Episode 159 / March 7, 2022

Satej Sirur, Founder, Rocketium on building design SaaS, competing with Adobe and working with 1200+ brands inc Groww, Meesho, Urban Company

47 min

Episode 159 / March 7, 2022

Satej Sirur, Founder, Rocketium on building design SaaS, competing with Adobe and working with 1200+ brands inc Groww, Meesho, Urban Company

47 min
Listen on

Suppose you’re a marketer or have a marketer friend/colleague. During an event like IPL or Diwali, you need to get 100+ variations of creatives with 20-30 sizes for each, within a few days and not weeks, so that you can test campaigns on multiple platforms at the earliest.

However, traditional software is time-consuming, especially if you have a small design team with limited bandwidth.

Our guest, Satej Sirur, Founder & CEO, Rocketium, solves this for 1200+ brands like Bigbasket,, Groww, Meesho, Supr Daily, Urban Company, and many more across 95+ countries.

During the episode, Satej talks about how customers differentiate between them and Adobe, the fundamental principles he focuses on to include in Rocketium’s culture, and much more.

Notes –

00:52 – Initial Intro

05:13 – Pivoting in early years of Rocketium

09:50 – Metrics around ARR & Customer base

11:31 – Customers comparing Rocketium to Adobe

18:07 – Company building: Attracting the best talent

22:36 – Principles in Rocektium’s work culture

25:51 – What’s 8-4-5?

28:02 – Framework while setting internal metrics

30:07 – Playbook behind International expansion

33:45 – Importance of deeply knowing who your users are

39:08 – Fundraising journey: Finding the right investor


Read the full transcript here

Satej 0:05

For a senior decision-maker, what their team does is a black box. They don’t need to know what software they use, what pain points, what is it that they want, they want lower cost of customer acquisition, they want higher return on ad spend. They want more conversion within their apps, more transactions happening from within their app. That is what a senior leader wants. So that is where we focus, what we tell them is 30% of your revenue comes from people clicking on banners within your own app. But they are not personalized, they are not optimized. The same way we tell them: 30-40% of your ad of your marketing budget is spent on social and display ads, which are all visuals. But the process for that is preventing their team from getting the maximum ROI. That is for a senior leader, for people who are operators and who execute for them, you talk about the day to day process that is preventing them from getting this.


So I’m reminded of this quote that is attributed to Picasso, which is that when art critics get together, they talk about form and structure and themes, but when artists get together, they talk about the cost of turpentine. So I’m not saying that senior leaders lack the knowledge of the process. But really, they are focused on the outcomes. Whereas the operators, they care about the day to day, they know how much time it takes to download analytics from different platforms, do a VLOOKUP of something. And then, fill some data in a table in Google Sheets. So that process if you tell them here is one click and you get these insights. Plus you get to deep dive and do your own chatting, reporting that sort of stuff. That is what would connect to them. So depending on the buyer or the user, we focus on different messages.


Siddhartha 1:48

Dear listeners, before we dive deep into the podcast, let me thank our sponsors, Prime Venture Partners, Prime is the first institutional check in category creating tech startups like Dozee Mfine, MyGate NiYo, Prime is now investing all of its fourth fund which is more than 100 million dollars. Today, I have with me Sanjay Swamy, Managing Partner, Prime Ventures. Sanjay, prime has played a key role in developing the fintech startup ecosystem and the financial services ecosystem in India. Can you elaborate on that role? And how does the next few years of FinTech look like for India?


Sanjay 2:29

Siddhartha, FinTech in India is a never ending opportunity. Because people are either unserved, underserved or poorly served. Whether you’re in a small business or whether you’re a consumer, there is always a better way of accessing financial services. Three areas that we look at and that keep us still very bullish about the sector. One is, just better customer reach, better customer service, better customer experience for laser focused FinTech solutions. Second is verticalization of FinTech, whether it’s for logistics, whether it’s for health education. And the third is infrastructure plays where companies are actually now FinTech enabling the incumbents, whether it’s a bank or an NBFC. So these are three areas that we are still very, very bullish on. And of course, not to mention the entire web three crypto space, which we see is going to be a huge opportunity.


Siddhartha 3:20

So listeners, let’s dive straight into this week’s Podcast. Today, I have with me on the podcast a very dear friend, Satej Sirur, co-founder and CEO of Rocketium. Rocketium is building the modern day Adobe for design and marketing teams. Satej, welcome to the 100x Entrepreneur Podcast. Just to give listeners a background, I have known Satej for more than two years. I’m very grateful that the 100x Entrepreneur Fund is a part of Rocketium’s journey. And I have seen Satej evolve as a phenomenal leader in the last couple of years. So Satej, our listeners would love to learn from you. First of all, your journey before Rocketium, where did you grow up? Where did you study, and then to the current state, the pivots at Rocketium.


