Dalelorenzo's GDI Blog
12Apr/210

Lately (Social Media Platform Software Using AI) | with Founder & CEO, Kate Bradley Chernis

Founder Stories by TeamWave, are a series of interviews of founders of small businesses and other thought leaders who share their practical insights from their journey of entrepreneurship. Here they talk about how they scaled up their company, what challenges they faced during their initial years, marketing strategies that worked to scale up their small business and much more.

These success stories are dedicated to all the entrepreneurs, small business owners and startups, to show them a glimpse of what it takes to survive in this competitive business ecosystem.

Plug: TeamWave is an all-in-one, small business productivity platform. Manage your sales, contacts, projects & people in one place for just $39 /Month

In this episode our guest is, Kate Bradley Chernis, who is the CEO and Founder of Lately


Interview with Kate Bradley Chernis (Founder, Lately)

Transcript of the Interview with Kate Bradley Chernis (Founder, Lately)

Reshmi: Hello, everyone. Welcome to the Founder Stories by TeamWave. This episode is being shot on Women’s day and coincidentally, we have a superwoman as our guest, Kate Bradley Chernis. She’s the CEO and founder of Lately.ai. Lately is a social media platform that creates content for you with the power of AI. So thanks a lot for joining us, Kate.

Kate: Thank you so much, Reshmi. It’s so great to see you!

Reshmi: My first question would be, we would love to hear from the founder herself, what is lately and how did you come up with this beautiful idea?

Kate: Yeah. So thank you. So, Lately uses artificial intelligence to actually create social media posts for you. And it does that in a couple of ways. Number one, you connect your social channels to lately and you give us access to your analytics and we study them and we start to learn literally what text your customers or your target audience will respond to. We’re looking at the highest engaging post, right?

We build a writing model based on that. And then anything you feed us like a video like this, or a podcast, or any kind of long form text, like a blog or a newsletter. We will take that writing model look for the best quotes that we say, for example, and automize that long form content into like hundreds of social posts. So for example, this video, you push a button Lately’s brain works on it and we’ll give you like 40 to a hundred mini video clips of like the coolest one-liners that you and I say today. Yeah.

Reshmi: Yeah. That’s great. That’s so cool. Because we write so many blogs and we have to literally sit at it for hours and hours and work on it.

Kate: Yes. Right. And then what happens with it? Right. Nothing. So like that’s the worst thing is you work for hours and hours and then maybe you write a couple of social posts for most people, it’s just the headline and the headline usually isn’t very interesting. It’s the content inside that is. So we think of it like a movie trailer. Right. So when you watch a movie trailer, it’s a teaser of what the big story is, you know? So it’s the same idea. Yeah.

Reshmi: And how did you come up with this idea?

Kate: So it’s a bit of a long one. And I didn’t really come up with it, you know, it’s, it’s, I don’t know if this happens in your life Reshmi, but I find that I need catalysts. I need other people to see I dunno how to say this without sounding like a jerk, but to see the greatness, you know, I don’t even realize it. Right. So for example, when I started lately, I, I, so I used to be a rock and roll DJ. My last gig was broadcasting to 20 million listeners a day, XM satellite radio. So it was a wild life, as you might imagine. One of the things I learned in radio was how to make listeners into fans. And that’s a big difference because fans evangelize you, right.

Same with customers, you know? So you get so much more out of the bang for your buck. And part of the way you do that in radio is the same way you do it in marketing and sales, which is that using that authentic connection pulling back the black curtain a little bit, giving people a peek, right? So to speak and other techniques as well.

And one of the things that we were doing was we were presenting new music at the time in a way where it was supported by older familiar music. And it’s a real art form to do this, but it really touches on the neuroscience of music. So get this, this is crazy. So when you listen to music, your brain has to access every single song you’ve ever heard before to index that new song in it, in the right place, in your mind.

Right. And when that happens, all this nostalgic it’s pulled forward. So you feel very emotional around the music cause your brain is looking for the familiar touch points of the new thing to connect with. Right? And so marketing and sales is the same way. Writing is the same way when I’m writing something, I’m looking to figure out how can I put something new in a context in your mind where you’re going to feel comfortable enough to trust me right.

And buy my thing. Yep. So that influences actually our AI right now, which is why it gets people such a high engagement. But the, how I got there from radio from radio is kind of crazy. So I was I was sexually harassed in radio, you know, it’s part of the culture boys club. And I didn’t even know that was wrong. Reshmi, like, cause it was so normal.

I even participated in it because it was just the deal, you know? But what I did know was that I wasn’t getting the credit for my ideas and the things I was doing well, and that really bothered me. And it was in a hostile work environment, which also I didn’t, I didn’t even know that were, we didn’t have this language then, you know, I’m, I’m 47 and this was in 2004, so a while ago and my body started reacting.

So I, I had all these illnesses. I had this huge rash on my torso that no one could explain. And I had torn ligament in my ankle and kept reinjuring it. So I was like on crutches for almost a couple of years. And my hands developed epicondylitis and tendonitis, which is inoperable pain and I couldn’t type anymore.

So I couldn’t do what you can do every day. And I still can’t actually without great pain. So I had to had to learn something new and I was really scared. And I, I learned about Dragon Naturally Speaking, which is voice activated software. So that’s why I wear this microphone all day long, right. My computer. Oh yeah. And I can’t even touch my phone without a stylist cause it hurts the lunch.

So I, I found this woman who knew how to use this voice-activated software to train me because I didn’t have any money because there’s no money in radio. And so I paid her in CDs because I had mountains of CDs, you know, from work and she was a fan. And then I ended up moving from XM and, and nobody, they didn’t think anything was wrong with me. So there was all this discrimination cause I looked normal, you know, I had hands obviously and I moved to another music related company and the same thing, there was no understanding what was wrong with me.

And I was very, very terrified and I, wasn’t a very nice person Reshmi. I, I was just toxic. Like I hated my job and I hated my life and I, I didn’t know how to change it. Right. And my dad one day was really sick of me crying all the time. So he very lovingly shook me by the shoulders and said, you can’t work for other people. And there’s no shame in that. Right. Which, so the reason that affected me so greatly, it was because I obviously, it didn’t occur to me.

