Garima Kapoor – Raised over $100M for B2B SaaS.
My next guest made the transition from angel investor to co-founder of a B2B SaaS that helps companies organize data. In this episode, we talk about their unique sales process on how they quickly get people to use the platform and transition to paying customers. We also talk about how they raised over $100M and they haven’t had to touch a single dollar of their latest funding round, because they achieved positive cash flow. If you’re building a SaaS company, this episode is packed full of a lot of great tips. Please welcome Garima Kapoor.
Payback Time Podcast
A Podcast on Financial Independence. Hosted by Sean Tepper. If you want to learn how to escape the rat race, create passive income, or achieve financial freedom, you came to the right place.
- (00:51) – Show intro and background history
- (02:26) – Deeper into her background history and SaaS business experience
- (05:56) – Understanding her SaaS business model
- (07:26) – How her AI component works
- (11:49) – What are her motivations for building that business model
- (14:31) – How the company acquires customers and how it makes a profit
- (20:49) – Deeper into her business open source architecture and strategies
- (25:05) – A bit about her company numbers
- (29:11) – Deeper into her business philosophy
- (39:48) – When was the company founded, and how many employees does she have now
- (32:16) – Deeper into her fundraising strategies
- (38:54) – A key takeaway from the guest
- (40:08) – Rapid fire round (personal questions)
- (43:40) – What is the worst advice he ever received?
- (44:13) – What is the best advice he ever received?
- (47:01) – Guest contacts
[00:00:04.530] – Intro
Hey, this is Sean Tepper, the host of Payback Time, an approachable and transparent podcast on financial independence. I like to bring on guests to hear authentic stories while giving you actionable takeaways you can use today. Let’s go. My next guest made the transition from angel investor to cofounder of a B. Two B SaaS that helps companies is organized data. In this episode, we talk about their unique sales process on how they quickly get people to use the platform and transition to paying customers. We also talk about how they raised over $100 million and haven’t had to touch a single dollar of their latest round because they achieved positive cash flow. If you’re building a SaaS company, this episode is packed full of a lot of great tips. Please welcome Garima Kapoor.
[00:00:51.850] – Sean
Garima, welcome to the show.
[00:00:53.700] – Garima
Hey, Sean. Thank you for having me today on your podcast.
[00:00:56.670] – Sean
Absolutely. Thanks for joining me. So why don’t you kick us off and tell us about your background?
[00:01:01.330] – Garima
So I am the co founder COO at Min IO, and before being the founder, I was on the dark side. I was on the investing side of the know. I’m originally from Bay Area, so once you’re in a valley, you get sucked into the startup ecosystem naturally. So that’s where I started engaging with the startups more from investing standpoint and advising them. And one thing I’ve realized is that it’s much more easier to advise than to do it yourself. So that’s a transition that happened for me from being an investment investor to an entrepreneur and just from academic background. I have a PhD in finance and economics, so that’s me.
[00:01:43.900] – Sean
Got you. Okay. So just to backtrack a little bit, did you go from school right into venture capital?
[00:01:50.370] – Garima
Yes. So I was in academics. I was teaching back in India as I was completing my PhD, the normal usual course. And I love teaching, so that’s the route that I wanted to follow. And when I came to the Bay Area, it was just natural because of the environment you’re in and the network that you have, you get connected to the people who are doing their startups or who are building new technology. So that’s how I got introduced to the whole ecosystem, and I just wet my feet a little bit in terms of investment and advising. So that’s how the transition happened.
[00:02:26.620] – Sean
Well, let’s dive right into the business you’re creating. I love SaaS businesses, learning what other co founders are doing. Now your business is min. I’m on your website right now, min IO, correct?
[00:02:39.970] – Garima
That is correct. When we incorporated the company, it was Minio. We were calling it Minio, and the name comes from minimalism. So everything it’s my personal philosophy and my founder’s philosophy as well, in terms of we want to do everything in a minimalist way. And minimalism stands for the right amount of everything. It cannot be 1% higher or 1% lower. It just needs to be the right amount, right quantity of everything. So that’s the philosophy, personal philosophy that we have. And we wanted to build a product that also embodies that philosophy. So that’s where the name comes from. It is minio. So it is minimalist IO. Minimal IO. And then the community started we are open source product, right? So the community started talking to us that minio sounds like it’s a small product, but you are like enterprise product, it’s fully featured, functional, with all the capabilities. Maybe you should start talking to it more like Min I O. So we made that transition happen just based on the feedback of the community.
