Krish Subramanian of Chargebee

Founder Coffee episode 016

Krish Subramanian - Chargebee

I’m Jeroen from Salesflare and this is Founder Coffee.

Every two weeks I have coffee with a different founder. We discuss life, passions, learnings, … in an intimate talk, getting to know the person behind the company.

For this sixteenth episode, I talked to Krish Subramanian, Co-Founder of Chargebee, one of the leading payment platforms out there that powers subscription businesses.

In the past year, Krish has doubled the size of his company to 150 employees. And his plans don’t stop there: he wants to go beyond payments and power all aspects of a subscription relationship.

We talk about his backstory, why he got started on Chargebee, how he manages his fast growing company and keeps the vision clear, and what his typical working day as a CEO exactly looks like.

Welcome to Founder Coffee.


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Jeroen: Hi Krish, it’s great to have you on Founder Coffee.

Krish: Hey Jeroen, nice to join you on Founder Coffee as well, thank you.

Jeroen: You’re the founder of Chargebee. For those who haven’t heard of Chargebee or your impressive recent funding rounds, what do you guys do?

Krish: Chargebee specializes in subscription management and recurrent billing. We provide a recurring billing engine on top of payment gateways like Stripe, Braintree, PayPal, providing that one degree of separation from payments and provide the billing intelligence as an EPA layer.

Recently, we got funded by Insight Venture Partners. They led our growth round of funding with participation from existing investors, Tiger Global and Accel Partners. This was an $18 million round of funding. We just closed the funding in February or early March.

Jeroen: Cool. So why do people give you so much money?

Krish: Why do people give, well, because we ask.

Jeroen: Why did you ask?

Krish: Why did we ask? That’s a good question.

Why did we ask? I think the progress we have made over a period of time, between the two rounds of funding. It’s kind of slightly abnormal for a typical venture-funded company to get funded by Accel and Tiger. The typical cycle that people talk about is like 18 to 24 months.

Between the previous round of funding, which was our $5 million round and now, which is $18 million, it was a three-year timeframe. Why now is the fact that one, we wanted the gestation period necessary to believe that we have the right product that was scaling and also, the timing had to be right in terms of being able to scale with the market.

We took the time between the rounds to build the right product that can continue to scale. Then, once the metrics made sense, where the cohort of customers, who we were growing with was growing well and our customers were growing well, which were the indication that we were serving the right type of customers. It’s a series of things coming together. Then we felt that “Okay, now is the time to actually accelerate and press the pedal, so to say.”

It made sense, a lot of things coming together made sense to actually tell the world that now Chargebee is ready to serve the world. That’s the reason why we started talking to a bunch of investors to explore. We found that Insight is somebody who has like a full portfolio of the who’s who in the SaaS universe and the entire conversation was like a really good learning experience. We thought we could learn the playbook with them and then help and build a really great company together. I guess that’s the reason.

Jeroen: Yeah. And will most of that money be spent in India then or will it be spent somewhere else because I imagine that if you can make costs of 18 million in India that must be a huge amount of money?

Krish: Well, let’s just say that it’ll be spent on Chargebee. I think Chargebee as a product is serving customers in 53 countries. We have a team in San Francisco. We are a US C corp Delaware company with India set up as a technical subsidiary. Having said that because the home is Chennai, the bulk of the team operates out of Chennai with a lean presence in San Francisco.

We are now expanding the team to places where we are closer to our customers. This will be used for one product innovation, spent largely in product related investment, but definitely in more customer-facing roles closer to our customer space. Which means that yeah we are looking at expanding our presence in different parts of the world, where we have 30% customer base in Europe. We are thinking of actually setting up an office somewhere in Ireland or Berlin or one of those places.

Jeroen: Or Antwerp.

Krish: I guess, right, Antwerp maybe. I know you are there for hiring competition. We need to get some good talents though.

Jeroen: We’re prepping the developers here for you.

Krish: Thank you. The answer is yes, we are looking at hopefully expanding the team presence in different parts of the world. That’s where the investment will go into.

Jeroen: Is this your first startup?

