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When to Forgo the Funding | Krish Ramineni at Fireflies.ai

Creative designer team meeting discussion ideas on desk

In part one of my conversation with Krish Ramineni, the co-founder and CEO of Fireflies.ai, he told us about his efforts to create a virtual assistant that takes notes at your meeting, and can even attend them without you.

In this second part of our conversation, Krish talks about what it was like moving out to San Francisco to start a company, with no experience and no connections—and why he decided not to raise VC funding initially.

He also shares some of his personal philosophy on exactly what a company should focus on when bringing a product from idea to market.

More information: https://fireflies.ai/


Krish Ramineni is one of the youngest Product Managers hired at Microsoft. Lead projects around customer voice analytics and growth engineering while at Microsoft. Graduated from University of Pennsylvania. Guest lectured at Stanford on Deep Learning & ML. Early-stage startup advisor

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!

Krish Ramineni 0:00
We took this approach where we said, look, we’re engineers, we’re product people, by DNA. You know, we can try this, like we try to sales things. We try closing our own deals in the beginning. But you know, ultimately we realize, is this the type of company we want to build right here right now.

Alexander Ferguson 0:24
In part one of my conversation with Krish Ramineni, the co founder and CEO of fireflies, he told us about his efforts to create a virtual assistant that takes notes at your meetings, and can even attend them without you. In this second part of our conversation, Krish talks about what it was like moving out to San Francisco to start a company with no experience and no connections. And why he decided not to raise VC funding initially, he also shares some of his personal philosophy on exactly what a company should focus on when bringing a product from idea to market. Alright, Krish, I’m excited to continue our conversation. And now to hear more about the journey that you’ve been on this past was a four years is first off, is this the first company that you’ve led?

Krish Ramineni 1:09
Yeah, this is the first company that I’ve led. So we’re about 20 people now. And yeah, I’m a first time founder, first time CEO running this thing with my my co founder, who actually has not worked at a formal company before. So I’ve worked at Microsoft as a product manager before, but my co founder was coming straight out of college, he had interned at a couple different places. But we are pretty new to the field. We’re not experienced veterans at a large technology company or corporation of any sort. And that also helps us in terms of the culture, we build the processes that we set up inside fireflies. And one of the interesting things is we’re building meeting software. The reason we’re building meeting software is because we hate meetings ourselves. It’s funny, we say that, like sure you love meetings. Now we hate meetings. That’s why we built fireflies. And here’s the reason why. With fireflies, and it being on meetings, you get to attend less meetings if you don’t need to. And you don’t have to have the same repeat meetings over and over again, talking about the same things. So once I go to a meeting, and I share something important, it gets crystallized, and it gets saved. And if someone needs to refer to that they can go back to it. So if I’m doing training for my new folks, or if we’re onboarding new folks, everything is essentially documented in a way so that I don’t have to repeat myself again. So that’s super important to me. And that’s part of the culture. And one of the things we saw with interning and working in the corporate segment is you’re having the same sort of redundant meetings and work being done over and over again. So from our journey perspective, you know, we’ve been at this we’re first time founders, first time really running an organization of any sort

Alexander Ferguson 2:55
the over the past four years, I mentioned that there was some some key points, data points that that happened, where you had to overcome this hurdle that maybe you can share a tactic of how you were able to make it work with another entrepreneur. When you look back, maybe two, two funding you were VC funded or correct. Yeah, getting that initial funding. Can you share any insight or tips or thoughts on how you were able to make that happen?

Krish Ramineni 3:18
Honestly, we were just a couple kids that just came out to SF didn’t know what what it was like to raise money or be in the valley, because ultimately, we didn’t have those that network or connections, we had a great, you know, I think college and alumni network that was helpful, like x MIT X, Penn where I went. But in general, we didn’t know the know the people that you needed to know to be successful here. And I think one of the things is your network really does matter. Especially if you’re, you know, want to be a VC backed company. So either you have a great network, you can go out and raise a big round immediately because of you know, your credentials as an exec from a company or someone that is well connected and well established, or you have to be able to go grind it out, build the technology, validate it, maybe go through an accelerator like Y Combinator to get that backing, or be able to just show pure traction and be able to raise through that round.

Alexander Ferguson 4:20
It is possible to stay lean focus on the product keep keep growing it and and not it doesn’t have to be immediately back with with a big VC fund. But it does help to then scale Now speaking of scale, the past since last year or so, what kind of tactics have worked in order to scale?

Krish Ramineni 4:43
Yeah, so when I came here, one of the things that I’ve learned is everyone has a certain model in terms of how they run companies that are extremely successful. Some models that people use and adopt Are you know inside sales models where you before you can really have a fully fleshed out process. If you hire a bunch of salespeople, and then you start having them call and start, you know, selling the product, right? So that model works, especially if you’re doing flight inside sales. We took this approach where we said, look, we’re engineers, we’re product people, by DNA. You know, we can try this, like we try this sales, and we tried closing our own deals in the beginning. But you know, ultimately, we realize is this the type of company we want to build right here right now. And I think salespeople are extremely valuable. But for the type of company we wanted to build, we wanted to build something that was extremely transparent, both in terms of pricing, being able to get people to adopt a platform, reduce as much friction as possible so that people can actually use it. And I didn’t want the glue to be salespeople. The reason is, if you’re a really good salesperson, they’ll be able to kind of, you know, gloss over all the issues with your product. And instead, we wanted those issues to be pointed out to us, we wanted people to say why is your onboarding confusing? Or why am I not able to upgrade here? Or why am I not able to like see this bug. And so we want all the raw feedback, I still respond to customer support tickets today, even though we have a full, fully dedicated customer support team, our engineers are involved, I am literally going through every single ticket. If someone turns because something wasn’t working for them, I personally reach out or I look and I follow up with our team. So for me and my co founder, the type of company we wanted to build was something that was extremely self serve oriented. If you wanted to get started with fireflies, you should be able to go do that without having to set up any sort of fancy demo, and be able to handle it

Alexander Ferguson 6:38
for moving forward. Now from here, you’ve got the user base, and if anything, the propellant on the on the fire here, because of COVID What kind of hurdles you see you’re going to need to overcome. Now to get to the to the next level that you’re looking to you.