I could work for myself. I was like, Oh wow, that’s great. And then, but the other thing that he keyed in on was the shame. So most women that I know, since it’s international women’s day, they take it all upon themselves. Our first, I don’t know if this happens to you, but our first reaction is to think, okay, what did I do wrong?And to run through all the reasons, all the self-doubt, all the criticism, right. That’s what we do. And that’s what I had done. I was, I did feel shame. I thought I was messing this up. Right. But I wasn’t messing this up. I, I was doing everything in my power to try to make myself feel better or get better. And no one was helping me, you know? So my boyfriend who’s now my husband at the time he, he heard my dad and he went and got me a start-up book. It’s called the Art of The Start by Guy Kawasaki. Yeah. Yeah. You know that one. Yeah.

Yeah. So I was reading it and Guy says like, it’s right in the first or second chapter, he says, don’t make a plan just get started. Right. Yeah. And so I, I got the, I got the gist, so I just stopped reading the book because I was like, okay, let’s do this now. And I went to lunch the next day. This is a super confluence of, of magical things. I went to lunch with a couple of guys who, I didn’t know. And they were hand delivering a product that they could have mailed to me for work.

But they were fans of mine from XM. There were radio fans. They knew my show. Yeah. And I went to lunch with them and it turns out that they were angel investors that just happened to also be angel investors. And they were like, we love you. Let’s start a company. Here’s 50,000 bucks. Right. So they gave me $50,000 to start my first company. And it was kind of kismet. And, and I remember David, my, my now husband, he was like, “I Just gave you that book.

From there. I told you as long story. Right. So from there we were marketing that company. And as I was doing that, somebody else came along and said, Hey, you know, you’re really good at marketing. Could you consult this project? I’m working on, we’ll pay you a lot more money and you don’t have to listen to music anymore.

And I was like, great, because that was exhausting. The world, the universe was trying to tell me to let go of this other identity, but I wasn’t quite there yet Reshmi, you know, and I needed this, this nudge. And so, cause I was scared to lose my identity, Kate, the DJ, you know, the Kate, the music person. So I went and decided to say, okay, I’m going to stop the music thing and do this other thing. And that was the Walmart project.

So suddenly I’m consulting the largest retailer in the world. And I saw that they were, they were doing this really good cause it was trying, they were trying to help people who are poor, educate them through financial empowerment courses and then also tax. So for me, and you just think about this, like if you make, if you make $10,000 a year and you’re going to get a $2,000 tax credit, that’s life changing.

Yeah. So it was Walmart and all of their franchises and bank of America and all of their franchises and United way worldwide and all of their franchises and the National Disability Institute and the IRS. So like a lot of huge players and a lot of small players, everyone wanted this good cost together. And I thought, what a mess.

And so I went home and built a spreadsheet and to organize us really, and to uncover some of the things that you and so many people, you know, are starting to be really aware of, which is marketers are generally not very good at writing. They don’t like writing. They hire out consultants to write for them. People in general are bad at writing. And consistency is hard. Like all those little nuances that you start to become an expert on is not it’s not, not normal. It’s not natural for other people, you know, it’s hard. And so my spreadsheet system that I created took care of a lot of this and it got us 130% ROI year over year for three years.

Yeah. So that was amazing. And so remember Reshmi, how we talked about that we first, someone else needed to see. Yeah. So, someone introduced me to Steve who’s one of my co-founders now. And Steve had said to me then, Hey, your spreadsheets are amazing because by then I had an agency and I was using the system for a lot of clients.

He was like, let’s just automate them and turn them into software and we’ll build wire frames and you need, we need $25,000. And he was just speaking this language that I’d never heard those words before. Right. I didn’t know what it meant. And I was like, first of all, I’ve been like eating Ramen noodles for 30 years to save up this $25,000 that I have to buy my first house, you know? I was like, so you’re crazy who just drops $25,000.

Then I was like, don’t touch my spreadsheets. I mean, they’re awesome. What are you crazy? And then I didn’t know what a wireframe is. Right. So for folks who may not know a wire frame is kind of like a blueprint of a website. So it can give someone a visual idea of like how it could all work together. You know? So Steve took that money out of his own pocket and hired Jason, who he’s been working with for a long time and is now one of my other co-founders.

And they came over and they showed me the wire frames to Lately. And it looks a lot like what it looks like now. I was a lot nicer to them after that, because I got, I got it. I saw what they wanted. They were, they wanted to automate this process for everybody. Right? Yeah. So that’s how.

Reshmi: That was very inspiring actually. Every part that you said, I think, especially the female entrepreneurs or the people who work as female employees, they would be very they would be able to relate to that part. The initial part that you said about harassment or about, you know, about the bias in the industry. So many people would be able to relate to that, and it was very inspiring how you fought it out, how you came out of it, how you tried to change yourself and then the journey that you have reached till here. So I just loved it.

Kate: Thank You, and you know, the important thing to me there too, is that other people had to help me. Right. So my dad and Steve, and my aunt is the one who put me on the Walmart account. These three people saw something I didn’t see. Right. Which we all need that. And I was willing to listen. That’s the other thing is like, it just happened to be that I was in the right place to take the information and move forward with it. Right. So it’s part luck. And then part, you know, the willingness to, to change the channel.

Reshmi: Exactly. Yeah. How did you find the product market fit? Like, okay. Did you find the customers first and then decide on the product? Or did you first make the product and show them the demo?

Kate: We, so it was hard because we, we struggled Reshmi. We, we didn’t even know how to build this product out because it was too big. So I had inside my spreadsheet system, there were about, I would say two dozen worksheets, and we were trying to build a feature for each worksheet and then how’s it right under, under the, the whole platform. And the top hard part was we didn’t, we didn’t know where to start because marketing isn’t a linear event.

