Mobile workforces are becoming a fixture of the modern economy, offering companies and employees great flexibility and cost-saving benefits—but it can create a fractured and disconnected workplace culture.
Gaurav Bhattacharya felt this way when he worked at a large tech company in New York—so he left and founded InvolveSoft, which offers companies an “Instagram-like” platform to bring workers together.
On this edition of UpTech Report, we talk with Gaurav about the journey that brought him from selling pencils door to door, to founding a startup straight out of high school, and finally to his current position as the CEO of InvolveSoft, where he hopes to build his company into more than just a workplace, but a thriving community.
More information here: https://www.involvesoft.com/
Gaurav Bhattacharya is the CEO of InvolveSoft. Before starting Involve he worked in product for ASML and PwC. His background is in software & product development. At the age of 17, he started his first company Iti which created a platform for radiologists and helped them prevent female foeticide in India. Currently, Involve employees 40 people and is growing rapidly building products for distributed teams.
DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!
Gaurav Bhattacharya 0:00
We were talking about this challenge and the frustration we had and, and we kind of like realized that this could be something that could be worth solving. So we just quit our jobs and started the company.
Alexander Ferguson 0:17
Mobile workforces are becoming a fixture of the modern economy, offering companies and employees great flexibility and cost saving benefits, but it can create a fractured and disconnected workplace culture. Gaurav Bhattacharya, felt this way when he worked at a large tech company in New York. So he left and founded involved soft which offers companies and Instagram like platform to bring workers together on this edition of UpTech Report, we talk with Gaurav about the journey that brought him from selling pencils door to door to founding a startup straight out of high school, and finally to his current position as the CEO of Involvesoft, where he helps to build a company into more than just a workplace, but a thriving community. Well, thank you so much for joining me. I’m excited to learn about your journey. First off, let’s let’s dig in what year did you start your company? And how did that begin?
Gaurav Bhattacharya 1:07
Yeah, that’s a great question. So we started the company in 2016. And so just a September of 2016 was the first day. Just a quick background about me. So I come from a blue collar family, Alex, I lost my dad to cancer when I was growing up. And my mother used to sell utensils door to door. So just growing up, I had to do odd jobs, and I was selling pens and pencils. But I got really lucky when I was about 12 years old, I got a chance to learn how to code through a program that Microsoft had where they would send to engineers to teach kids in the community. So very basic stuff. I started learning how to do C++, but I got addicted with coding and tried learning English at the same time. And when I went to high school for the first time, I met my co founder, Samir, who’s who’s a rock star coder, too, and we both became friends. So we both had our first startup right after high school, we actually skipped College. It wasn’t a success. But we learned a lot. We made a lot of mistakes, had a lot of fun. We were about 40 people and we had a aquas you know, our company got acquired, made some money. But you know, we got addicted with startups. And after that we both came to the US, my co founder, did her Bachelor’s and Master’s in Computer Science from the University called
Alexander Ferguson 2:24
Yeah, what you had you moved into to then California?
Gaurav Bhattacharya 2:28
Yeah, so I moved in seven years ago. So it was 2012. When I first came, came to the US and I started working for a company called PwC PricewaterhouseCoopers in New York, and my co founder did her Bachelor’s and Master’s in Computer Science, when she had just started working for Google, after her master’s, and I was working for PwC. And we both were facing this, you know, kind of like, strange issue, like, once you go from a startup to working at a big company kind of sucks. I don’t know, if you know, there’s a lot of people who must have seen it. You know, we had a lot of like things that were bothering us. And one of the biggest things that people were frustrated about was just kind of like lack of knowledge, like the lack of knowledge of what’s going on in the company, like what other people working on, what’s the CEOs vision, we always found it to be not aligned with the company’s purpose. Like we’re doing something that doesn’t really match up to what the company’s doing. And that was a huge problem that was very frustrating for me at my company. And same with my co founder. So we both were just talking one day, I think it was 2016. And we were meeting up in Santa Monica, because we had some common friends here. And we were talking about this challenge and the frustration we had and, and we kind of like realized that this could be something that could be worth solving. So we just quit our jobs and started the company. And it was in September 2016. And the basic premise was that we’re going to make, you know, knowledge available in companies so successfully are so easily that people always feel connected with each other at big companies. They we didn’t know what the core problems were, we didn’t know what the features were going to build. But that’s kind of what we wanted to do. And we wanted to build a company alignment platform and we just started
Alexander Ferguson 4:13
right from there. What I what I love is any great than product comes from experiencing a pain yourself that you say, Okay, I need to solve this and you felt it in a large company. You know, that lack of connection to the vision. So then you start on another startup journey with you say 26 1617 to two to three years ago, what that was also in California started there. VC funded or bootstrapped from the beginning How then did that first origin start of involved stopped?