Satej 4:15

Absolutely, and thank you so much for having me. I’m a big fan of the podcast and kudos to you for building this amazing community where people pay it forward, share their learnings and failures. So I’m happy to do the same today. So in a way of introducing myself, I’m Satej, founder and CEO of Rocketium. I have about 18 years in the industry now, primarily in Engineering Technology, product development, product management, that sort of thing. So I did my schooling in Mumbai. And after that, I moved to Bangalore. So now I’ve been a Bangalore person for over 20 years. I did my engineering over here from Army College in Bangalore in computer science and joined Microsoft straight out of college.


So even though it was a large behemoth, what we were trying to do out of the India office was very different. The first set of products being built out of India. So I got to work with the leadership team quite closely and got to build a lot of technologies for the first time. And I was there for a few years. And then the startup kind of hit me, but I didn’t know that I had all the skills to start up right away. So what I felt was maybe education could help me so like a lot of people who are not sure about what to do next, I did a degree and thought that would give me the answers. I went to Cornell to do my Master’s in Computer Science. I did a few B-School courses as well, because naively, I assumed that doing academic courses will teach me how to do something in real life. But it was a good intellectually stimulating exercise and I met a whole bunch of friends, who are contributors in our journey in some way or the other. Some have ended up joining us, some have invested in us. So that was a good journey.


I worked at a SAS startup in New York for a few years. And then AWS in Seattle also for a few years. Now both of those companies were at very different stages. But in some ways, my experience there was also similar. AWS was 200 to 250 people when I joined, Amazon itself was fairly large, but nowhere near the kind of juggernaut it is today. In fact the corporate folks used to be in one building. And where I lived, where I worked in my office at AWS, the elevator did not even go up to that floor. So till the 12th floor, I had to take the elevator then I had to walk up, rickety set of stairs. So that was a sort of Amazon that was there at that time. So I enjoyed my experience. I got to build a lot of products that are today, the foundation of a lot of internet companies and technology innovation. So happy to be a part of that.


I wanted to come back to India and start a startup. So I came back, did my B-School degree from ISB, after which I joined a very promising early stage startup called Taxi For Sure in the cab aggregation space, I joined as their only product manager and went on to build the entire product team as its head. And then also started Labs, which was our strategy team. So I learned a lot of things. The stint was very short, in Calendar years, two years, but having worked closely with the CEO and the other co-founder and a lot of their founding team members, by learning and growth was accelerated, so felt like a lot longer. And another good thing like during my Cornell times was I met my future collaborators there, including my co-founder, who was with me in Taxi For Sure.


So in 2015, we started Rocketium. It started off as an itch that I wanted to scratch, it was an idea in my head since 2005. And I didn’t care about the market size, whether a real person wanted it or not, I wanted to build it for myself. It was a very odd sort of product, but it’s still close to my heart. It was a platform to come and create learning content, educational content, any idea that you want to share, but in the form of games. So very easily, you could come and type some content, choose something from a drop down, drag and drop, and then what you would get would be a game. So fairly innovative technology. But it was just an itch that needed to be scratched, it really wasn’t going to be a real business. So I tried my hand at some of those experiments. We did some stuff in the consumer internet space for a few years. And then two years ago, we pivoted into a more mid market b2b Sort of a focus. And that’s 100% of our focus today. And that’s really where my association with the 100x Entrepreneur Fund also started.


Siddhartha 8:30

Satej, I would love to learn the first four years of Rocketium. What were the things that, you were not feeling right, that made you pivot the business. And it’s quite a shift from a b2c business to a b2b SaaS company. Focus on mid market enterprise. How did you identify the new target segment?


Satej 8:53

Yeah, so it’s funny the registered name of the previous company where I work, the cab app creation company was called Serendipity info labs, because their belief was a lot of good things happen serendipitously. So, of course, you have to engineer serendipity. So that is what we did. One by surviving two by having an open mind to listen to our users and customers. And three, having that sort of innovative first principles mindset to say, Okay, this is what we’re hearing, how can we solve it? So a lot of every pivot of ours has been serendipity. The gaming stuff was not serendipity. It was an idea that I had, but why we got into the video creation space, we used to call Rocketium the Canva for video, this was the time before the design juggernaut Canva did video, it was only image and we built a very easy video creation software, which was web based because a lot of people at that time were seeing the video content that they’re putting out on social media was getting a lot of eyeballs.


So when we were showing them this game platform. They said, hey, if a similar sort of experience could output videos instead of games It would be a lot more valuable for us. So that’s how we got into the consumer internet space. The reason we got into this mid market sort of focus was we had very large consumer internet unicorns talk to us when we were telling them that, hey, we have this video creator, is there a potential for this in the b2b space, that’s when they told us about what their real needs are. And that’s how we got into it. And in those four years, why we pivoted when we pivoted was, there would be metrics that you could look at, it could be conversion rates of free to paid, you could look at usage of users of how many times that sort of ratio of WAU, which is weekly active users divided by MAU, monthly active users, that tells you how many of your monthly users are even coming back every week, those kinds of metrics you could look at there is obviously churn. So how many people stop paying you after some months.