Right. It’s, it’s more, not everybody starts at the same place. And so it was hard. How do you, like say do this through this or this? And so we had an idea with one feature that we thought was going to be the way to go. So we spent a little while working on that and spend all the money we’d raised actually. And my, at the time, my CTO, my chief technical officer, it turns out that he was an alcoholic loser and was not doing any work for me and wasting all my money.

And that was really painful to understand. But also because I didn’t even know, I didn’t know what Github was. I didn’t understand code. I couldn’t even uncover that that’s what was happening. Cause I had zero visibility. Right. So we hired another CTO to come in and help us. And we started to have a little bit more of a visual. We kept, we kept with the idea, like, let’s look at each worksheet as a feature and see which one is the most interesting.

And so finally we built a skeleton and we, we we’ve had fake customers. We like basically twisted the arms of people. We knew to give us 20 bucks a month and say that they were our customers and kind of give us some feedback, you know? And it, it wasn’t really working because what we were selling was organization. We thought that was the thing that I had done for Walmart.

But really the thing that I had done was like unify the content and show them a way to automize it. But I didn’t even know it then, but the customers kept coming back to this one feature. It was the one that everyone was the most excited about. So it took us a couple of years to really understand this. And then we flipped Lately.

We didn’t even know, we didn’t know it was called AI by the way, that wasn’t even what we were had no understanding here, but it was just listening to it, to all of our customers and watching what they were doing. And we started to have real customers, which is good. And we found that the lower payment was making them churn because they weren’t taking it seriously. They weren’t, they didn’t understand that there had to be some time invested because people hate marketing so much.

They really want to push a button and walk away and you can’t, you have to be, you know, like, you know, I have, I just was using my electronic toothbrush. Right. It’s it does the brushing for me, but I still have to hold it in my mouth. Right. You know? So as we started raising the price, we saw the customers staying longer and getting the value more and using that automizing feature. That was the big one.

Okay. And then we also learned that we were selling ourselves short. So we, we focused on that one feature and thought, okay, let’s just highlight this. But then we realized that because people thought we were just a tool and not a platform, that there was a ceiling to how much they would pay. They didn’t realize all the power we’d really give it them. So we need to, again, revisit how we communicated everything and then change the pricing to reflect a more a platform and not just a tool, you know?

And then we, we got the AI. So we, we cottoned onto that. And then the kicker though, was the video clips. Right. So, so forever you could take any blog or a chapter of a book or newsletter or anything like that, paste it into Lately, push a button. And we would give you like 50 social posts. Right. but one of our customers and, and me, I, I would do a video like this and I would give it to an intern and say like, Hey, can you go through and find like all the cool bits and then chop it up, you know? And no one would do it for me. And I was like, this is crazy. So my, my team decided to sit down and figure it out one day. And as soon as we could do the video clips, that changed everything.

Because you, you guys just all heard me take forever to tell you what Lately, does. I’m not good at it. And it’s very hard to describe. Now I don’t have to, I can literally show you Gary Vee you know, Gary Vaynerchuk, Gary Vee at that this was a year ago when we made this video clip feature, he saw it, he built an entire Twitter channel. It’s called Gary Vee TV, it’s fueled only by Lately and nothing else. And it gets him a 12000% increase in engagement. Yeah.

So now I just show people, Gary Vee’s channel and they go, Oh, right. So, so that changed for us. And so to answer your question in the sorry for taking so long, but like, it wasn’t a straight path and it still isn’t, you know, we’re still that, people always tell you to listen to your customers and you think, yeah, of course I am, but you, you don’t understand, like it’s not just listening, but you’re looking for, I’m looking for patterns.

This is the best. One of the best tips anybody ever gave me is negative or positive. You want to look for the patterns in the time, how long it takes someone to be a customer, what they use, how long it takes them to churn, how long it takes them to ask X questions. You know, you’re looking at the budget and all those patterns, like patterns are just the key to unlocking everything. Right. You know? But yeah, it’s it’s not a straight line.

Reshmi: Yeah. Yeah. I actually just loved that part that you said means it is listening is not bad, but we should understand the different patterns, like what they say, or we should yeah. We should read between the lines basically.

Kate: Yeah, yeah, yeah. And that’s a lot of people don’t don’t have that skill. Right. And, and sometimes I don’t, I need my team to see it for me because it’s not, you know, they know more than I do collectively. Right. Thank God

Reshmi: From your answer. Yeah. Well, I would love to hear more about the association between the Lately and Gary Vee team, because yes. All the marketers are a huge fan of Gary Vee obviously. Yes.

Kate: So great. I mean, you know, so we met him actually. So let’s see, we met him in 2019. There was he does a course called 4 Ds and you go for, you go for a day and you get, like, I think there are seven or eight different courses with his marketing team. And then Gary spends like an hour also, with everyone in the room. And there’s usually like seven, 10 or 12 people. So I went because I wanted to make the sale. We had seen Oh, I forgot to tell you this part, this is important. So Gary put on LinkedIn one day, Hey, if there was only an AI tool that would turn all of my long-form content into like 40 social posts with a click of a button. And we were like, that’s lately.

So we called and we emailed every customer. We had any person we knew to. I commented on that. And we had everybody liked my comment and comment on my comment to help push it up right. In the thread. And so we made a lot of noise. So team Gary V he’s got a whole team of people who run a lot of his stuff. They saw it and we got, we got them in a trial. So we made them a customers and they were in a trial.

And so I went to 4 Ds because I wanted to close the deal, you know? Yeah. And the guy who was trialing for us, the head of it was on vacation that week, you know, unfortunately, but his, the other team was there. So I, I left the room all day long because I didn’t need marketing consulting, you know?

And so I kept, I went out to find all the people who were using Lately and talk to them and get to know them and yada yada. So at the end of the day, then Gary comes in for like an hour and he starts talking to everybody and they all have these questions and I’m like, Reshmi. I was like, Oh my God, I don’t have any questions.

