Sujan Patel de Mailshake

Café du fondateur épisode 004

Je suis Jeroen de Salesflare et voici Founder Coffee.

Toutes les deux semaines, je prends un caf√© avec un fondateur diff√©rent. Nous discutons de notre vie, de nos passions, de ce que nous avons appris, ... dans le cadre d'un entretien intime, pour apprendre √† conna√ģtre la personne qui se cache derri√®re l'entreprise.

For this fourth episode, I talked to Sujan Patel of Mailshake, Pick, ContentMarketer, Narrow, Linktexting, Quuu, Ramp Ventures, Web Profits, … does this list even end?

Sujan est un entrepreneur en s√©rie, mais surtout un entrepreneur parall√®le, qui aime repousser ses propres limites √† l'extr√™me. Il s'y conna√ģt en mati√®re de cr√©ation de startups et c'est un homme avec qui il est agr√©able de prendre un caf√©.

Bienvenue à Founder Coffee.


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Jeroen : Bonjour Sujan, c'est un plaisir de vous recevoir sur Founder Coffee.

Sujan : Merci de m'accueillir. Je suis très, très heureux de vous parler.

Jeroen: Me too. You’re founder of a whole bunch of companies, can you give us the list?

Sujan: Yeah, there’s a bunch. So to keep it simple, I’m a managing partner at Ramp Ventures.

We own six SaaS companies and operate five. So I’m the founder of Mailshake or rather, the cofounder of Mailshake, Narrow.io, Pick.co, Voila Norbert. There’s probably a few I’m forgetting here! Yes, Linktexting.com.

Je dirige deux sociétés SaaS et une agence de marketing numérique, web profits.

Ramp Ventures and the agency are two very different businesses. But yeah, I love helping people and working on their growth. I guess I’ve doubled down over and over to the point where I have six different things going on at the same time!

Jeroen : Comment gérez-vous tout cela à la fois ?

Sujan: Yeah, so it’s quite difficult to be honest. But it’s also not as bad.

The one thing I do to help myself manage multiple things is, focus on every single company in the same way. You’ll notice that all our SaaS companies have a common trend between them — not the products, but sometimes, the industry. But most importantly, you’ll see us using similar tactics, strategies and channels to grow.

En gros, nous essayons une fois, nous ma√ģtrisons, nous trouvons un processus et nous identifions ensuite un moyen de le reproduire √† l'infini pour les autres entreprises.

Sujan: I’ll give you an example. We’re working on onboarding improvements for our products and are also testing a referral program.

We’re testing the referral program in the company that’s the least risky one, Narrow.io, to see how it works. Getting people to be active is a big challenge. I know the pitfalls because I’ve set up a lot of different referral programs. They usually don’t work as well as you want. So we’re going to test it out and if it works, we’ll know how to apply the same strategy to the other companies.

Sujan: Mailshake has 12,000 customers right now. I definitely don’t want to do any tests on that one because there could be a lot of blowback.

So when we do things like this, it improves our efficiency and it also our effectiveness because we’re not scaling things that are half-baked ideas. We’re scaling things that are proven and have metrics behind it. It helps us do our jobs better.

The other thing is, I think working on multiple projects, businesses and switching gears all the time is something that I enjoy doing. I’ve worked on the agency side before this and I’ve worked with various companies as well where I was in charge of marketing multiple products. So I kind of got used to it.

Sujan: I go into one business for a day, implement a bunch of things that may take a week or two to get data or even get developed, and then come back to it a week later to check on what’s happening, how it went.

Jeroen : Mailshake est-il le plus important du portefeuille ?

Sujan: Yeah, Mailshake’s one of the bigger ones. At least the most successful one.

Jeroen : Y a-t-il une grande idée derrière le portefeuille ?

Sujan : Je pense que l'idée générale est d'acheter et de développer des sociétés SaaS.

You’ll notice one thing about the portfolio. They’re kind of an evolution, especially over the last three years.

Nous avons lancé Mailshake et Narrow en 2015. Notre objectif était de voir si nous pouvions y arriver. Pouvons-nous développer une entreprise chaque année ?

L'année suivante, nous avons prouvé que nous en étions capables. Tout a fonctionné et les deux entreprises se sont développées.