[00:03:43.770] – Sean
Sure. So why don’t you tell us what does this company do?
[00:03:46.950] – Garima
So, we are a software defined high performance object store and we are Open Source first company. So you can just go to our website, download our product and within like 5 minutes you will have your own AWS s Three, like cloud storage environment within your own infrastructure. So customers use us for building their data, latex AI analytics workloads running on top of us. So we provide a high performance storage to address those particular workloads. And just because we are open source from single line of code back in 2014, 2015 ish to now we have around like a billion docker downloads together cumulatively and on daily basis we get around a million plus downloads. So that’s the scale that we are at. In terms of ecosystem, we are much more bigger than AWS itself. Now the focus of the company is more on the commercial traction and getting commercial adoption for our product.
[00:04:45.290] – Sean
Got it. So, who would you say is a.
[00:04:48.130] – Garima
Direct competitor when we started the company until now, we have always been saying that we started with a single vision that either the data sits on AWS s Three or data sits on us. So from that standpoint we only see AWS s Three as a competitor. Of course, because from product and market standpoint now the storage industry is consolidating towards object storage platform overall. So you will see there is a lot more noise in the market. Whether it is Dell NetApps of the world, they all have their object storage offering, but they are more coming from a legacy background and trying to retrofit themselves in a cloud environment compared to us that we build it from grounds up to address. So there’s always a distinction there. But for us we only see our competitor as AWS S three. We take inspiration from them and customers either are coming out of AWS S Three and standardizing on us for their large scale workloads or when they’re thinking about hybrid cloud or multi cloud environment, they are using our software to build that infrastructure for themselves.
[00:05:56.770] – Sean
Right on. So s three AWS, which I have used before. Right? So I’m thinking about you’re probably working with customers that maybe use Azure or Rackspace or google Cloud, they need a tool to store all their files. So like JPEGs, PNGs, PDFs, stuff like.
[00:06:18.990] – Garima
That, you got it? It’s the unstructured data. And if you see most of the data that enterprises produce, they are all log data, or even the semi structured data at scale becomes unstructured data. And that is where the scale lies. And that’s what customers use us for. And you bring a very important point, right, from Azure and Google Cloud perspective, if you see all these clouds are incompatible with each other. And the biggest thing is that it’s very easy to move the compute around, right? You can use Kubernetes and containerize it and deploy it wherever it needs to be. But for data, data has gravity. You cannot move it around so quickly and move around the underlying infrastructure quickly. So it’s very important to give customers that freedom to have industry standard neutral object storage that they can take anywhere they go with them. So you can deploy it on Edge, you can deploy it on Colo, you can deploy it in AWS, Azure, Google Cloud and have a similar S, three compatible object storage for all your applications. So that’s the freedom that we give to our customers.
[00:07:26.110] – Sean
Got it? And then how does the AI component work? Or let me drill into that a little bit. What kind of pain or what kind of efficiency? I would say, what kind of pain does it remove or what kind of efficiency does it add, right?
[00:07:39.170] – Garima
So if you see AI is a very loaded term and industry has been kind of working with it since seventy s and research papers have been out there. And one of the things, if you dig a little bit one level deeper from AI perspective is traditionally those workloads, analytics workloads, they were built on something like a hadoop ecosystem, right, where compute and storage was tied together and deployed in a single format at a customer site. So what has happened is that the scale of data has increased tremendously. So that first transition that has happened in the market. Second thing that has happened is that the hardware has come up to the level in which you see lot more denser drives, you see lot more faster compute. So you also need a software to take advantage of that. And one of the things that organizations go through is that compute and storage don’t scale together usually, right? Compute workloads scale at a different pace, your storage requirements grow at a different pace. So that is where something like object storage, what enables them is to decouple compute and storage. So now your storage can scale independently of the compute.
[00:08:49.680] – Garima
And because all these analytics workloads require very high performance, they require throughput, a lot of throughput and they also require simplicity to it. So that’s where Minayo comes into picture. Before us, object storage was considered cheap and deep, and for archival workloads, it was with our partnership, along with intel, that we were really like, okay, no, this needs to be a high performance infrastructure that we need to deploy because we could see the market kind of transitioning to standardizing on object storage and bringing all their workloads on us. So that’s the transition that happened and that’s how customers use it. So now if you see even Google TensorFlow, they only talk about the infrastructure that they work on. It’s either Google Cloud or they have documented Minio just it’s a public documentation, right? Either it is ML platform, most of them are our OEM customers that they just want to take the minio, bundle it as part of their stack and deploy it at the customer side. And from AI perspective it is getting very exciting as you would have seen the news from all the work that has been done on the large language model side.
