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May 30, 2023 · 52 min read

Season 4, Ep. 3 – Founder to Founder, with Akshita Iyer, CEO and Co-founder, Ome

On this week’s Founder to Founder episode, Teja sits down with Akshita Iyer, CEO and Co-founder of Ome Kitchen. They discuss her path from neurosurgery to kitchen hardware, the winding road to building and funding an amazing idea, and how an appearance on Shark Tank helped to build the brand to where it is today, despite not taking an offer.


Read transcript


Teja (00:00:05):

Yo, what’s up y’all? Today we have an awesome guest, and I think you guys will really enjoy the conversation. We have Akshita Iyer, who is the co-founder and CEO of Ome. You can find them at We talk about her time on Shark Tank. We talk about raising money broadly. We talk about running, you know, a pretty complex business, a hardware business as a first time founder. And there are some questions that I ask that are more so for me as an Indian American.

Teja (00:00:43):

They’re a little bit self-indulgent, but I think, you know, I think a lot of the cultural context in particular, like, for me as an immigrant, that I operate in and like, informs how much of an identity or how much work matters to me and my personal identity, and how much of that is just like, a cultural vestige. You know, you wanna sort of make sure that you’re honoring the sacrifice that, you know, your family made to come to a new country and build a life, so you can have, you know, basically limitless opportunity in this country. So I ask her about that, and I ask her sort of about some of the pressures that are common in Indian families and probably typical in immigrant families, in general. I think you guys will dig that. It is a little bit indulgent for me, personally, ‘cause I think about those things a lot. But I think they make for great TV and great podcasts. So I hope you guys will like it. In fact, I’m confident you guys will dig this one. I had a lot of fun doing it, and reach out to her, and check out her business. All right, thanks, y’all. Take care, and see you guys on the other side. (THE FRONTIER THEME ENDS)

Teja (00:02:04):

Hey, fellow desiwala, entrepreneur, (Akshita: Love it.) we’re gonna get you some shine. Yeah. (Akshita: <Laugh>.) Did you know that you were gonna be an entrepreneur? Is that something that you sort of like, grew up as a child wanting to be? Or like how did you come to running your business?

Akshita (00:02:19):

Absolutely not. Never once thought about being an entrepreneur, what it meant. I mean, not because anyone forced me, but I think just culturally, I just was like, “Oh, I wanna be a doctor,” (Teja: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) and I never really thought about anything else. And again, not because someone told me you need to be a doctor, but everyone else is becoming a doctor, so I said, “Okay, fine. I guess this is what I need to do.” And I think, in theory, I always wanted to, as cliche as it sounds, help people, right? And I think the doctor route made the most stable sense <laugh>, and so, you know, I went through probably middle school, high school, always planning to be pre-med, and then I went to Duke for undergrad, specifically because of their, you know, pre-med program, but then also they were the only university at the time that had a neuroscience department where I could do research, and so everything was really always focused towards, you know, that med school path. 

Akshita (00:03:10):

And I think when I was getting to the end of my time at Duke, I just didn’t feel the level of passion and excitement about, you know, med school and eventually practicing medicine that all of my friends had, and I decided at that time, maybe it’s a good idea to just get some work experience in the grand scheme of things. You know, if I take a few years to, you know, make some money, I can always go back, right? And I will say that even though I never thought about being an entrepreneur, my dad started a small business when I was very small. So I think I’d always been around it, and I’m sure that, you know, subconsciously did play a role, but I think that did definitely play a role when, during those few years where I got some work experience, I worked at the hospital, started a program for Duke Athletics at the time, I just started to think about starting something, right?

Akshita (00:04:04):

I started to watch a lot of Shark Tank. I got very inspired by all of these people who didn’t have your traditional engineering product development, you know, business, ex-Apple, Google background, (Teja: Yeah, yeah.) building solutions for their own problems. And I was like that was honestly the first time, Teja, where I was like, “Wait, maybe I could do something,” right? I don’t have, maybe, the right background, but maybe you don’t need it, and so I was already in that frame of mind when my mom left the stove on one too many times and started a kitchen fire. And so I kind of stumbled into being an entrepreneur, though, I think it took me some time to realize that I was an entrepreneur, because I had a personal experience that I really needed to solve for my own family around, you know, cooking at home, and I’m sure you can relate to how, you know, critical and important the kitchen is, right?

Akshita (00:04:57):

We spent like, all of our time there, and when we had this experience, my mom stopped cooking. There were all these ripple effects. And so I was like, “Hey, I think I could build something. How hard can it possibly be?” And I just dove right in. And I think over, probably, two years I realized that, wait, I’m actually building a business here, and then I started to think about, well, who do I need around this table to actually teach me how to build this business? But I never intended this to get this far, never intended to ever call myself an entrepreneur, and didn’t even realize I was an entrepreneur until a lot further than you would’ve expected <laugh>.

Teja (00:05:40):

I mean, you have like, an awesome pedigree. You went to Duke, and I feel like that’s like, that’s sweet. So your product, like, it has so many components, a hardware component, a software component. You have to understand like, things about cooking and about like, the actual user experience. How did you acquire like, all of this different information? ‘Cause you have to hire for these roles, right? Like, how did you do that?

Akshita (00:06:03):

<Laugh>. By trial and error. I mean, (Teja: Yeah.) I really, Teja, thought when I had this idea for a smart knob, and it came from all of the other retrofit smart devices that we have, right? Your smart door locks, doorbells, thermostats. The idea was that you’ve got an appliance that lasts 10 to 15 years, which makes it really hard for appliance manufacturers to get connected technology into the kitchen, just because it’s a long purchase cycle. And so I always thought, “Hey, all of these other, you know, smart home devices are retrofit, so how hard can this possibly be?” Honestly, the thought was you need some plastics, you need a motor, you need a board, you put it all together, you put it in a box and you ship it. Like, that’s how easy I thought it was. And so I think only when, you know, I started to actually build it, right, and by “build it”, I don’t mean myself.

Akshita (00:06:54):

I had to find engineers, locally, contract engineers, not even full-time, because I didn’t have the resources, or I had not raised any capital (Teja: Mm <affirmative>.) at the time to, you know, hire anyone. But, you know, with whatever savings, and whatever paycheck I was getting, and you know, of course family too, I just started piecemealing this. I found some product development firms, and it was a very good, in hindsight, but very challenging learning experience, because the thing about, you know, hardware is you can’t recoup that cost, right? It’s not like writing a piece of code or a line of code and then just going and editing that code, right? You’re spending thousands of dollars prototyping, and you don’t get that money back if that prototype doesn’t work. (Teja: Mm <affirmative>.) And so it, again, took about two years for me to work with contract engineers to learn enough about engineering concepts at a high level to then go and hire our first, who ended up being a firmware engineer.

