This week, on Founder to Founder, Teja sits down with Vinay Patankar, CEO and Founder at Process Street, an AI-powered process creator that helps companies achieve operational efficiency. They talk about growing up in tech, gaming, hitting the grind when building a business, and the importance of slowing down and seeing the world every once in a while.
(THE FRONTIER THEME PLAYS)
Yo, what’s up, y’all? Today we have a cool episode with Vinay of Process Street. He’s building a business process automation company that’s leveraging AI to basically make your teams more effective and more efficient. Check it out. Super impressive entrepreneur building a really cool business. Thanks, y’all. See you on the other side. (THE FRONTIER THEME ENDS)
Dude, so I love to kind of dive in and like, start with just like, you and like, who you are, and how you kind of got your start as an entrepreneur. Like, I noticed that you kind of worked in sales, digital marketing, kind of maybe, previous to starting your own companies. So talk to us about like, how did you transition from that to kind of building companies, and have you always wanted to be an entrepreneur, that sort of thing.
Yeah, I didn’t come from an entrepreneurial family, so no one really in my family or, you know, environment, community was like, entrepreneurial, and I didn’t really have that exposure, but I was always just like, a bit of a wheeler and dealer. So when I was young, when I was, you know, 11 or probably younger, I would like, sell candy at school. I got a paper run basically when I was 11, and by the time I was 18, I’d worked lots, and lots, and lots of different jobs and done all sorts of little side hustles. Through that kind of period of pretty much like, you know, until the end of high school, I ended up getting my, so my dad was a Cisco trainer, and he taught like, the Cisco and Microsoft like, certification programs in Sydney, (Teja: Oh.) and so we had this house that was full of like, routers, and firewalls, and switches, and all this like, all these computers all like, you know, networked up and Cat5 cables hanging out the windows.
And then I also got into gaming, and so I would like, build my own computers, and I was top 50 in Counter-Strike in Australia, and like, I would, you know, I’d have like, ’cause I had multiple computers at my house, I’d have like, my friends over and would like, play LAN games and stuff. And so kind of through that, I got an interest in, had like, a natural inclination for computers, and I ended up getting my CCNA when I was 16, which was my Cisco certification, obviously, with my dad helping me to go through that program. And then when I was, then after I got that, I was able to get a job as a CIS admin when I was 16, and so I kind of was working with CS grads in this, you know, building in the city, managing all these computers, and that was like, a part-time job that I held through university.
So, you know, I kind of had like, a bit of a background like that, where I was a bit of a wheeler and dealer. I wasn’t really, didn’t really always know that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I did…I was interested in just like, business. I was interested in finance; I studied finance at school. [I] was interested in like, how businesses work and like, you know, the stock market and things like that, as well as being interested in computers and technology. And so when I…without saying, yeah, making everything really long, I basically got my first job as a software recruiter. That was my first full-time job, and I made good money basically recruiting software engineers for the investment banks in Sydney, and that’s kind of was, that was a good blend of like, business, and technology, and kind of like, entrepreneurial, where you’re almost, you’re managing your own desk.
And I was able to make really good money doing that, basically straight outta university. I bought a house I like, had, you know, was able to save a bunch of money and, ’cause I was like, a grinder, right? Like, I was working super hard, working late nights, working on the weekends, just, you know, doing what it took to basically be at the top of my team and like, hit all my numbers. And after doing that for like, three years, basically straight outta school, I’d accumulated all this holiday, and they basically told me that I had to take the holiday, ’cause I wasn’t taking any of it, and by law, like, I had to take it <laugh>. So then I was kinda like, forced to go on this four or five week, I think it was a five week holiday, where I backpack around Southeast Asia.
[I] went through Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and I had so much fun on that trip, and I was spending way less money than I was making, basically just with my, you know, annual like, leave payment that was coming in. Like, do I even need all this? Like, why am I working so hard? Like, it was way less fun. I was just grinding, you know, wearing a suit every day, in the office in the morning, and I’m like, do I even like, need, like, what’s the point in like, owning all this money if I’m just like, not able to have fun? That was kinda like, a little bit of a seed for me, and so I kind of came back. I kept working for another year. I was thinking about it, and I basically decided that I was gonna just do a really long trip, which you’ve probably seen like, a bunch of Australians do.
There, I had like, lots of data points of people who would go off and go backpacking for six months or 12 months. That was like, a way more common like, thing to do in my community than it was like, to start a business, for example. And so I’m like, okay, I may as well just do that. I’m like, 23, 24. If I’m gonna do it, you may as well do it when you’re younger, and you’re gonna get a different experience. Like, I could keep working for 10 years and, you know, maybe get a house, you know, try to pay some of that off or something, and then maybe try to go on a trip with my 30s, but it’s gonna be a totally different experience. Like, you’re not gonna be able to, when you have more money, buy back what that experience would be like to do it in your like, early 20s.