I’m like, because I wasn’t prepared for this. You know? So I’m trying to come up with some questions and, and then Gary goes around the room and he asks you, he’s so nice. He’s got so much integrity. And he asks everybody what they do and who they are, etc. So I said, you know, we are automating social media writing. And he was like, Oh, we would never use that. We don’t do any automation. That’s social. Right. I was like, but your team is using us right now.

And he was like, what? So then he called in the people that I had spent the day talking to, and he was like, are you using Lately? And they were like, yeah, we love it. You know, etc. And you know, Gary reached me, right. So he he recorded this whole thing cause he uses it for content later and he left all of it in which he didn’t have to do, you know, which was really cool. So that was awesome.

And so we were already in his mist, but like he forgot about us cause he’s not using Lately. His team was using it, you know? And they were about to churn. We were about to lose them as a customer because Gary doesn’t need an automated army. He has a human army, you know, he doesn’t really need lately, but the video cut feature was key.

So as soon as we released that, we called up the team and say, Hey guys, and Jim Thompson, who was our, our man inside there made that Twitter channel and literally just walked up to Gary and showed him his phone with the Twitter channel. And Gary said, Oh my God, who is that? I want to meet them on Monday. And, and so we did, so he’s become an advisor to us. You know, really one other thing that he said to me which hopefully people will find this useful is they had, they had talked about how their own marketing, they were doing a new thing that they had stopped doing cold calls and cold emails. And I was like really interested in that because I hate cold calls and cold emails.

Reshmi: Yeah, exactly. It’s like, sometimes we think, okay, why did I get this call? Why did I get this email?

Kate: Yeah. It’s like, so how do that? And so I was interested in that and I was like, you know, what can we do this? Cause he said that what they did instead was they looked at everyone who was liking and commenting on their social media. And they decided that they were going to be warm leads and they would qualify the right people from there. And I was like, Oh my God, we can do this. So we only use Lately to market Lately. Nothing else. I’m going to ask you for the file of this recording. I’m going to run it through the brain. Hopefully, you say yes.

Yeah. I run it through Lately. We’ll transcribe all the text and then it’ll look for the best video clips of the things you and I say and give me social posts. Right. And so I only use that for our marketing, nothing else. And we, since we started doing this, we have a 98% conversion rate. Yeah. Because we’re doing what Gary said, first of all, the AI is doing its job. It’s finding the stuff we know people are going to respond to. And then we watch people who like, and comment or share our content. They’re considered warm. We, we further qualify them with like a checklist and then get them into a DM and get them into the demo and close them. Right. So cool.

Reshmi: I would love to know more about Lately the two best features about lately that you want to talk about. Obviously there would be many, but yeah. I would love to hear two best features.

Kate: I think. So I’ll tell you a functional one and then more of an aesthetic one if that’s okay. And thank you for asking. Functional one is the word clouds. So we’re literally looking at the DNA of what you say. So we break down your sentences into the words, you know, which words make up the sentences that your customers are resharing the most or commenting on.

And so you can look at the word clouds anytime, but most of our customers come in and they look at them first because the word clouds literally are a live antenna of what people want you to talk about. Right? Yeah. And people will actually reverse engineer Lately in this way. So, and you can cure it, the word clouds, by the way. So if the word “like” comes up, you can be like, no, that’s a noise word, AI ignore.

Or if the word marketing comes up, you can say, Oh yeah, pay attention to that. Right. So there’s the human involvement. And then, we had a customer Treadwell. Actually. He took his blog. He ran it through Lately. And the social posts that came out, he thought that were terrible. So he went to his word, clouds, readjusted, and rewrote his blog based on what was there and then ran it back through Lately and everything came out good.

Okay. Interesting. Right. So yeah. Number two, related to that is the human element. So we know as you know, that you can’t remove humans from the equation when it comes to sales and marketing, because it’s part of the magic, right? And so Lately’s job is to, to start to get you three quarters of the way there to start you at third base, staaart you at third base.

Like that takes a lot of work to get there. Right. But then the human’s job is to come in and give it that little extra nudge along. So for example, once you get like a hundred social posts from lately, you have the option to go in and edit all of them. And we recommend you do because even the AI even learns from what you delete, it’s paying attention to what you say, what you delete and what you edit and how you edit it. Right.

And giving that helping you, helping it, learn your voice, learn your, you know, that, that extra spark there. And that’s something I think people either love or they hate, right? So some people are like, Oh, I have to do work. Yes, yes. You have to do work, you know, or then there’s other people who obviously totally get it. And those, those are our customers, but yeah, great.

Reshmi: Well, yeah after the video’s done, we have to edit it. There would be some parts which we want to share. So basically I sometimes think like if we could easily just cut it into the best parts we could cut, cut those out. So it’s great.

Kate: Yeah. It’s like I mean my assignment small, so there’s a friend well, because I met him online, I was like, Oh, this is like having like a team of five other people do this work for you. And you’re like, yeah. You know, exactly. Cause it takes a long time to go back and watch something and cut it all up.

Reshmi: Now we are almost at the end of the interview. So I had two just fun questions to just know which is one other book you would like to recommend to the entrepreneurs.

Kate: Oh, the best one I love is called PITCH ANYTHING. And it’s kind of a, it’s kind of a like bravado male bravado book a little bit, but don’t let that freak you out. It’s about the psychology of sales and how manipulative it is, which it is. And there’s great tricks that you can, I mean, you, I feel like the thing that took me a long time to learn Reshmiwas to know what my objective is and to be unashamed about that objective sales and to go in and just get it and to learn how to work a room, right.

How to work an audience, which I already knew that from radio, but I didn’t realize I had to apply it to every meeting with investors or customers or et cetera. Right. So even in this moment, you are you right now, but you’re you the host, which is a little bit different than you, the sister or you the daughter, or if you’re married you, the wife, right.

Like girlfriend or whatever it is. And so being able to put on that persona in the moment and be very clear on how to get it is what this book is about. And it shows you some sneaky tricks, which I’m okay with sneaky. I don’t think there was anything wrong with it’s already, they’re doing it to you. So you might as well go to the gunfight with a gun and not a knife. Right? Yeah. You know, so anyways, that’s why I liked that one a lot. Cause it’s kind of Sharky which I didn’t have that skill.