But we also realised that it takes a while to build stuff, so we decided to buy what’s already out there. Our next goal was to see if we can grow a company that we didn’t build.

Sujan: In 2017, we bought Norbert and we’re growing that. It’s grown over 2x in the seven months we’ve owned it. So the answer to our question was definitely a yes.

We are not focused on working with a specific industry. Although I know sales and marketing the best, so obviously we get a lot more stuff in that space. But the thing is, we’re looking at even HR for that matter. We’re really looking at anything in the market that we can grow.

Jeroen : Comment en êtes-vous arrivé à créer, développer et acheter des entreprises SaaS ? Comment cela a-t-il commencé ?

Sujan: You know I’ve always been infatuated with SaaS and software. When I was running my first agency called Single Grain, I worked with lots of different SaaS and software companies. We were helping them grow and it was then that I realised that I really wanted to do this.

Alors, pendant que je travaillais sur ma premi√®re agence, j'essayais aussi de construire quelques trucs √† c√īt√©. C'√©tait toujours un √©chec.

J'ai participé à un week-end de création d'entreprise, j'ai trouvé un développeur, j'ai essayé de développer une idée, mais c'était un peu merdique. La réalité, c'est que je n'étais pas très doué pour les logiciels.

I was really good as a marketer, I was good as a top of the funnel guy. I knew how to grow businesses and so, I would always get hired to work on that aspect. For example, I’ve worked with Salesforce, helped Crazy Egg and Kissmetrics too. Seeing these companies grow the way they are, I’m like wow!

Sujan : Entre-temps, je me suis rendu compte que les marges des agences n'étaient pas les plus importantes.

Jeroen: I agree, they’re not.

Sujan : Diriger une agence est une t√Ęche ardue, n'est-ce pas ?

Je veux dire que j'adore √ßa. Mais la vente d'heures et de temps est souvent difficile √† suivre. Ce que je veux dire, c'est que j'ai toujours √©t√© envieux du c√īt√© logiciel.

But since I tried and failed a couple of times, I decided to first educate myself in software. That’s when I sold my first agency, end of 2013 and got some pretty good runway. I told myself that I’m going to get my master’s and I’m going to do nothing else.

Sujan: That’s when I got to see the mobile space, built some mobile apps and tried to grow those. Was even successful at it!

Didn’t really make much money off it, got into a lawsuit due to a copyright as well. I had actually bought an app from somebody and they had a copyright issue on their main image, that they failed to mention during acquisition. I ended up paying a fat fee because of that.

J'ai tué tous mes bénéfices.

Quoi qu'il en soit, j'ai fini par travailler pour une soci√©t√© appel√©e WhenIwork.com en tant que responsable du marketing ou plut√īt vice-pr√©sident du marketing. C'√©tait auparavant un de mes clients. Mais apr√®s SingleGrain, mon objectif √©tait d'apprendre √† conna√ģtre le secteur des logiciels.

Sujan: And by learn, I didn’t just want to read it. I wanted to live it, breathe it. I gave myself 5 years there. I told myself that I’m going to go through an exit as an employee and I’m going to take a break from entrepreneurship.

Cela n'a duré que six ou sept mois.

C'est alors que j'ai rencontré mon cofondateur de Narrow, Jared, et que j'ai recherché mon cofondateur de Mailshake, Colin. J'ai trouvé deux dovers qui aimaient travailler avec moi. Et honnêtement, nous avons bien travaillé ensemble.

J'ai donc décidé de recommencer. L'une d'entre elles fonctionnerait certainement, n'est-ce pas ? C'était comme si j'avais deux chances de réussir.

I started moonlighting the software space. After a while, I felt like I got really comfortable on the marketing side, but what I didn’t know was customer support.

Sujan: Like, I knew all the theories behind it from all the reading. But when you get in there yourself, it’s very different. The sales side, customer success, the operations, the development and everything else are very difficult to do. And they all hold equal parts in running a company, when compared to marketing.

Jeroen : Comment avez-vous commencé à travailler dans le marketing ? Vous avez travaillé pour de grandes entreprises et vous les avez aidées à se développer. Comment en êtes-vous arrivé là ?