Akshita (00:08:03):

And it was during that two years where I, because I hadn’t raised outside capital, that I had the time and the flexibility to make those mistakes, right? Because it was just me, and I didn’t really have any obligations, you know, to report to anybody in the sense you do once you raise any venture funding, but it took me some time to figure out who we needed to build this. And then after we went through an accelerator, and I raised our first round, then I brought on our first hires, and I’m glad it went that way, because I didn’t know what I would’ve been hiring for if I hadn’t, kind of, you know, tried and failed a few times <laugh>.

Teja (00:08:48):

So, okay. So the first kind of part of the journey was like, kind of equipping yourself with the ability to kind of scale the right team members and, you know, bring on the firm more engineer. I mean, what did you study in school? Were you engineering?

Akshita (00:09:04):

No neuroscience, so…<laugh>.

Teja (00:09:07):

Okay, gotcha.

Akshita (00:09:08):

On paper, this makes total sense, obviously. I’m building kitchen tech.

Teja (00:09:12):

No, I mean, it’s incredible, though, because like, you have to basically absorb (Akshita: Yeah.) a whole space and then you have to find the best people in that space to like, build your thing for it to be awesome.

Akshita (00:09:23):

And I, you know, 99% of the things that I tried during that time were failed, right? And so (Teja: That’s normal.) but I need it, right? I mean, you need all of that to then know what you’re doing. At least I know what I’m doing a bit better than I did, you know, four years ago. So it’s worth it, yeah.

Teja (00:09:43):

Was the capital raising experience similar? Like, did you have resources that you can lean on to find out, hey, okay, what are the terms, what’s standard? Or was that kinda just, you just went through it and figured it out as you went?

Akshita (00:09:54):

Yeah. Practical experience and just trying and figuring it out along the way. Though I will give credit where credit is due to founders that I met during this process, and over the last, you know, five years who would give me these tidbits of advice that I was able to also absorb at the same time, but then I did have to just kinda learn on my own, read all of your, you know, venture books that you can think of. And when I started, because I came from the, you know, pre-med, you know, medicine world, I didn’t have any direct connections in the startup or venture space. So again, it took me some time to find the person who knew someone, who knew someone, who then could get me to the right person. And it took thousands of meetings for me to find the right people, but then, in that time, those, you know, thousand meetings gave me an opportunity to tell my story, and I was able to refine a lot by the time it actually <laugh>, you know, was showtime, when I got in front of the people who ended up, you know, investing in us. But that was a huge learning curve too, because I was talking to B2B SaaS investors when I first started not knowing that this person would never invest in me <laugh>. But, you know…

Teja (00:11:13):

It’s such a desi thing though, to like, we’re like, you’re about to leave the house, and your mom is like, “Did you turn off the stove?” It’s like, that is my entire childhood, even today, before I leave the house. “Hey, did we turn this off?” So I totally, you know, I totally get them. (Akshita: Yup.) I mean, it’s like, I feel the problem. I understand it, yeah. (Akshita: Yeah.) Yeah, that’s super interesting. Okay. And so you went through Shark Tank. How was that? Was it crazy? Was it fun?

Akshita (00:11:38):

It was very fun. I think, you know, it was full circle, because I started this company and really got the courage to start something because of the show and because, you know, of all of these people that, you know, Shark Tank was highlighting that were really building very practical solutions for real pain points, right? Not just technology for the sake of technology. And so it was crazy that, you know, it kind of came full circle where Shark Tank reached out to us and said, “Hey, you’ve got something interesting,” and that’s really, I think all it was that, you know, there’s this neuroscience grad who should not be building this, but she is, and so it like, makes for good TV, right? And I think the show, itself, is actually very organic in a sense that, first 30 seconds when you give your pitch is the only scripted part, right?

Akshita (00:12:30):

The rest of it is a dialogue and is a conversation. And I think, you know, I came in with a lot of experience, already having met so many people who were asking me all the questions that the Sharks ended up asking. And so I think because of, you know, the previous year of just diving in and just pitching anybody and everybody who would listen to me, it did give me a good foundation to put my best foot forward on the show, and I think that paid off. We did get an offer. We didn’t take it, because it just wasn’t the right deal, but I’m also glad we didn’t take it, because even at that time, you know, this was still the bootstrapped phase, and I really still did not know what it truly meant to build a business.

Akshita (00:13:17):

We had not made our first hire yet. And so if I had taken that money, then I think it would’ve just gone down the drain, because I would’ve used it in the same way that I was using it without having any kind of structure to, you know, the business, and milestones, and KPIs. And so, in hindsight, I’m really glad I didn’t take it, because then it gave me more time to go and learn from the people who’ve actually gone through this. And so I think, all in all, it was a really great experience and also gave us the visibility. So until then, you know, this was a problem that, as you said, I thought was, you know, maybe, you know, all of us Indians or people who cook often like, I didn’t know that it was such a widespread problem.

Akshita (00:13:57):

And so, (Teja: Yeah.) because of the show, you know, I heard from thousands of people about the applications of this technology, not just around peace of mind and safety, but you know, in terms of true cooking automation, right? Especially nowadays, we’re looking to smart home solutions to automate our daily routines. And so it did give me a much wider perspective on what we could do in the long run, which as you know, when it comes to startups, it’s not just about what you could do today, but are you building, you know, this as a, you know, as a stepping stone to building other, you know, services. And so I think that was a big benefit of the show, was just the magnitude of what we were building, and actually, I think, was the first time I thought about this as a true business and raising money for it. So…

Teja (00:14:41):

What are some of the stories that you heard? Do you have any that you remember in particular?

Akshita (00:14:45):

Oh, yeah. I mean, we have quite a few. So, you know, there was a gentleman whose mom…in a lot of our core, our target demographic right now, are middle-aged adults who have young kids, a lot of stories of people’s kids turning the knobs on. In fact, my nephew is here and for the first time I was like, “Oh my god. Like, he’s actually turning, you know, the knobs on.” And so we’ve got that, but then what we also saw, and a lot of the stories that I heard were about aging family members, and it kinda also came full circle for me, because I started this for my own parents who wanna stay at home, who wanna stay independent, but cooking is one of the first things that becomes difficult. (Teja: Mm <affirmative>.) And so, you know, there is one gentleman I remember whose mom had left the gas on, and the gas was spewing for almost a day, I believe. And when he came in, he smelled it, but she hadn’t smelled it. And so, (Teja: Wow.) you know, even something as simple, you know, as that, this technology could have prevented I think, you know, has made all the difference in, for me, and just building something of value, right? That people are actually, you know, seeing benefit from, so…

Teja (00:15:55):

That’s sick. It’s like, preventative medicine actually. (Akshita: Yes.) Like, you’re like, stopping people from inhaling gas. (Akshita: Yup.) That’s insane.

