Sujan Patel of Mailshake

Founder Coffee episode 004

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

Sujan is a serial, but even more so a parallel entrepreneur, who likes to keep pushing his own limits to the extreme. He knows all about building startups and is a great guy to have a coffee with.

Welcome to Founder Coffee.


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Jeroen: Hi Sujan, great to have you on Founder Coffee.

Sujan: Hey, thanks for having me. Very, very excited to talk to you.

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.

I run a couple of SaaS companies essentially, and I also run a digital marketing agency, called 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: How do you manage all of these things at once?

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.

We basically try it once, master it, figure out a process and then identify a way to do it over and over again for the other companies.

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: Is Mailshake the bigger one in the portfolio?

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

Jeroen: Is there any bigger idea behind the portfolio?

Sujan: Well, I think the bigger idea is to buy and grow SaaS companies.

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

We started Mailshake and Narrow in 2015. Our goal was to see if we can even do this. Can we even grow a business every year?

Next year, we proved ourselves we could. It all worked and both the companies grew.

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: So how did you get into building, growing and buying SaaS companies? How did that start?

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.

So while I was working on my first agency, I was also trying to build some stuff on the side. It always failed.

I went to a startup weekend, found a developer, tried to build an idea but they were kind of crappy. Reality is, I was just kind of not that good at being a software guy.

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: Meanwhile, I realised that agency margins are not the greatest.

Jeroen: I agree, they’re not.

Sujan: Running an agency is a grind, right?

I mean, I love it. But selling hours and time is often difficult to keep up with. My point being that I was always envious of the software side.

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.

I killed all my profits.

Anyhow, I ended up working and going to work for a company called WhenIwork.com as the Head of Marketing or say the VP of marketing. It was previously a client of mine. But my goal after SingleGrain, was to go and learn the software space.

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.

That lasted for just six to seven months.

It is then that I ran into my Co-Founder from Narrow, Jared and hunted down my Co-Founder from Mailshake, Colin. I found two dovers that loved to work with me. And honestly, we worked well together.

So I decided to go ahead with it again. One of these would definitely work, right? It was like I had two chances to succeed.

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: How did you actually get into marketing in the first place? Like, you worked for big companies and helped to grow them. How did this come about?

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: How did you actually get into marketing in the first place? Like, you worked for big companies and helped to grow them. How did this come about?

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: Which is great, because I learned the hard way. So in college, I was just doing SEO consulting on part-time, instead of getting a part-time job or whatever. As SEO evolved, I kind of became more of a T-shaped marketer, learned other marketing channels like PPC, and social media.

I got into SEO before social media even existed. That was the time when platforms like Digg had started. It was very early on and my role expanded to be more of a T-shaped all rounder in marketing.

Jeroen: So you went straight from college to having your own agency?

Sujan: Well, yes. I was in college when I started Single Grain. It worked well as a part-time college gig but not so well as a full-time job or making a living out of. So I ended up getting a job at an agency, putting mine on hold and just kind of working my way up from an entry-level SEO person to the Head of SEO in two years.

I realized that this workforce thing is not for me. I need to go do my own stuff and so I restarted the Single Grain business and kept going.

Jeroen: Why was the workforce thing not for you?

Sujan: I went from an entry-level employee to the director-level in just two years. I kind of hacked my way up there. Every move I made, I took a leap and I was lucky at the time because a lot of people were investing into it.

But ultimately, I felt like there was a cap on how much money I could make. I was 23 and making six figures already. With bonuses and revenue share, I was clearing almost 200k a month. In fact, a bit more.

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.

I was like, okay, I have no college degree because I dropped out. So I could grind this out and kind of work my way up.

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.”

So yeah, that worked really well and I gave us an year to either fail or succeed. It ended up working out.

Jeroen: So that was how you started off on your own. Was it with the intention to only grow your agency or were you already thinking about other products?

Sujan: At that time I was not really thinking about products. I was thinking more about what businesses can I get into.