Like, I knew all the theories behind it from all the reading. But when you get in there yourself, it’s very different. The sales side, customer success, the operations, the development and everything else are very difficult to do. And they all hold equal parts in running a company, when compared to marketing.

Jeroen : Comment avez-vous commencé à travailler dans le marketing ? Vous avez travaillé pour de grandes entreprises et vous les avez aidées à se développer. Comment en êtes-vous arrivé là ?

Sujan: So I got into marketing because of my cousin, Neil Patel. He was in high school and I think that was like my first year of college. He was like, “Sujan, you got to check out this this SEO thing.”

And I was like, “What’s SEO?”

So first of all he was like, “You got to check out the Internet, you can make a lot of money online.”

I’m like, “That sounds like a scam.” Then he’s like, “No, no, seriously, check it out once.” That’s exactly what I did.

I got into search engine optimization at that moment. He was like I’ll show you how to do it and then we could make something out of it. Back then, I didn’t know. We were young kids. It turns out that he told me about a lot of stuff around SEO, pointed me in the right direction, but didn’t really teach me much. Unfortunately, Neil’s style of training is putting you in the deep end.

Sujan : C'est très bien, parce que j'ai appris à mes dépens. À l'université, je faisais du conseil en référencement à temps partiel, au lieu d'avoir un emploi à temps partiel ou autre. Au fur et à mesure que le référencement évoluait, je suis devenu un spécialiste du marketing en forme de T, j'ai appris à utiliser d'autres canaux de marketing comme le PPC et les médias sociaux.

Je me suis lanc√© dans le r√©f√©rencement avant m√™me que les m√©dias sociaux n'existent. C'√©tait l'√©poque o√Ļ des plateformes comme Digg avaient vu le jour. C'√©tait tr√®s t√īt et mon r√īle s'est √©largi pour devenir une sorte de polyvalent en forme de T dans le domaine du marketing.

Jeroen : Vous êtes donc passé directement de l'université à votre propre agence ?

Sujan : Eh bien, oui. J'étais à l'université quand j'ai commencé Single Grain. Cela fonctionnait bien en tant qu'activité universitaire à temps partiel, mais pas vraiment en tant qu'emploi à temps plein ou en tant que moyen de subsistance. J'ai donc fini par trouver un emploi dans une agence, en mettant le mien en attente, et j'ai gravi les échelons, passant d'un poste de référenceur débutant à celui de responsable du référencement en deux ans.

Je me suis rendu compte que ce travailleur n'était pas fait pour moi. J'ai donc redémarré l'entreprise Single Grain et j'ai continué à travailler.

Jeroen : Pourquoi l'emploi n'était-il pas fait pour vous ?

Sujan : Je suis passé du statut d'employé débutant à celui de directeur en seulement deux ans. Je me suis en quelque sorte frayé un chemin jusqu'ici. J'ai eu de la chance à l'époque, car beaucoup de gens investissaient dans l'entreprise.

Mais en fin de compte, j'ai eu l'impression qu'il y avait une limite à l'argent que je pouvais gagner. J'avais 23 ans et je gagnais déjà six chiffres. Avec les primes et le partage des revenus, je gagnais près de 200 000 euros par mois. En fait, un peu plus.

Sujan: I took a look at what the wages for the next two-three level would be and honestly, they weren’t much better than what I already had.

Je me suis dit, d'accord, je n'ai pas de dipl√īme universitaire parce que j'ai abandonn√©. Je pourrais donc travailler dur et gravir les √©chelons.

I was 23 and knew that I could always go back to doing what I was doing if I failed. I wanted to make millions and at the time, I just knew it was marketing. I couldn’t be sitting in meetings, looking endlessly at PowerPoint presentations — which I believed was the life of an executive marketing person at any large company.

Sujan: That’s what brought me into doing my own business. The company I was working with was downsizing and I was like, this seems like a good time to leave but also had an opportunity for me.

So I convinced them to be my first client at the agency and I locked in an year’s contract with them. I also got them to pay me more than what my salary was.