Krish: Yes, it is. Before this, I worked in different companies. For over 10 years, I worked in mostly B2B space, but in enterprise companies, mostly in service implementations. My co-founders come from pure product background, building products from the days of network management systems through the SaaS journey from 2006 as part of the Zoho – where they were a part of the core team.

This is the first company. So for over seven-eight years, we have been talking about wanting to start up. There are four of us who started the company. One of them was my college classmate during engineering days. I did my BE, engineering in computer science. One of them was my classmate. We had been talking about wanting to startup for a long time and we were saving up money to build a company together at some point in time. It still took a very long time to actually feel that the time was right and we can take a leap of faith to quit and start.

Yeah, I think it’s a convergence of multiple things. One, SaaS, we could see that that was coming together in the early part of 2010. We could see that that was coming together, AWS and Heroku engineered. They were making the cost of starting up from anywhere lower and lower. Pretty much everybody was building some kind of a recurring revenue model, which means that the days of a PayPal or card-based payments or one-time payments was becoming – the systems, which used to support one-time payments were becoming more and more irrelevant.

It was not an idea first company. It was more of a team first. We just wanted to build a company together, figure out what it takes to actually build a company together with our own money. We didn’t even know that we could actually raise venture capital when we started. Thanks to Nivi and Naval, who wrote that Angel Hacks Bible. That’s how I learned everything about how funding works after we started up. While starting up, we just bootstrapped through the first year and a half to two years with our own money before we raised an angel round of capital.

Jeroen: What was the Hacks Bible you were talking about?

Krish: Naval Ravikant, who started angel.co. I found this PDF called Venture Hacks Bible on venturebeat.com. He wrote this article on VentureBeat, where he had published this PDF, which was like a 101 on how to raise venture capital for startups. He wrote the basics of what is a convertible debt, how does venture funding work and why should you bootstrap, why should you take venture money and if you take venture money, how do venture capitalists think about it. It’s like a fast track MBA about funding. You just learn everything about that. He had like lots of wisdom packed into that one book, which is a free PDF available online. I don’t know if it’s still available there. That’s the one I picked up. That was my introduction to funding itself or how the venture ecosystem worked.

Jeroen: Cool. And so you started not thinking about venture funding, but then you somehow rolled into it?

Krish: Yes, that’s right. So with or without anybody’s money, we just wanted to build a company anyways. I thought if we figure it out, build it over to three years, we see through that, we thought we will figure it out at some point in time. We just wanted to build a company together. Then, when we decided to quit and start and then we wanted to pick an idea. Then we thought, “Okay, so which idea makes sense to start solving as a problem?” We wanted to pick an idea for which people will pay and nothing better than actually helping others collect money so that they will pay us.

Jeroen: Yeah, you’re getting money by getting other people’s money.

Krish: Exactly.

Jeroen: Yeah, and raising lots of money for that.

Krish: Right.

Jeroen: Well, what are actually your ambitions with Chargebee? Like, where do you see this whole thing going if you’re like looking at 20 years ahead?

Krish: Interesting question. So the role of a founder or the reason why we even started is to learn about building organizations. What I see in the last seven years of the journey is what an interesting journey it has been. Initially, we are the ones, who are actually building traction or getting it off the tracks. Then is the next stage, where we have to get out of the way as quickly as possible to put some smart people in charge and then, get out of the way and then enable them.

Now, it is a question of figuring out where we spend our time in terms of giving the direction and having the right people on the right job to help scale the team. That is our top of the mind problem. Through each phase of the growth, I see that the problems are getting more and more interesting and very different. Even if it’s like for the next 20 years, if this is what I need to do to actually help build Chargebee out and get this in the hands of as many people as possible, I would love doing that.

From Chargebee’s vision perspective, I would definitely say we’re just barely getting started in terms of the opportunity itself because pretty much around us, everybody’s thinking about some kind of a recurring revenue and how do I deliver recurring value and also earn money, where do I build a business. Which means that the problem is prevalent everywhere.