And so I basically had made the decision that I was gonna go do this trip. I also did a lot of work to kind of de-risk my situation. So I already got a house, which is, you know, one of the main reasons you don’t wanna break your kind of like, employment period, right? You’re getting a mortgage. So I’d kind of like, done that, and I made sure that like, I was leaving, you know, crushing all my numbers so that I was very employable if I needed to come back and like, get a job, and I basically took, I had nine or 12 months of savings like, you know, that’s kind of what I plotted out that I could last for, and quit, and just went traveling.
While I was like, winding down everything, winding down my apartment and winding down like, my job, I read The 4-Hour Workweek, and I read it, because I just heard that it was kind like, a good travel book, right, for like, an idea to like, traveling like that. And in that, he like, talks about how he like, built a business and then continued to travel, and I was like, “Wait a minute,” <laugh>. “That sounds like a great idea. I’m already gonna travel.” So I basically just copied the model in that book, and I launched an e-commerce store in the six months that I was kind of leading up to leaving and, you know, that e-commerce store started making $1,500, $2,000 a month, which was enough to live in Thailand or whatever and keep going. And [I] eventually sold that for not much, but you know, another six months of runway, basically, and then (Teja: Totally.) basically just kept going, yeah. And then I did that for like, 10 years, and basically just ran a bunch of different websites and different internet companies, continuing to basically like, build something small, like, flip it, try to build something a little bit bigger, like, flip it, and kind of did that all the way to Process Street.
That’s sweet. Okay, I have some questions, then we can get into Process Street, your current company. So what version of CS did you play? One point five? One point six?
The very first version that I started playing was beta 4, yeah. So 0.4 basically, yeah <laugh>.
Wow, okay, gotcha. That’s, yeah. That’s old school, totally. I think we were obsessed with CS like, 1.5 and then when 1.6 came out, most of my friends then switched to like, basically playing EverQuest and like, the MMORPGs. I don’t know if you ever got addicted to those games.
Yeah, World to Warcraft. We played that for a little bit.
Totally. Now, I mean, now, we still play like, my friends back then, I mean from basically, I don’t know, like, middle school, I guess, we used to play a game called Overwatch.
Oh yeah, I’ve played Overwatch. Yeah.
Yeah, do you? Do you like playing it?
It’s like Team Fortress, right, but aliens.
Exactly. Yeah, totally, because you get on, it’s low commitment; you get on, you have fun. Like, I think the Elo system like, does a good job of like, giving you competitive matches. (Vinay: Yeah.) Are you like, obsessed with grinding Elo, or are you more like, a casual player? Like, what’s your approach to Overwatch?
No, I’m casual. I mean, I haven’t played probably in a year or something, but I definitely played a lot when it came out. (Teja: Totally, totally.) It’s my go-to like, if I just want 15, 20 minutes play, I’ll play Overwatch.
Yeah. Get it, like, especially like, after a long day. Like, you get in, you get a game or two, have a beer, chill kind of unwind for your day. That’s the best. Okay, so that’s cool. So you started playing 1.4, did you play any, in any competitive…
Point four, yeah.
Oh wow. Okay. So did you play any…
Way before version one came out, yeah.
Yeah. Were you like, a competitive player (Vinay: No.) or were you more…okay.
Yeah, sometimes, but I never got super into it, yeah.
I understand like, the need to kind of like, build the best PC to get like, your frames up and like, make sure you’re dominating your friends. We used to love like, having LAN parties, but back then, like, the towers were so heavy, you had to like, basically…
Yeah, you need a whole car. Yeah <laugh>.
Hundred percent <laugh>, yeah. And you’re like, this little kid trying to cart this around. What’s your ethnic descent? Like, previous Australia? Are you south eastern…
Yeah, my father’s from India, and my mom’s from Australia.
Okay, okay, gotcha. That’s cool. Have you been to India recently or…?
Not since I was 12, yeah.
Okay, gotcha. That’s cool. I always do, I mean, we’ve interviewed a couple of Indians on this podcast, which is always fun. Like, there’s some people building some cool shit in India, which like…
Yeah, totally. I think there’s, yeah, India’s gonna crush it over the next couple of decades.
I think there’s something around like, it’s funny you brought up like, just hustling and just grinding, and I think that seems to like, so nobody in my family is entrepreneurial. Like, there’s no reference point. You know like, I ask my parents, I’m like, “Is there like some rich uncle that we have that I could ask about business? Like, is there anybody?” They’re like, “No,” <laugh>. They’re all fucking doctors or, you know, government employees. There’s no like, reference point, you know? So I totally hear you on just like, kind of being motivated and figuring out yourself how to do…
Yeah, there’s a bit of that like, immigrant like, mindset, as well.