I was like, “Look, you guys are laying off people. You’ve just laid off like four or five people in the SEO team that I was running. There’s three people left on the team and I could do all the work myself. Not necessarily the people on the team, but the people you just let go of. So de-risk the position and move me to being a contractor. I want to start an agency anyways.”

Alors oui, cela a très bien fonctionné et je nous ai donné une année pour échouer ou réussir. Cela a fini par marcher.

Jeroen : C'est ainsi que vous avez commencé à travailler à votre compte. Aviez-vous l'intention de développer uniquement votre agence ou pensiez-vous déjà à d'autres produits ?

Sujan : √Ä l'√©poque, je ne pensais pas vraiment aux produits. Je me demandais plut√īt dans quelles entreprises je pouvais me lancer.

Quelles sont les entreprises que je peux démarrer ? Quelles sont mes compétences ?

Nous avons même fait de l'affiliation. Je faisais donc du marketing d'affiliation et je travaillais sur des sites de génération de leads. Je faisais aussi beaucoup de référencement et de marketing pour le secteur du voyage.

That’s when I thought that we could work on lead generation for insurance in travel. So I built out some sites and it worked pretty well for some time. That was the extent of my product experience then. It was like working on and promoting someone else’s product.

Jeroen: That’s really cool. Are any of your startups VC funded or are they all bootstrapped?

Sujan: I’m a partner in Quuu.co and that is a funded startup. That’s the only one. For the others, we haven’t raised a Series A or anything like a seed funding yet. There’s also one that we don’t run through Ramp Ventures just because we’re a partner and there’s an awesome team behind it based in the UK.

Jeroen : Est-ce un choix délibéré de ne pas collecter d'argent ?

Sujan : Oui, absolument.

I’ve worked with lots of different VCs. They actually refer us quite a bit of business and I’ve seen the insides of a SaaS company, working with VCs. And realistically, I didn’t want to have a job that I was forced to do for 10 years.

That’s how I look at getting an investment.

The reason I say 10 years or failure really, is that if you’re taking $500, $1,000, $1 million, $20 million, $100 million, whatever it is, the bigger it is the longer the commitment.The VCs don’t want to see things do well, they want to see things explode or implode.

Cela signifie que vous devez embaucher rapidement, développer votre équipe et faire beaucoup d'autres choses que vous considéreriez autrement comme irresponsables.

Sujan : Je voulais construire quelque chose de durable. Nous aurions pu facilement lever des fonds pour Mailshake ou toute autre entreprise. J'aurais également pu rejoindre certaines entreprises en tant qu'ER, ou devenir cofondateur d'une entreprise. Mais je voulais avoir le beurre et l'argent du beurre.

I wanted to make money ‘now’, but I also wanted to make a lot of money later on when something grew or at a potential exit. So, I figured I’ve got enough capital to kind of get things off the ground. For the last few years, I am running an agency because that’s how I make a living and I don’t need to take any money off the SaaS products I am working on.

Cela nous permet en quelque sorte de nous développer sans rien d'autre.

One of the things I realized is that I don’t want to take a shot at making $1 billion or creating this crazy, big company. I don’t want to be restricted to taking one shot in 10 years and then look at my life like I did none of what I wanted to.

I didn’t just want to give up and go do something like getting a job. I wanted to take more than just that and I wanted it quick. Doing things quicker meant not letting anyone tell me what to do.

Obviously we’ve got some advisors. My partner in Ramp Ventures is an ex-VC and he’s very experienced in capital raising.

Let’s just say, we’re meeting only 30% of our company goals. Now if someone offers us a ridiculous amount of money for it or even a reasonable amount, I want to be able to make my own decision. I never wanted to have a board tell me what I can or cannot do.

Jeroen: Yeah, that’s definitely what happens when you have VCs onboard. When you buy a business, what is exactly the goal you have in mind? Like where do you see the business going?

Sujan: My goal is to try to grow the business. Obviously, I won’t buy a business that I don’t think I can grow. I want to be able to understand who the customers are and see if we can make a better product for them, and identify where its strengths are.

If I think I can grow the business by 10X, then I usually dig deeper. Like, taking a look at the competition, what’s out their, what their weaknesses are and talking to customers. Really, it’s awesome to get into the details to understand a business more. It’s even making me better at running my own business!

