Kashyap Deorah talks about his tech startups almost like they were old cars—there was the one he had in college, the one he had in Bombay, the one he sold to a shop. But he knows each one was useful; they all got him to where he needed to be.
And where that is now is HyperTrack, a tech startup that offers a GPS tracking system as a SaaS, allowing companies to track their drivers and share selected information with customers in real time.
On this edition of Founder’s Journey, Kashyap goes into more detail on this long journey and the many lessons he learned along the way, including how to treat investors, how to build the best team, and the right time and way to begin marketing.
More information: https://hypertrack.com/
HyperTrack’s founder and chief executive is fourth-time entrepreneur Kashyap Deorah, who previously sold companies to OpenTable and Future Group. He is also a best-selling author and investor.
Kashyap started his first company as a college student at IIT Bombay and sold it to a Silicon Valley firm. Since then, he has operated in the US-India corridor and done business in China, South-East Asia, and Northern Europe. Kashyap has written for leading print and online publications and made keynote presentations at Internet technology and ecommerce conferences. He is the author of 2015’s The Golden Tap—The Inside Story of Hyper-Funded Indian Start-Ups.
San Francisco-based HyperTrack is the live location cloud for deliveries, visits, and rides. Hundreds of retail, service and ecommerce companies on every inhabited continent use HyperTrack to power operations efficiency, field productivity, customer experience, and financial payouts.
Over 10,000 software developers have built over 3,000 HyperTrack-powered applications deployed to over 5 million devices, generating 3 billion annual location events for businesses that depend on real-time applications and location intelligence. The company’s partnership integrations include Amazon Web Services, Salesforce, and Intuit QuickBooks.
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!
Kashyap Deorah 0:00
It’s easy to get confused about the investors version of the problem and the customers version of the problem. Very important to stay focused on the customer.
Alexander Ferguson 0:17
Welcome to UpTech Report. This is our Founders Journey. This is part two of a two part interview with Kashyap, the first part definitely go and listen to that to understand their product hyper track, which is a logistics automation API. And it’s fascinating, this whole movement of the API movement and they kind of layer of using apps where you don’t have to design everything from beginning to end when you’re building new software or need something within your application. I’m excited to hear though more of your journey, your story. Tell me ketchup, how did you get to where you are today?
Kashyap Deorah 0:57
Oh, wow, that’s, you know, I am, I’m old. So it will take a while. But let me try and recap that I started my first company in the thick of the.com Bubble while I was still a college student. So I was one of those fools in college who thought, oh, you know, any, any college, I can do this. And I think from the first company, I learned how hard it is to build startups and how much more there was to learn for me. And it also gave me sort of access to Silicon Valley, I’d started my company, in Bombay, in India, that’s where I grew up, and went to college and sold my company to a Silicon Valley, you know, private company, and then it gave me access to the valley. And it just opened my eyes to how much more there is to build a startup. And then with my second and third startups, you know, the second one, I built it in India, and I sold it to a physical retailer, one of the largest in India at the time. And, and my third startup was a mobile payments app, which I sold to open table in the US, which then got acquired by the booking.com group as well. So, you know, I think with that I spent, I think, more than a decade in retail and E commerce, and especially at the convergence of digital and physical. And I think that’s the fascinating theme that stuck on with me. And that also gave birth to hyper crack my fourth company where I saw that, you know, the two trends of the API economy and you know, the sort of rise of the API and the physical digital convergence in commerce, and sort of mash them together and said, This is what the word means.
Alexander Ferguson 2:45
You’re no stranger to the fundraising journey, then. What would you say is one of the biggest mistakes someone can make when seeking funding,
Kashyap Deorah 2:57
I would say, you know, focus on the user and the customer at all times. And one of the biggest mistakes during funding is get too focused on the investors and start believing your own press, or start believing the investors version of how this business pans out. Because most often, what happens is seed investors are really good at pattern matching at the macro, and sort of going top down. And the entrepreneurs journey really begins with, Oh, I think that person can do this thing better if I solve the problem this way. Right. And I think there are enough of them out there that this can be a large business, right. So it’s sort of very bottom up and solving a specific problem. So it’s easy to get confused about the investors version of the problem, and the customers version of the problem. Very important to stay focused on the customer.