Gaurav Bhattacharya 4:43
Yeah, great question. So we are VC funded. There’s a there fund in LA in Los Angeles called mucker. Capital. They recently made a lot a lot of news, one of the companies called Honey just got bought by PayPal for 4 billion bucks. They’re very early stage investors almost like Y Combinator, but they’re based in Southern California. So they liked the idea. They wanted to invest in enterprise tech companies, and they kind of like their vision. So we got some money from them to begin. And then a year ago, we raised a seed round this fall of 2.5 million, where macular capital came in. But we had some other investors who were some early investors in Uber and Airbnb, some good investors came in as well. So we have investors, like gray Croft ventures, who are based in New York, but we have some other local la funds as well.
Alexander Ferguson 5:36
What what industry are you going? Are you going after the enterprise specifically across industries? Like what’s the sweet spot that you’re looking to solve? Serve?
Gaurav Bhattacharya 5:44
Yeah, Alex, that’s a great question again. So what we’re trying to solve for is, especially companies that have a mobile workforce, so mid to large size companies that have people who are distributed, not even sitting behind a computer on their phones, these could be your, you know, like one of our customers is based connections. So they have truck drivers. They have trash pickers, they, you know, people who have restaurant workers or technicians, or field salespeople, what are the biggest challenges that they face is they have the, you know, there’s a lack of single source of information for them, to check out what’s going on in the company to check out like, what’s going on with their projects, to get the company news to get, you know, information that could be valuable for doing their jobs better, because they’re not sitting behind a computer. And at the same time, for leaders, for the C level executives of these companies, it’s hard to get data back from the field because they have multiple tools, they have, you know, siloed systems and people. So can we integrate with something like that and and basically gather information and serve it to the leadership as well. And what’s working what’s not working with some of the campaign’s with some of the goals or any friction points that are coming up in the field. So that’s what that’s the problem we’re trying to solve for. And it’s specifically focused on large companies or mid to large companies that have a lot of distributed workers or deskless. workforce, as they call it.
Alexander Ferguson 7:09
No. Two years over two years in do you feel you found product market fit? How many clients do you have? So far? How
Gaurav Bhattacharya 7:15
many customers? Yeah, so we have 200 customers now, and we definitely feel we’ve found product market fit like we’re growing. In Germany, like this year, we grew 400%, we’ve been growing very close to profitable, we have more money than we raised in our bank. So that’s, that’s something we’re really proud of. Yeah, exactly. Like I was just telling, we were doing a town hall today. And I was saying that you’re close to 40 years of runway left, so nothing can kill us. But our own stupidity. Now.
Alexander Ferguson 7:44
Let’s dig into the technology now, a bit a bit more. So the base form is it’s for the employees to be on there. Describe that. And then the backend of where the real power comes in?
Gaurav Bhattacharya 7:54
Yeah, absolutely. So I’ll try to explain it in the simplest of terms, there is a product called Microsoft SharePoint. I don’t know if you’ve used it, but it’s a very popular product. A lot of enterprises use it. It’s been around since the 90s. But you know, it has very bad interface. But what we’re trying to do is like we’re trying to envision that if SharePoint was designed in 2019, how would it look like so so it basically means that it’s going to be mobile friendly, because for the mobile workforce, but it’s also going to be integrated with all the systems you use. So we can pull data. So we can do two things, we can either communicate out to those systems, or we can pull data back from the systems. And the third thing would be, you know, it would be able to use machine learning, or AI in the backend to also have smart predictions that could help the leadership. So these are the three core principles that we use. In short, like we it’s a platform where you can go on your phone, you can go on your laptop, quickly see everything from what’s going on in the company, any meetings that are coming up to company news to acquisition knowledge to trainings, VIP Ricky’s inside the company, so it’s it’s almost like a SharePoint there. But it’s it’s definitely with a better interface for the mobile workforce. On the backend side of it, it has two core pieces of technology. One is the top down communication element. So it can enable the chief operating officer or the Chief Chief Executive Officer of the company to be able to broadcast information out on different channels. So they can send it as a newsletter. They can send text messages that scale they can send or they can post on the platform, but they can also post on, say Microsoft Teams or slack or other systems that people use says it broadcasting tool.
Alexander Ferguson 9:41
So allows you to go out to other platforms that people are already on whether it’s text message or Microsoft or email newsletters, but also then come back to exact your own platform, which is an app based Is that how it works for the end employee?
Gaurav Bhattacharya 9:57
Yeah, absolutely. It’s it’s so it’s not an native app the built in mobile friendly, web based apps, it’s faster deployment.