So those are the metrics you could look at. And those also painted a picture. And it was not good enough for us to say that you have hundreds of thousands of users, thousands of people signing up every month. That was not good enough for us, because some of these metrics did not paint the greenest of pictures when you look at those charts. The other thing which was more concerning for us as product builders and makers was that our interaction with users was very, very superficial. When we reached out to them for feedback about how the product is or what else we could be building, the kind of inputs we got, were very superficial, because we played such an such a small part in their lives, that the number of videos that they wanted to make, and where they would use those videos was so less important to them, that when you sought feedback, they said, hey, whatever you built is fine, I don’t need you anymore.


And that was telling us that we are not very important in their lives. And we don’t want to build a business where we are playing such a small role in somebody’s life. Because then how much the pay is obviously one way to look at how much value you’re adding to somebody kind of like the salary is a rough proxy for how much value you’re adding for a company. Similarly, the other thing was that if we add so little value, how much would they invest in helping us build a better product, very little, they are not invested in giving us feedback, making the product better. And so that acceleration that would come from heavily invested users who are demanding more from us pulling out a good product out of us, that loop would not be there. And that was really our concern.


So every time when we pivoted, it started off as serendipity saying a totally random sort of request would come to us somewhere random, and we just never did that somewhere somewhat close to what we are doing. And then we evaluated how much would this mean to this person? How often would they use this product? How much would they refer to other people? How important are we in their daily lives? And that was a good indicator for us to start experimenting. And when those experiments would go well, we had the confidence and the courage to say no to what we were doing before and move on to the next story. So that’s really how I would describe the first four years: a combination of metrics not looking so good, and user feedback being almost absent, plus something much better, much more promising and positive coming on the other side.


Siddhartha 13:08

And can you share some metrics like annual recurring revenue, the number of customers that you have, and how many of them are today’s India’s unicorns that you have as customers?


Satej 13:22

Absolutely. So today, we are about 2 million in ARR. And most of that growth has come in the last two years after we have done this b2b pivot. Also, we have about 80 customers, 50 of them are using this new product that we have. And on an average, our customers pay us $2,000 a month. So if you look at any of these metrics, also net retention, for example, which is a measure of, starting off with some revenue with the customers, some customers leave, some customers end up paying you more that sort of expansion that happens or contraction that happens. So that net retention for us is 110%. So even though we are not a true enterprise, we are seeing fairly good net retention, in spite of COVID in spite of any business uncertainties that might happen.


So those are all positive signs for us. Also, now we have customers from 12 different countries, many of them are discovering our software and coming to us, we have also been able to establish very predictable outbound sales processes. So when we are reaching out to people, we are hearing very similar problems for all of them. A lot of them say that, Oh, I had no idea this category of software exists. And to your point of modern day Adobe, they are used to today’s Adobe and what problem it solves. It’s a great set of software. It solves a pressing need, but their needs are slightly different. It needs a little more specific software. And so that is what the gap is that we’ve been able to discover and get to this stage.


Siddhartha 14:44

And when customers compare you to the existing alternative, like Adobe, how do customers describe? What problem have you solved for them and how do they describe the solution today?


Satej 14:57

Yeah, so the way they talk about this problem is, there are two or three pieces to it. First part is in the content production. So this is where marketing teams are relying either on agencies or in-house design teams to give them visual content for their campaigns. What does campaign mean, this is advertising, which is maybe about 50% of our use case. And another 50% of our use case is content that goes into apps, especially the more transaction oriented apps, whether it is FinTech, ad tech, or E commerce. So within those apps or websites, you’ll see a lot of visual content, which offers new product announcements, things like that. So all of these campaigns require a very large quantity of visual content, both images, as well as video.


So the typical process is, marketing teams go to these designers either within their company or in agencies and ask them to give them this sort of visual content. 99% of them will use Adobe software, Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, Premiere Pro, that sort of thing. And that software is perfect for making the first version of something, the prototype the template in a way, but after that, when marketers are asking them, hey, I want this same thing but for 50 products, or I want the same thing, but in 30 different sizes, because this same creative has to go on different platforms, my app, my website, ad platforms, things like that. Or they say that I have to experiment with two types of layouts, or I want to experiment with different types. So many of these kinds of experiments are what growth teams are running.


And so what ends up happening is the designers are on a treadmill of continuously producing this, a lot of this work is not really very creative, it is more production kind of work. And using the same software to make the first most beautiful, pristine and pixel perfect version, and making all of the adaptations of that, it’s being done with the same software. So think of it as sort of an assembly line in a factory versus an artisan sitting and making content. So the idea is not to say that what happens in the assembly line is shoddy, you still have the reliable safe cars that come out of an assembly line, you don’t really need an artisan sitting and handcrafting every car. It’s sort of a similar comparison.