Alexander Ferguson 3:52
When the concept of getting the funding and you have that new getting started, team is kind of the next big question, building the right team, a good team allowing you to grow, what have you seen are common mistakes one can make in hiring and building a team?
Kashyap Deorah 4:09
A great question, you know, I mean, team is the company. In fact, a team is the product. When you’re building something from scratch, it’s the team’s imagination of the users problem and how we should solve it. That really matters, right? You cannot really go spec and roadmap and you know, translate it to a list of tasks and get it done. It’s very, it’s a very iterative process, because you’re trying to guess what the user wants. But in many cases, the user doesn’t know that they want it right. So you’re inventing something which you think meets the market, where they are. So in that process, I think finding team members who are passionate about the user or their problem and are first principles problem solvers who who bring in experience, but know that they need to unlearn that. And no startup has, you know, you can’t sort of repeat what you’ve learned in the past. In nine out of 10, startups, it just doesn’t work that way. You have, you’re, you’re building something new. And when you’re building something new, you have to be more open to solving it in a different way and knowing when to apply your experience and when not right. So I think team members who who have that, let’s understand the user walk backward from there, you know, those are very valuable.
Alexander Ferguson 5:40
Because I imagine come into play where somebody thinks they know the solution, because they just have this previous experience. But if you’re not really paying attention to what the customer needs, and where this product trying to build is going, you could be applying the wrong solution to the property. Exactly.
Kashyap Deorah 5:55
Exactly. You’ve got that.
Alexander Ferguson 5:59
The I imagine as the team grows, then managing the team himself has its challenges and keeping the culture flowing and and moving in the right direction. How big is the team today for you guys?
Kashyap Deorah 6:14
It’s about 15 people between us and Ukraine.
Alexander Ferguson 6:18
Gotcha. Any lessons learned from your previous ventures into this one of as the team grows, especially if they’re international? What insights can you share for others?
Kashyap Deorah 6:33
Sure, you know, we had a combination of co located and remote. So our remote team was truly remote in the sense that they each work from home. And, you know, in different parts of Eastern Europe and and India, and our co located team in San Francisco, we would all show up at one office and work. And what we learned from that is, you know, that hybrid thing doesn’t quite work. You’re either all co located, or you’re all remote. Right? Or you could have multiple co located offices with a few team members representing and then interactions happening. Thanks to you know, I mean, it’s it’s obviously a terrible virus. That’s, that’s taking the world by storm. But thanks to that, you we all went remote, just overnight, right. And we actually saw that after the sort of first couple of weeks, one month of adjustment. I was one of the people who thought, a startup at this size, fully remote. Everybody working from home does not work. But I can tell you, I just you know, I’ve transformed in that belief. It works like a charm. And every everyone remote, you end up setting a good process where it works for everybody. And you can actually get work done and actually be creative and build stuff.
Alexander Ferguson 7:59
You’re a believer.
Kashyap Deorah 8:00
I’m a believer now. And, you know, I used to say, Where’s the whiteboard? How, you know, if you can stand up and draw on the whiteboard, how can you build anything right? rocketship starts on the whiteboard. But I think there are enough tools out there which help you whiteboard talking this way.
Alexander Ferguson 8:22
Any just on that note of any apps or tools that over the last six, whatever, eight months, nine months that this has been, that you found have really worked for your team? Yeah,
Kashyap Deorah 8:33
that’s a good question. And, you know, these days, there’s so many tools available for so many things that it just becomes a hot topic. And I think that my biggest learning is for everyone to understand that the best tool is the one you use. And whenever the discussion goes deeper into tools and comparisons, it’s a signal for me that something’s wrong, right, we’re focusing on the wrong problem. And what I find is for anything you want to do, if you pick the sort of, you know, one of the top five most popular whichever one you pick gets the job done. So it’s really, which one does the team really use and engage in, you know, just hunker down on that and start using it?