Krish Ramineni 6:56
I think with the customer base that we have, we have a lot of small, medium sized teams SMBs that use a product today. And naturally, we see fireflies getting pulled into enterprises, I like comm fortune 500 companies, fortune 1000 companies, and the use cases, the requirements, the use cases might be the same, but the requirements might be fundamentally different, right? They need more access management, they need more control as administrators. So we’re learning right now, right, we’re not ready to just jump up and go up market all of a sudden. But we’re learning a lot of the requirements that a lot of these bigger companies need in order to roll out fireflies more successfully. So for me, understanding where’s that gap between where we are today, and what do we take for a larger organization to adopt us, is going to be something that is important and is always top of mind. But in general, right now we’re just in operational mode, just focusing on our customers, you know, the market might be changing, there might be other companies coming out. But ultimately, you can really instead tune into your customers understand what they want, and build something that is of value that sets you apart, like you’re not even on the same axis as other companies that are coming in. And you’re being compared to. And so there’s just a lot we can do for our existing customers that we’re really tapping into. And then over time, where we hope to be able to serve teams that are much larger, right. And I think this is a natural growing phase for all types of companies even slack. It was great when it started out for small teams, because when slack was small, it was great for small teams. And then as slack grew, they and then they started having bigger organizations use it, they realize, oh, we need to do these things to help them onboard. So for us, I think it’s just really tuning into our customers and our needs and how we scale from our small medium size businesses and teams that are using it to larger customers.

Alexander Ferguson 8:51
What kind of tech innovations overall tech innovations do you predict we will see in the near term, next year, so and long term next 510 years overall tech predictions.

Krish Ramineni 9:04
I think there’s a theme that I would stick with rather than technology predictions, because it’s much harder to gauge where you know, software, robotics hardware is going. But I look I like to look at from a first principles point of view, where are we making massive improvements that is going to change the way people work. And my expertise has been in workplace software, and I work I built and I work in that sector of collaboration software. So thinking about that trends and themes that I think about is automation is going to be a big aspect of the work that we do today. And so robotic process automation RPA companies like UI path, automation anywhere. Even Microsoft recently acquiring the company to help with that RPA segment is a huge trend that I see going forward. And I they’re there. You know, there’s certain folks that are going to feel like hey, this is going to be Take away jobs. But there’s going to be other folks that are also going to see that as Wow, this is going to open up new opportunities to do more meaningful work in the office versus, you know, moving certain spreadsheets to another spreadsheet or copying and pasting cells into another system. So RPA is something that I’m really fascinated about that I keep in keeping perspective. The other thing about RPA and you know, the way I kind of look at it is all the robotic process automation that’s happening today is using visual cues on your screen. But you know, we’re doing something very similar from a voice perspective, right? What I call almost like VPA, right is like voice process automation, where I can say something in a meeting like this, and then the work gets done, right. Hey, let’s schedule another meeting with Alex next week Firefly’s at 3pm PST, it should be created in my calendar, or, you know, I say something and it gets created as a task inside Salesforce. So I think voice Process Automation is something that I want to, you know, invest in and see where that goes. I don’t think there’s anything related to that. There’s no category related to that. But that’s something that I personally am invested in learning about. The other things is, we’ve mentioned this earlier, but collaboration software, where it is today, versus where it was 10 years ago, five years ago, has enabled our companies and organizations to move super seamlessly into this remote 24/7 Work From Home Model. And I think great video conferencing and great internet connection, all these things play a key role in being able to do that being able to work asynchronously is such a huge aspect across different time zones, and so forth. So that is another area that I’m a big believer in is collaboration software, it’s only going to grow, and you are going to have different software that caters to different needs, I don’t think there’s going to be a monopoly on these things, right? If you look at collaboration landscape, as a whole, you have the dropboxes of the world, you have the boxes of the world that you know, build similar technology, but have fundamental different needs that they solve, you know, tools today that a lot of folks that I know use air table notion monday.com These all in one collaboration solutions, you might you know, solve and ask, like, why are like three tools that are very similar? You know, what, why do they have like such great popularity, right? And so it’s really interesting to kind of think about why that happens, right? And I think it’s because each of them solves a different need for their specific customers. And you’re going to have constantly see new technologies that come through from that space. So there’s one tool that I’ve been hearing a lot about called room research, which lets you write it’s like reinventing note taking from the way you type notes. And you know, it’s almost like a wiki slash Evernote fusion. And I’m like, wow, this is really cool. So people are always going to constantly improve on the existing tools that are out there. And then the third piece that I’m really interested in is, from a consumer perspective, we’ve exhausted all the channels, we’ve exhausted text, right with Twitter and Facebook, and we’ve exhausted video and like short, ephemeral messaging through Snapchat. And now voice could be something that’s really interesting, where that’s one area or we haven’t really tapped into, we are seeing the rise of podcasting and people listening to podcasts on the go. So the reason voice is super interesting to me is it’s something you can consume in a reactive way you don’t you can we consume it in a passive manner, where you don’t have to be tuned into the video. You don’t have to be tuned into reading the text, but you could be going to the gym and listening to a podcast, you can listen to someone talk. So I believe those three trends are something that I’m seeing from a behavioral perspective. And also the technology is lining up to enable those those aspects.

Alexander Ferguson 13:47
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.

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