Jeroen : Pour ceux qui ont une petite entreprise SaaS et qui pourraient être intéressés par la vente, quel type d'entreprise recherchez-vous ?

Sujan: We’re looking for really businesses that are somewhere between 100K ARR to a million. They could be in any industry really, but are wanting to be or are already into SaaS. I just want to make sure that we’re able to grow them. So if anyone out there knows someone who is interested, let me know!

Jeroen : À quelle activité consacrez-vous la majeure partie de votre temps aujourd'hui ?

Sujan: Right now, in the last few months, I’ve been kind of serving as a customer success person for Mailshake. I’m kind of known for like going into different businesses to try something new.

Par exemple, nous voulons vérifier si la réussite des clients est la bonne solution pour nous ou si nous devrions simplement embaucher un vendeur.

I want to see if we get hundreds of new customers signing up, will engaging them get us anything? I mean I know it will. Talking to customers is definitely very valuable, but do customers want to talk to us? What are the KPIs of this role? What are the goals that we’re meeting here?

Je veux jouer ce r√īle pour √™tre en mesure de comprendre les moindres d√©tails.

Sujan: You know, last year I was doing a lot of the marketing for Mailshake. But now for content marketing, we’ve hired a resource. So we’re pretty much serving as the roles that are potentially coming and then working on looking for somebody who could kind of manage it well.

But I’m also doing onboarding and things with other businesses.

For like example, Norbert. We’re expanding the product to add a few more things to what it already does. It has fallen way behind over the years and the competition has gotten way ahead.

So we’re kind of expanding to try and catch-up with the market. I don’t really need to be in the day to day of those things, but that was something me and my partner, Bob, worked on three months ago.

He’s kind of carrying that and once it is live, it will be my turn to do more of the marketing for it.

Je peux entrer et sortir des entreprises assez facilement. Je le fais presque tous les jours. Par exemple, j'ai travaillé sur Pick hier. Nous avons travaillé sur l'intégration et sur quelques aspects techniques pour mettre en place l'automatisation du marketing par courriel.

That’s going to take two days for my developer team to execute. So now I’m going back to Mailshake to continue doing what I was doing.

Jeroen : Si je comprends bien, vous vous concentrez sur l'expérimentation, l'amélioration et la délégation. C'est bien cela ?

Sujan : Oui. Déléguer et, dans certains cas, choisir de ne pas faire les choses.

For example, we’re working on using the ICE framework — Impact, Confidence, Ease of Implementation, in rating all of our ideas.

A lot of times we decide not to do things. Like I already have the product roadmap for the next year and a half for Mailshake. I know exactly what we’re going to do and build for Norbert.

Nous avons décidé de ne pas faire certaines de ces choses dans l'immédiat. Nous essayons d'établir des priorités, ce qui est le fruit d'une discipline extrême. Mais c'est aussi le résultat de ressources limitées et de contraintes budgétaires.

Ces deux éléments m'ont fait progresser en tant qu'être humain et en tant que spécialiste du marketing. En effet, ces contraintes vous obligent à réfléchir à ce que vous voulez faire et à ce que vous devriez faire.

Sujan: I think, most marketers and also most Founders, get really carried away with the fact that they can do a lot of things. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should do those things or those are the right things to do.

I always go through the exercise of answering, is this the absolute right thing to do? We usually move at a slower pace than most and don’t do a lot of the things we’ve listed down. But that also means, we end up doing things better.

Sujan: You know, one of the things I really believe in and am not an expert in but a part of, is great UX. I think like the end consumer when we’re working on Mailshake, Pick and some of our other companies. I like to think if the product is really easy to use and how we can get it right in the first go.

En effet, un concurrent peut avoir plus de fonctionnalit√©s et un meilleur prix, mais si le n√ītre est le plus facile √† utiliser, les gens en tomberont amoureux.

Jeroen : C'est vrai. Lorsque nous examinons les différents outils que vous avez dans votre portefeuille, le point commun est probablement leur facilité d'utilisation ?

Sujan: Yeah, exactly! They’re really simple and easy to use.