We are still in the very early days of imagining the solutions. Today, we are thinking about efficiency in the solution. Then, there will be this next stage. The next stage of maturity for this category will come up, where there will be lot more innovation that is happening. We are part of that. We are fortunate to be in that stage, where we are one of the early solutions with a certain level of maturity in the market. Now, it’s our job to push the innovation in that.

Then, will come the next stage, where over the next five years, we will hit the commodity stage. I think it will be very interesting to ride the wave in terms of how a category evolves and then, be known as the number one solution in the space and get this in the hands of as many people as possible. That’s one drive to do what we’re doing.

Jeroen: Are you seeing like subscriptions broader than software as a service? Does it also go into other types of subscriptions, not just software as a service, but also like let’s say ‘bread as a service’?

Krish: Yeah, I think to some extent we are seeing that. There are some crazy ideas out there in terms of all the things as a service. That is there, but I think the fundamental premise is that the context of a customer and the recurring relationship is where most of these things are revolving around.

Whether it’s a recurring revenue model or not is very different from how much do you know about the customer – how the bar is raised, where the expectations lie as a customer or where the level of personalization that is expected is – definitely several notches up is the minimum expectation in terms of customer experience from most people.

Today, if you walk into a store and then there is that level of personalization that we expect. Your corner store, where you know that person for over 10 years is the kind of experience that we expect even in the digital world or in any service. Especially if you are actually doing business again and again. Businesses know about each of those customer preferences.

Payments is more about getting things done, where you’re delivering value and get the friction out of the way. There are several layers that are also coming up, which is yes you want to deliver personalized service, but where is the line that you cross where it’s about privacy and too much personalization or ad push and all that versus where, at what point do you actually just say, “I know enough about you, but I’m not going to cross this line.” Also be compliant with the privacy laws in different places, taxes and things like that.

So the whole payment experience has several layers, where there are the regulatory needs and there are statutory needs. All those that need to get out of the way from a business operation standpoint while at the other end of the spectrum, you also want to deliver a personalized experience to your customers. All of that is essential when you are trying to run a business. We are at the intersection of all these pieces, where it’s an opportunity for us to say, “We are these specialists, we have deep specialization in this, we understand this enough and we will provide you an option in terms of how you can do this.”

It’s not just subscriptions or recurring revenue. It’s just a recurring relationship with the customer and how do we enable this, is how we see this space.

Jeroen: Okay, so it’s not just Chargebee, it’s like Relationship-bee.

Krish: I don’t know if the name has to change. Yeah, we’ll cross that bridge when it comes.

Jeroen: Yeah, talking about that, what are some of the great companies or founders that you as a startup founder look up to?

Krish: Interesting. Definitely Joel Spolsky is someone that we always looked up to for a very long time. He is one of the inspirations why we even started up. We all know him through Trello as well as Stack Overflow as the founder of them. Before that he was writing this very popular blog called Joelonsoftware – I think from the early 2000s. That was one of the inspirations for us to even start up, where he was putting everything out there while building the company. He is one of those inspirations. I definitely look up to Girish of Freshworks and Jeff Bezos for ambition and the scale at which they’re just operating and still staying nimble and definitely Salesforce.

Jeroen: Salesforce also?

Krish: Right, sorry man.

Jeroen: No that’s fine.

Krish: Of course, just as a founder you know that you just look at how to run an organization, there is absolutely no way to ignore them. The way they wrote the first V2MOM, which is the goal-setting framework that they use and they still use it to this day. It’s actually impressive to do something like that with a conviction for over 20 years and continue doing the same thing and yet, you are able to scale that same process over and over for an organization at this level of scale. That is something very admirable, is how I look at it.

Jeroen: Yeah, it’s very impressive. If you have LinkedIn premium and you look at companies of over 30 employees or how they grew, you can see that Salesforce has, even at their scale, still an enormous amount of growth – very consistent. It’s like a straight line.

Krish: Absolutely. Yeah, like we are minuscule compared to them. We have now grown from four people in an apartment to now 148 people now. In the last one year or so, we have just added like 60, 70 people. Then, the growing pains of actually adding a team member – what it takes to actually make sure that everybody executes in the same direction, everybody is having clear marching orders in terms of pulling the company through in the same direction. Then, you multiply that 100X or 1000X and then, imagine that these guys are able to pull it off. It’s just phenomenal. The mental framework that they use to execute is something that you can just admire.