A hundred percent. Yeah, immigrant mentality. A good comedian friend of mine quotes another comedian…(Vinay: <Laugh>.) <laugh>. He didn’t come up with it, but I like the phrase. (CALMING PIZZICATO MUSIC FADES IN)
Actor, via Process Street marketing video (12:08):
(VIDEO CLIP AUDIO PLAYS) Okay, time to onboard a bunch of new employees, which is a whole process, and it’s just one of hundreds we have around here. (MOUSE CLICKS) Wow. That’s a lot of processes. Used to stress me out, but then we found Process Street. Process Street makes…(VIDEO CLIP AUDIO AND PIZZICATO MUSIC FADES OUT)
So, Process Street. So did you kind of devise the idea for Process Street, like, based on sort of your previous companies? Or how did you kind of come to like, this being your business?
Yeah, yeah. No, exactly. So I was at the point where I was running a like, portfolio of websites, like, lots of different content, and lead gen, and just kind of like, different types of low tech internet businesses, basically, (Teja: Yeah.) and that just, you know, and I had about a team of 20 people, mostly in India and the Philippines. And that just kind of got to the point where, this was early, you know, this was 2011 or something like that, and you know, there was no Slack, there was no like, I think Asana maybe just launched, there was…Google Sheets was pretty early. You were using Skype to kind of communicate, and yeah. There just wasn’t much tooling for like, running a remote team like that.
And some of these tools were coming up around, you know, collaborating on more projects, which would be more of like your, or data, right? Which is like, your spreadsheets or your Asanas, but there wasn’t really anything focused on process management where you basically have very defined repeatable processes that you just want people to follow. You’re not really designing or brainstorming or creating new ways of working or doing things. You’re just focused on executing a known playbook at the highest quality and efficiency. Yeah, which is basically a lot of what we were doing, there was a lot of really repetitive work, just like, maintaining these websites, creating content, loading up A/B tests on campaigns, just like, do this a hundred times a day, right? (Teja: Yeah <laugh>.) A lot of what we were doing, it wasn’t very like, you know, creative, coming up with these new ideas and strategies.
It was just like, look, we need to run 500 experiments a week. Like, let’s go, right, then <laugh>. (Teja: Yeah.) Yeah, and so couldn’t find anything that did that. Most of the tools, even today, like, if you want a project management tool, you’re going to get a lot of flexibility right, in how that tool gets created, and managed, and maintained, and there’s a lot of opportunity for people to rename the task, or change the cell, or put in like, a number when it should be a letter, or up, you know, make the file a doc instead of a PDF, or like, all these areas where there is like, this flexibility, which kind of lets you do a lot of things, but if you need something done in a very particular way, you know, and allows people to create mistakes, Process Street is like, a platform in that world where people collaborate over software, and data, and forms, and tasks, and projects.
But like, there’s more of a builder or like, a process designer model-like role, and then there’s a user role or process executor role, and the designer gets to design exactly how the process needs to run. Like, this needs to be done, and this person needs to get loaded, and then three hours later, this needs to be done, that this field needs to be filled out, it has to be a number field, this file needs to be uploaded. It has to be a PDF, and like, you can, you know, and then once that PDF is done, it gets put into this Google Drive folder, and it gets named exactly this exact naming format structure, like, every time. Like, you can create this very exact process, right, and make sure that it’s followed every time, a hundred percent of the time. And there’s like, software, and automation, and AI that’s assisting with that process to make it like, less of a lift or whatever humans are involved in. That’s what the product is, but also kind of how we got there. Yeah.
That’s cool. That’s cool. So how did you kind of define like, the customer, like, initial sort of ICP, you know? Did you sort of look for like, companies that were like the companies you were building, or, you know, did you sort of meet people just through networking to kind of get that initial sort of kindling started in terms of traction?
Yeah, I mean, at the beginning, we targeted small businesses that were just looking to get their processes organized. Usually targeting the owner of the business and letting them kind of decide, you know, maybe I need it for everything or maybe I need it just for these few processes. Through that, we started to get like, some traction. We did a lot more kind of like, content marketing type work just around like, process management and business process management software, which is just the general category that we’re in. And then through that, we’re able to kind of see where there was more traction, and where there was more value being delivered. I’ll say, still today, we are a horizontal product, and we can service an entire business. So we have plenty of customers that, you know, pay us hundreds of thousands of dollars and have all their thousands of employees from every team and use us as the central like, repository for all their processes and workflows, because we kind of have these four products.