[00:09:54.180] – Garima
So we are working with all the leading players in this spec as well. I cannot take their name openly right now because it’s under NDA and the scale is insane. They’re just like casually talking about 100 petabytes and so on. And what we are realizing is that just specifically to that particular segment, there is a dearth of GPUs out there right now. So that is where Cloud is making a lot of sense for them. But as soon as the GPU availability opens up a little bit, they are thinking in terms of getting more performance out of them, more optimization, more value out of the dollars that they’re spending on the Gu and standardizing on something like an Equinix or another colo that makes sense for them. So that’s the trend that we are seeing broadly. But yes, again, all the infrastructure, all the data is going to get centralized around in these particular cases on Minio that we are talking about. But object storage generally.
[00:10:50.470] – Sean
Got it. Okay, so we have a good idea what your platform does. I’m thinking of like a use case. Let’s say there’s an ecommerce company that has a thousand SKUs. Each SKU has five different images and where are you going to put all these images and all the data, all the metadata that goes with it? That’s where Minio can come in and organize it and help that ecommerce business scale. And you guys can be there right aside, right alongside with them. Correct?
[00:11:16.820] – Garima
100%. Like I think I can take their name. PayPal is one of our biggest customers and they are using us in a similar way and their mission critical system which is merchant transactions sits on our platform. So if all your invoices, all the transactions that you do through them get stored on Minio object storage system. So if Minayo is down, essentially PayPal will be down. So those are some of the mission critical workloads that customers use us for.
[00:11:47.330] – Sean
Great customer. I like to just take a step back here and sometimes it’s fun to understand the why did you and your co founder run into a certain pain point and were like, you know what, maybe there’s an opportunity here to create a product. Could you tell us that? Quick story.
[00:12:07.050] – Garima
There is a story, but it is not as how people assume how you come and build a startup. So for me personally, it was something that I really wanted to do. And I knew if I would not do something on my own, I would be just deeply unhappy for rest of my life. That was just very clear to me. So it was not so much that I wanted to do an object storage company, it was just something I needed to do something by myself, a startup. That’s all it was. Right? And when you start thinking about that idea starts germinating in you, right? Okay, now that I’ve decided I need to do something, what do I need to do? What are the problems that make sense to me as a founder? Right? And that’s when that whole ideation started. And after multiple experiments, thinking through talking to other people, what we realized was that data is a problem that is going to remain relevant and it’s a problem that you can hack for another 2030 years and something that can outlive you. So that made sense for me. That okay, whatever we need to do needs to be in a data space.
[00:13:12.880] – Garima
And when you talk about data, there are only two things that you can do. Either you can store the data or you can understand the data. As simple as that, right? So for us, it was important that we have a land grab and make sure that the data sits on our platform. Because anything then you do on top of it delivers even more value to your customers, to your investors, to your team and whatnot. So that’s how a simple thing started. And right around the time we were founding the company, AWS had convinced the world that S Three Object Storage is the right platform to put all your unstructured data, semi structured data at scale to. So we were like, okay, AWS, s Three is only going to be relevant within AWS. So Minayo will be for rest of the world. As simple as that. And that’s a much more bigger market than AWS, quite honestly to say. So that’s how the idea was born. That’s how we came up to a very targeted, focused business problem that we needed to go it.
[00:14:11.790] – Sean
I love it. You just wanted to do something, you know, you had to do something, wasn’t sure what it was. Yes, you made a few comments here that really stand out. Data has gravity, which I totally agree with. And then simplifying, you can either store the data or understand the data. And brilliant phrasing there. What I like to do next is dive a little further into your business model. So in this case, first I want to ask how do you acquire customers? And then we’ll ask average prices you charge. So first things first, do you work through channel partners to bring on customers or do you have like a sales team that is pitching and then doing demos? How do you acquire customers?
[00:14:54.190] – Garima
Yeah so just taking a step back, we are an open source first company, right? And initial founding years of the company. We really invested in terms of getting the land grab, because storage is a place where enterprises do not like to experiment with. And that’s the reason why Dells and Arabs and others of the world have survived for so long. Because it’s a place no customers want to take risk, and rightfully so. So for a new company to just come in and disrupt this entire market, it’s a hard problem. So you cannot take the traditional routes of approaching the customers. For us also foundationally we believe in doing everything open source so that also played a huge role in terms of devising our strategy. So we are open source and initial, like I said, founding years we spent in terms of land grab adoption. And once we got to the point where industry started recognizing us as an industry standard for object storage, that’s when we really started to think about the monetization. And thanks to our investors also, they’ve been very patient. And open source is usually a game of patient people. It’s not like a quick flip.