So we begin where professional design software like Adobe and professional scaling software like ours would come in. So that’s one part of the problem, which is growth teams require visual content at scale. So our software comes and scales that. So the way a marketer would describe this problem is I have to wait two to four weeks to get the creative content that I want from my teams. Sometimes I self regulate. And I don’t even ask them for all of this content, because I know they will not be able to, which means I run fewer experiments, I am on fewer channels, and my return on ad spend is not really going to be very high. The other aspect of this is the deployment of this creative content. Today, if this has to go into your own website or app, you’re relying on your internal content management system, one by one uploading each of these images or videos inside that system. And then that system many times lacks the capabilities to say such people, at such a time, on this device who have purchased these things should see this content.


So being able to personalize being able to AB test, being able to get insights of what is working, not working is missing. So how do you take a design and then deploy it to your own website or app. That’s the other piece that we solve for marketers? The last piece is a common thing across both of these, which is analytics and insights. So today, most analytics that people would get would be that so and so a number of people have seen my content. So many people have clicked on it. So many people have gone on to make a purchase or whatever else, they lack any insights about what that user saw. And did that have any correlation with purchases? Were these kinds of messages connecting more, was this sort of imagery working better, this sort of layout, this format, any of those things are not really going into the decision making process.


So just imagine you are dealing in these sorts of black boxes and deciding is this black box, okay, that black box, okay, if you just lift that box, you could actually see what is in that black box that is making this one work and this one work not so well. So being able to peer inside that black box and give better insights on that. So those are the three pieces that we solve for. So roughly if you had to think about it, what happens before the design, what happens during the design and what happens after the design.


Siddhartha 19:15

So basically, when you talk to the head of marketing of any large company, especially these growth stage unicorns, you tell them that I’ll improve your top of the funnel which can ultimately lead down to more revenue and a better process for your entire design and marketing team?


Satej 19:39

Absolutely. And that’s why the conversation has to happen at two levels. For a senior decision maker, what their team does is a black box. They don’t need to know what software they use, what pain points they have. What is it that they want? They want lower cost of customer acquisition. They want higher return on ad spend. They want more conversion within their apps, more transactions happening from within their app. That is what a senior leader wants. So that is where we focus, what we tell them is 30% of your revenue comes from people clicking on banners within your own app. But they are not personalized, they are not optimized. Same way we tell them 30-40% of your marketing budget is spent on social and display ads, which are all visuals, but the process for that is preventing their team from getting the maximum ROI out of it.

That is for a senior leader, for people who are operators and who execute for them, you talk about the day to day process that is preventing them from getting this.


So I’m reminded of this quote that is attributed to Picasso, which is that, when art critics get together, they talk about form and structure and themes. But when artists get together, they talk about the cost of turpentine. So when you talk to me I’m not saying that senior leaders lack the knowledge of the process. But really, they are focused on the outcomes. Whereas the operators, they care about the day to day, they know how much time it takes to download analytics from different platforms, do a VLOOKUP of something, and then, fill some data in a table in Google Sheets. So that process if you tell them here is one click and you get these insights. Plus you get to deep dive and do your own chatting, reporting that sort of stuff. That is what would connect to them. So depending on the buyer or the user, we focus on different messages.


Siddhartha 21:24

And Satej, this is the part of the product the problem that you solve, you described. Now let’s come to the company building part, you have been able to attract some of the best people from SaaS unicorns like BrowserStack. What has made them quit and join you? They are part of juggernauts like $100 million, and you are a $2 million. So what is exciting for them?


Satej 21:49

Yeah, so I would say, a large part of this is something that not a lot of people focus on or when they talk about it, it sounds like jargon or something that the CEO should talk about, which is culture. So for us culture is obviously multiple variables, and also very hard to define. Even though we focus so much on it, it’s hard to define, but I would say culture is one of the big reasons why they join. One is if you go to, we have written about some of our principles. So it’s not just the espoused values of the company, which a lot of people do. But we also talk about specifics like our 8-4-5 work timings. And the reasons behind why we work like that, It’s not so much that we have flexible work timings that you can work whenever you want. It’s not about that, it’s about the focus on people’s productivity, well being and creativity and innovation, teamwork, those kinds of things that why the entire team has to work during certain times and why it is important to take a break.