We have the main workflow product, which is the BPM tool, but we have a pages product, like a Wiki, and then we have a forms product that’s like, a form builder, right, and then we have a datasets product that’s kind like, a spreadsheet-type product, and then they all work together. So you can bring in like, all your processes and use us that way, but actually, the more common use case is, it’s more being used in a specific department or function. And so, as we kind of like, saw how, you know, the feedback from customers and what customers we’re buying, and expanding, and retaining, where there was more value being delivered, it’s really these like, compliance and process-driven teams and departments. So for us, it’s more like, HR and finance are two of the big ones. (Teja: Yup.)
If you think that more like, marketing or product development, they’re more kind of like, in this creative/creation kind of like, world. (Teja: Yeah.) Whereas, in HR and finances, all this, like, they have to follow laws, right, like, in everything that they’re doing, their jobs. So legal’s a pretty good one as well, but, so the way that they need to do things has to be very particular, or else they go out of compliance, right? There is no flexibility on testing how we’re going to do this like, HR compliance, like, submission, right? (Teja: Yes.) It has to be this exact way, right, (Teja: Yes.) and same with finance. The way that you’re doing your books and doing your reporting, you’re usually following some type of standard that like, someone else has defined, and you’re just making sure that it is like, aligned with that standard. Otherwise, you know, your bookkeepers, your accountant is not gonna be able to read like, your books if you’re going and doing some other like, type of standard, right? Real estate is another big vertical for us. So same kind of deal. There’s all these laws, and rules, and forms, and things that just have to be done that exact way every time, and so that’s a <unintelligible> for us. Yeah.
Totally. I imagine healthcare, too. There’s all sorts of compliance…
Healthcare is, yes. We do have quite a few hospitals that use us. Yeah, that’s a good one.
That’s so cool. That’s sweet. Okay, so this is the first business, I mean, I think that you have raised sort of venture capital for. (Vinay: Yeah.) Is that correct? Other ones sort of…
Yeah, I did try one startup before, which was like, my very first attempt at a software product that was like, a little, it was basically like, what TikTok is. You know, it was like, something in that world trying to create like, short, interactive videos for phones. It was, you know, kind of different models, but it was a whole bunch of products back then. It was basically on the iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, like, that kind of era. And there was a whole, like, there were a whole bunch of video products that launched and got a bunch of traction or not, but all died, because basically, the phones and the phone networks couldn’t handle video yet. It was too much, (Teja: Totally.) The data was too expensive; it would kill your battery. That was like the first startup. We basically just raised like, a small friends and family round, went through an accelerator, and then shut it down.
It’s like, these social app companies, like, there’s so much CapEx to them, in the early stages, right? Like, you need millions and millions of dollars to hire engineers, and then like, your revenue payoff is like, five years after you start the company, (Vinay: Yeah.) and like, sure it’s like, steep, but it’s, yeah. That’s an interesting…
Yeah. Back then, like, you know, not even YouTube could survive. YouTube’s from that era, right, (Teja: Yep.) and YouTube couldn’t afford to pay their bills. Like, YouTube would’ve been dead if someone like Google didn’t acquire them, or Google could basically lose money on the data center for decades, essentially, until this product becomes something, and that’s even with Google’s like, you know, Google has some of the cheapest data center like, capacity in the world, and they still, you know, have to burn through 10 years or whatever.
Are you seeing that a little bit like, with an AI sort of business? I mean, the server costs probably make up a significant part of like, any IT budget or…
Well, the way that most people are gonna be using AI is really, really cheap. It’s like, if you’re using AI, and it’s part of a SaaS product, then you are not like, doing, you’re not managing your own compute, you’re just using an API of someone else’s, (Teja: Right, that’s true.) You’re just getting charged based on like, usage, right? You don’t have these like, CapEx expenses. It’s a variable (Teja: That’s true.) expense, and you can just build into your pricing model, right? A way where you charge customers as their usage goes up, and so you just put a margin on it in some way. (Teja: That’s true.) There are different ways to do that. So it’s pretty much never gonna be a problem for most software companies.
Yeah, that’s true. Yeah, that’s a great point. So what’s it been like, kind of running a venture-backed company, like, in comparison to your previous companies? How’s it different? You know.
You know, pluses and minuses, right? Like, the big pluses, obviously, you have more money, (Teja: Yeah.) and so you’re not at this, you know, when you’re running a normal bootstrap business, until you get probably pretty big, which I never got any of my businesses to that stage, which was only a few months of cash, basically, at any point in time. And if you’re not managing that correctly or something goes bad, or you have a bad month or something, and your revenue drops by half, then you get very stressed out. Whereas knowing that you have like, you know, years of cash in the bank, you know, is nice for the psyche, but then on the flip side, like, with with venture, you basically, you then get to the point where you run outta that money, and then you need to go like, refill the coffer, and so you kind of don’t have this like, perpetual like, anxiety, but you have this like, slow building anxiety, so like, year and half, and then it peaks, and then it comes down again.