Or I did, but I didn’t know. I didn’t know to apply it to that room, especially sorry to go on about this, but especially as a woman because men, not all men, of course, but like, I’ll give you an example. So here’s something that a lot of guys like to do in a, in a, in a meeting is they’ll they like to sit back and do this right now.

Right. And that’s a form of offense, you know, I’m big and I’m sitting back and this is my power stance, you know? And it also says, I am not interested in you. I’m just, I’m on California at a time right now, or, you know what I mean? But like when you can recognize those things and either learn how to mirror them or one-up people with them, cause it’s out there, you need, you need that skill set, you know?

Reshmi: Yeah. Yeah. I agree because I’m not that good at sales, but yes. I’ve read in books. We need to have that skill to be a good salesperson. Yeah. Yeah.

Kate: And it is as simple as thinking, like I learned this from that book as well. You don’t think, you know? Right. So think, think, I think undercuts what you’re saying before it even comes out of your mouth. Right. So like, I think you’ll be happy with this product is like so weak and, and that’s again, like women don’t really think about that so much. So like I tried to remove words like need, probably, maybe just see all those. Yeah. Yeah.

Reshmi: Okay. I think I have to add that book to my reading list.

Kate: Yeah. Yeah. It’s a, it’s a good one. It’s it’s full of bravado. So just FYI, but you know, there’s nothing we can’t, we, we can, you can always take it and twist the metaphor for your own purpose, right? Yeah.

Reshmi: And the one productivity app that you use, if you use any

Kate: Oh, you know, I mean, I use sticky notes for everything. I know this is not an app, but like, like they’re all over the place, you know, like that’s my favorite and the reason, you know, why it’s because I have so much software in my face and I have, I have a Asana, I have Microsoft and all the notes I have to myself and all that. But like, I, these are the things I try to put down, like my top three things I’m going to do every day and then actually cross them off. And you know how hard it is just to do three things.

Reshmi: I understand. It’s.

Kate: Yeah. Right. And I also, I like that you can move them because like some days I’ll be like, Oh, I didn’t do this. And then I go stick it on my, like my makeup mirror, you know, in the other room. So then I’m like staring me in the face.

Reshmi: So that’s the end, sadly, Kate. I loved talking to you, but that’s the end of the interview. Do you have some advice or some special message that you want to give to the audience?

Kate: Yeah. I think the most important thing is to really listen to your gut. Your gut is so powerful and I find women, especially, we always forget to listen, you know, and then it it’ll do things like incapacitate, you like, in my case, you know, it’ll make you sick or whatever it is. And, and that, that sucker is really intelligent. It really is trying to like lead you in the right direction. And so when you’re listening, incredibly powerful things can happen. But when you’re not listening, you know, it’ll, it’ll shut you down. Right.

Reshmi: Okay. Thanks a lot, Kate. It was great talking to you. Thank you.

**In case you are a founder of a small business and want to be featured on our Founder Stories, or if you want to recommend someone for our Founder Stories series, you can connect here.

The post Lately (Social Media Platform Software Using AI) | with Founder & CEO, Kate Bradley Chernis appeared first on TeamWave - CRM, Project Management & HR Software.

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28Mar/210

Growth of Hooliv | with Founder & CEO, Chinmoy Mishra

Founder Stories by TeamWave, are a series of interrogations of benefactors of small businesses and other recollect chairmen who share their practical revelations from their passage of entrepreneurship. Here they talk about how they scaled up their firm, what challenges they faced during their initial years, market strategies that worked to scale up their small business and much more.

These success storeys are dedicated to all the inventors, small business owners and startups, to show them a glimpse of what it takes to survive in this competitive business ecosystem.

Plug: TeamWave is an all-in-one, small business productivity platform. Manage your marketings, contacts, projects& beings in one place for precisely $39/ Month

In this incident of FOUNDER SERIES by TeamWave, our guest is, Chinmoy Mishra, who is the CEO and Founder at HooLiv.

Interview with Chinmoy Mishra( Founder, HooLiv)

Transcript of the Interview with Chinmoy Mishra( Founder, HooLiv)

Reshmi: Hello, everyone. And our today's guest is Chinmoy Mishra, the Founder and CEO of HooLiv. HooLiv intends to provide students with the modern use of coliving and today we will be discussing with him his managerial journeying. Shall we get started?

Chinmoy: Sure Reshmi. Good morning and thanks for the opportunity. Really appreciate it.

Reshmi: And my first issue are likely to be, we would like to hear from the Founder himself, what is HooLiv and how did you come up with this idea.

Chinmoy: Sure. So I've been an financier maybe for the last eight years or nine years or so. Started my first speculation highway back in 2013 and departed that in 2019. And we have been in all four benefactors with the same founders of the previous syndicate. So we have been in the technology space for a long, you were able to say all "peoples lives". We have been in technology and, you are familiar with, working for sizable companies and stuff.

So when we came out of our previous enterprise, we were like, you know, let's do something different. It's been too much to new technologies is getting boring. So we explored the other seats. And then we actually started with a very different concept. You know, we, as part of HooLiv, were actually looking at setting up elderly help homes. More like a daycare for the senior citizens. We pointed out that, either in India, you have this poorly run nursing homes, or you have a high-value kind of thing, where people buy a bungalow for their parents, for them to stay. So "theres nothing" in between.

So we were kind of contemplating the idea of having daycare centres for the elderly. But then we parked it for the time being. We felt perhaps "we ii" somewhat ahead for the Indian market. And so the next logical thing was, Hey, why don't we look at the student segment? So what the hell is figured is that, when you look at shared student adaptation, they always had traditional PGS.

People have perhaps 10 to 12 areas that they can go to indeed where PG is and students can stay there. So "when hes" looking at this opportunity, we recognise many of the traditional feed PGs was fairly unorganized. They lacked infrastructure, there was no privacy, the food was bad. Students ever complained about that. And the very conclude they maintained guiding is that the ply was never ceasing. Students prevented on coming because then they had no other place.