So these kinds of principles we have, and that’s one of the first things we tell people during the interview process. So some folks who joined us recently said that in many companies, either they did not have this sort of culture round at all, or the culture round was at the end. And they said that that was one of the most important things for me, I wanted to know who are the people I will work with? Why should I work with them, more than other things? Because today, in a sense, being high funded high growth, having marquee customers, many companies can boast of that. So when it comes to decision making, it could come down to some of the softer aspects that people do not think add value. So most recruiters might focus on the checklist items, which is that do you have these skills we have these needs? What’s your salary expectation? This is what we are offering, focusing on those things. But we make sure that we have them understand what we are really doing.


So our HR team, for example, when they speak with folks, that’s what they would explain saying, who are our customers? Why are we solving this problem? How did we get into it, this is how we work, these are the people that you work with. So if you look at our job description, one of the things that we say is, these are your future teammates, and we write names of people. So we expect that they would click and they would go to LinkedIn, in that interview process, we make sure they talk to folks, one on one so that nobody else is on the call, you can ask them whatever questions that you might have. So I would say it’s a combination of some of these things. And then obviously the narrative that this is going to be a successful company.


Because nobody should join a company because the people are nice or the CEO got on a call with me and said some good things about me that are easy things to manipulate. And that’s what we tell people that don’t fall for some of these tricks. Join the company for your own selfish reasons, join because you think this will be a feather in your cap, this will be a nice name that would make for a very gilded resume. So you are joining this company because you are like an investor. You are investing your time but unlike an investor, you have one shot that you can take. You can’t join multiple companies at the same time. So you are making an important decision. Make sure this is a company where you believe it’s already going to do well with or without you. But once you join in, you can take it to the next level.


So that ownership is sort of implicit from day one where we are telling them that you are not coming here to take instructions from somebody and execute on those you are coming in, because you’re an expert in an area, you will own that entire area. So I would say it’s a combination of how much ownership they’re able to see, the fact that they’re able to see they can take the company to the next level, interactions with the team members, and just the sort of openness that we would have, whether it is sharing ARR numbers on a massive podcast like yours, or any other information that they would ask about openly sharing that in an interview, We’ve had cases in interviews where folks who have joined us have told us that the prospective companies haven’t even shown them their product, they say that you will have to sign an NDA. In fact, you can see the product only after you join the company. So that sort of thing does not really build trust, and you don’t believe you can join that company and be a part of the founding team that can make it successful. So I would say that has been a big reason for these people to join us.


Siddhartha 25:53

And can you share a few examples? Let’s say the one you hear, 8-4-5 and what are the other principles that you follow in your culture?


Satej 26:04

Yeah. So I can tie that now to our, what we call our prime directives, which are the culture codes that we would have. So one of those things is a focus on self, where we tell everybody that first focus on your selfish interests, make sure that whatever we are doing helps you directly because if it helps you most chances are unless you’ve done something unethical or illegal, most chances are that it will benefit us. What is an example of that, we personally encourage everybody in the team to ask questions about any project that they are picking up asking why, why are we doing this? What is the benefit of this for the company? More importantly, what is the benefit to them? If they are not bought in, if they don’t understand the reasons for that, then it is not going to be successful. And nobody benefits from that.


So this sort of focus on self is something that we push a lot, parts of that would also translate to, for us as a company, we look at our culture and our team as a product, and the founders and the HR team as sort of product managers of that product. So what do the users want? What are the bugs in this product? How do we work on that? So one of those things was lack of mentorship. So we realized that a lot of people need somebody to talk to and need some guidance for that. So that we saw in multiple ways. So for example, there are monthly check-ins that happen with a manager, we use a People Operations software called Lattice where we manage all of this.


So we make sure everybody’s having those one on ones that are structured questions that they are supposed to do, even I would do it with my direct reports, including my co-founder, we would do these kinds of check ins, there are six monthly appraisals that we do were very clear goals would have been set of what you’re supposed to do the progress towards that, we do something called a co pilot, where anyone from the team can sign up anybody else in the team as a co-pilot, as long as both of them agree. And the agenda for that is defined by the pilot. So if I want help, for example, to build my confidence, to improve my communication skills, to learn something about a technical area, or any of these kinds of things, I could ask somebody to join me as a co-pilot. And then we are doing these half an hour sessions every week, every two weeks.


So we have that sort of formalized process internally. So this way, there are a lot of processes that we do internally, we have a wiki where we are sharing openly everything that’s happening. That’s a part of our culture to share openly, whatever is happening, good and bad. Look at the wiki first, learn from what has happened in the past and figure this thing out. So I would say we are very intentional about this, we keep looking at users of this product and saying what would the users want? And in a way it’s easy to do because we ourselves are the users. I am an employee of this company, I want certain things. Our HR team is employees, my co-founder is an employee. So that’s what they are doing that this product is not working for me. These are some things that I do not like, how can we make it better? A very standard set of interview processes that we have created. Lot of those things, we try to be very intentional and thoughtful about it.


Siddhartha 29:04

And can you elaborate the 8-4-5?