Akshita (00:16:03):

Yeah, and I think that’s the, you know, we’ve got a lot of, you know, reactive solutions, right? You think about your smoke detector. Now, everyone should have a smoke detector, but it goes off after it detects smoke, right? So by then, you know, you probably have a fire, and something’s already big. So for us, it’s can we be more proactive before something happens, right? So, and I think that’s a bit of a different approach that we’ve taken, in terms of other solutions out there. And I think that makes a difference too.

Teja (00:16:32):

Every entrepreneur I’ve spoken to like, has an opinion on hiring, scaling a company. Like, is there a right way to do it? What’s your take on just like, bringing on the right team members, how do you think about it? What are some things to look for? What books have you read that you…? Like, talk about it.

Akshita (00:16:48):

Yeah. There’s definitely not one way to do it. I think there’s no right answer. It depends on your industry too, right? As you mentioned earlier, we’ve got hardware, we’ve got software, (Teja: That’s crazy.) firmware. I mean, it’s a very complex, you know, system. And so I think the biggest thing for me is hiring people, one, who really take pride in their work regardless of what work they’re doing, right? That everything that they put out, they are proud to say that they built that, right? I think some of our employees that have been here the longest are like that. But then, two is, you want people who are passionate about something, right? It doesn’t necessarily like, you know, we do have some people on our team who don’t love to cook, right? But they’re passionate about solving problems, right? You wanna see that, I think, someone can have a passion about something, because I think, you know, when times do get tough, you wanna know that there’s somewhere that they can dig deep, right?

Akshita (00:17:52):

I mean, obviously you want people who are technically capable, right? But I think even more than that is, you know, do you have people around the table who, when times get tough, and they will, right? When it comes to startups, and you know, you’re gonna be, you know, short on payroll one time, or you’re going to, you know, have to lower salaries or, I mean, there’s a variety of things (Teja: Totally.) that could happen, and you want people around the table who are willing to support you through that, right, and who also have faith in you. So I mean, I think those are high-level. Some of the things I look for when it comes to actual technical talent, I ask people who are way smarter than me on, you know, is this the right experience that I’m looking for?

Akshita (00:18:37):

And then the next step for me is culturally do they fit? And so I know that, you know, I’ve learned over time what my weaknesses are, and that is definitely on the technical side, but I know enough to be dangerous and to ask at least high-level the right questions. But then I do have people on our team who can then vet further and make sure that we’re hiring people who are experienced enough, right? So that, you know, we don’t have to handhold, and people can be pretty autonomous. Everyone on our team is, you know, pretty much on their own, and they have the experience to be able to do that.

Teja (00:19:09):

So what do your parents think now that you’re like, a CEO, you’re scaling basically like, a sick business? Are they like, “You should go to med school,” or are they…

Akshita (00:19:20):

Not med school. I think, you know, when I started, I told them…

Teja (00:19:23):

They’re like, “You need to get married.” That’s what they’re saying, probably.

Akshita (00:19:26):

Oh yeah, well, actually, “Get an MBA,” is what my dad’s saying. (Teja: <Laugh>.) I’m like, I think I already have one <laugh>, just practically, I think I already have one. I dunno if I need one now. No, I mean, I think they’re, to be fair to them, they were very supportive. And, you know, I think my dad, you know, having started his own business and having the flexibility, you know, early on in life to do that, I think has also made a difference, too. But you know, I think now they are very proud. I think they, and I do share a lot with them, because I think, you know, they’ve always wanted to grow with me. And I think this experience, from beginning to now, has been a learning experience for my entire family, not just me, because, you know, they’re in, you know, they see me on my highest of highs and my lowest of lows. And I think, you know, what’s very important, and I think sometimes we forget this as kids is that your parents, you don’t always have to share the best of times with them, right? (Teja: Yeah.) And I will say that growing up, I would only tell them the good things, right? (Teja: <Laugh>.) <Laugh>. I never really told them anything that was going wrong.

Teja (00:20:35):

Yeah. I get it. Yeah.

Akshita (00:20:36):

But I think as an adult, obviously, our relationship has grown and evolved. (Teja: Yeah.) But, you know, sharing with them when things go wrong, and then them seeing how I figured it out or helping me to figure it out, I think makes all the difference. And it does take a village, right? They say it takes a village to raise a kid, it takes a village to build a company and to grow as a founder, as an entrepreneur, and I think because of that support and guidance, sometimes too, you know, I think that’s the only reason I’m still, you know, kicking now. So I think initially, to answer your question, they were a bit hesitant and were reassured by the fact that I could go to med school if I wanted. (Teja: Totally.) I had all the requirements, and I told them, “Yeah, I can always go later,” but I think very quickly, within first year or two, I was like, “I’m not going.” (Teja: <Laugh>.)

Akshita (00:21:23):

I was like, “My skillset is so much more catered towards business.” And what I also realized too is that there is a way to make an impact, even in healthcare, by not being a doctor, but you could do it on the business side. I mean, a healthcare innovation nowadays, I mean, it’s just scratching the surface. And so you know, I think they have come to accept that I’m not going to med school, but I think they’re curious to see what I do after this, because there is no set path, right? (Teja: Yes.) So they’re like, “Are you going to get your MBA? Are you gonna go work at a venture fund? Are you gonna go get like, a job at a corporate?” And I’m like, “I have no idea,” so…

Teja (00:22:03):

Yeah, you carve your own path. There’s a cool story of Carl Icahn. He’s like, a big, you know, investor. He comes from a Jewish background, and his mom, I think, wanted him to go to med school, but he dropped out, and he started his fund, and then he donated like, a hundred million bucks to Mount Sinai. (Akshita: <Laugh>.) Right? Which is a cool story. It’s like, okay, now you’re now minting hundreds of doctors, basically, (Akshita: Yeah. Yeah.) or enabling them to care for patients. So I think it’s really cool. (Akshita: Yeah.) It’s more scaled.

Akshita (00:22:31):

Yeah, definitely.

Teja (00:22:32):

What’s next for your company? Like, what are you seeing on the horizon? Are there new products that you guys wanna launch or (Akshita: Yeah.) more stores.