Alexander Ferguson 10:05
Yeah, got it. So the idea is that you can push out all the different places that your employees may be, but then they can come back to it and check it and scroll through it. and utilize it. Now this the artificial intelligence side, the machine learning sometimes people say it’s okay, it’s marketing speak, but tell me like dig into it. What kind of knowledge and and tactical tactical things can people use it for to make
Gaurav Bhattacharya 10:33
decisions? So great question. And again, I totally agree, there’s a lot of buzz buzz going around it. But in core, you know, as you understand ai, ai is nothing but algorithms. And then you have data sets that train the algorithms. So we built our algorithms, we use a company specific data sets to train the algorithms that can then uncover trends in the company or uncover, you know, basically look at knowledge and then can say, like, Okay, here’s where the gaps are, here’s where friction points are. Or here’s where, like problems uncovering that you could look at. So to go deeper, just to go a layer deeper, like some of our companies as a CEO, since we have access to a lot of different channels, and basically the company chatter on a public with everything that’s open, not not personal level conversations, but open conversations, we can look, look at some of that data, we can find that. And as a CEO, we can give you a summary saying, Here’s the top three things that are coming up in your Euston office. Here’s the biggest problem that happened last year, that last week. Here’s like the, you know, the one of the biggest issues that were solved last week, here’s for the top trends, here’s what people were cheering about. And here’s what we recommend, you should take as an action or here’s like a piece of information you can communicate out to your team. That’s really powerful, like as a CEO, who’s sitting and who has access, like 600 offices, if you get a summary of every office every week, that’s really powerful information. That does that make sense? You.
Alexander Ferguson 12:04
So it’s studying all the interaction and commenting that the employees are doing. So tell me some of the different platforms that it can monitor that you have integrations with so far?
Gaurav Bhattacharya 12:15
Sure, absolutely. So the biggest one is like bu surveys inside the platform, so people can actually comment and get feedback. The second one is slack and Microsoft teams to open channels and slack opened channels on on my
Alexander Ferguson 12:28
private channels. So there’s private employees don’t have to feel that they’re being watched and artifice.
Gaurav Bhattacharya 12:34
No, absolutely. Yeah. So open channels, we can look at those. And these are the main ones right now. But in the future, we have plans to go into the Microsoft Suite and Google suite as well.
Alexander Ferguson 12:45
So what kind of suggestions give me an example. Give me a story here of what it could look like?
Gaurav Bhattacharya 12:50
Yeah, absolutely. So I’ll give you an example. Like one of our customers is called multiquip. They are a BIG IoT company. And they have a they have they think they have like 500 million in sales. So pretty big, decent size, or a pretty big company. What are the things that we use them for is like sales alignment. So for them, they have they use? They have they use Slack? A lot. So they use a lot of comments and slack. So their salespeople are on some Slack channels, they’re posting about deals they’re posting about, you know, like conversations with customers. So we’re able to, for example, go in and listen to that some of that information and say that, okay, like this competitor is coming up again and again, in conversations, flaccid with the VP of sales and say, like, Hey, I think you know, one of the things you could do is like, check out this competitor and create like fudge against a competitor, like a lot of people are struggling. When the competitor comes up people struggle to what to say what to answer that how is multigrip better? That’s one example. But then we can also look at, you know, like, how are the sales people? Like, there’s a lot of specific things that we can go into. Another simple example is like, just on a very high level. Why is the rep who’s doing really well? What do they do different than the others? And then can you communicate some of that learning said the number one or number two reps have to others. So that sales alignments, you focus a lot on operational alignment as well, which could be just day to day functioning of the business. And then these are the two focus areas like we focus on sales alignment, and then focus on operational alignment, which could be based on like, you know, a lot of logistics pieces, like if there’s like seems to be logistic issues or training issues or big knowledge gaps that you could address,
Alexander Ferguson 14:42
your pricing methodology or you pricing per employee, or how does your packages look like look and
Gaurav Bhattacharya 14:48
work? Yeah, no ABS great question. And as you know, as a startup, you know, we were always trying to figure out pricing. But when we first started, we were just charging like $100 a year to people and then We like to seems like too cheap. We went to like $500 a year, you know, so we always been expanding. But now that when we work with midsize and large companies, it can, you know, the smallest, like company that we serve, we charge 50,000 a year. And then we grow up from there too. So we have some customers who are paying us 200,000 500,000 We have a million dollar customers, but also, it depends. It’s a big scale, which usually depends on the number of seats and the depth of use. So what are the use cases they want to use it for? Since we are not SMB product, it’s hard to like, make it as easy as you know, like Amazon cart like where you just pick something and you can choose the number of seats and features. I think we’re still like trying to get better with that. Like I know Salesforce does it and we can do it too. But we’re still trying to figure that out. But in the deal sizes or the customer packages are from 50,000 to 250 1000, which are like the most popular ones.
Alexander Ferguson 15:58
Be sure to watch for part two of our conversation with gara Bhattacharya in which he tells us more about meeting the challenges he faces as an immigrant entrepreneur, the key factors he considers for moving his company forward and some tips on where to look for new ideas.