problem? And so users are not saying when when they search for it, okay, is there a mobile signing app, they're not searching for something like that, or sign sign with my phone or sign a PDF? When you start getting in front of those users, you have that learning? So did that plays some sort of a role in this organic growth? Any any bit at all?
Sunil Patro 58:07
Yeah, yes, we, you know, we tried multiple keywords and phrases, right now, document signing, mobile, mobile signing, PDF signing, in some cases, even a lot more specific, like, you know, invoice signing or NDA signing, right. So use different combinations. And but what is the keyword optimization, right. And sometimes you can also get signals for what keywords to use or phrases to use by just looking at Google search keyword, right? Google gives you a keyword console where you can come up with related keywords, right? If this is what people are searching for, this likely they would search for the same on a mobile on an app store tour. Right? Okay. But that's just one aspect of after optimization. The other aspects are, how good How good is your description from a reliability perspective, right? Your app store assets, the quality of you know, images and videos. The conversion rate that happens from the peak for the person going into the description versus actually clicking the install, I think there are a lot more hidden signals Apple uses and nobody can say for sure. You can only do things that are within your control again, right right. And Apple usually recommends Apple or Google they recommend make sure after acid which is after description, is like it is treated like a front door right? your front door of the house has to really look appealing for customers to you know, feel welcome customers to feel more trust for your brand. beyond what your right, right it has. It has to be the overall appearance of your brand name, your app icon, your colors, your site description below the Even though the product name or app name, can you quickly glance through the description and make sense of what this app does, and why why should somebody use it for the benefits it promises, right? And then reviews, you know, your average rating of reviews, the type of reviews to generate. And the last thing I would add is how often you release versions, right, you know, does, you know, are you releasing every few weeks, that means, you know, Apple or Google thing, you know, that means, as a developer, we are committed to continue to improve the feature set and the experience of the app, right. And also, how many classes are read your app classes, a lot of sometimes, you know, if your app crashes a lot is a little bit of a, you know, health indicator, right from that. So I think there are a lot more, it's a lot more hidden side, right? That, you know, at least I'm not aware of, but we consider that to make sure, organically, we can continue to grow.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:01:01
interesting. So let's talk about challenges. So I'm assuming all of that spotlight, being a signature app that will showcase there has propelled your trajectory. And the fact that, and I'm also assuming in some form or fashion that you've stayed focused completely, mostly on mobile, or completely on mobile. And this has driven propel your growth further. And the foray into the 200. And 180 countries, I suppose, is all driven by the app stores, both Google and Apple App Stores. Right?
Sunil Patro 1:01:37
Increases your distribution. Right?
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:01:39
Right. So any, have you ever faced any sort of a threat or a challenge or not just to growth? But in general, what sort of challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?
Sunil Patro 1:01:54
Yeah, The threats are always there, right? As a startup, even from a big incumbent, incumbent or a bigger competitor, or with more resources, you know, out marketing, you're right. Or another startup comes in with a with a fast, superior solution with a vast superior solution, right? So I don't think threats will ever go down. It's just that how do you, you know, acts? How do you respond to those threats, in a more calculated manner, with a longer term view in place, right? In the short term, in the short term, everything looks like a threat, right? But as long as you have customers, you are listening close to your customers. Now pay attention to your competitors for inspiration, avoiding the mistakes that they might have done. But your first, you know, source of truth is coming from your customers, right? What are your customers telling you, you know, how much they are in love with the product? How often they're using? What else do they want from you. And we rely on that, to kind of drown out any sort of threats that could take away your attention.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:03:08
Right, we'll talk about a special thing that has been a challenge is talk about a something that has really challenged you in this journey. And that has tested you and how did you respond? Okay.