[00:16:01.000] – Garima
You can invest and think about acquiring customers quickly. So we were patient with that strategy and the thing about storage is that it’s a critical part of your infrastructure. Nobody wants data loss, nobody wants data breach and from open source standpoint they also don’t want to have any kind of license violations that is additional thing. So once we were ready in terms of monetization, we went through certain iterations in terms of how we want to reach to the customers. And we did go through certain experiments, like building a direct sales team, which did not work out for us and we were quick enough to having a diversion there because what we quickly realized was that the customers have become so intelligent, they know what they want. And the first touch point cannot be from a sales perspective. The touch point has to be from an architect to architect conversation when they reach out to us. So that’s where we kind of diverged from our strategy and came to that okay, we are going to build a team which will have uber architects, someone similar to would have managed a large scale infrastructure themselves. So if you see our team, State Street was one of our first customers and their SVP of infrastructure ended up joining us as an architect and an executive here.
[00:17:19.550] – Garima
So similarly someone was managing infrastructure at bank of America, they came and joined us. So also it’s a huge validation when your customers become your fans and they want to join you and your mission. So that’s how we build the business team entirely. So now the customers, whoever reaches out to us they come and engage with us through architect to architect conversation because at that level they’re convinced about the product and rest of the problem becomes more of a sales ops problem than actually a traditional sale issue. So we are 100% inbound model all the open source adoption, the scale of the data, it’s all been working great for us. So even if it is from 500 petabyte customer to even like 100 terabyte customers all of them come to us through inbound channels and once they raise their hand and come inbound we have a process in terms of how business team engages with them and then sales off teams engages just to make the sales process happen from paperwork and other standpoint.
[00:18:17.550] – Sean
So it sounds like you start with inbound do you do like paid ads to get people into the funnel and trying the open source platform?
[00:18:25.090] – Garima
Yeah so our marketing strategy has been very coherent as well. We understand that the customers need to first engage with the product first and then come to us in terms of commercial conversation and whatnot. And also it is important that we educate the customers correctly. So that is where the marketing team has built this entire platform in terms of how we can educate it more. From a neutral standpoint, not so much. Okay, buy Minayo right? It needs to be more from an educational standpoint that you need to gently approach these developers because it’s a different audience, different mindset. Also they can call out your bullshit like that. You cannot have fancy marketing phrases just because it looks nice on clickbaitish headlines. You cannot do that with them. So you need to come from a very place of honesty and place of education that you really want to help people out there and think through certain choices as they are thinking through their decision making processes. Right? So our job is to enable them in the right way, giving them the right content, giving them the right kind of information that they would need. And then, of course, the marketing does have a strategy in terms of if someone has been using us from an open source standpoint, if they have been visiting our documentation, certain documentation, if they have been consuming, they have.
[00:19:48.110] – Garima
Been visiting our website certain number of times they have this metrics in terms of how they can score these prospects and then have an account based marketing strategy overall to approach them. But everything needs to start with content and having coming from a place of truth and honesty with a genuine thing to help your end customers. Because even if they sign up with you, if we are not genuine with our approach with them, they will end up leaving us as simple as that which is even more hurtful to organization. Churns are considered a horrible word in our industry. It is very important that you get the right kind of customers, right kind of use cases. And also once they become your customers, that whole journey of engagement starts from then on, right? How you enable them, help them get to production and then expand from there. So it’s that whole cycle that you need to manage carefully and you cannot be dishonest to yourself and to your customers. As simple as that.
[00:20:49.150] – Sean
So with the open source, it’s kind of like they can try you out. They probably get limited use and then if they want more, that’s when they can ask for like an engagement call or an architect call. How does it work?