They kind of started staying in the same shabbily loped housing. So we thought that maybe there's a great opportunity to be more organized in this infinite. And also build a facility where the teenagers not only enjoy staying, but it improves a better quality of living as well.

With that thinking, we propelled HooLiv that was in 2019. And, four or five months down the line, "weve had" the entire lockdown thing. But we are very proud of the team. Starting in september, till appointment, we have all been onboarded, with roughly 5,000 couches across four cities in India. And looking to close this financial year, possibly with 6,000 or 6,500 plots. And the focus that we have Reshmi with HooLiv is one is we are exclusively catering to the student demographic.

When we say a student could be 18 to 24, 25 age group, they could be pursuing any job and not undoubtedly be enrolled in an Institute. They could be enrolled in a coaching Institute or they could be just out of their residence, haunting a diversion. It doesn't matter to us, but that has to be the age group. Then the next criteria that we have is that we are very heavily be concentrated on the non-metro.

So very the tier two tier three municipalities, and there was a conscious select between, you know, the rank one and the tier 2. And we said, cause some of the early masters in this shared accommodation space, fight it out in the Metro as well. We kind of girdled them in the non-metros. And too when you look at the properties in the non-metro is it's small. Some of the smaller towns and cities of our country, that is a great opportunity to actually be thinking about a difference.

When we inspect some of those properties, we look at those resources, it is so pitiable a condition. Even if you are putting a Kent RO in a storey, it's an improve, that's how bad then there. So it's a great opportunity to make a difference. And so that's the second principle we're following. And the third one is that at HooLiv, we got a very asset light company. So we don't actually acquire owneds or build something from ground up.

We take our existing infrastructure from the owners, and then we lay in our own capital to do the retrofitting and lease it out to the students. So we improve the cleanlines, the specific characteristics, security rights, and the meal options, the rentals, and then equip those to the students. And the last and the most significant thing is that one, which can be all four of us are very passionate about, is that we felt when we were looking at this particular demography and the segment of the minors there, there is a shortage of, certain things.

When they to come to a Metro at time one, they always end up at the raw end of the adhere, when it comes to applying for a errand or even lowering shoulders with students from the Metro. So we said, why don't we, you are familiar with, build more of a community vistum to all our owneds. And when I say community, we go beyond the usual, rhetoric's of exactly specifying common opening for people to commune. We take it something ahead and say, can we provide them with vocational training?

Can we cater them spoken English tracks, job interview skills, or even, you know, assists them improve their employability cushion. So that then when they come out of the qualities, they're at a much better position. So that's how it's organized, right? A 16 member team, as I said, around 5,000 bunks across Pune, Meerut, Dehradun, Jaipur. And now we just made up our first belonging in the outskirts of Noida.

So yeah, big-hearted programmes ahead and we are backed by a very good public listed company announced Kolte Patil developers. We conjured the funds from them just before the lockdown. So that kind of helped us tide over the lockdown. And also we came out of the lockdown with a slightly better business cushion than some of our other competitions.

Not numerous could make the lockdown. While in all public forums, I say it's very unfair, unfortunate that they have to shut shop. In the heart of hearts, we know that's a good thing for us. And so that's, that's how we are pleased. I hope, I hope that gives you a good idea.

Reshmi: Yeah. You yielded a very detailed answer. You have already reacted a few of the questions I had prepared here. So actually the COVID part I would ask about that later. I can see that you are doing a lot for the student parish. And I am very curious to know, how did you reach out to the firstly few customers? How did you tell them that, okay, this is a great idea? How did you inform them about it?

Chinmoy: That's a great question. The thing is when you look at some of these non-metros, the property owners were not aware of this organized way of looking at the resources. Or a student room, they're all running in silos. Whereas if you look at Delhi or Mumbai, you still had pockets where there were organized participates passing rent mansion? So first it was a challenge to convince the owners that what is the benefit for them.

So I think it needed a lot of exhortation. And we had to show them the whole fact that look today, you are fighting for driving inmates in your belongings, and then your rental incomes are variable depending on how many bottoms are occupied. But when we take it over, we are paying you a monthly rental. So you are assured of a return.

And at the same time, you know, you don't have to worry about the dwellers. So that's something that we are taking care of, right? So you're almost getting money , now sitting at your residence. I think that kind of got the eyes that, Hey, look, you are familiar with, this is something that might help us in the long run. And too the fact that we are investing in upgrading the belongings, right? So if I got a seven-year lease period with the owner, so by the end of it, unfortunately, if we have to move out the CapEx that we have invested in improvement that we have done at the owned still belongs to the owner. Right?

So those, I picture these, these education things been crucial in the early part. Once you have few assets in one location, the others get to hear about it. And they're like, Oh, okay. This seems to be a good way. So it various kinds of spreads, right? And then formerly "youve had" like five qualities, perhaps the sixth, one isn't that difficult to convince or get the, owned to get convinced.

So that's how we spread by and in some targets, for example, in Jaipur there, we ever had a good PG culture because a great deal of girls from remain of Rajasthan, come there to prepare for the CA and all that. The owneds were aware to a certain extent and some of the other opponents that we have in this space, they had also been in Jaipur. So that grocery was relatively easier for us. But, in places like Meerut and Dehradun and now, we look at residences like Patna, certainly, we need to educate the market and was an indication what advantages they have. So it's a gradual process, but once you show them that, you are familiar with, it works out.

Reshmi: So are you squandering any marketing paths, like Instagram, Facebook etc where these students frequently hang out? Are you employing any marketing plans to reach out to these students?

Chinmoy: So on the student line-up of things, of course, we, there are two things, right? One is since we are taking owneds which were already running as to rent accommodation. So a lot of those students had left their luggage in the room. They'd gone back for the lockdown. They're all coming back. So for a majority of our owneds, we do not have such a big fight for the tenancy, at least for this Academic year and for this other part of it, yes, certainly for some of the newer belongings, which "weve been" proselytizing into building for the first time they are in order to drive the residence, we are doing a couple of activities.