Yes. No, that’s so true. I mean like, we bootstrapped for like, eight or nine years. We got to like, $10 million in revenue, and like, we were profitable, you know, pretty profitable, and then we’re like, “Let’s raise a venture,” and the stresses are like, way different. I mean, it’s the same company. We’ve been running the same company for, I mean, almost a decade, over a decade, I guess, and it’s totally different. And it’s funny, sometimes I think, I’m like, man, I didn’t appreciate, like, so when you look back fondly on like, pre-venture days, you’re like, I had different stresses, but I’m not sure if they were better or worse, because now like, you’re starting against like, you have to get growth. There’s no other option. You just have to do it, (Vinay: Yeah.) you know? So yeah, it’s…
I don’t know, man, like, $10 million bootstrap, that seems like you’ve got the best of both worlds if you get to that size, because then you kind of have, I was basically gonna say, the second big benefit of like, having more like, cash in the bank and runway, is that you basically get to hire more help, right? (Teja: A hundred percent.) And so that makes your personal life, you know, assuming you hire the right people, can take off a lot of like, annoying tasks, and just late nights, and burnout that you can’t really afford to offload sometimes in a bootstrap business.
No, dude, that’s so true. I mean, I will say like, for my personal quality of life and like, the ability to hire like, really excellent people that have kind of had like, previous at-bats at this thing that we’re doing, that’s been a huge thing for us. (Vinay: Yeah.) And like, you kind of shift like, where you are, even on like, you know, if you think about like, hiring, like if you’re trying to hire at a certain skill percentile, relative to the market, you get to like, shift, you know, one standard deviation, (Vinay: Yes.) and so you can now afford to do that, and the output is like, twice as good, you know? So that’s been super cool, for sure. Yeah.
Yeah, yeah. I’d say that’s probably the biggest benefit. Yeah.
Oh, yeah. You just work with people, you’re like, “Oh, shit. Like, this person like, knows what’s up. Like, this is great,” you know? Is your team fully remote? Like, are you guys building a remote company?
Yeah. Yeah, we’ve been remote since day one, ’cause I was already a nomad in the beginning. (Teja: <Laugh>.) Yeah, I mean that’s part of like, why I wanted to build a SaaS company in the first place, because it’s a business model that like, aligns with being fully remote, right?
Where’s most of your team located these days? US or Australia?
Half US, half Europe. So most of our like, products in ANG is in Europe, and then all like, sales and CS and stuff, solutions consulting, is in the US.
You seem like a guy that’s like, put a lot of thought into like, how you optimize your own schedule and week. Like, maybe, what’s your week look like?
So I basically have like, Tuesdays as a focus day, where I do no meetings, and then I’m pretty much just in meetings the rest of the week <laugh>.
<Laugh>. But is there like, a theme to each day? Like, you’re like, okay, like, sales meetings on one day, this meeting on that day, anything like that?
No, because I guess, ’cause the team’s remote, it’s more optimized around like, the time zones, and what’s the most convenient times for like, the team to basically, versus like, me setting, you know, putting everybody in a cadence around like, how I wanna work.
Yeah, yeah. That makes sense. What’s your sleep and wake time and gym time? Like, what’s your personal kind of hygiene routine around health?
Yeah, so sleep is usually like, 12:30 to 8:30, something, (Teja: Okay. Okay, okay. Reasonable.) and then, and I try to always get eight hours, so maybe like, 12 to 8 or even 12 to 8:30 or something. (Teja: Yeah.) Then I’ll either go to the gym in the morning, maybe if my first call starts at 10, then I’ll go to the gym straight in the morning, but if I have early calls, then I’ll probably just do my calls and then go to the gym afterwards, which is worse, because it’s like, busy, especially in New York if I have to go at 6 or 7:00 PM, but I usually go to the gym five days a week, and then like, I just jog to the gym, and then I do resistance training. And then, the other two days, I try to do something like, go for a bike ride or something. I city bike a lot around New York to just get some extra <inaudible>.
<Inaudible>. Did your fund make you do a key man insurance policy?
Yeah, yeah. Just for that <laugh>.
<Laugh>. Totally. I like to go on hikes, and I always, and you know, obviously I let people know when I’m on vacation and like, not reachable, which is rare, but I try to let people know, and our fund’s, always like, “Are you okay? Did you get eaten by a fucking bear?” You know? So it’s the nature of the game. That’s cool. Okay. What gym do you go to? Do you go to an Equinox, or <inaudible> in New York?