Akshita (00:22:39):

Yeah. So I, you know, I think for the company, I’ve really, you know, done some soul searching the last few months, because we haven’t raised a lot of money in the grand scheme of, we’ve raised a few million, and where typical, you know, connected hardware companies raised tens of millions, if not more. And so it’s been a blessing and a curse, as you can imagine. We’ve been very scrappy, very efficient. But, you know, there are times when we’re stretching the dollar way further than <laugh> we probably should be. But I think, you know, given market conditions now, you know, I got into the mindset over the last few years of your success metric being how much money you raise. And so I don’t know if I was really ever thinking about, you know, what is the long term potential of this business from a business perspective, instead of your valuation, right, or what your round size is.

Akshita (00:23:29):

And I think, because of what’s happened in the last six months, I’ve really had to rethink that, right? Because one hardware is always hard to raise for, hardware, you know, everyone says it, but even now, it’s even harder just to raise, period. And so I had to do some soul searching a few months ago, where I was like, “Okay, either I try to go out and raise a large round (Teja: Yeah.) that I had always expected or thought I needed to, or do I now find creative ways to sustainably grow this business, right? Like, you know, we’re looking at our contract manufacturer for a line of credit. We’re, you know, looking at some strategic partnerships. Like, what I didn’t really think and reevaluate, how can I continue to build this business without having to spend 150% of my time raising ventures?

Akshita (00:24:23):

So I think that’s one, is I’m now looking at, you know, the long-term sustainability of how we can grow and not expand our team too much and things like that. But then two, I think is, in terms of next products, you know, we built Gen One. You can see Gen One on our website. We actually have a Gen Two launching in a few months. Learned a lot from Gen One. Gen One is usually a connected hardware product. It’s never, usually, the generation that goes out to the masses, right? You learn as much as you can. You build a Gen Two, and so we’ve got a Gen Two that’s smaller that has more design flexibility so we can match the brand style and aesthetic of your range and also is a lot easier to manufacture.

Akshita (00:25:10):

And so we’re working towards launching Gen Two, and at the same time doing two things. One, is looking at different distribution channels. I think, oftentimes, you know, it can be a sinkhole just putting money into marketing, right, and paid advertising, (Teja: Right.) and we’ve never really had to put many dollars into advertising. And so I’m trying to find, you know, different distribution avenues where you know, we can use someone who’s already serving our end customers. So for example, you know, you’ve got home modification companies that are going to the homes of older adults and actually giving them a suite of products that they install at once for older adults to maintain, you know, their independence. And so what if I could just be included, right, as one of those products, instead of trying to acquire each and every customer on our own?

Akshita (00:26:02):

And so we’re looking at some more creative ways to get to our end customer. And then finally, I am doing a lot around building out strategic partnerships, because in the long run, I think where I see this business is under the umbrella of a larger brand, and I’ve always thought about what we were building as a piece of a larger puzzle, right? That ultimately appliance manufacturers or, you know, any of these large home security and, you know, safety companies have the infrastructure to build the hardware, they’re really good at it. But what if, you know, we could fill in a gap, right? Where your stove is the most used appliance, but it’s the least connected across every brand. And so, you know, we’ve now built a very mature hardware and software infrastructure that I see, in the long run, being able to easily integrate into a larger ecosystem, where then we can reach a much, much larger audience, instead of trying to do it ourselves.

Akshita (00:26:53):

And I think that takes time. And so I’m now focusing a lot of my energy on building the right relationships and getting in the right rooms with the people who understand the hardware component of this, and how we can leverage what we’ve built to build something even bigger. And so those are some of the few things that I’m much more, I guess, focused on instead of “let’s just ship as many devices as possible,” because, I mean, again, when you have hardware, it’s expensive to do. And I think there is a right way to do hardware if you kinda break it down into baby steps, so…

Teja (00:27:29):

Yeah, that’s super interesting. I mean, it’s like if you get one strategic partnership, it’s like an entire distribution channel that’s unlocked, which is like, awesome for consumers. (Akshita: Yeah.) That’s really cool.

Akshita (00:27:40):

And instead of just on that, I mean, instead of, you know, spending, you know, all of my time fundraising and pitching to venture, I was like, I need to spend all my time pitching to the strategics that can, you know, one, have the capital, right, and the resources. A lot of them invest in companies, a lot of them acquire companies, but who also have the distribution and, you know, hardware, supply chain know-how (Teja: Right.) to actually get this out the door for me.

Teja (00:28:07):

Right? Yeah. That’s super interesting. Are the, like, when you guys look at like, the operations, are you guys operating in the same type of metrics, let’s say, as a software company, in terms of like, cost of distribution, order size, production costs, things like that? Like, what are some of the metrics that you guys tried?

Akshita (00:28:29):

Yeah. No, it’s very different to a software company, because, and I think this was the problem with Venture, is we had so many investors, you know, comparing us or, you know, evaluating us on software metrics, when you just (Teja: Yeah.) can’t do that. We’re gonna lose every time, because (Teja: No.) We’ve got this whole other side of the business. So the things that we track are, you know, I mean, I guess similar to a software company, we do track engagement. So how often are people using our app? And, you know how many times a day? We track all sorts of things on cooking activity. Anytime someone turns their burner on, anytime someone uses a cooking timer, anytime that auto shutoff engages, and a lot of this data, we are tracking two, take two partners, right? Like, (Teja: That’s cool.) insurance providers, right? Who are paying a billion dollars in property damage every year, ‘cause people leave the stove on. And so those things we do track on the software side, but then, you know, we also have to track margins, cost of building materials. We don’t spend much on marketing, so you know, a lot of what we do is organic. So, you know, customer acquisition cost is something we need to track, but we, you know, we haven’t really put much behind that yet.

Akshita (00:29:41):

We also do track how many people are using this for themselves, versus installing this for some other family member, because one thing we’ve thought about in terms of expanding our software functionality is, you know, think of family sharing reporting tools. So if you do install this for Mom, Mom’s probably not gonna look at the app or, you know, or look at, you know, her cooking activity. But you know, what if you could get that report? Like, I wanna know that my mom is cooking every day, because I know she loves to do it, but I also wanna know if she stops cooking for a few days, right? And so I think that’s something that we’re starting to track as well, but very, very different metrics. And I think different use cases and different purposes for that data, too, for a company like ours.

Teja (00:30:33):

Yeah. I mean, it seems like a really complex business, but I think business complexity is a mote, in some ways. You know, it’s hard to replicate. (Akshita: Yeah.) So I think that’s actually like, a really nice defensible part of the company. (Akshita: Yeah.) What’s like your, I mean, I don’t know if you can talk about this, but what’s like, your dream partner, you know? (Akshita: Yeah.) Like…

Akshita (00:30:53):

I think my, I won’t name names, but…

Teja (00:30:56):

Yeah, yeah. Just a profile.