One is reaching out to them over an Instagram and a Facebook. Definitely. I see Instagram still remains the preferred procedure of contacting out, especially for this age group, we are involved in that and ofcourse the other usual doubts like, you know, your Google ad words and the SEOs and substance. And too partnering with a lot of aggregators of student housing, where generally they appreciate a good deal of traffic of students coming over and searching for property. So doing the usual route, and also we are partnering with, you are familiar with , not , not really partnering, but we are leveraging say the regional Panwalas or the Chai supermarkets, right outside colleges, that's where the boys hang out.

So we are kind of incentivizing them that why don't you push students to our owneds and trash. And the last thing they're doing also, wherever our belongings are close to educational Institute, we are trying to partner with those institutes so that they can push the overflow bunch to our qualities. So there are three four things we are doing currently to drive the whole demand part of it.

Reshmi: You had worked as an inventor, and this is not your first firm, right? So how did the past experience shape up journey in HooLiv?

Chinmoy: Now, I entail, it's, it's an amazing, shocking you are familiar with, learning when you go through your bus excursion. There's so many mistakes that we did at various levels. And I meditate those are the biggest takeaway for us, the learning from all those mistakes. I envision, you know, merely to kind of fun side of things. The two biggest thing I had gaffes, I did realise in my previous bet was not getting a CA onboard claim from day one and too not coming a lawyer.

I think you know the CA, peculiarly is very crucial as inventors, I think they're so involved and passionate in driving our concoction and participating in marketings that we miss out on this basic hygiene. You know, with regards to the regulatory aspects of filings, the share certificates and all that. And, you know, you can ask any entrepreneurial who had an exit or a next round of conjure that comes back to haunt you, you know, and that, I think we, we, we kind of messed up. So in this venture before even I went started, the first thing I did is I came hold of a good CA Firm.

And I said, Hey, gaze, "youre with" me throughout the journey. So anything good? You make the recognition, anything bad, you take the fall for it, you know, so you, but you have to be with me. I considered that I did. And the other thing that we did is we, we had you know, I have a lawyer friend, so we got him on board as well. Then we said, every document that overtakes our, you are familiar with, our, our companionship has to be vetted by you.

There's nothing that's going out without being vetted. So I anticipate, you know, some of these things stand out a lot with the, I foresee when you look at hindsight, you are familiar with, in my previous dare, we, we left a good deal of money on the table. So this time we are smarter and how do we monetize? Or maybe even, I believe one great mistake we did in the previous venture is that since we were so raw, we were just beginning our journey.

The reason we left so much money on the table is because we didn't have a good instructor and advisor actually help us out there. And maybe we where complicent very. You know, so in this time round, fortunately the real estate is such a brand-new gap for us. We are not aware of everything. So we had almost, you could say impulsively driven to check with someone that, Hey, is this good? Is this bad right?

So that kind of keeps some kind of you know, filtering mechanisms for us. So yeah, there's been a lot of the sees. Like one thing I always maintain, that whether we are building a engineering crusade or we are building into real estate or even EdTech, Food tech, whatever it is, I consider the founding principles of taking something from scratch and build, you are familiar with, from an idea and structure a business out of it, I contemplate the fundamental rights remain the same. It's how you deal with your clients, your suppliers, the level of integrity that you have, the professionalism.

And most significantly, we are able to maintain that unit fiscals of the profitability at each and every project for each and every property that we take up at some point in time with the profitability, at a corporate degree as well. And I think you look at any, any jeopardize in any space, that contingent economics, the focus on that, or the profitability remains constant. Right. And in how do you go about building units?

How do you manage your relationship with your colleagues? I think that's kind of, you know, space agnostic, right? It could be in any space that remains the same. So I think some fundamentals remain the same, then some based on our memorizes, we are trying to not recite the error. Hopefully though let's see where it discontinues up.

Reshmi: Yeah. That's very insightful. And I think it might come with an experience like so much knowledge on how to become an entrepreneur. And is your business located out of New Delhi?

Chinmoy: We are, "we ii" headquartered in new Delhi.

Reshmi: How many other roles do "were having"?

Chinmoy: So, yeah, so we are spread across four metropolis now. So we would say Delhi, since three of us, three of the four founders are based in Delhi. So it's almost become like a nano head office kind of thing. My, my elder sister "whos also" a co-founder, Rasmi. She is based out of Pune and she treats the entire Pune procedures. And so they have a quite sizable team up there in terms of Dehradun and Jaipur with the small teams. So, but majority of things are being driven when it comes to the operation side. She's the premier operating. When it comes to the operations surface, she takes care of it from Pune, when it comes to technology, biz dev and nonsense. We take care of it from Delhi.

Reshmi: Hmm. Okay. And one thing like you were talking about the pandemic. So how did that affect you?

Chinmoy: I want, it gave me the most unfortunate time issue. Just like what everyone else. I think we had just closed our, round for financing in March, and I consider by April 1st we were supposed to go live with our first real property. So we are really excited and looking forward to it. But then regrettably everything "mustve been" pushed. So there are a couple of things which happened in general for the student residence industry as such the co-living industry. If you take into account the working professionals as well.

One is that some of the early governors that were there in the gap and appoint elevated a good deal of money, couple of them had to actually fold their patronize. They couldn't meet the obligations and they slammed browse so that, you are familiar with, you could say in a way, yes, we all love a health rival and would like to have competition because that's what impedes you on your toes. Right. But at the same time, having one less constructions it all the more better. Right.

I think some of the bigger one that closed store. So that was one, the second thing likewise what happened is when we came out of the lockdown now, because during the lockdown we had, as I said, you are familiar with, those two belongings were onboarded. We managed to convince the owners and propagandize the rental payouts virtually till August or September. So we had absolutely no operating expense as far as qualities are concerned. It was simply the compensation of the four or five of us that are there in the team. So we have been able to succeed our operations very well.