Sunil Patro 1:03:19
Yeah, so, without many, let me think about I guess, being a solo founder, right. Being a solo founder in the first few years, when you don't have a strong management team, you have you have a set of passionate, talented developers who will do you know, who will do everything that you tell them to do? Right? But you want yourself to you want your weaknesses to be covered, or at least be reduced by a stronger management team in place, right. But at the beginning, you have to think about everything right? You know, you're, you're looking at 10 different functions, all the way to, you know, from product, design, to customer To market, to customer marketing to all the way to customer support. And sometimes even know, we're doing a bit of engineering if needed, right. So that was a lot of challenge challenge for a long time. And with over the years, it's not like you can do much, you know, you have to do what is the need of the hour. But over the years, specifically the last three to four years and I've built at least we have been able to attract and grow existing folks to mid level managers to all the way to you know, leadership functions at this time. Right. And so now the job is much easier, a bit more easier, I would say. And I the way I think about my time being split as a solo founder. Those times when Now is that now I'm much more thoughtful about, you know, what is really important and urgent versus versus what is important and not urgent, right? And can I can I do more of the important but not urgent, more of that. And then you know, only when it is needed, I need to look at agenda items, right. So it's more of a better time management to kind of not drown myself into a lot more CMD or overnight things that I should be looking at. But the team can look at it, I don't need to look at it. Right. So that's, that's how the evolution is happening from an early world from earliest age challenge to now where I am.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:05:41
So you mentioned, you have two examples, one being out marketed by a larger company or a newer startup launches. So I'm assuming you didn't pick those just out of random, I'm assuming Those are some threats that you have faced. How do you how do you respond?
Sunil Patro 1:06:02
Just take a long term view, even though we we are the only species that is heavily, heavily competitive and some companies have index in the same segment or that just send the same marker in the adjacent market? There are a few competitors who have been funded like $20-$30 million, right. So yes, you can be out marketed at some point. You need to raise funding. And that's why that's why we raise a little bit of funding. Last year, it's it's our getting our toes into the world of you know, in the world of growth, capital, per se, right. But the people we raised money from are like in a Greece from first works founder and CEO, then, you know, Mike Stoppelman and Jeremy Stoppelman from Yelp, Matt Rizal, from TC, it's now acquired by Intuit Alan Chandrasekaran now next entrepreneur, but now an executive VP at Facebook earlier, and now at at five, nine, and vj lipid tea from Nutanix, and Paula from fusioncharts. So all of these folks are essentially who have raised who have taken a similar path of either raising capital, or really aligning with strategic partners to to kind of reduce the threat of competition, right. So we feel like you know, that's, that's, that's one way we have responded in some sense. But I would say that now the more of our efforts in responding to competition have been to be more thoughtful and be really innovative, right? about where we spend our resources, even though we are a smaller team. But we are more a giant, we are more nimble to listen to customer needs. If we if a customer is unhappy with us, we will solve it in 24 to 48 hours, or maybe Max, Max within 72 to 5%, last to five days. But that sort of nimbleness in responding to customers, is what's going to carry the goodwill of the customer because they would know as a smaller company, we care more about their success if if they have a problem with a product, we'll listen to them and solve it without most intentions in mind, right. And we don't we don't also try to we try to be very focused, right? We know what our internal definitions of success are, you know, we need to grow it a certain percentage year over year, we need to have a certain retention numbers, we need to have certain profitability numbers in mind. So we we try to put the right people in the right projects. And we also don't over invest, or we don't take too many bold bets, which sometimes could work against us. Well, that's fine. I know we can we try to take calculated bets and not try to grow just for the sake of it by putting resources in ideas that are not proven right? You know, we only have limited bets to take. So that's you know, we I think just to summarize, no love take a lot more longer view, even though somebody could raise money or could out market you for some time is good, because it also educates the market right? It also means more customers are going to look for a selection. And if we are a better solution with more affordability and more innovation, then we will show up in the first five vendors where the customer is going to look for a solution right? cloud marketing helps sometimes if you can, if you can, if you can take advantage of it creative.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:09:42
Well, I think kudos to you for leading and keeping it all together. It must not be easy. I'm sure you've received enough inbound funding offers or inbound acquisition offers as well, right because and at some point In time, you have to be grounded to say this is exactly what I signed up for. I'm sure there has been more than one or two juicy offer on the table where you could just pocket a few millions and then walk away from all of this and still start something, maybe a couple of years down the line, or even agree for an acquisition and become part of something larger? How do you respond to something like that? And why would you refuse?