Jeroen: What are some of the growing pains you’re currently working on?

Krish: One is making sure that we do enough one-on-ones with everyone to ensure that everybody is working on the right problem. Priorities is one of the biggest challenges. We are constantly ramping up people. At the same time, the customer base is ramping up. One of the primary challenges of a product like Chargebee is we have to keep up with our customers’ growth because billing is critical and we need to make sure that we get out of the way.

If you want to launch, let’s say in Australia and you want to accept direct debit payments with having an entity in Australia, then we should be able to facilitate that. We have to go out of the way in a way to facilitate that. Which means that it’s not enough for us to focus on new customers and the features that are needed for the new customer.

It’s also our own customers who are going through several stages of growth and for each stage of growth, their needs are changing and we have to keep up with it. This means aligning the product roadmap with our customers’ journey in a way that we are almost selling to them again or understand their growth, the goals and keep up with that while we continue to build out on our roadmap is a constant challenge. Priority in product roadmap, priority in hiring and also making sure that people are working on the right problems. I think those are the top three things that consume most of our time right now.

Jeroen: You’re mostly doing the one-on-ones with your management team?

Krish: Well multiple techniques. One is one-on-ones. We break it down in a way that it’s communicated well and then, working on better communication. It’s never enough, where you say, “Okay …” – especially when you’re onboarding new people and then, you are ramping up the team, it is extremely important that everybody understands the mission and then, what we’re after, what are the current goals and how we are growing.

One on one is one of those techniques and then, continuously having check-ins with most of the leadership team, having regular meetings with most of the team and also working on constant communication, where there are periodic updates for the team are things that are taking up most of the time.

Jeroen: How often do you kind of like repeat your mission and vision? Is it like Facebook at the beginning of every meeting?

Krish: No, we don’t. Actually, the funny thing is that we don’t have a statement as such yet. For us, it has always been driven by the customers – in the sense of the customers’ lens. The way we even try to phrase this is from the world of customers’ viewpoint and say what problem is this that the customer is going through and how are we solving it, is how we have always articulated our vision. The funny thing is for Chargebee, we still don’t have like a vision or a mission statement that we have officially put up.

Jeroen: Yeah, so it’s more of a belief at this point. It’s like the belief that if you focus entirely on the customers, everything will turn out well.

Krish: Correct, pretty much everything revolves around, okay, so here is a problem and here are the types of customers that we serve and here is how we serve it. When it comes to the decision-making process, here is how we make decisions. It’s pretty much at that level.

Jeroen: How does your day personally look like? Like how is it structured?

Krish: My day starts around 9:30 in the morning. It starts with me getting my kids to school and then, straight to the office. I start off with mostly spending time on the early discussions with either the marketing team, where it’s fresh in mind and then, we discuss about some of the topics related. We hash out topics that are necessary in terms of experimentation at this point in time. That’s one.

Then, it continues with mostly my check-ins. I try to spend the next two hours to get most of my things out of the way before the entire team is in like at around 12 or one o’clock. Then, it’s mostly time spent in enabling others. It’s mostly the status updates, interviews or the customer calls and that moves on until about 4:30 or 5 o’clock in the evening.

I work out of Chennai most of the times. I also spend some time in San Francisco every few months, but my typical cycle in Chennai is like this. About 4:30 – 5 o’clock, I take a break, I go home for a few hours. Then, I come back at about by 7:00 – 7:30 at night. Then, I have a few more calls that go on until about 9:30-10 o’ clock and then, I go back home. That’s how it looks like now.

Jeroen: Your day looks different when you’re in San Francisco?

Krish: Absolutely. I actually have most of my day free for just customer conversations and it leaves like a lot of time for thinking and reading and all that if I’m in San Francisco. It actually feels very different.