Satej 29:08

Yeah, absolutely. So 8-4-5 was a reaction to what happens in some Chinese companies, whether publicly espoused or not, which is 9-9-6, which is 9am to 9pm, six days a week is what their team’s timings are. And that’s a way to motivate those teams, also to say that we are working harder than anybody else. And that’s why we are going to win. But as somebody who has read deep work and honestly believes in the fact that all of us are doing creative work, creative work is not limited to only some teams or the others. Every team is doing creative work. So we strongly believe that you need to work regular hours because that has these knock on effects like sleep on time will eat well. So without really getting into people’s personal lives, these sorts of Keystone Habits can ensure people have a more regular sort of lifestyle.


And not two people come back to us and say that, my health has become so much better because now I have more regular timings andI’m eating on time and I feel a lot better because of this one. Earlier when I could work at any time and sleep at any time, I used to have a lot of trouble with that. So 8-4-5 is meant to be 8am to 4pm, five days a week. So obviously, many companies work five days a week, but they expect people to work over weekends. They congratulate and reward people who are burning the midnight oil. And we also do that, when somebody has gone above and beyond the call of duty to do something, we reward them, and we appreciate and thank them.


But we also remind them that it’s important that they balance work and life, because it’s okay for you to have a few Sprint’s like this, 1,2,3 weeks of doing that, but it is not sustainable, it is not good for your health, it is not good for your creativity, eventually it will lead to burnout. And neither you nor we win. So somewhere coming back to that prime director of ours and the focus on self. This way of being selfish is good for everybody. That we want to be selfish. And we don’t want the team to burn out because you will get short term benefits and then long term losses. But it’s actually good for the other people as well, because that selfishness is making sure that they have a very balanced lifestyle.


Siddhartha 31:18

And Satej when you’re setting internal metrics, and goals, what is the framework that you are now using to go from 2 million to 10 million? And when are you targeting that?


Satej 31:31

Yeah, so what we’ve started off with, we don’t follow a very formal OKR kind of a process, but a version of that we have, which is mainly needed, because we had to align the team about our goals. So what we started off with was setting very clear, but high level company level objectives, where instead of putting a revenue number or any of those, which might not directly align with everybody else, so if I’m a developer, I might not know exactly what I should do to reach a certain revenue number. That was something we used to do in the past, and it didn’t really align very well. So now we have kept a little more high level goals for ourselves. So I’ll give you an example. Our 2022 objectives that we have set are, one is to scale what’s working with world class execution. The second goal that we have said is being more critical in campaign operations. So not just in the creative production. But in the analytics deployment, some of those areas that are less of a focus for us, it has to become more of an equal focus.


And third is building an aspirational brand for designers, because they are one of our key user segments. And we have to focus on making the product an aspirational one for them. So once you start with these goals, every team will now say how do I contribute to those, including saying some of these goals are not really relevant for me, so I will skip that. And so now the sales team will come and say, okay, these are my goals that have come starting with these goals, this is what I have come and so and so on, it cascades to the rest of the team. So they have set ambitious goals for themselves.


So our goal right now is two and a half to three and a half X growth year over year, because of the momentum that we’ve seen the sort of repeatable conversations that we’ve been having the sort of pipeline we’ve been able to build in a short time. And obviously, like you mentioned, the very high quality talent that has come on board to take us to the next level. So a combination of all of that. So what we would expect is by sometime late 2023, or early 2024, we should have hit that 10 million ARR number.


Siddhartha 33:23

And can you share how you think of international expansion? You recently started yourself spending a lot of time in the US building teams, which are focused on that. So if you can share the playbook that you’re following?


Satej 33:39

Yeah, absolutely. So international expansion, we are looking at it for multiple reasons. One is that it’s orders of magnitude larger as a market and something that we would like to tap into. Second, in India we have a fairly established brand. Now, most decision makers in different companies, when they hear our name, they know what we do, when they hear pretty much all the unicorns are our customers, it builds that credibility. So we have done a lot of that. And we need to do something similar in other markets as well. So those are two reasons for us to focus on that. And we’ve started some efforts on that we have now built a separate, dedicated team for the US outreach, where it’s a combination of doing these sorts of listening tours and talking to people understanding what their needs are trying to validate, and truly being in that first principles and open minded sort of a mode where you’re saying, do you even have a need rather than trying to sell you something.


And the second one is doing something like that, but at a little more scale, through advertising, inbound marketing, outreach from our sales team, things like that, to both validate as well as start building a pipeline. Now, I’m personally moving to the US in some time, because that’s a market if we have to understand it a lot better. If we have to build deeper partnerships over there, things like that, we need more in person presence over there. So that’s my plan. Once I go there we will also be expanding our team presence over there, not just sales and marketing, but also product development, design, those kinds of things we’ll be doing because we believe that what we are doing is a truly global product already, like I said, our customers come from 12 countries. And the validation of the problem that they’re facing is fairly similar. So it’s not a very Asia only problem or Europe only problem. It’s a fairly global problem. So me moving there also shows our commitment to figuring out stuff for that new market and expanding the team over there.