I think that’s kind of our motto — especially for Mailshake. At Ramp Ventures too, we want to make things as easy to use as possible for our target demographic.

Et cela signifie souvent qu'il faut dire non à l'élaboration de fonctionnalités, dire non à des mesures qui compliquent les choses.

We get feature requests all the time. I don’t want to say no immediately, so I take a note of it and make a list of things that our customers want. For example, a lot of our customers really want us to build a CRM. They want to be able to do everything inside of Mailshake. But if we did that, the dashboard’s going to become very confusing.

So I know our customers want a certain functionality, but building it out right away isn’t really the best move. I’d rather go and integrate with you guys because that’s what your core functionality is and you’re already great at it. Honestly, I don’t know any tool that can do it all without compromising on the UX.

If you look at HubSpot or Salesforce, you don’t hear people saying that they love the fact that they can do everything on one tool. They just say they use the tools because they are using them for something else as well. But they don’t love them because they do everything!

Jeroen: I agree. It tends to make the solution very complicated, difficult to navigate. It obviously has some advantages but it doesn’t make it fun or like a joy to use it.

Sujan : Oui, exactement.

J'ai découvert que le plaisir et l'agrément d'utilisation étaient en fait le moteur du marketing. Ainsi, dans les premiers jours de Mailshake, j'ai parlé à quelques clients qui étaient prêts à avoir une conversation avec moi. Nous avons trois cas d'utilisation ou personas différents pour Mailshake et ce client ne correspondait à aucun d'entre eux.

Les spécialistes du marketing utilisent l'outil pour la création de liens, par exemple, mais il est également utilisé dans le domaine du recrutement, des ressources humaines et des relations publiques. En gros, pour l'envoi de courriels à froid.

Mon interlocuteur est un vendeur. Il dirige une équipe de huit personnes qui viennent de s'inscrire. Je voulais donc savoir qui était vraiment cet homme et quel potentiel il voyait dans Mailshake.

I spoke to him and he said that he uses Mailshake for a few things and that even though it didn’t serve a lot of the functionality that he needs, it is a tool that his team can get started on immediately. He said that’s why he loved the tool. He told me that he didn’t care if the tool costed him 20 bucks or $5000 a month, because it made his team more productive and the net gain on efficiency is in the tens of thousands.

Jeroen : Oui, la plupart des gens ne connaissent pas vraiment la technologie. Il faut leur faciliter la t√Ęche pour qu'ils deviennent productifs. Qu'est-ce qui vous pousse √† continuer ?

Sujan: You know, I get really excited about doing something, winning or seeing the results of hard work. I’ll give you an example and this is not even a monetary change or win.

Past Monday, we implemented this form. We knew people were signing up on Mailshake and there were some active users too — for us, these are people who have sent out at least one campaign using the tool. So they went through the at least 5 or 6 steps of setting up their email, writing the email, figuring out who to contact and more.

Nous avons voulu sonder les 12 000 clients que nous avons pour savoir ce que les gens font vraiment avec Mailshake.

I’ve talked to hundreds of users, actually probably 1000 by now. But there are still 11,000 of them that I haven’t gotten a chance to interact with.

There are literally dozens of use cases, but I wanted to hear it from our users. So we implemented this forced feedback form that pops up right after you send a campaign. It asks a simple question, “What are you using Mailshake for?” and says, “Tell us more so we can make the software better for you.”

We literally forced every single customer to answer this for us — even those who haven’t sent out a campaign before. There’s no way to close or avoid the feedback form.

In the first one hour of implementation, we got 500 people who answered it. Within the first day, we ended up getting 1,300 responses and now, we’re pacing at like 2,500. This was done just three days ago. It’s exciting to see all the quantitative as well as qualitative information from people who are using Mailshake. Some of them are sending us feature requests, while others are telling us how they integrate it with another tool to serve a workflow.

Sujan: One of the metrics that we don’t really track, is the DAU (daily active users), because I really don’t care about that. I just like to look at the campaigns that have been sent. We also look at the number of emails that we’re sending out per day.

But what got me the most excited, was the feedback we received. We found out that there are almost 2,000 people or at least over 1,000 that login to our product every single day. If I were to have a look at the data and tracked this, it doesn’t nearly show as that high.