Sunil Patro 1:10:34
You grow a company? Good, you want to infuse it, you want to infuse a certain element of, you know, your your vision, your mission, and you're not just you, but your leadership team, and then the core team. But I think ideally, a company should exist to grow number of customers, and keep growing as long as possible independently, right? Whether you raise money or not raise money, there are more partners who are invested in right access, right. But acquisition at the end is getting acquired at the end is just another way of getting more resources, right, either more capital resources, or getting easier access to your intended customer segment. Right? And probably better, better knowledge also, because you know, better talent that you could work with in order to Tanya. Tanya, big vision into reality faster, right? So yes, from time to time, you do receive offers for funding, right? Or offers for acquisition. And in the past, we have said no, for multiple regions, because we felt we didn't need to. And in some cases, it just wasn't the right. Right fit right, what they want to do with the product, what they do what they want to do with the team. Sometimes it's also a question of, what do you think your your valuation should be based on industry comparables, right? You there are enough comparables to, to look at, either from a funding perspective, or from an acquisition perspective. So many more stars have to align for an acquisition to happen right? Now cultural fit, market or product fit. And then ultimately, economic or evaluation. Right, right. So if if one of these things don't align, and you really don't have to sell, then you will not pull the trigger. So unfortunately, we haven't had we have been a lot better side to call those shots, because we are going really healthy. And we are excited about the problem statement. We're excited about our customers, the market is growing fast, you know, our market is growing 40 to 50% year over year, which is which is like high double digit right? Not many markets grow more than 10 to 15% year over year. And but electronic signatures and document workflow automation and digitization is one of those markets, which is even post post pandemic. It's the market adoption, customer adoption is going to happen a lot more sooner. And the market sees is going to even expand much bigger than what it was earlier projected to be right. It's like a 50 $200 billion tablet. So when the market is so big, and we are enjoying what we are doing, and we know there is competition getting hard that means is a good sign. Right? More More eyes are coming in from both investors, acquirers and customers right? Now, who knows right now, when the right time comes, we will have to think about so you think about this seriously. Right? Taking on a more bigger funding partner, or finding a bigger? Like I said, No finding a bigger home. Right? Right. But ultimately, we're excited about the about, about the vision that we have, and we feel we can do one of the best jobs solving this problem. And to know that sort you know, that's what goes on in my mind. You know, when I think about some of these options out there.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:14:25
So then I'm which means there is a much larger end game that you have. For the lack of a better term, I use the word end game. The first decade is really formative. So what I'm hearing is the next decade is where the massive use cases are all going to come out because right now you are an enabler in in a particular transaction, you haven't yet set your sights on the transaction itself, because then you take a much larger, make a much larger impact on the economic value of that trend. And then you can start taking different kinds of positions on it. Right. So then what what's the end end game then? Or what is the next evolution game?
Sunil Patro 1:15:11
There's no endgame in entrepreneurship right? To a certain answer here. I think it's the it's the journey. You will only know the end game. When it arrives you can rather
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:15:27
the long chain lets the
Sunil Patro 1:15:28
market. Yeah. Okay. Yes, the long side would be you know, today the market is penetrated in terms of the target customer segment, right, is like maybe six to 7% at the most, right. So when the market penetration despite being despite having, you know, one or two public companies in this space, and a few other good players in the market, it's, there could be multiple winners, that it's a b2b SaaS, it's not like it's not a consumer social networking, FinTech space, where, you know, one brand kind of one or two brands take monopoly or duopoly, right? different segments, from an employee, or from a size of the company that different segments from industry, there are horizontal solutions and vertical solutions for for certain department use cases, our long sword here is to be that horizontal platform, both as a SaaS solution, and also as a developer platform, to give that ability to customize the signatures, and document workflows, which are fully digital or fully automated, into third party, you know, SAS solutions, or third party business workflows for to make other companies or to make other end customers more efficient, right, save time and money, be more compliant, and have delightful customer experience. And also the ability to, you know, I would say, close contracts or ability to have turnaround times, much softer, right to electronic signatures. So that's our API story. But really, if you think about API story, or sad story, become the horizontal platform where we could fulfill 80% of, you know, features or capabilities that you know, a customer from any segment, small medium to mid market, or even enterprise in the future, right, we will go into enterprise. in the longer term, right now, SMB is our focus. Because we believe in with a product and a self serve distribution channel, you know, we can use resources efficiently without, you know, building a large sales team or a large outbound team at this point. So having a horizontal platform that fulfills the needs of 80% of our customers and the other 20%, we could we could have them build it to our cloud to our developer platform, right? So that we are not, no, we don't have to think about HR only solution, or we don't have to think about sales only solution. We are, you know, anybody wants to sign any sort of a document, any sort of a format, any sort of a device, we will be there for you with our best in class class. But I hope that that's what that's what our long said will be right? And these are, these are long way to go. where we are today. And I know we hope you know, we hope we can find the right set of partners, employees and investors at some time to to be to be a partner in the journey.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:18:53
So let's talk some personal stuff. Where does Mexico City feature in all of this?