For me, the experience of actually once I started making these trips to San Francisco to meet customers and also set up the team there, suddenly started making me realize that only when you are actually here, you fill your day up by meetings and it’s totally okay for you to actually block your time in the calendar and then, spend more time for yourself. It is something that I realized because the team starts making better decisions themselves when you get out of it, which means that actually spending time on traveling and meeting customers, the best part was the realization that, especially early on when we were like 20-30 people, I always used to be in customer support, sales conversations and used to be in the front of most of these things. There is a fear of actually letting go to the people that you brought on, where you’re still part of most of the discussions or they keep asking you, “Hey, I’m doing this, is this okay?” Then, you’re responsible for most decisions. Then you realize that suddenly you start traveling and meeting customers, so they suddenly realize that okay you’re not around and they need to make a decision.

The best part about this is most of the time, the team that you have built together in your work, the early team, they already know what’s the right decision because they know the framework with which you make decisions. If somebody says, “Hey, I need to cancel,” or the customer says, “I’m going through this issue, what do we do,” they already know that you’re going to put the customer’s interest first. Then, here is how you would make the decision. If that is the case, there’s no need to actually check in with you as a founder if you’re making the decision. When you are not there, they are just likely to do send you a message and then, they would have already moved on with making the decision. It’s totally okay even if the decision is wrong.

Teaching people the difference between reversible decisions and irreversible decisions and allowing them, giving them the freedom to make the decision was the best thing to happen once you start to travel. For me, that was the biggest learning to actually scale the thing.

Jeroen: Yeah, just letting go. Just the fact that you’re gone, you let go and everything still keeps running.

Krish: Right and then, you trust the team better to actually continue scaling the team.

Jeroen: It basically also frees up your mind and your energy to build further.

Krish: Exactly.

Jeroen: Yeah, actually I also had this for the first time beginning of this year. My wife’s a Brazilian. We went to Brazil and it was the first time that I actually let go. Like before, I was always involved in everything. Then, just everything kept running. It felt so freeing because, at that point, you feel like, “Okay, I can now apply my energy on a different level.”

Krish: Absolutely, right. So which functions do you handle at Salesflare now?

Jeroen: Currently, none really. I mean I do these kinds of things, like podcasts. I do all kinds of sales positions let’s say, like for this podcast but for integrations, for partnerships, for a bunch of things. I have a lot of pipelines in Salesflare.

Then, next to that is just the hiring and keeping a check on finance. Those are the main things. I mean I’m still very much involved in marketing that it’s actually Ali doing it, so I’m less needed. It can run by itself without me. It’s just that we need more than one person on it now because we’re a relatively small team, doing a lot of work and the marketing team is the one that needs the most help right now. I’m working on it and my co-founder Lieven is actually also working on it, but then more on a technical level. There’s a lot of technical marketing going on and he takes care of that.

Krish: Wonderful.

Jeroen: We just apply our energy and still in a way like we see where we are needed and we jump in there. We’re not at a point yet that everything is like sorted. We’re not a huge organization, where it’s all about scaling and I need to put managing to scaling on the one side, hiring the right people and making sure that everything is communicated well, on the other. We’re still eight. We sit around one table. Everything is very easily communicated, which doesn’t mean that we don’t communicate super actively. We have meetings to align on a regular basis and have all these processes to make sure that everything runs like a machine, but we’re not busy scaling that, let’s say.

Krish: Wonderful, nice. Are you bootstrapped or funded?

Jeroen: We are half bootstrapped. We don’t have VC funding. We have a bunch of business angels on board. We got some local subsidies and had some loans for a while, but they’re almost paid off. In the beginning, our very first money was an accelerator giving us a sort of grant. We got the money a bit from everywhere and more and more is coming from customers, like the gap between revenue and cost is quickly closing, which is a good thing.

Krish: Brilliant!

Jeroen: Maybe by the time this goes live, we’ll break-even.

Krish: Wonderful, my best wishes.

Jeroen: Yeah, thank you. Back to you perhaps, as you mentioned that you work until 9:00 or 10:00 in the evening. I mean how do you or are you able to keep a work life balance in that case? Because it seems like you’re spending an enormous amount of time on your company.