Sujan: Another thing that excites me, is what we’re doing for Norbert. We increased the conversion by 3x already. So it was exciting to see the movement, that needle go up from one percent to two percent to three percent; accounts moving from free trials to paid users. Those are not actual numbers, I’m just giving you an idea of what we’re seeing now.

Sujan: But it was exciting to see all those things. Seeing those kind of numbers is exactly why I love working on multiple companies. Because while one is kind of struggling, the other one’s success keeps you going. I can keep poking around and getting my hands dirty with new tactics like. Like the referral program. It’s been seven months since I last executed one..

For one company I’m working on creating in-app personalized workflows and for another, I’m working on customer success. And there’s one, where I’m gathering customer feedback. I get gratification in three different ways. I’m kind of addicted to this and it’s fun!

Jeroen : Oui, je pense que vous êtes un Fondateur très chanceux.

Sujan : Oui.

Jeroen : Comment conciliez-vous votre travail avec votre vie personnelle ?

Sujan: That’s a good question. I think for the longest time, I was trying to find my work-life balance. So for the two and a half years that we had been working on Ramp Ventures, there was no work-life balance.

Sujan: There was just work. It was my life and I was trying to survive. And I think a lot of this was also to do with me having fun doing this. I found it to be my true passion. But I think now that we’ve been able to stabilise in the last six months, hire and build out a team, outsource a few tasks including customer support, we’ve now finally been able to get some room on our plates.

Sujan: So now I have a work-life balance and what I try to do with it, is exercise in the morning. I wake up early and by the time my true workday starts, I’m usually caught up on emails. In the evenings, I usually clock off around four o’clock. It’s something really different for me. Signing off or leaving work at 3 or 4 in the evening, feels a bit weird too.

Maybe also because I see that in the last few hours or a typical workday, I’m being completely useless. I’m browsing Facebook or Amazon, texting my wife to ask what’s for dinner or where she’d like to go. I’m really not focused on anything. That’s why I just sign off early to come home or do something fun. Sometimes, I watch a movie and come home to spend time with my wife, and family.

Later towards the evening, I still get one or two hours to get in my zone and I usually use it to do something that would have taken me longer during the workday. Simply because there’s absolutely no distraction at this time. Realistically, my best and my most productive days are Sunday mornings.

Sujan: I wake up early on Sunday mornings. I usually knock out one of the biggest and the hardest thing I have on my plate. This helps me get organized better. During the weekends, my goal is to help my team remove hurdles and bottlenecks, and make sure that they have everything they need to be successful. So I’m not actually doing a whole lot as an individual contributor during the work hours.

Jeroen : Oui. J'ai vu sur Facebook que vous aviez commencé à faire de la musculation. Cela vous réussit-il ? Ressentez-vous une différence dans votre niveau d'énergie ?

Sujan: Absolutely. I wake up earlier, I work harder and it’s all because I actually exercise.

Et ce n'est pas la première fois que je fais cela, c'est en fait la deuxième fois. Ces deux dernières années, je me suis laissé distraire et j'ai abandonné l'idée de manger sainement et de faire de l'exercice régulièrement. Je l'ai fait pendant cinq ans, mais j'ai changé de ville et de fuseau horaire, j'ai pris la parole lors d'événements et j'ai travaillé pour plusieurs entreprises, ce qui m'a empêché de suivre le rythme. J'ai donc décidé de laisser tomber.

But exercise has helped me a lot. Even just 20 minutes of running or like going to the gym, getting your heart rate up, has helped me be kind of happier. It might sounds like a little infomercial here, but it’s such a simple thing to do. You just have to get off the couch or your office hair and do it.

Jeroen : Oui, je suis tout à fait d'accord. J'ai également recommencé à courir il y a deux semaines, je me sens tellement mieux.

Sujan : Oui.

Jeroen : Vous venez de mentionner que vous avez chang√© de ville, o√Ļ √™tes-vous bas√© maintenant ?

Sujan: Austin, Texas. I’m from LA, lived in San Francisco for five years and then kind of made my way to Austin.

Jeroen : Pourquoi avez-vous déménagé à Austin ?