[00:21:03.000] – Garima
So it is not a freemium model. It is 100% open source. You get all features, benefits right from the get go. We want you to experience the product end to end. There is no point in hiding certain features that okay, now you need to pay us for that. No, it’s a subscription based business that we have. Right. So for them, any enterprise who’s serious about data is not going to take risks when it comes to using just any product from Internet. As simple as that. It is just putting it in a very brutal way. But anyone who cares about their data, because at the end of it, if you lose data, you might lose your job and you don’t want to take that risk. You cannot just tell that, oops, I downloaded something and it’s not working. Maybe it’s a security vulnerability happened and I lost the data. It doesn’t work like that. Also, our licensing is such that it is only open source at a very high level. Right? I’m simplifying things here, but it’s only open source for open source applications. So if you’re not building open source applications, which most of the enterprises are not, they are proprietary in their nature.
[00:22:09.590] – Garima
They will need to have a commercial license from us as they take it to production. So the trigger points are usually when you’re taking it to production or licenses, needs to get activated, commercial license you need to protect from compliance standpoint. Those are the trigger points usually when these customers start engaging with us.
[00:22:32.020] – Sean
Got it. That’s what I was driving towards is how do you convert from getting people into your system that are non paying to paying. And it’s really that transition point from like, hey, we’re playing around in our test or our Dev or our QA environments, but now we want to go to production and in that case they have to have a commercial license.
[00:22:50.490] – Garima
Yeah, usually that’s the trigger point.
[00:22:53.270] – Sean
[00:22:53.830] – Garima
That happens in terms for them to engage with us.
[00:22:56.750] – Sean
I love that model. Just to pause here, this is for the audience. There’s a few great takeaways here. One is open source. We also play on that too. Like Tykr has an algorithm that analyzes stocks which we did think about creating a patent, but we’re like, you know what, let’s just throw it all out the window and make it open source. What it does is it increases trust. Or I like to think it does, at least. And we always say, like, we tell people, you can go create your own version of Tykr if you really want to, but we hope you still stay with us. The open source play is great. The get people in and trying the tool, using it on their dev or test or QA environments, whatever they call them. I really love that as well. And then when you go to production, that’s like you’re using it. It’s like you’re driving the car, you’re testing it out, you’re playing with it, and then you’re like, you know what? I really like this car now.
[00:23:52.650] – Garima
I want to buy it 100%. And if you see in a business, the biggest cost that gets spent is in terms of customer acquisition, finding the right kind of person who’s going to buy the product. So this kind of an approach also cuts that cycle very short. And once a customer is convinced on your product, even the sales cycle gets short from the time that they come inbound to actually closing them, getting a PU and whatnot. Everything gets very smooth and shortens. Everything.
[00:24:23.830] – Sean
I also like what you did there is you’re having architects talk with architects. It’s not salespeople. Trying to talk to architects and try to sound snazzy.
[00:24:35.350] – Garima
No. And the thing is that if a salesperson approaches you, you also know at back of the mind what they are after. Right? It’s as simple as that. You know what their intent is, they know what their intent, and it’s really not a genuine conversation at that point. Right. Get them out of the way. I agree.
[00:24:57.070] – Sean
I mean, I value salespeople, but sometimes you got to take a backseat. You got to let the tech people talk to the tech people. I love it. Let’s dive into the numbers a little bit about what are the ranges here in the low end to the high end, on average, what do you charge your customers?
[00:25:13.490] – Garima
So our pricing is very transparent, and I think we take a lot of inspiration from AWS because they publish their pricing. And in the enterprise world, nobody knows what the list price is, what the street price is. It’s very muddy. So we wanted to have that complete transparency for our end customers as well. So our pricing is listed on the website. We have two tiers in terms of how customers can engage with us on subscription based on their requirements. There are certain customers that they just want license and they don’t really care about additional SLAs and whatnot. So they end up using standard subscription, which is a $10 a terabyte versus an enterprise subscription, where it comes with more high end SLAs for certain class of customers that want it either from compliance standpoint or from their infrastructure standpoint. So for them, it is $20 a terabyte pricing. So it’s double the pricing, but there’s a lot more value that comes with enterprise subscription. So based on your requirements, your budget, you can select all of them. And it starts from minimum engagement of $12,000 on standard subscription, minimum $24,000 annually on enterprise subscription. And of course, as you grow and scale the capacity, there is a conversation to be had in terms of volume, discounts and so on.