Akshita (00:30:57):

Yeah, I mean, I think more forward thinking, you know, innovative companies, but I’m also looking at, you know, how do, to be honest, I want to go with this business, right? I think I understand this inside and out. And so I’m also looking at, you know, who’s willing to take a bit of risk? At the corporate level, I think, you know, the risk appetite is very, very low, but who is open to new technologies, but also, you know, who doesn’t have maybe as built out of a, you know, cooking ecosystem, because I think where we can provide the most value is for a partner, you know, where we can take them from zero to one very quickly versus, you know, there are some corporates out there that have put hundreds of millions of dollars behind, you know, their digital, you know, smart ecosystem.

Akshita (00:31:46):

And so, you know, I think, I’m sure there is, you know, potential for our technology, but I’m looking, you know, at some, somewhere that doesn’t have something like this in the works or that’s already built out, because I think there is then an opportunity there for this to be a primary technology that they use, versus somewhere where this might just sit in the background, right? And so I think, actually, now that I say this out loud, I think one of my biggest criteria is, is this going to a company and a culture where someone, whether it’s me or someone else, is actually gonna push this forward? I, you know, (Teja: Mmm <affirmative>.) Neither myself, our team, nor anyone who has believed in us, in any shape or form, you know, has spent the last five years building this just for it to sit somewhere on a shelf. (Teja: Mmm <affirmative>.) And so I think that’s something that I am paying very close attention to when we do have these conversations, because sometimes, you know, you get acquired or, you know, you get partnerships just outta fear, right? (Teja: Right.) Because “X Company” just doesn’t want someone else to do it, but they might not ever do anything with it, and that’s not the ideal partner for me, so…

Teja (00:32:55):

You know, how should like, a founder evaluate? Because I really admire how you came to the conclusion of like, “Hey, we don’t need to raise big, dilute ourselves, do this just for like, I don’t know, validation or whatever.” Like how should a founder evaluate the decision to do so? Is that something that you think just came from like, a preexisting disposition, or is that…

Akshita (00:33:22):

Hmm, I think, no, I mean, to be honest, I’m sure part of it, in terms of a preexisting trait is, you know, I do constantly reevaluate all the time. (Teja: Yeah. That’s cool.) And I’m not afraid to admit that I, you know, should have done something differently. (Teja: Yeah.) But as long as I’ve learned how to, I’ve learned from whatever decision I’ve made, then, you know, that was worth it. And so, you know, I always also try to be the least smart person in the room, because, and when you are, I think you start, you know, listening, you get a lot of perspective, but you have to be able to filter that. And I think over the last six months you know, I came to this conclusion, simply by listening to other people. Now, not everyone’s perspective is relevant to your business, so you have to do a very good job of filtering of what is relevant and what’s not.

Akshita (00:34:20):

But I do think just, you know, meeting a lot of people who had experience in some aspects of my journey, I think, in the last six months helped me to come to this, but then also I think I just kept hitting my head against a wall, right? Like, sometimes you just have to hit rock bottom to be like, I need a change. And I was flying all over the place, Teja, to meet with all sorts of venture funds, because I was still in this mindset of “I need to raise a large round”, but I had no idea why I was raising it, other than (Teja: I feel that.) everyone kept asking me, “How much have you raised? How much have you raised?” Like, oh my god, I need to like, fix this. I need to go raise. And, and so I think I just, honestly, I got a point where, I remember it was two months ago, I had, you know, gone up to Indiana, and I was willing to move to a new city for, you know, a couple million from a fund that, to be honest, I don’t even think was the right partner, but I was like, “Oh my god, I will do anything for money right now.”

Akshita (00:35:19):

And when that didn’t go through, because hardware, you know, it’s expensive, et cetera, et cetera, all the reasons I’d heard before, I was like, that was my low point, where I was willing to move to a city where I had no family or friends, and our entire team is, you know, in Atlanta, and I had not even thought twice about, is this the right, you know, decision for me. And I was doing anything and everything just to get money. And so I think part of it, yes, was, you know, I was, you know, me as a person, but I think a big chunk of it was just hitting rock bottom. (Teja: Mmm <affirmative>.) And sometimes you just have to get there, before you realize that you need to, you know, shift course a little bit.

Teja (00:36:02):

It’s so interesting. I mean, like, valuation, maximizing, trying to get the most amount of money, it’s like a whole thing. And the whole tech industry, like, I think even the media part of the tech industry, makes its money by promoting it. (Akshita: Yeah.) So it’s  hard. It’s hard to disconnect from it and be like, “Yeah, why is this actually important?” (Akshita: Yeah.) Yeah. Part of me even thinks like, betting on yourself means that you keep your cap table clean. (Akshita: Yeah, totally.) Like, you know, you own the whole thing or as much of it as you possibly can, so…

Akshita (00:36:30):

And because of that, you know, in the last two months, I’ve been able to make that shift, (Teja: Yeah.) and I’ve been able to call the shots (Teja: Yeah.) with our team on what makes the best sense for this business. And I don’t have like, huge investors. And so I have the flexibility to do that. And so I think there is a lot of value there, and definitely not something to be underestimated.

Teja (00:36:53):

Totally. Okay. You said something in your previous question that I’m curious about, sorry, previous response that I’m curious about. You talked about like, you try to make sure that you’re not the smartest person in the room. (Akshita: Yeah.) What are like, a couple go-to questions where you can assess that quickly, like the level of intelligence on the other side. How do you find that out? Or sophistication. Maybe intelligence is not the right word, but…

Akshita (00:37:15):

I can tell pretty quickly when I’m getting a different perspective. (Teja: Mmm <affirmative>.) Like, you don’t want someone who’s always agreeing with you, because of who you are or whatnot. I think you want someone who will listen enough to then give you perspective, but I think I also only really get in rooms at this point, you know, through warm introductions and a very targeted like, “Hey, I don’t really know what I’m doing when it comes to X, Y, Z. Like, can you, you know, direct me in the, you know, to someone who does?” And so I think I rely on my network now to get me in front of the smart people. And so I think I already have a baseline, you know, understanding that this person, because they’ve done, you know, X, Y, Z in their, you know, in the last 10, 20 years, however long it is, that they’re going to have different perspective.