Alexander Ferguson 9:23
I love that perspective. And don’t get caught up with all these features. But what is the team actually use and adopt readily and go with that one? Yeah.
Kashyap Deorah 9:33
And oftentimes, you’ll find that, you know, people use tools, even without knowing that they’ve made a choice to use that tool for that purpose. Because when you start looking at, oh, what should I use for project management, then you sort of look at a category of tools, but then you realize that the stuff that you’re using right now, which you’re not even classifying as project management is actually your project management tool. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Maybe you need something that embraces and extends that rather than does a tectonic shift of how we operate.
Alexander Ferguson 10:08
Obviously, having the right team, the right working environment allows for growth. But when it comes to marketing and acquiring clients and customers and being able to use your your platform, there any common mistakes you see people made or are making when it comes to marketing in today’s environment?
Kashyap Deorah 10:29
Yeah, I think that’s a great question. And I think especially early on in startups. The more you focus on what the user wants, which ends up becoming a very iterative product function. You’re putting something out there, they’re using it, you’re watching them use it, and then building it better. And at some point, the Insight presents itself of what is your best marketing tool? How are these people finding you what, what’s sticking with them? What is solving their business problem, enough that they’re willing to pay you money for it. And those nuggets are the ones that you need to amplify in marketing. So I think the process of discovering that gold and giving the users that megaphone or amplifying the part that’s working, is sort of cruel marketing that works at this earliest stage in startups. Often, the mistake then is, if your marketing starts with, okay, this is what I want to achieve, these are the metrics I want to achieve, this is what I wish would happen, and starts spending money on that or start spending cycles on that, and then tries to see where it overlaps with the product. You know, and the product keeps on moving dynamically, the marketing keeps on moving dynamically, the overlaps keep changing, it gets very, very confusing. So sort of using marketing as a way to amplify what’s working with the users is the is the right way, I think
Alexander Ferguson 12:13
any suggestions or tactics that you find in work? Well, when it comes to either isolating and finding said, things that that your customers are, are enjoying, or working well and amplifying that any tactics that you found have worked?
Kashyap Deorah 12:27
Sure. So you know, one, one great way to do that is force yourself to not spend money on marketing, in the early days, right. Even if you have the money in the bank, don’t spend money because it contaminates the signal, it makes your understanding of what the user wants and what the market wants a bit noisy. So use money to accelerate what’s working, right, if a certain kind of content is working, or a certain kind of user is finding that content useful, or finding your product useful, then double down on that with money, right? So put that fuel in when you know that it’s going in the right direction. So keep the discovery part in, you know, very close to heart. Just watch users use your product, see what’s working for them and put money in when when you’ve, you’ve understood that insight, and now you’re doubling down on that. I don’t know if that was too fuzzy. But you know, it’s being
Alexander Ferguson 13:33
cautious of not just wasting, marketing, just that everything. It’s it’s very, it’s using, I guess, existing insights and doubling up but you have to still make do something to see what’s working, and then to be able to double down more on it. So that’s why I guess the biggest thing I’m trying to understand is like how do you decide what what do you start on? Because do people initially find out about it? It is are you doing content marketing? Is it just reaching out to people?
Kashyap Deorah 14:00
Yeah, so and, you know, that’s a great question. So listening to users, and you can only listen to users, if you have something to say, because otherwise the users won’t talk. So let me give you an example. So let’s say we, we think that developers who want to use the API are going to come from these four different channels, right? I can. I can author Open Source Repositories on GitHub. I can write technical blog posts, I can participate in some developer platforms and publish something. Right? And then then you start seeing, okay, this thing is working better than the other. And in this thing, you know, in this channel that I opened up, what the developer actually wants is this, these kinds of repositories are doing well. Those are not doing well, or they’re coming for the repositories. But this is what they want from it. This is what they want more from it. So then the spending could be, okay, let me invest in more developers who can build these Open Source Repositories, which give you examples of how to use your product. Or let me invest in more of our engineers writing blog posts of the kind which appeals to these developers. So now, if I were to just throw a budget at Google, and say, give me developers who want logistics, automation. And if I keep increasing the budget, I will keep getting more volume, some of that will stick. But it becomes a very noisy signal of what really work there. And in that you miss out on the golden nugget of what was the more effective way to get the same number of users with same or higher intent.