[00:26:34.830] – Garima
But on a smaller level, they can just put their credit cards in and come right into our subscription network, where we help them manage their infrastructure end to end, whether it is and we recognize we are software defined only, right? And we have a responsibility to work on all crazy environments. So a lot of times the RCA, the root cause analysis on the underlying infrastructure, also becomes our thing, our problem. So for that, we built a subscription network which is just designed to manage end to end infrastructure, also remove all the gaps. It’s a product that a lot of people tell that it can be spun off as another company. We are kind of not going in that direction. But it’s a really cool product in itself. It combines the feature of Slack plus Zendesk. So Zendesk gives you the issue tracking and whatnot, but Slack gives you that real time connection. Team members. Right? So what we do is that we onboard our customers to this platform. And this platform is run directly by engineers so they can have like a real time conversation with our engineering team directly without having to go through jump through the hoops of L One, l two, all that traditional way of engaging with the vendors.
[00:27:48.770] – Garima
So, yeah, it’s a really cool system. And the worst part is that now I’ve gotten used to that kind of experience, subscription network like experience. So when I go, I, as a customer go to other vendors, it is just like, why can’t they have something similar? I need to talk to a real person who can help me solve the problem and not go through the hoops. Right, but we’ll get there eventually.
[00:28:16.710] – Sean
Yeah, absolutely. Let’s take a quick commercial break. Do you feel like stock investing is too confusing, too time consuming, or too risky? It doesn’t have to be. If you ever considered investing on your own, but you don’t know where to start, I welcome you to check out Tykr. Tykr guides you through your investment journey by steering you towards safe investments and away from risky investments. There were two main reasons why I created Tykr. Number one, I wanted to remove emotions from investing. In other words, I wanted a software to make buying and selling decisions for me so I don’t have to. And number two, I wanted to save time. Analyzing stocks can take hours, if not days. And I didn’t want to. Spend all day looking at the computer. I have other Hobies in life I’d rather be enjoying. If you’re interested, you can get started with a free trial visit. Tykr.com that’s tykr.com again. Tykr.com. I like what you’re doing here. If you take a step back, you’ve got open source entry point into the platform and transparent pricing at an enterprise level, which is rare. And people can look at the numbers and kind of they can do their own calculations based on how much data they have.
[00:29:27.960] – Sean
[00:29:28.490] – Garima
Yeah, exactly. As simple as that. They know what they are doing for they know how much they are spending for other systems in place, quite simply. And it is very easy for them to compare. And they do know that at a certain scale, they can always talk to us right. On what makes sense for them if they need additional help and whatnot.
[00:29:47.790] – Sean
Sure. Let’s dive into the company a little further. Not the tech, but the company itself. So when was the company founded?
[00:29:55.150] – Garima
We got incorporated November of 2014. Even before we did anything, just to get the name registered. But the real work started in 2015. January, February. Yeah. That’s the time when we started building the product.
[00:30:13.570] – Sean
Okay. And how many employees?
[00:30:16.630] – Garima
Right now we are 68. And when we did the Series B, we were 40 employees. So we have grown quite a bit from them. And one of the questions that because of the big Series B, we did one of the questions and in enterprise world, it is unheard of having a small team to deliver that much value. So one of the questions that we got was that what are you going to do with so much of money? You are just small number of people. You don’t worry about that. Yeah, don’t ask that question. Yeah. See, it should be on the basis of the impact that you’ve made on the industry or how fast you are growing right. Rather than the number of the people that you have in the organization. That’s not a true metric, I would say, of a big company.
[00:31:01.140] – Sean
Yeah. Because you’re in the Valley, you understand what happens is tech companies raise a bunch of money and then they are on this race to hire as many people as possible. And that you’re inflating the company to a point that’s unnecessary.
[00:31:16.400] – Garima
Right, unnecessary and also unsustainable. Because you need to do things that make sense to you. Always stick to the basic, always stick to fundamentals. There is no point in just because someone else is doing you need to follow the wrong path too. Right. I mean, you need to make sense and build value for your team members at the end of it. Right. And also whenever you bring anyone in your organization as an employee, the responsibility lies on you to make them successful and make them thrive within the organization. They are not just someone that you can okay the market is not good, we let go of you. It is your responsibility because they have families. You need to come from a place of empathy. You cannot just tell that, okay, I’m going to hire 100 people and then if the market downturns, we are going to let go of 50 just because we have overcapacity, that should not be the case. Treat people like people and also see what impact they can make for you in a meaningful way in the organization.
[00:32:17.050] – Sean
We’re going to get into some fun numbers here about fundraising. I know the numbers with audience, I have to ask the question then you can tell. So how many different fundraising rounds have you gone through?