What are the businesses that I can even start? What do I have the skill sets for?

We even did some affiliates. So I was doing affiliate marketing and working on lead generation sites. I was also doing a lot of SEO and marketing for the travel space.

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: Is it a conscious choice not to raise money?

Sujan: Yeah, absolutely.

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.

So that means you have to hire fast, grow as a team and do so many other things that you otherwise, would consider irresponsible.

Sujan: I wanted to build something sustainable. We could have easily raised money for Mailshake or any other venture. I could have also joined some firms as a ER, jumped on as a Co-Founder of a business. But I wanted to have my cake and eat it too.

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.

It kind of allows us to grow without anything else.

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: For those with a small SaaS business out there that might be interested in selling, what kind of businesses are you looking for?

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: What business do you spend most of your time on now?

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.

So for example, we want to test out if customer success is the right hire for us or should we just hire a salesperson.

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?

I want to serve as that role to be able to understand the nitty gritty of it.

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.

I can go in and out of businesses fairly easily. I do that almost on a daily basis. For instance, I worked on Pick yesterday. We worked on all of the onboarding and some technical stuff to kind get the email marketing automation set up.

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: So if I understand it well, you focus very much on experimenting, improving and then delegating. Is that right?

Sujan: Yeah. Delegating and in some cases, choosing not to do things.

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.

Some of these things we decided not to do immediately. We try to prioritize and that comes from extreme discipline. But it also comes from having limited resources and budget constraints.

Those two things have leveled me up as a human being, as well as a marketer. Because having those constraints really forces you to think about what you want to do and what you should be doing.

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.

Because a competitor may have more features and a better pricing, but if ours is the easiest to use, people will fall in love with it.

Jeroen: Right. So when we look at the different tools you have in your portfolio, the common thread is probably their ease of use?

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.

And that often means saying no to building out features, saying no to doing things that make things complicated.

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: Yeah, exactly.

I found that fun and enjoyable to use is actually the thing that is the marketing engine. So in the early days of Mailshake, I spoke to a few customers who were willing to have a conversation with me. We have three different use cases or personas for Mailshake and this customer fit none.

We have marketers use the tool for link building content for instance, then it also sees some use cases in the recruiting side of things, HR and PR. Basically, for cold emailing.

Now the person I am speaking to, is a salesperson. He runs an eight person sales team and they have just signed up. So I wanted to know who this guy was really and what potential did he see in 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: Yeah, most people are not really tech savvy. You need to make it super easy for them to become productive. So what is it exactly that keeps you going?

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.

We wanted to survey the 12,000 customers that we have to know what do people really use Mailshake for.

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: Yeah, you are a really lucky Founder I think.

Sujan: Yeah.

Jeroen: In terms of balancing this with your personal life, how does that work?

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: Yep. I saw it on Facebook that you really started working out. Is that working for you? Do you feel a difference in your energy levels?

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

And this is not my first time doing this, this is actually my second time. For the last two years, I just got distracted and fell off the wagon of eating healthy and exercising regularly. I was doing it for five years before, but moving cities across different time zones, speaking at events and working on multiple companies, made it hard to keep up with. So I kind of decided to let go of it.

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: Yeah, I totally agree. I also just started running again two weeks ago, makes me feel so much better.

Sujan: Yeah.

Jeroen: You just mentioned that you moved cities, where are you based now?

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

Jeroen: Why did you move to 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: And the funny thing is, I connected with more people in the six to nine months after I left San Francisco than I did the whole time I was there.

Jeroen: With people in San Francisco or?

Sujan: Yeah, with people in San Francisco. I met, I even went and hung out with people more. I had more meetings with people in San Francisco than I did the five years that I was there. And it was because I made a concentrated effort. When I am there for five or six days for a conference or something, I make sure that I connect with everybody that I wanted to.

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.

Sometimes I blindly take recommendations for books from people I respect. But the book is like an interesting learning about humanity and human being in general.

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: My pleasure, thanks for having me.



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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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