Krish: Good question, I do. But I also feel like it’s not the same as the early days, where it used to be, especially after shipping the product through the early stage and especially for B2B SaaS, we tend to find customers and if you are finding customers through inbound marketing, you tend to find customers from different time zones, which means that early days, we used to work six days a week, including Saturdays. Actually, seven days a week, if customer support comes in, anytime somebody signs up and in two minutes, we are like jumping on that opportunity. Then, you are so enthusiastic, you’re glad somebody signed up to try our product and then, you’re reaching out to them. It always used to be 24×7 early on. That infectious enthusiasm through those early days is something else.

Now, it’s like, okay so you have processes and the team to take care of most of the rigor that is needed in every function. But it’s mostly the time is spent on enabling others. Because the team is in San Francisco and also in Chennai, it’s important to ensure that I allocate enough time to interface with both time zones and also keep enough time to continuously stay connected with customers. Just because there is customer support, success and sales, I don’t want to take a backseat. Our ears need to be close to the ground to actually listen to the customers’ feedback. That’s how we build a better product.

From a balance perspective, I think it’s just intense five days of work now and then, two days where actually I get a lot of time to spend with the family or on Saturdays, I mostly spend time in the Chennai local startup ecosystem or meeting other startups and interviewing people outside. We’re actively pursuing some candidates, who probably should be joining us, but it’s mostly evangelizing and making sure that you build a pipeline of talent. It’s all casual work on Saturdays. Sundays is where most of the time is spent and so, I have a young family. I have two boys, eight and four. Saturdays and Sundays are mostly spent with family or some of this casual kind of networking work, but it’s intense five days of work.

I actually feel like it’s amazing compared to the early days, where it was intense, very different to the scaling stage, where it’s the five days of rigor and then, two days off. You refresh and then, you come back. It’s actually much, much better.

Jeroen: Yeah, it’s becoming much more stable and sustainable I guess.

Krish: Correct. That’s right.

Jeroen: You’re based in Chennai, you mentioned a few times.

Krish: Yes.

Jeroen: Is it a good place for you to start up?

Krish: Any place where we start a company is a good place. So yes, of course. Yeah, this is where Zoho is from. There are a bunch of others, some really good SaaS companies coming out of Chennai.

Chennai is the southeast part of India, closer to the beach. We only have three seasons – hot, hotter, hottest. It’s like this is home and this is where we started the company. I used to live in the US for about three and a half, four years in my previous job and came back to live in Chennai so that at some point of time, I can start up. It’s a good place. There is Orange Scape, which is building KiSSFLOW as a product, which is the BPM, business process management product. There is Unmetric, Freshworks, Chargebee, Indix. Indix is a data as a service company. There are a bunch of others, who are doing some really good work and some very promising startups are coming up in Chennai.

Jeroen: Nice.

Krish: It is looking good as an ecosystem.

Jeroen: Nice, slowly wrapping up, what’s the latest good book you’ve read and why did you choose to read it?

Krish: Hit Refresh by Satya Nadella is something that I thoroughly enjoyed.

Jeroen: How come?

Krish: For the challenges of Microsoft as a company with a lot of people leaving, insider people were just not happy, meaning they’re not inspired by the journey that Microsoft was going through. Then, you suddenly see that an insider, somebody who was being part of the system for 20 years is able to reset perspectives. It’s a book that is almost like it’s not written for the world, it’s almost like written for fellow Microsoft employees to help change that perspective. It’s refreshing, really good.

The title itself is like really good. I would highly recommend that like a good read, as a leader, how much of a difference you can actually make by resetting perspectives of even such a large organization, then there is hope for everybody to believe that at any one time, we can actually hit the reset button to do better. I found it really good.

Mindset by Carol Dweck was something that I thoroughly enjoyed. Interestingly Satya Nadella also dedicated one full chapter in his book, which only talks about the growth mindset versus fixed mindset and quoted a lot of things verbatim from Carol Dweck’s Mindset book, which is also very good read that I would highly recommend.

Jeroen: What did you learn from the Mindset book?