I’m in Greenpoint and, (Teja: Okay.) yeah, at New Williamsburg. So I dunno, I just go to the closest gym, which is a Crunch Fit, basically. There are some better gyms that I might go to occasionally when I have time, but it’s gonna cost me like, an extra 30 to 60 minutes to do it then. That’s more, it’s more like an outing than it is like, a workout.
Oh, for sure. Yeah. When I used to live in New York, like, I lived in Astoria, and so if I had a nice Saturday open up, like, take the train into Manhattan, go to like, the Equinox down on the, I think it was the Upper East side Equinox, and just get like, a nice two hour lift in, walk down Central, you know, Park, good Saturdays. And so when you think about like, driving forward initiatives at Process Street, like, where’s your focus these days? Just sort of as founder and CEO?
Our focus has been, pretty much this year, has been on AI, so we’ve already launched three AI features. We launched, first one, which is like, a generative workflow builder. So you can just say, “I want a workflow on, you know, accounting in France,” or something, right? Like, “I’m doing like, my end of year closeout tax for a small business in France,” right? And it’ll basically build out like a, you know, an example kind of template workflow, but it’s pretty smart. [It] will like, know a lot about like, the France accounting laws, right, and we’ll put a lot of that stuff into the workflow for you. But it’s kind of like, if you think about it, that’s kinda like an infinite template generator, essentially. That was the first project we did. We were just getting started. Like, the team was learning about GPT.
Then we built an importer, so you can essentially import any process document, and it will turn that into one of our interactive workflows. And the good thing about this is that it can be in any format. So you can upload a document. So this is like, a document explaining how we do something, you know, Word doc or Google doc, you could upload a spreadsheet that’s kind of like, an example of like, here’s 20 people that we onboarded with all their tasks in a spreadsheet, and it will kind of like, be able to process through the spreadsheet, or we can upload like, a flow diagram like a BPMN, a Visio diagram, right? Like, a Lucid diagram that basically shows like, the process and what it will understand, be able to process like, any of those, and then turn it into like, a processory workflow with forms, and assignments, and roles, and due dates, and, you know, handoffs and approvals, and like, all the things that would kind of happen in there and kind of build all that out for you.
So that’s really, really cool. That’s becoming like, super, super valuable. And then, this week actually, or last week, we just launched our AI task, and so that actually lets you just start using AI inside your workflow. So if you have like, an employee onboarding workflow, and you know, part of that is you have some forms that have their name and start date, maybe their resume or something, or some information about them, you can, you know, have it generate a welcome message for them or have it generate personalized emails. You can have it do sentiment analysis, or you can have it do math calculations, or you can have it do transformation of data or like, whatever you want. So through this workflow you can kind of like, pull in some stuff, send it to the AI, and get some results, and then continue to use that.
And then, yeah, and then we’re also looking at basically like, we’re focused on how do we deploy all the other like, AI technology that’s coming out, and how do we deploy that across the organization to drive like, operational efficiency. So how are we using AI in sales, in marketing, in engineering, in HR? Like, in everything that we’re doing, we’re testing like, all the products that are coming out, one, to just drive more efficiency in our business, but two, to also educate our team, right, on the technology. So (Teja: That’s sweet.) that’s our focus, yeah.
I have so many questions. So how did you, like, how are you sort of spending your time and like, learning about sort of the frontier technology and use cases in your business, you know, maybe to implement into your product, to your customers? How are you kind of encouraging and aligning like, your team to do that? I think a lot of growth-stage companies struggle with like, balancing, like, executing unknown strategies, but leaving enough time to explore unknown opportunities that might be better. So I’m curious about how you think about that, and like, how you direct your team to think about that.
I mean, one of our values is continuous improvement, and so we already have some kind of like, value-based culture in there that encourages iterating and experimenting on whatever you’re doing, you know, aggressively. And so there’s also, there’s already like, some capacity reserved for iteration and experimentation in most of what we do, and so it is really just like, slotting this into that capacity and saying like, the experiments and iterations you should be doing right now, it should be focused on, should be around AI, right? And just using that as the kind of focus for those experiments, but the culture of like, continuous improvement and iteration, you know, that’s part of like, what, you know, our product has a continuous improvement feature, right? Like, you can iterate on your workflows, and you can track their performance over time as you run iterations on workflows, right?
And so it’s just part of our product, part of our culture. It was like, improving your systems. The first part of your question, which is like, what do I do? My focus when I’m like, getting hands-on is usually in marketing, so I’m basically running, I’m testing the marketing AI tools, basically. And that’s kind of my, I’d say, my strongest like, kind of operating vertical. So there’s also some stuff in kind of like, sales, right? Which is a little bit of like, crossover of kind of rev ops, sales-type tools to make, you know, the SDRs and things like that.