Sunil Patro 1:19:02
Oh, yeah. So I think this answer is much easier to send out. My plan after I built the company for last, like from 2011 to 2016, or 17, in India, as a founder, as a CEO, I needed to be close to my customers and partners, right? And partners or like an Apple or Google or potential investor are another integration or strategic integration that we want to do with right. So these are the sorts of customers and partners and it was becoming more difficult. Staying at the ground at the ground level versus staying more on the outside right, Friday to shift my timezone and shifting my timezone meant I had to move to us, right. So that was the original reason why I moved Back to you, the North American time zone. And we decided to make Dallas the headquarters original company, which occurred in California. But, you know, for, for more affordability as a bootstrap company, you know, reduced the cost of living and also hire people with who could be more loyal to the company in the Bay Area is very hard to hire. And it's very hard to retain, right, as a bootstrap company. So and Dallas was something that I that I knew based on, so no recommendations will be a good place to base myself. So we moved to Dallas, I actually stayed there for some time. And, but then I realized, you know, while Dallas can be headquarters for us, but I don't need to be physically in that place. And we have some family in Mexico City, because my wife is from Mexico, for originally. So we thought, why don't we solve two problems with who wants to be in the timezone and be, be close to family and family is also equally important. Startups can be very grueling. It's a long term journey. So you need other.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:21:16
So how did you meet your wife?
Sunil Patro 1:21:23
I met her in San Francisco. And when I was before him nicely, India, before I moved to India, I was I was in San Francisco. So it was a introduction to a common friend. And it went on. We were We were friends, then we started dating. And then by the time we decided to move to India, we decided to also get married.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:21:46
Did she live here for some time, then while you're building this?
Sunil Patro 1:21:50
Yes, you know,she lived here was one of the one of the founding employees that now we both move to India. We both I was doing this. So now, she was excited about the idea and see, she was excited about customers and community. And, you know, she had some marketing background too. So she was with she was with the company for the first five or six years. Until, until she found more more things, more calling for other things.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:22:21
Great conversation. Sunil. In closing, what would be your advice to early stage founders, and maybe a founders in SaaS?
Sunil Patro 1:22:35
Yeah, so if you specifically talk about SaaS, I think we are in the golden age of b2b SaaS for sure, maybe
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:22:44
in the early stages of it, in some sense, or even in the middle of it in the early stage, I suppose. Yeah.
Sunil Patro 1:22:50
Sure. Yeah. And I think if you're convinced about the problem statement, just because of passion or you have some sort of gut sense, right, just take a long term view of it, and know that you know, the market is infinite, right. When you, when you when you when you get your feet or when you get your hands dirty in a problem statement, you may not know all the answers to the problem or or what customers need, but the more and more you invest your time and attention and build a team that could be equally passionate, though because it takes a team to to go far and you can go fast with a small team, but it needs a large team to go far to go further. So, just take a long term view market is infinite, there is a there is a bit of opportunity for everybody as long as you build a great product and you have a team that is that is committed to solve problems for the sake of customers. Just enjoy the journey right and the world will the world will put all the pieces of the piece of the puzzle right along the along the way and you define your own success right now. You may not become a massive success, but you will have massive learning and the learning will lead towards other success in future for you. So that's that's kind of my advice for founders.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:24:34
Awesome. So Sunil this has been a great conversation. You put in a lot of depth into your responses. So there's a lot of things for for those that know what they're looking for. I your passing mention of a lot of things will enrich them. And I know this is just the beginning for signeasy. There's a bigger decade ahead, I can see it in the way you're shaping it and we are going to see big Much bigger. And I also see the passion that you want to keep it alive. And you see this getting bigger, which is why you're doing what you're doing and the way you're doing it. And when you scale the next peak, Maharajas of Scale, we'll come back and then have another conversation to see what that vantage point looks like. But it was fabulous having you on the show.
Sunil Patro 1:25:23
Thank you. Thank you, Krishna, I really enjoyed the conversation. And yeah, I hope we I hope we get to speak again, in the, in the next growth phase of the company, you know, maybe at some, another big milestone in future but happy to, you know, happy to share my learnings and hopefully this is an inspiration for some of our listeners who are about to start their journey or who are in the middle of the journey.
Krishna Jonnakadla 1:25:50
Absolutely. Thank you.
Sunil Patro 1:25:55
Good, good talking to you.
Tania Jadhav 1:26:00
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