[00:32:28.110] – Garima
We did seed round when we incorporated which was around 3.3 million. I put a million dollar from myself and then we got GCP and Nexus Ventures to invest with us. They are more like friends, they were part of our previous venture as well. So they knew us and they wanted to invest with us. So that’s how the seed round happened from 2015 to 2017. In 2017 fall, we closed our Series A, which was 20 million round, which is back in those times that was considerably big round for a storage enterprise storage company and then we took our time in terms to build the product to get the go to market motion correct and get the business model correct. So that’s where we spent a lot of time and we were very sure till we don’t reach that milestone, we are not going to do Series B. So once we reached that milestone, we did the Series B and closed it out in January of 22. So there was quite a bit of gap between Series A and Series B just because we wanted to hit our milestones. And quite interestingly, that same Series A money is still continuing with us.
[00:33:34.770] – Garima
I meant the customer money is the best validation. So we have not touched a single dollar from the amount that we raised, I think year, year and a half back.
[00:33:47.050] – Sean
Just to dive into the raw numbers there for the audience. So 20 million raised in 2017, then five years later you raised 103,000,000 and you haven’t had to touch that 103,000,000 because you’re growing the business based off revenues and the Series A.
[00:34:07.170] – Garima
That is correct. That is correct. So yeah, we are cash flow positive at this point and EBITDA positive.
[00:34:14.690] – Sean
Congratulations and you’re sitting on 103,000,000. So many businesses wish they could be in that position. I have to ask this question. 103,000,000, not 100 million, what’s the 3 million sitting there for?
[00:34:30.150] – Garima
The problem was that it was oversubscribed round and SoftBank came and we had this conversation, unbelievable conversation with Masasan and I mean, it was 5 minutes of talking to us, he’s like, I’m going to put 300 million on you. You are my jedis. I want you to go after AWS, don’t worry about money ever so it was just one of the most amazing Zoom call I’ve ever had. And I have so much of respect for him, for the person that he is and the way he thinks. Brilliant person and just within 5 minutes of conversation, so much energy he could just deliver through a Zoom session itself that we were just energized, let’s go do it, make things happen. But he wanted to put a big ground for us and then of course existing investors also wanted to come and intel had already given us a lead term sheet and Pat Gil Singer himself presented us the term sheet. So it was just we told them we are going to take you as a lead investor, but SoftBank can join us in this entire round. And so that’s how this whole thing happened. And we had to respectfully tell SoftBank that not right now, but we will make room for you in future rounds.
[00:35:45.400] – Garima
And you will also get to see us in action, see how the company is doing well, and then you can have lot more data points in terms of how much you want to invest in us. So that was how the Series B happened, right?
[00:35:58.310] – Sean
We deal with publicly traded companies so often and I do warn I’m going to dovetail into a conversation here you’re going to fund with in a second. But we always warn our customers to be careful of IPO stocks because you hear these stocks that are new tech company founded in year one and then by year two or three they’re going public and in most cases they’re not cash flow positive, horrible financial statements. So I know I can’t see because you’re a private company, I can’t see your income statement, cash flow standard balance sheet, but boy do I want to I’m curious here, have you had conversations.
[00:36:33.650] – Garima
About an IPO when you’re growing at a certain stage and your revenue is building up, you need to plan for those scenarios, right? As an operator I need to plan for those scenarios so we are not there yet and also be prepared itself of getting a validation that hurrah we took the company IPO. But the thing is that it comes a lot more pressure and it might make you do decisions for the company that not to please in short term rather than long term because Wall Street is very brutal in terms of giving feedback immediately, right? And then the stock prices fluctuate in the way they fluctuate just based on the emotions sometimes. So I worry about that a little bit because we are doing so well as a cash flow positive company. We keep building value, keep building generating value for the investors and so on. There is not really a need, I would say, because I don’t see the funding. The only reason would be because investors do need an exit, team members do need an exit at certain point of time. There needs to be certain kind of liquidity that everyone wants.
[00:37:43.400] – Garima
So for that we can explore other avenues as well. Be creative there. IPO is not the only way to make it happen. Those things it’s still like in terms of making a decision, which is the best route for the team members and the investors. If IPO is the right way to do it, we’ll do it from financials and other things. We are in a very healthy state, so all the options are good options for us at this point.
[00:38:10.720] – Sean
Yeah, you’re spot on. And this is good to know listeners out there. When you go public, a main driver is to raise funds. In this case, you don’t have to because you’re sitting on over 103,000,000. But you’re right, there are moments that your early investors, your VCs and founding team, and anybody else that’s, let’s say it’s an ESOP or a shareholder, they want a liquidity event and an IPO can generate that event. Like you said, there’s other creative ways you can get people paid.