Alexander Ferguson 16:04
It’s an interesting perspective and approach to be able to not waste money, but be able to get effective feedback on what is both working, what are people interested so you can double down? I feel like today’s environment that was very noisy because everyone’s going digital with their cons, there’s no tradeshows there’s no conferences, no place to go. And during an era of COVID, how do you stand out and make and get that initial audience set up in these different verticals, different channels? Any thoughts or recommendations?
Kashyap Deorah 16:42
Yeah, I would say a lot can happen with content. Whether you’re targeting a self serve product, or enterprise software product that requires a full blown sales cycle. I’m just fascinated by how much can be achieved with just great content with jives with what the user is thinking. You have a CIO or a CTO who is dealing with 80% of my business was in store and 20% was door. And now things are flipped. What does this mean to me? What should I be doing? I was giving business to those app companies and on demand logistics guys to take care of my 20%. But should I be giving them business for this? 80%? Should I be buying software? Or should I be building a core capability in house to address some of these things? Right? Is technology that core to me? How much should I invest in technology? How much should I do inside of my organization? And how much should I buy? Right? Where do I draw the line? Now, these are some of the themes that all of these people are thinking and if you meet them where they are with something compelling, in the medium that they want to consume, you’ll be surprised how many of them will discover you and sign up and, you know, get on the call with you to sort of understand and talk about that problem. And, you know, right off the bat, they’re they’re there to understand your solution understand how you’ve done with other companies, rather than the classic wine and dine in schmoes?
Alexander Ferguson 18:29
I think it’s a fascinating angle of we’re just looking at what questions they’re asking creating content around it, you are coming from a product lead, I guess, marketing mindset of just people live, try it and get into it not not a direct sales, like let’s call all these companies, is that correct? You’re
Kashyap Deorah 18:47
correct. You know, I have in my younger days, I’ve done cold calling, offer list. I’ve been back carrying sales sales guy, visiting customers, you know, I’ve got lots of rejections. Right? And if I look back at that, I think what eventually worked in all of these situations is, you know, of course, they have to like you before they buy from, you know, the old adage, but they spend more time with you if they believe that you can solve their problem. And even in that sort of approach of of calling leads and figuring it out. Your best customers are the ones who who have a pain. You understood that pain, you connected the dots and said, Okay, this is how I’m going to solve it and then you actually solved it, right? And then you have your big contract somewhere along the line, right. So in a way, if marketing is a way to acquire many customers at a time, then if you can get a pulse of what that pain is that represents a large number of customers. And what that solution is the that helps them address that pain, which they might not have thought of, or they’re thinking about it but don’t know how to get, then, you know, that’s a way to get many customers at once.
Alexander Ferguson 20:14
Going looking forward here and going into next year, what challenges do you see, you’re going to need to overcome in order to keep growing and to keep scaling both in the environment that we’re in, which probably doesn’t affect too much, you guys. But just the the set of scale that you’re at right now, what challenges you see your need to overcome?
Kashyap Deorah 20:36
Yeah, it’s a great question. I, you know, I think we’ve had, our business has turned upside down. And in many ways due, because the events of 2020, we used to look at our business as deliveries, visits and rides, right? deliveries have gone up drastically. Visits had a dip. And every time there’s sort of lockdown that happens, there’s a dip, but then it recovers to roughly the same level. But rides are completely off, right? Transportation, whether it’s public transportation, or ride sharing, or employee transportation, in Nobody’s going anywhere, unless it’s essential service, which is essentially deliveries or visits. So, you know, I would say, to answer a question, where the world is going, I might not necessarily like that, but where the world is going is the rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. The bigger companies are getting bigger, while the smaller companies or smaller businesses are dying. So as much as an API economy company are a self serve SAS company counts on a vibrant horizontal market where a lot of small people use the product, and some of them become large. I think what we’re learning the hard way. And I’ve talked to other entrepreneurs in similar spaces, as well is more of your revenue, more of your business, more of your capital will come from higher concentration of capital or higher concentration of business. So how do you then transform your business to focus on the larger companies and and get in, you know, get get in through the door there. The good news is that even with larger companies, the top down sales doesn’t quite work like it used to, it is still very sort of, there is a role of content and API’s and companies building themselves within multiple small teams and so on, you know, more demos, more sort of touch and feel, and quick onboarding. So a lot of those rules apply. But obviously, it’s a very different go to market and set of customers.