Akshita (00:38:11):

But I think it’s hard, ‘cause everyone has a different way of communicating. And you know, we met with someone the other day who, met with him for like an hour, he is very experienced, specifically in the appliance industry, but a man of very few words. Maybe said like, a hundred words in an hour <laugh>. But to be honest, you know, when my CTO and I, he was there with me, and we were like, just babbling away, <laugh>, and, you know, when we thought back, we were like, “Wow. Every word that this man said was powerful,” when we thought about it. And there wasn’t extraneous information, like, he knew, and maybe that’s a good, another point to your question, is everything he says holds meaning. Right? (Teja: Mmm <affirmative>.) And I think sometimes, and I have tendency to do this, too, when you get nervous or you know, you’re not quite confident of the answer, you just start talking <laugh>. You start talking a lot (Teja: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) And I think, you know, you will know when you’re in the room with people who really are mindful and thoughtful about the things that they say. I think that is a huge indication that you are in the room with the right person, versus someone that just talks a lot. And we’ve had a lot of those too. People that we’ve been introduced to, and also people who approach us, who just had a lot to say, but not much, if that makes sense.

Teja (00:39:32):

Mm-hmm <affirmative>. Totally. No, I can think of a million stories, (Akshita: <Laugh>.) personally, where I’ve had that same experience. (Akshita: Yeah.) What’s the best way for your team to talk to you? Like, do you want the data presented first? How do you…

Akshita (00:39:45):

I want to have, as with my team, specifically, I want to have as organic and raw, in a sense, of conversation as possible and always on video or in person. (Teja: Yeah <laugh>.) I know a lot of people don’t like that, but I think for me, I am such a people person, and I can, you can read a lot, especially as a leader, you want to see body language. You want to see how someone’s face reacts when you say something. And so much of being a people person, a leader, is adapting your conversation based on that feedback from someone. And I think that I’ve only fostered that from meeting so many people, like all the time. (Teja: Mmm <affirmative>.) And I think that’s one of the benefits of, you know, not having gone into medicine for me is, you know, I’ve been able to realize that is a skillset that I have and that I love to foster.

Akshita (00:40:37):

So that’s digressing a little bit, but I prefer to have, if there’s an issue that someone has or, you know, I guess something that they’re presenting, I want it to be as raw and organic as possible and live, if possible, too. I think the one exception to that, and we’ve had this before where, you know, we might get into a disagreement, right? Or I might get frustrated about something, (Teja: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) I always encourage our team and also myself, it’s been a learning process for me, to take a step back. If it’s not gonna kill the company today, let’s sit on it for 24 hours, and I think what I’ve realized, just even personally, is that your emotions, oftentimes, are temporary. And so it’s good to take a step back and see it like, in 24 hours or even an hour, do you still feel the same way?

Akshita (00:41:30):

If so, let’s talk about it. And so I think, you know, depending on the scenario, there are, I think there are ways to maximize, you know, how you talk to someone and the value of that conversation. Because what you also don’t want is just having the same conversation over, and over, and over, and over again, right? (Teja: Totally.) So I think those are some things that kind of guide that. But to be honest, it’s been a learning experience, because I’ve never worked in a corporate environment. I’ve never managed anybody. So I don’t know how often I need to talk to someone, (Teja: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) and sometimes, it depends person-to-person too. Like, some people, you know, need more check-in and need that, you know, kind of feedback loop more than others who only wanna talk to you like, once a month, right? And so I think you’ve gotta find the right balance, and there isn’t any one way to deal with, you know, a team member, because everyone’s personality is different. And it’s taken me some time to figure out my leadership style, and I’m still figuring it out, because, you know, it takes a long time, so…

Teja (00:42:27):

So, okay. Is your company co-located? Are you guys remote? Hybrid?

Akshita (00:42:32):

Yeah. Hybrid. So half of us are in person, you know, two, three days a week in Atlanta, and then half are remote, and then we’ve got some contractors that are remote too. So it’s a mix.

Teja (00:42:43):

What are some rituals that you guys do to keep the remote people and the people on-site like, linked?

Akshita (00:42:49):

Yeah, so I mean, our engineering team and our, you know, marketing team, we do daily stand-ups and so we’re always connecting in some capacity. And then, you know, once a week we’ll do a full team meeting. So we try to keep it as minimal as possible in terms of just big meetings, because sometimes they can just suck time, and people get tired, (Teja: Yeah.) and they just wanna get off. But (Teja: Yeah.) I think what we also try to do on these daily stand-ups, and breaking it into just smaller groups, is you have your stand-up that takes like, five minutes, but then we always, at least on the marketing side, I think the engineering, I think they do this, too, I’ve overheard them, though, I’m usually not on those calls, (Teja: Totally.) but you know, is we schedule it for half an hour, only because stand-up is usually five minutes, but then we just get into just random conversation. Like, what someone did over their weekend or, you know, if I’m frustrated with something, I’ll share that. And so I think having that room and space to just chat, right? Because that is the one thing about remote work that you don’t get, right, is that you don’t just, you know, just talk about something like, just anything outside of work, because once you get on Zoom, you’re waiting to get off Zoom, and so it doesn’t allow for that kinda, you know, rapport to be built.

Teja (00:44:05):

No, totally. In fact, I was just thinking about this this week. It’s like, the remote context encourages highly efficient, transactional, professional relationships, (Akshita: Yeah.) when that doesn’t feel natural. (Akshita: Yeah.) Like, you know, you don’t build trust, you have like, you have to talk about stuff to, you know, build that rapport. Yeah, (Akshita: Yeah.) it’s totally a thing. (Akshita: Yeah.) And I, it’s funny, I was just talking to Abbey. I was like, you know, we need to build a studio, because like, trying to look into somebody’s pixelated eyes for an hour, when your interview is like… it’s insane.

Akshita (00:44:35):

<Laugh>. It’s hard, and it’s exhausting, right? And people get tired, and you know, there’s pros and cons to it, but we do try to, once a quarter or once or at least twice a year, we do try to do something in person, (Teja: Oh, cool.) and that always does make such a huge difference, but…

Teja (00:44:51):

Totally. Do you envision you guys ever coming to the same location? Like, bringing all the remote folks in? Or are you guys gonna stay hybrid for the, you know, the whole journey?

Akshita (00:45:02):

Yeah, I think hybrid makes the most sense. As we do hire, we always look locally, just because, if you can find someone, that’s great, but sometimes you just don’t find that talent. And so we’ve always been pretty flexible about that, For us though, especially because, you know, a big chunk of capital is going towards physical products and prototyping, is we have to be, you know, even more mindful about our full-time count, because there are benefits, right? It’s more expensive to have full-time employees. And so, you know, I think it’s a balance. And you know, I’ve always said, when it comes to physical products, you know, our hardware team, those are all people that I do want close by. Not necessarily like, right next door, but at least, you know, once or twice a week that we can get in person, because when you’re dealing with a physical product, you wanna be able to touch it. You wanna be able to pass it around.