When, we is out of the lockdown. Fortunately, we had that much better monetary cushion. So a good deal of Mom n Pop you know, motorists too started coming to us and saying, Hey, could you take up our loan obligations, we are unable to fulfill those indebtedness anymore. And that's one of the reasons why we had such a strong growth in the last five to six months. Right. So that is the second thing which happened.

And the third one is the owners also "ve realized that", Hey, glance, this might be a good simulate to work with. There is an assured revenues and stuff. So they started, you are familiar with, the asset or the cost of taking up an asset started coming down somewhat, you are familiar with, pre pandemic. It was very overstated beings with large quantities of monies. They used to overvalue the asset. So the owners were used to a certain high valuation, but pandemic, affix pandemic. I think that expectation too come down.

So the cost for us to acquire a property has come down a little, and that has positively impacted the EBITDA margins. Right? So I think if we look at the cavity typically all hustlers, we operate between 20 to 25 EBITDA margin. But because the cost of owning an resource has not come down or leasing an asset, the EBITDA margins might be somewhat in the 30 to 35% assortment. Okay. So these are the things which happen from a competition perspective and from our own design. I make, yes, there are certain basic hygiene. Now we are trying to incorporate, there are no more properties which have three chambers, three beds in a room.

So we have changed all to two bunks at the most, all the rooms will have your concealments equipped and your sanitizers then sterilizing the belonging formerly in a week providing you know, avoiding rendezvou at parish sits, places or at the snacks. So these types of basic etiquettes we're trying to follow. When we look at some of the owneds in Jaipur, peculiarly the government also has sure-fire protocols that we are mandated to follow them. So we are taking care of that.

But on the hindsight, are rather not hindsight, what I feel now, you are familiar with, so if you look at the shared housing, right, you have one, you have the student accommodation area and the other part, "youve had" the co-living or the executives. Right. But my personal feeling is that the student housing is going to bounce back much faster simply because the students in all of us ought to have for that phase.

We don't understand form when we are at the final year of engineering, right. We all want to be in hostels with our friends. So exactly daytime before yesterday, we started our operations in a 500 bunked asset in Noida. And you won't believe, I think in the first couple of periods, we're almost at 60 -7 0% occupants, all the adolescents returned. And one of the common things we've heard from majority is that, hello, you are familiar with, we could go to the movie theaters, we can go to the cafes.

We could go to the commons, but we're not allowed in classrooms. And they said, you know, one of the big-hearted intellects is because the schoolteachers are now likewise used to teach from residence and having the warm menu that they don't want to come back to college. So all the minors croaked there. So I think we, we is confident that that segment is going to bounce back much faster. On the executive housing, I think we still, many of us still prefer to work from dwelling if possible. So a co-living might take a hit, but student living is coming back to b stronger.

Reshmi: So now you are focusing on the student parish, right! So also now the new trend of Staycation has come up. Even parties are not wishing part from residence. They're too planning to move out and work on some other nonviolent place or somewhere else. So are you planning to expand your has offered to that area as well in the future?

Chinmoy: Not at the time being Reshmi, simply because we felt that maybe the DNA required to operate both these different segments is different. We is no longer able, we may not have that competency at this point in time. And also if you look at the expectation from a student vis a vis hope from a running professional, they're very different, right? I convey, for a student hostel, you can have the, the, you know, the, maybe a TV or, and everything on a common orbit, but by use professionally, you need to have those in the rooms.

Right. And all those, it could be easy. So we're not looking at that segment for the time being, but but yeah , no, I had no idea. Maybe once we are more experienced in the student segment, we may branch out to the working professionals and maybe at a certain point in time, we may bring back our whole conception of the elderly homes as well, you are familiar with? So yeah, those are the cards that we have up our sleeves. It's just a matter of time.

Reshmi: Now we are almost at the end of the interview, so I had to ask two entertaining the issues to be you. Which is a beloved business work, or any volume that you would love to recommend to other entrepreneurs?

Chinmoy: Yeah, I, I don't read too many of these things. I'm more driven by the political you know or the financial affairs. But one, one record I is clearly recommend is by a dame announced Sumedha Mahajan, Miles to Run Before I Sleep. I think that's a wonderful tale. So this female, she was suffering from diabetes and then a homemaker, and she actually took a run with Milind Soman from Delhi to Mumbai against all quirkies and pulsating her Asthama.

I think that's a exceptional you know and so I enjoyed that notebook. The other one I recently came across is the Bhujia Barons, fib about growing of Haldirams. I think that's also rendered a stupendous insight and I really loved about it is that, you are familiar with, how the women in the family they've actually influenced the part raise and the swelling narrative of Haldiram.

Reshmi: No, actually these records for sure will be a highly insightful construe. And my final question is, do you have any advice for the inventors or people who are aspiring to be an entrepreneur?

Chinmoy: I consider one thing that has shaped my profession and I "re saying it" at numerous gatherings, this is when I went to Babson. I consider the first thing the professor said us and told us there is that" make ambiguity your friends ". You know, at that point in time, it was very tough for us to understand. But formerly you are familiar with, eight years, nine years in the managerial journeying, I conceive, you are familiar with, that utterances, they were golden.

When you get up as an entrepreneur, you don't know what's going to happen in the next hour. And the two hours in the day and situations are so ambiguous. Initially you try to fight it out and, you know, prepare your long-term plans to short-term destinations. But at the end of the day, it's just taking decisions every hour by hour so, so doubtful. Right? So after a second period, Reshmi, my opinion would be don't fight ambiguity, really make friends with it. It is going to be there irrespective of your immensity and stays of the gues. It's better to make peace with it and live with it. It acquires you better at taking decisions, you know?

Reshmi: Yeah. Oh, I cherish that because we are all scared of ambiguity. So thanks a great deal. That was all, anything else that I missed out on that you want to share?

Chinmoy: Nothing else. That's been wonderful chatting with you. Good luck to you and your squad. Take care.

** In case you are a founder of a small business and want to be featured on our Founder Stories, or if you want to recommend person for our Founder Stories lines, you can connect here.

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