Alexander Ferguson 22:56
For you, on the inside of the years, wherever you turn to, to to get good learning leadership learnings or business development when it comes to books, audio, books, podcasts, any that you can recommend or that you’re reading right now.
Kashyap Deorah 23:12
Sure, you know, what was that there was there are three ways to learn. One is by reading. The other is visual, the third is kind aesthetic learning by doing I guess, I think I’m the learning by doing category. And it’s if I can generalize this to entrepreneurs, you know, we have really thick brains in that. It’s really hard to listen to people. And, you know, we feel like we know everything, right. And we want to figure it out on our own. So I think the experiential learning, or learning by doing is sort of the, the best way that I learned. But yes, I do, you know, read nonfiction primarily. Well, I’m currently reading the climate crisis and the green New Deal by Noam Chomsky. And I’m also reading, billionaire Raj by James Crabtree, who’s a journalist, you know, who I happen to know, and I’ve worked with in the past. But I mean, these topics are unrelated, really to the business. I have found, actually that to be quite eye opening in, you know, if if you sort of listen to a very different topic than what you’re on, there are, there are patterns that actually connect between the two. So even reading about climate change, or reading about, you know, the, the Indian system of large companies or billionaires actually helps in a weird sort of way in logistics automation API.
Alexander Ferguson 25:00
give you just a different perspective, a different way to look at things.
Kashyap Deorah 25:03
Yeah, it helps you snap out of it. And I think, as CEOs as entrepreneurs, a big part of our job is to zoom out and look at it outside in. And lateral reading tends to help me.
Alexander Ferguson 25:19
Less last last question for you, what kind of tech innovations do you predict we will see in the near term, the next year or so. And long term, 510 years from now?
Kashyap Deorah 25:30
Sure, so, you know, my view right now is very myopic on my space, which is, physical retailers are transforming their business to, to look at home delivery. And, you know, that part is just fascinating where your online orders represented a small number of your orders, you would allocate it to stores, and the stores would have their own p&l, and it was all very store centric. And now it’s all sort of decoupled and, you know, now it’s, most of your orders are coming in online. How do you allocate it to a larger logistics team which could pick up from any store or warehouse and deliver to any door? So I think a lot of technologies around automating and making this new world more efficient? Is what I’m, I’m bullish on, right. Some of the boring stuff, you know, it’s it’s not quite rockets and AI and robots. But I live in a world where, you know, I’m seeing patterns of how the world is changing, and how, how can you be prepared to solve the hardest real world problems?
Alexander Ferguson 26:47
It’s the real problems that technology technology is perfect for helping to solve. It’s just if you can see the patterns to apply it that can make a great business and provide a great solution. Absolutely. Awesome. Well, thank you so much Kashyap, for sharing your story, your insight, and all the many lessons learned, I’m sure there’s even more that we could cover cover right now. Again, I’d recommend anyone wants to check out hypertrack.com. To see more about their platform and their their API give it a test drive to see for location, no pun intended, location driven content. This is our founders journey series. Again, it is sponsored Today’s episode is TeraLeap. So if your company wants to find out how to better leverage the power of video, to increase sales and marketing results, head over to TeraLeap.io and learn about the new product customer stories. Thanks again. And we’ll see you guys next time. That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company, we should interview you can nominate them at UpTech report.com. Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you’re subscribed to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.