Akshita (00:46:00):

You know, during Covid, we were shipping prototypes across the country. And so I think one, you lose time, and it’s not very efficient. But then two, is, you know, having that physical interaction when you do have a physical product to be able to test it. Like, in our office, we have a stove, because we need to all be able, you know, to test and experience the features that we’re releasing. So I think, depending on their role, I think, you know, I do lean more to one side or the other, but when it comes to, for example, software engineering, you know, we can do that remotely, and it is, you know, less expensive for us to do that, and so that makes sense for the business. But I’ve learned through experience that with hardware engineers or even, you know, our CTO, I was like, I need these guys in person, because it just is much more efficient, and I think does make a difference when you are constantly iterating on a physical product.

Teja (00:46:54):

I mean, I can’t imagine having to ship like, knobs to folks (Akshita: Nightmare.) to be able to, yeah, totally. Have to make sure it’s, yeah, yeah.

Akshita (00:47:01):

And then you lose, sometimes you lose a package and like, and that prototype just costs like, you know, a thousand dollars, you know, it’s…yeah.

Teja (00:47:09):

<Laugh>. It’s, yeah. No, I know, I know. It’s crazy. Okay. Have you guys thought kind of intentionally about company culture? Do you guys have like, a set of values? Is that an area where you spend your time or is that organic, kinda?

Akshita (00:47:24):

It’s starting to spend time. (Teja: Mmm <affirmative>.) One thing I did realize from being completely remote until about a year ago was that, we had no company culture. And again, I think, because I didn’t come with, you know, that advantage of having worked in a large team setting, I really, I didn’t realize how bad it was, not bad in terms of culture, but that we didn’t have one. And you know, I think, for example, a very simple example was I was always on video when I would come onto stand-ups, but half of our team wasn’t. And you know, what I realized was, you know, that is culture, right? (Teja: Yes.) Where people are, without you having to say it or without you having to be in the room that they’re, you know, kind of emulating what you do. Right? And so I think now, in the last, you know, six months to a year, after I started to delegate a lot of the technical responsibilities, I started to think a lot more about culture and, you know, what are the values?

Akshita (00:48:30):

And actually we’ve been doing some sessions on, you know, what is important to us, as a company in terms of hiring, but then also, how does that align with how we treat our customers, right? And what our customers expect from us, because it’s all interconnected. And so, you know, to answer your question, did not place enough emphasis on it looking back, because I didn’t really realize what company culture meant. I just didn’t have the experience, but I think, over time, saw the repercussions of not having company culture. And there were times where, you know, we had a couple of engineers where I was trying to learn and figure out, how do I manage these guys? There was a time where I was managing five engineers. I am (Teja: Geez.) zero, I have zero, I have like negative technical, you know. (Teja: <Laugh>.)

Akshita (00:49:22):

And this was when I (Teja: That’s pretty sweet, though.) Yeah, well, it was very, I mean, it was very stressful, (Teja: Yeah.) because on one side you’re trying to learn, you know, concepts and understand what they’re doing so that you can measure progress, right? But then on the other side, you’re also figuring out how do I talk to these guys, right? How do I relate to them? As you probably know, engineers are of a different breed sometimes, and you know, it was like, so much that I had to learn at the, you know, at the same time. And there were instances where, you know, they were, you know, where there was disrespect. And I think it came from the fact that I had not really shown what, you know, how we should be talking to people, the kinda respect that we should have shown. And to be honest, because I had never managed anyone, I didn’t address it the way that I should have, either, (Teja: Mmm <affirmative>.) because, you know, there was some kind of imposter syndrome there, where I was like, we had an engineer who was 30 years older than me, (Teja: Mmm <affirmative>.) and I’m like, “Who am I to tell this guy anything?”

Akshita (00:50:11):

Right? Even though the mindset, obviously, should be that, look, you are an expert in what you do and I’m here to steer the ship, right, (Teja: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) is basically my role. But I think at the time, you know, it was, it was really challenging, and you know, all of it had to learn, you know, all of it simultaneously. And you know, I think because of that, it might take longer, but, because of those experiences, I think, it’s much more ingrained, because someone didn’t just tell me, “Hey, actually you have to do this and this.” I kind of tried and failed, and because of that, you know, I’ve, you know, been able to learn from it. So yeah, it’s a work in progress, and I think I’m much more focused on, you know, building company culture and even just the way that I talk to and what I look for in partners, too. But sometimes you have to just delegate a lot, before you even have the emotional or mental bandwidth to even think about these things.

Teja (00:51:22):

No, it doesn’t show up on a P&L. (Akshita: <Laugh>.) I mean, I was the same way. I’m like, “It’s not on the P&L.” (Akshita: Right.) “What is this nonsense that people are telling me?” Just like, I dunno, show up, work hard, be good, and like, that’s the culture. (Akshita: Yeah, yeah.) That was my approach. But it’s a whole thing, you know, it’s a whole side of values.

Akshita (00:51:38):

It is, and I think, and nobody can teach you it, I think. I mean, you can read as many culture books as you want, but (Teja: Yeah.) until you do it, and you either do it well or you, hopefully you don’t do it well first, because then you actually learn what not to do, and then you can do it well, right? So I think that’s the mindset I’ve had <laugh>.

Teja (00:51:59):

No, totally. And I feel like good culture adds a lot of operating leverage, (Akshita: Yes.) because then people can do things without being managed (Akshita: Yes.) to do that. (Akshita: Totally. Yup.) You know, you mentioned imposter syndrome. Has that, okay, there’s a good quote that I read though about imposter syndrome, which is “Either you have imposter syndrome, or your sociopath.” (Akshita: Yeah <laugh>.) So I don’t think it’s like, necessarily bad. (Akshita: Yeah.) You know, but like, what’s been your experience with it? Is it something that you felt especially, (Akshita: Yeah, totally.) you know, being new to the tech industry and all that stuff?

Akshita (00:52:29):

Yeah. I think as a female founder (Teja: Yeah.) in a largely male-dominated space, right? I mean, (Teja: Yup.) you look at all of your smart home, hard tech companies, there are very few women. There are women, and they’re doing an incredible job, and I know a lot of them, and it’s because of them, I think, that I’ve, you know, in many ways have come this far because of that support system, but I did, especially in the early days, you know, feel like, who am I to be building this? Like, this makes no sense. And I felt like I had to overcompensate, right, and I’m sure that came out, you know, as I was pitching. And I think it took me time to, I think, ultimately come to the realization that I have my own skill set, and I really need to lean into that.