Krish: More about people and perspectives, especially when you are interviewing for candidates. Now, most of the interviews that I spend time on, it’s more like a bar raiser is how I go in for many of the interviews. It’s important, it gives you the framework with which you actually try and understand someone, just what lens do they use to look at the world. When somebody has moved like four jobs or five jobs and have spent like 10 years in the industry, are they still learning on the job? Are they a know-it-all or a learn it all, is something that you understand by actually talking to that person. This book is full of anecdotal examples, things that actually teach you the difference between a fixed mindset and the growth mindset. It doesn’t matter how many years of experience somebody has, but what matters is that they are still learning or not. Are they in that still learning mode is more important.

If somebody has like 20 years or 15 years of experience doing the same thing, but is very fixed in their ways, thinking, “I know everything,” that’s probably not the person you want in the company, even though you need to scale things. They are going to be coming and thinking, “Yeah, I know this,” so the baggage of unlearning is very hard. Somebody comes in saying, “Okay, I know this, but I’m going to use all my experience to make better decisions, but I’m going to learn on the job,” and actually that’s a better framework. For me yeah that is the biggest takeaway reading that book.

Jeroen: How do you probe for this in a consistent way, like how do you actually get to know whether someone is a know-it-all or learn it all?

Krish: The way they ask questions. We don’t need people who already know all the answers. We actually look for people, who are able to ask better questions. Apart from knowing about the job function, the tools, techniques and all that that they’ve used in the past, what we also do is we try to customize and come up with one problem statement or one problem that they are likely to solve together in the job right.

Let’s say they are coming into the job, especially in leader function, the first 30 to 90 days, they may be attempting to solve a problem. We try to write that problem down in a Google Doc. Then, at a very high level, we write the problem and then ask them to take a stab at it. Very interesting thing is most people in the interest of actually trying to impress you, will jump at giving you solutions, but very few people actually ask you better questions. Then, you contribute with answers and they ask better questions. The way in which somebody actually breaks down a problem before trying to give a solution versus somebody who already has a solution, who already thinks, “I have all the solutions,” makes a world of difference.

I think that tells you the difference between someone who has all the solutions versus the one who’s saying, “I have the toolkit to find or ask the right questions and then the solution will emerge by itself.” I think that’s one of those techniques that has worked for us.

Jeroen: Yeah, sounds good. I fully agree. Okay, the last question now, what’s the best piece of advice you ever got?

Krish: While starting up, one of the vice presidents in my previous company, he pulled me up to say, “Krish, I know you’re quitting, this is your last day.” He said, “Okay …” This is my first company and he knew that I was going to bootstrap with the money. He said, “Okay, whatever you do, just make sure there are two things,” he said to remember.

One, make sure that you stick around for 36 months to try to give it all, to ensure that you figure out something. If you see through 36 months, you are more likely to have figured out something, whatever that is.

Number two, he said, don’t change the lifestyle of your family. I was already married, had a kid by the time I quit. He said, “Okay, just make sure that you don’t change the lifestyle for your family because if you do that, if you make them go through difficult times, that will make you feel guilty and if you start feeling guilty, then you will give up soon, so just make sure that if you are used to liking second AC, you are used to taking flights from one city to another, make sure that you continue doing that. If you’re used to cars, don’t switch to bikes at least for your family. It’s okay whatever you go through that’s totally okay, but just make sure that you don’t make your family go through any difficulty, then everything will be okay.”

That’s actually like a lot of wisdom packed in those two things. Over a period of time, when you actually go through that where your bank balance is going down and then, you are actually bootstrapping your company, money is not coming in, but all of it is spent through the first two years, it’s actually a difficult time when you need to see through that.

It’s extremely important that you actually find a balance between family and your work life. They didn’t sign up for that part of the journey, the emotional turmoil. It’s important to ensure that you protect them. By doing that you are protecting yourself or committing yourself to continue this part of the journey. I think that’s my biggest learning or advice that I got in the early stage, which helped me.

Jeroen: Great advice. Thank you for being on Founder Coffee, Krish.

Krish: Thanks so much. It was fun, thank you.

Jeroen: Thank you.


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Jeroen Corthout

Co-Founder at Salesflare
I'm Co-Founder of Salesflare, the simply powerful CRM for small businesses. I love growth, automating sales, and building beautiful products.

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