Sujan: It’s like mini San Francisco — a mini tech area. Lots of good food, nightlife and I like it because it’s not always all tech focused.

There’s probably a lot of non-tech things like music. I like the work-life balance of my surroundings and again, that kind of forces me to maintain the same.

I think in San Francisco, it’s hard to achieve that. I love that place and have always said that I grew up there, learned my chots. But everyone’s a Founder there, they’re working on something cool and that nudges you to do more than what you’re doing too. Getting out of that environment to see what the rest of the world looks like, was very important for me.

Sujan : Et ce qui est amusant, c'est que j'ai rencontr√© plus de gens dans les six √† neuf mois qui ont suivi mon d√©part de San Francisco que pendant toute la p√©riode o√Ļ j'y √©tais.

Jeroen : Avec des gens de San Francisco ou ?

Sujan : Oui, avec des gens de San Francisco. J'ai rencontr√©, je suis m√™me all√© tra√ģner avec des gens plus souvent. J'ai eu plus de r√©unions avec des gens √† San Francisco que pendant les cinq ann√©es o√Ļ j'√©tais l√†-bas. Et c'est parce que j'ai fait un effort concentr√©. Lorsque je passe cinq ou six jours √† San Francisco pour une conf√©rence ou autre, je fais en sorte de rencontrer toutes les personnes que je souhaite rencontrer.

Whereas, when I was there I’d always be too busy to network and would stall it by another week or month, that turned into ‘never’. But now, I try to connect with someone new at least three to four times a week and have a meaningful conversation with them.

Sujan: I remember a few weeks, a month ago now, we had a great conversation with absolutely no agenda. It was just to meet each other and get to know what we were each doing. I have those kind of conversations more often now because it opens my eyes to what’s happening around me. I can share what I have learnt so far, learn new things and it’s a whole lot of fun.

Jeroen: Yep. I’m also learning a lot now doing these calls, it’s really amazing. You think Austin is a good place to have your startup? What other cool startups are based in Austin?

Sujan: Yeah, I think Austin’s a pretty good place. There’s Book in a Box that is a good startup. Sumo.com and Noah Kagan and that group is here. There’s HomeAway, you know one of the older startups.

Dell, which is not necessarily a startup anymore and some larger companies too. But yeah, there’s a decent amount of startups here. Not as much as you would think though and not always like a software business. There’s companies like Able or LawnStarter subscription lawn care business. Lots of different kinds of businesses.

I think because it’s a smaller community, everyone likes to know each other. I have a monthly CMO breakfast where there are five to seven people that attend with the VPs or executive marketers in the area. So I think my network is much tighter here. While I don’t have too many relationships going, I certainly have more meaningful and stronger associations happening.

Sujan: You know, it’s about really going after who you want to connect with and figuring out how to connect with them. You’ll find that it’s actually not the location that is the hindering factor, it’s either you or your lack of initiative to connect with that person.

Jeroen: Totally agree. Wrapping up, what’s the latest good book you’ve read and why did you choose to read it?

Sujan: I am reading the book, Sapiens. I don’t know why I’m reading it. I would say it’s an interesting book. I chose to read it because every one of my friends kept telling to check it out.

Il m'arrive de suivre aveuglément les recommandations de livres de personnes que je respecte. Mais ce livre est comme un apprentissage intéressant sur l'humanité et l'être humain en général.

I would say the book I most recently read and absolutely loved, is, Principles by Ray Dalio. He’s the guy who kind of you can learn from. The book is about investing and talks about money management, and work-life. It’s one on my favourites now and I would totally recommend it.

Jeroen: Yeah, I’ll definitely going to put it on my list. Is there anything you wish you had known when you started out?

Sujan: No. You know why? It is because even if I knew it, I would still make another mistake and not know where exactly I went wrong. I would fast forward to this interview and wished I knew that mistake. So I learned all these lessons the hard way and it has gotten me where I am today. I’m fine with going on that route over and over again.

Jeroen: Cool. Thanks for being on Founder Coffee, it was really interesting. I’ll send you a package of some actual Founder Coffee in the next few weeks. Thanks again!

Sujan : C'est un plaisir, merci de m'accueillir.



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Jeroen Corthout