Akshita (00:53:17):

And that skill set, to be honest, I think this has happened in the last six months, (Teja: Mmm <affirmative>. Sweet.) so it, you know, I’ve dealt with the imposter stuff for a really long time, is that, you know, I am really good at, you know, networking, and building relationships, and getting in the right rooms. Everything else, I have to give to someone else and trust that that person will take care of it, because a lot of my imposter syndrome came from managing engineering talent, and building product, and doing supply chain and manufacturing, of which I did not understand, you know, enough, at least at a detailed level to be able to do it well. And so I think a lot of that came from just not focusing on my superpowers. And so I think, first, it’s important to figure out what are you really good at?

Akshita (00:54:04):

And it might take time to figure it out, especially for me, when I had never done something like this. So it took me a couple years to figure out what I’m not good at, and what I don’t like doing, and what I’m good at and what I do like doing. So that’s number one. Number two, is, you know, oftentimes when you feel that, you know, imposter syndrome, you’re always worried about what you don’t know. Right? Ok. In six months, I remember when we were doing our first production run, it was like six months away, and I was like, “What if it doesn’t go right? And what if this happens? And what if this happens? What if this happens?” And I remember, you know, someone telling me that it’s six months away, (Teja: <Laugh>.) like, don’t worry about it, right? But because you feel insecure, in a sense, you’re always worried about what you don’t know. (Teja: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.)

Akshita (00:54:43):

And so I have finally come to accept that I will learn what I need to learn, when I need to learn it, and I think that’s helped me a lot, because I’ve proven, I think, over and over again to myself that I can problem solve, and I will figure it out. I mean, there are times where I literally just to keep my sanity, is it gonna take the company down today? No? Okay, let me push it to tomorrow, and I’ll deal with it tomorrow, and I will figure it out tomorrow, or I will find someone who can help me figure it out. And so I think coming to that acceptance, and it’s by no means easy, and it just comes with a lot of very sleepless nights. (Teja: Mmm <affirmative>.) But I think that those two things of understanding what I’m really good at, really leaning in on it, delegating everything else, and then only, you know, and not worrying about the things that are not in my control today, and having faith that I’ll figure out whatever it is, you know, tomorrow or six months or a year from now, I think has helped me to get past that feeling of imposter syndrome, so…

Teja (00:55:50):

Totally. I almost feel like the smarter you are, the more of an a imposter you feel like, because you can see the differences between people’s capabilities and your own, and you’re like, “Shit, this is really tough. Why didn’t I know this already?” (Akshita: Yeah, yeah.) Yeah, it’s interesting. It’s like, it’d be cool to be like, “I’m the best. I’m the best ever.” (Akshita: Yeah <laugh>.) But it’s, you know <laugh>.

Akshita (00:56:12):

Someone has said that. Like, you know, the more you know, even the more emotional intelligence you have, too, right, I think can work against you, because you are so aware of the things that you’re not good at, (Teja: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) and that takes a toll, right, just on your like, mental health. Whereas if you’re like, like you said, if I’m good at everything, and you just don’t worry about it. Right <laugh>?

Teja (00:56:33):

Totally. Have you ever been in a situation where like, you’re trying to do something from a management or from a leadership standpoint, but since like, you’re so emotionally aware, you start feeling bad about what you’re doing or like, reprimanding someone, has that ever happened to you?

Akshita (00:56:47):

Oh, yeah. I mean, I think, to the example I said before, where I should have reprimanded someone for speaking so disrespectfully to me, (Teja: Yeah.) and I didn’t, because I shied away. I was like, “My god, how do I do it? What do I say?” Like, I think, and I was like, “Do I even have the experience to say this to someone?” (Teja: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) Like, so I think there were plenty of times where I felt that, and you know, I think even when I would pitch to, you know, investors when, you know, oftentimes investors push back, sometimes because they think that they’re right, but sometimes it’s a test, right? Like, how much conviction do you have in what you’re saying? And there were times, especially in the early days where I would like, you know, cater my perspective to whomever I was talking to, even though it made no sense sometimes, right?

Akshita (00:57:35):

But I was like, “No, but maybe they know better than I do.” And, you know, finally was like, “No, I know this business inside and out,” right? And I think the job of an investor is to fill in the gaps if you know, wherever they are, right? And so I think, you know, between employees and, you know, and also just pitching and, you know, to whether it’s venture or even, you know, different partnerships, you know, partnership channels, I think I always would shy away from my perspective or you know, what I should have said in that moment, just because I didn’t feel like I had the track record or the badge, you know, to do it, even though this is, you know, my CTO will remind me all the time, like, this is your company. (Teja: Yup.) Like, you started this. Like, you understand this better than anyone else.

Akshita (00:58:29):

And so you have to be very confident in that. And I think this also goes to pitching too, right? You know this business, and one thing that I had to make a shift, you know, just in terms of mindset with pitching was, I would always be like, “Oh, you know, this, you know, investor has, you know, so much money and…” You know, the power dynamic was just so off. And I think this happens a lot, especially for first time founders and, you know, speaking for myself, female founders where, you know, you’re asking for money instead of presenting an opportunity, right? And I think that does come out in how you talk and the confidence that you portray, right? And so I think that has fortunately changed over time, but it just, it is tough, you know, to deal with, because so much of it is just your emotional and, you know, my instability. But, you know, I think that there’s a lot of emotions that you have to sort through as you feel, you know, this imposter syndrome, as you feel like maybe I, you know, this person knows more than me, and just really being confident in what you know, but then also knowing what you don’t know.

Teja (00:59:42):

Well, I can sense that like, hard-won, battle hardened wisdom (Akshita: <Laugh>. Yeah.) emanating from my monitor, and it’s awesome, and it’s inspiring, because it’s a really tough and complex business. And I think, you know, you guys are serving like, a really worthwhile need that probably does save lives, (Akshita: Yeah.) you know, at scale, (Akshita: Yeah.) which is awesome. So where can people find you on the interwebs?

Akshita (01:00:06):

Yeah, you can go to,, and you can also find me on LinkedIn. I always am trying to pay it forward. (THE FRONTIER THEME FADES IN)  I mean, I would not be here without countless people who have given me their time, unconditionally, to help me not make more mistakes than I did. So you can also just send me a message on LinkedIn, and I respond to a lot of our customers’ service emails, too. So you can also (Teja: Sweet.) just send us an email at sup[email protected], and you might get a response from me, too.

Faith, via previous recording (01:00:38):

Thanks for listening to The Frontier Podcast, powered by We drop two episodes per week, so if you like this episode, be sure to subscribe on your platform of choice, and come hang out with us again next week, and bring all your internet friends. If you have questions or recommendations, just shoot us a Twitter DM @theFrontierPod, and we’ll see you next week.