Siddhartha 35:35

And if you can share it, currently, what’s the percentage of revenue that comes from the US? And what is your target industry by the end of 2022, 2023?


Satej 35:46

Yeah, so right now the US is 8% of our revenue, India is 78% of our revenue. Like I said, we have a lot of good coverage of the unicorns here. And everyday new ones are getting minted. So there is still depth in the India and Asia market. So that’s something that will continue to be bullish about and invest heavily. The US is right now only 8%, which means there is so much more headroom for us to grow. So we think by the end of this year, we should be closer to 20%, from the US and sometime by 2024, the ratio should have flipped, because by then we should have figured out a few more ways of go to market, which are not relying only on our sales team to start the outreach.


There should be a lot more reference, there should be a lot more partnership and integration kind of channels, obviously, inbound marketing will start contributing a lot more. So as we start building a brand over there as well, the momentum will only accelerate. So right now we just have to get this extremely heavy rock, we have to get it rolling. Hopefully it is a spherical rock, and it’s not a square. So you can get it moving and rolling. And then it should start picking up momentum.


Siddhartha 36:56

And you mentioned that you yourself would be moving to the US. So do you think it’s necessary for one of the founders to build a US market to move there?


Satej 37:07

Yeah, I think it’s important to deeply know who your users are. If you are able to spend 30,50, 100 hours in a month talking to enough people and you have that opportunity, then today, the world is global enough people are open enough to get on calls that you could do this. But if those 1500 hours in a month mean that you have to stay up till 2am 3am Every day, you’re not able to spend that time with your team anyway, then, in the interest of your health, and in the interest of your team, it’s better that you’re spending that time in wherever the market is, it could be Australia, Europe, Southeast Asia, the US wherever.


But I believe it’s important to be in touch with who your users are able to do remotely over calls, that’s totally fine. But there is a very different dynamic to going for a walk in the park with the head of monetization at a $40 billion company and them sharing some of their challenges and seeing where you could come in and help write the vibe is very different. Now, by the end of that walk, if that person knows, oh, you’re here only this week, or you’re coming back several months from now. Okay, let’s talk when you’re back. So that momentum is completely lost versus Oh, yeah, I’m here and I’m going to be coming back to your office next week, then the momentum is there.


So a lot of these things which are a little more intangible, you will not know till you are there until, as they say, press the flesh, you will not know what sort of outcomes you could get out of it. But I think it’s important to be close to where your customers are. If we ourselves end up finding out that the US is a great market, we could build this out through a team over there. And founders are not needed. Founders have a bigger role to play in a different geography. Founders will move wherever that is needed. But we have also reached a stage where founders are not really driving the business and establishing and figuring stuff out, we have a great set of leaders who have joined. So in combination with both of those, we’ll be doing that, but at least the stage of one to ten where we are, I think founders should be closer to where the customers are.


Siddhartha 39:07

And if you can share how you have evolved over the last four to five years, as a person as a leader, what are the things that you have given up? And what are the new things that you have absorbed over the course of time?


Satej 39:20

Yeah, absolutely. So one, as a joke, I could tell you, but I think a lot of listeners who are going through that transition, you will also be able to figure that out, is which software are you spending the most time in. Very early stages of rocketium, I was spending time in Visual Studio writing code. After that it was, writing documents as a product manager, so a lot of PRDs and those kinds of things, writing that stuff down. After that it was within Excel, for example, which was whether it was fundraising or looking at sales numbers or CRMs, for that matter, that sort of thing. And today, a lot of that time is spent in wikis writing more high level documents for the team, or in presentations making that sort of aligning the rest of the team. So that has been at least my transition of roles as well.


So if you think about it as the sort of circle where product development is at the center of it, because you don’t need anything else, you could build a product, if you and your users are very well aligned, you are able to quickly build and iterate and stuff like that. But then you have a circle outside, which is your design, and then product management. And then you would have sales and customer success, too. Even if people are not coming in on their own and inquiring about you and wanting to use your product, you could still go to them and evangelize and expand what they’re doing. And then the outer circle after that is going to be marketing, where you are evangelizing but at scale. Where you’re inspiring people to know about the problem and know about you solving this problem.


So somewhere, I would say I’m in that outermost circle today, obviously involved in everything that is happening. But the team has also now come in place where instead of having people to whom you have to give instructions about how to do their work, because they were new at their job, they were first principles, people who are still figuring stuff out to people who are no longer learning on the job, people who know about what they’re supposed to do, they have the technical skills, but you are now an expert in culture in your customer in the product and the vision. So those are four areas where my co-founder and I are trying to be experts, rather than being experts in writing the best sales email or designing the best product experience or doing the best landing page design.