Like, I’m sure you guys use Process Street in Process Street, right? Probably for your…
Oh, yeah, yeah. Every team business.
<Laugh>. Do you have a rule, like, you can’t use Asana or other things, or are you sort of more like…
No, no, we use different products, because like, it’s good for the team to also see how the products work, as well. (Teja: Yeah.) We’re pretty open to people trying tools.
That’s cool. That’s awesome. What are you, what are you excited about for the back half of the year, as far as product initiatives…anything like that?
Yeah, so we’re now looking at pointing AI towards things like integrations and more automations. So now [that] we’ve done some of the generative stuff, can we basically use it to power some other things? Like, for example, can it generate like, integration code for customers on demand? So trying to kind of use it to make kind of like, empower more powerful like, no-code type workflows, right? Where things where you would’ve previously needed an engineer to go and build that, can we kind of like, just turn that into a prompt for the customer and kind of, you know, cut out that like, experience of the code and make it feel like they’re more talking to an AI, but actually on the backend, it’s like, writing code for them. (Teja: <Inaudible>.) Yeah, starting to get a bit more kind of technical and advanced with some of the features. We’ve been kind of starting with the easy ones, and we’re building up to the more complex ones, yeah.
That’s sweet. So do you feel like, if you look at your career and sort of the businesses that you’ve built, do you feel like this is one of the most intellectually gratifying ones? Or sort of like, is that intentional, even? Because it seems like this is a very complex business, it’s technical, you’re at the edge of technology.
Yeah, no, definitely. Yeah, there’s never been anything that I’ve gotten to anywhere close to this scale that has this level of like, complexity, (Teja: Yeah.) both from a technology perspective, but then also from like, just a business operations perspective, as well. And so I think just the fact that there’s so many moving pieces, you know, keeps you very intellectually engaged, especially when you’re trying to stay up to date on like, what’s new in sales, and then what’s new in technology, and what’s new in like, user experience. Yeah, I think that’s one of the things that has allowed me to do it for so long, ’cause it’s just constantly changing. Otherwise, like, historically, I get bored at things pretty easily.
I’m the same way. It’s like, that’s probably the thing that I enjoy most about the job, is that it’s not boring, you know? <Laugh>. There’s always stuff to, as you look kind of to the next, I don’t know, let’s say, 30 years of your like, career, do you have a sense, like, do you wanna stay sort of working in technology? Do you have plans of retiring when you hit like, I don’t know, a certain number or age? Like, gimme an insight into your psyche there?
Yeah. No, I don’t think I will retire. I think I wouldn’t mind being at a place where I could like, take some longer kind of like, breaks, basically. So wouldn’t mind taking a year or two off here or there, like, in between things, but I think I’d probably keep working or running businesses, or investing, or something in that world like, forever basically. And I just may like, adjust the intensity of the type of business that I run, right? So I may, you know, I haven’t decided exactly what I wanna do, but I don’t think I’ll be like, fully being the CEO of venture-backed companies until I die. But, you know, maybe I could be minority owner in multiple companies or maybe run like, some companies that have a bit more flexibility around, you know, basically that they’re not the more bootstrap companies, where I don’t have these like, responsibilities to investors and shareholders, and I can kind of control the amount of work a bit, you know, a bit more <laugh>. But no, I don’t think I’ll ever just be doing like, nothing. Yeah.
It’s interesting, because like, you know, when you’re sort of building a tech business, like, your upside is infinite, and so like, you sort of feel compelled to maximize like, every waking moment of your work life. It’s funny, because you, so you started sort of your journey in entrepreneurship like, reading The 4-Hour Workweek, which is all about like, I mean, it’s not about working four hours, it’s about like, maximizing the efficacy of every hour, but like, minimizing the amount of hours, right? So like, you know, maybe you’re doing 10, 15, 20 hours a week, but now you sort of found yourself in like, a high-growth like, software company where the culture is, you’re grinding. So like, how do you feel sort of about that?
I think, well, firstly, you know, The 4-Hour Workweek is not necessarily about minimizing the number of hours. It’s about like, maximizing kind of like, productivity, (Teja: Totally.) towards whatever you want that to be, right? So if that is that you want it to be like, chilling on a beach, but I don’t wanna chill on a beach for, you know, an extra 50 hours a week. Like, especially like, if I can already chill on a beach for 20 hours a week, like…
<Laugh>. What’s the incremental value of chilling for more?
Yeah. I don’t really like, need another 50, right? Like…<laugh>.
That’s true <laugh>.
So, yeah. So one is like, you basically get that time back to do stuff with, and you can use it to chill on a beach, or you can use it to make more money. (Teja: Yep.) And so coming from the base where I was, I didn’t have enough money to do anything, right? Like, I barely had a few months of living expenses, savings, and so to me, that was more important than getting more beach time. It was getting, you know, extending my…getting closer towards financial freedom, right? So that gave me a lot of opportunities. So that’s kind of what I chose to do. I don’t think that I’ll ever go try to get to a point where I’m only working four hours a week, and I’m, you know, doing like, chilling for the rest of the time, but yeah, maybe in a few businesses time when I am, you know, closer to retirement age, I might consider businesses that only do take me 10 or 20 hours a week to run and kind of design that way.
How do you think about like, maximizing the productivity of your team? Do you track, and do you care about hours that your team works, availability, anything like that? Or are you sort of like, “Listen, here are the goals. Work when you can and work as hard as you can,”?
Yes. The way that we do it is we run like, OKRs, and we’re outcome-focused. Then, we obviously, you know, the hiring process is one of the most important pieces of that. (Teja: Mm-hmm <affirmative>.) It’s like hiring the right people, and then education. Education and tooling, right, where we try to educate people on how to become very productive and use a lot of like, automation and technology to make themselves more productive. And, you know, we have like, we do this, like, we have like, an Inbox Zero like, course, and we have different, basically, productivity training, and you know, tooling and technology training that we provide. Also just like, building that stuff ourselves, right? Having strong ops teams that are basically automating as much as possible in the business. That just automatically makes people more productive. So yeah, trying to build it into the culture, trying to hire the right people, but we don’t, you know, we have a pretty mature adult culture where we set clear expectations, and we give people a lot of room to achieve those.
I love that. Like, a course on maintaining Inbox Zero, and like, why that’s valuable. That’s cool. That’s really neat. Did you write that course, or did you…
No, I was about to say. I can hook you up with the team that does it.
Yeah, I would love that, because I think there are a lot of things that, at least, we maybe, at least I take for granted that like, seems obvious, you know? Like, how to, you know <inaudible>.
I’ll give a shout out. It’s a company called Leverage. I think you can just search “Leverage consulting” or something, “Leverage productivity”, something like that.
What are some tells in the hiring process that you sort of have understood to indicate like, high levels of engagement and productivity that you’ve seen in your career?
Like, normal stuff. Like, what have you built before? Like, show me times, like, common questions that I’ll ask is like, show me like, what are some ways that you’ve used tools, or technology, or systems to improve your own productivity workflow, either at work or, you know, personally, or in a side hustle you had? I wanna see people that like, have a mindset of constantly looking for ways to make the way that they work easier, right? Another good one is just through the hiring process. Like, how quickly are they getting back to you? How much do they engage in the different tasks that you give them? You know, are they, you know, having trouble getting on the Zoom call? Do they book the Calendly appointment within 15 minutes or within like, two days? And so somebody that’s…and then we’ll give them a project, right?
And a lot of the time, there’ll be a project around like, something to do with like, using Process Street or using some other like, tool or system and kinda looking at the details of those projects and basically watching through the hiring process. Like, are they good at tweaking like, advanced levers inside systems and tools as they’re using, right? Are they basically a responsive, fast-learning power user of tools and technology? Which a lot of that comes from like, kind of looking through all the things that they, all the touch points through the hiring process, and then seeing like, “Oh, that was fast,” or “That was clever,” or “That was interesting,” right? Like, and trying to find those kind of like, standout moments that make the way that they interact, or the projects that they do, or the tools and technology that they’re using, show that they kind of have some type of like, edge to them that the average candidate doesn’t.
Mmm <affirmative>. So where can people find you, your company, if they wanna maybe become a customer, refer a customer, or, you know, apply to join your team?
We, you know, the website, Process.st, is our main website. There you can sign up for a trial, play with the product. (THE FRONTIER THEME FADES IN) Our YouTube channel, if you just search “Process Street YouTube” or our Twitter, you know, which is @ProcessStreet, or my Twitter, @VinayP10. We also have a partner program. Google “Process Street partners” If you want to refer someone for the partner program you can go through.
Cool, man. Really appreciate you coming on the Frontier, dude, and it’s awesome to learn about you and your company and companies <emphasis>.
Awesome, man. Yeah, really appreciate it. Thanks for having me on. It’s been a blast. Look forward to doing it again soon.
Faith, via previous recording (47:28):
Thanks for listening to the Frontier Podcast, powered by Gun.io. 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. (THE FRONTIER THEME ENDS)
Did I just freeze? (Vinay: Yeah.) Sorry. It’s <laugh> cool to learn about you, man. (Vinay: Yeah.)