So that I would say has been a transition from being very hands on and doing stuff on my own, to now working with people giving them broad directions. So they are able to go and do these things. And also being the sort of measure of truth for the company. So both giving them the vision, as well as showing them the mirror saying that, folks, this is where we are, these are all the things that we have signed up for. But we need to be here together, because this is the outcome if we get to this stage together. So somewhere, it’s about being ambitious, positive, optimistic, but at the same time being also a realist, and sometimes not being so nice, because being nice, sometimes can be a very bad thing for the team. If you’re continuously just only encouraging people and not telling them the real feedback about how you feel, sometimes you can hold them back. So I would say that has been my transition.


Siddhartha 42:25

And Satej, if you can also share with the listeners, the fundraising journey, at Rocketium, how easy or tough it has been? And then next is how do you choose your investors, what are the parameters to evaluate them on?


Satej 42:42

Yeah, so I would say in the early days, because we ourselves did not have a lot of knowledge about this space. That was, I think, our hardest problem, which was not so much that we didn’t have good technology, or we didn’t have passionate people working with us, we didn’t have customer stories that we had to tell, we just didn’t know enough about the space. So we couldn’t really build that conviction, our narrative was not strong enough. And somewhere, I would say it was a combination of not talking enough to our users and not knowing the problem deeply. And so conversations used to be okay. And we had to convince people that this was a problem worth believing in, the ones who were sort of self selected into this because they had a thesis around it, they are the ones who have partnered with us.


Now, in the last couple of rounds that we have done, we have a much better understanding of what the market is like. When we went out into the market, we had to educate the investors that we are talking to about the space. And it was a very open and very nice set of conversations. Everybody’s very receptive. They wanted to learn saying that, hey, why are all of these unicorns using you? Why, when so many softwares have existed for decades? Why would you need something like this? So very good conversations where you’re both educating them, and also teaching about who you are. So that was certainly very good. So that is why this time we had more offers than we could take on board and the round was also fairly oversubscribed. And that was a testament to how much they were able to believe in what we were doing. And obviously metrics, customer logos, those all definitely add to it.


But I would say it’s being more in touch with who the customers are, what their problems are, why this space is unique. And by the way, in this round, for example, we didn’t get down into defining how big the market is at all. We were able to help people go through that journey themselves because telling somebody 1 billion, 5 billion, 50 billion, 100 billion beyond a certain point intuitively, you cannot wrap your head around it instead when you tell them that to get this eight hour period when a marketer works, look at this eight hour period when a designer works. This one hour block here, this two hour block here is when they face problems because of XYZ, we solve that and for that they pay us $2,000 a month. Now this marketer and this designer works for this type of company. You know how many of these kinds of companies there are. You yourself can now say you’re only doing it for b2c unicorns sort of customers, you can maybe help smaller companies, maybe you can help b2b companies, maybe you can go to agencies.


So what ends up happening is investors do that autocomplete on their own. So once you give them that sort of mental model, saying that this slice of work that is there of eight hours is what we optimize, then they say, Oh, you could add another one of those, because these marketers work with this X team, that team could also use this software. So then they start building that hypothesis on their own, and get a very good understanding of market size. Rather than telling them how big the market size is, telling somebody it is a $50 billion market is just very opaque, they will not be able to pursue it, you have to help them build their own thesis of this.


Siddhartha 45:41

One thing which I have extremely admired about you Satej is that, first of every month, it’s been almost like two years that you have shared an update with all your friends of Rocketium whether it be mentors, investors or your team, how do you drive that process and how it has helped you.


Satej 46:03

So one is, I’m very good at following instructions. So a lot of CEOs would say I cannot work for anyone else, I don’t have that problem, I can work for people in my team, they give me tasks, and I make sure it gets done. So somewhere, your personal identity, the respect you give to your own word and your ego for doing something up to a certain level. That is one of those things that tries it saying that I’ve made this commitment, saying that on the first I will send this note. So I make sure I do that second, kind of like the fundraising process. It keeps you honest, it keeps you sharp about what you’re telling folks.So it creates that sort of internal discipline as well.


So personally, I find a lot of value in sending that whether every investor replies to it or No, I know when I talk to them that they appreciate this. And they always tell me that this is one of those things that you do that we really, really appreciate. And obviously in that being very candid, like I was telling you, If something’s not working, if you are going to lose some customers, if some team members are leaving us, we don’t hold any of that back because they need to know, being partners in this journey, what is working and what is not working.


Satej 47:12

Thank you so much Satej, it’s been incredible walking in your shoes. Though I have known you for a couple of years. But diving deep into your frameworks, your thoughts, how you operate, how you have built Rocketium along with your co-founder and the team is incredible. Thank you so much for sharing it again.


Satej 47:30

Thank you for having me. It’s been a pleasure.


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