[00:38:42.870] – Garima
Yes, exactly. I mean, if you’re doing well, if you’re successful, all options look good at the end of the day, right. You don’t have to worry about optimizing for one particular solution. So that’s how I look at.
[00:38:54.940] – Sean
I’ve got one more question here. Before the Rapid Fire Round, is there any major lesson learned or a moment of humility you’re willing to share with the building of this business?
[00:39:07.790] – Garima
Entrepreneur journey, as you would know yourself, is a journey of humility. I think nobody can come out out of this whole journey being arrogant. It is a brutal ride and every single day you need to be super humble. Either customers will show you where you are, or your competitors or your team members sometimes, so it’s from all possible places. There are multiple instances where you will be reminded in terms of the bigger picture that you’re working on. And at the end of the day, you need to stay humble because without that, you won’t be able to learn new things. You won’t be able to deliver and be focused on the bigger picture ahead. Arrogance brings lot of negative qualities and you tend to focus more on yourself than on your company or on your team or on the bigger picture. So humility is just the founding principle of, I think, for any entrepreneur.
[00:40:05.890] – Sean
I love that. Yeah. Thank you for sharing. All right, let’s dive into the rapid fire round. This is the part of the episode where we get to find out who Garima really is. If you can try to answer each question in 15 seconds or less. You ready?
[00:40:24.070] – Garima
Let’s do it.
[00:40:25.140] – Sean
All right. What is your favorite podcast?
[00:40:27.910] – Garima
No, I don’t know if that is exact podcast name, but I do listen to Business Wars while driving. The way it is built is just so engaging and you get to hear the underlying stories of what other entrepreneurs went through. So it’s a really great way of learning about others and especially like, people who have done it at multiple times bigger scale than us. So that’s a great podcast, I would say business wars.
[00:40:55.790] – Sean
Yes, I have listened to a few episodes. That is a good one. All right, next question here. What is a recent book you read and would recommend?
[00:41:04.870] – Garima
I am currently reading the book called Lifespan, and it was recommended to me just for a healthy, long life, and I am really enjoying that book. It comes from a very scientific standpoint. It’s by David Sinclair and it really goes into how the genetics of aging and how you can reverse some of the things, how the survivor genes come into picture and whatnot it’s a scientific view of it. There are some tactical things that you can do. You have to take it a call if you want to really give up on alcohol at the end of the day or not glass of wine. So those are the things that this book touches upon in terms of just walking you through the journey of genetics, the kind of lifestyle that can give you that extra boost, give you that extra energy to do things on daily basis.
[00:41:54.300] – Sean
Right on. All right, movie question. What is your favorite movie?
[00:42:00.870] – Garima
It’s a hard one. I really like the movie Avatar a lot. The first part of it, yeah. The first one of it, I think it’s not just for the graphics, but the way it viewed life. And I think just at the end of it, everyone is connected, from plants to us. If you really look at the genetics of it, all right, how the life evolved, it just goes to the roots of it. And as human beings, we need to be a lot more responsible in terms of how we interact with our environment and ecosystem around us. And it becomes our responsibility to make sure that whether it is plants or whether it is anything else, they’re not separate from us. We do share a DNA with them. Like, my son was giving me a fact that Banana has like 50% of our DNA. So there you go. So we shared the same DNA and it’s just one same system. And if planet Earth is what we have not been able to find life outside of it yet, which I’m sure exists at some point if we explore the universe enough. But that makes us even more special, right?
[00:43:14.740] – Garima
So it becomes even more responsibility of us.
[00:43:18.350] – Sean
You dive into Avatar a lot further than most people do because they probably look at it as level being very much Dances with Wolves type style. You get the guy who turns to join the right team, you could say, and for the right cause. But you’re right. Everything is connected and it really teaches you that. That’s pretty cool.
[00:43:39.690] – Garima
[00:43:40.710] – Sean
All right, we got a few business questions here. What is the worst advice you ever received?
[00:43:47.530] – Garima
Worst advice? I don’t think so. I received a bad advice.
[00:43:52.070] – Sean
You had to have somebody in your history, somebody in your career, tell you something that was probably not the best advice. If you can’t think of it, we’ll jump to that.
[00:44:01.130] – Garima
I have to dig hard. Yeah, I’ll have to dig hard for that one. Or maybe I didn’t pay attention to them. I don’t know.
[00:44:08.620] – Sean
It just goes over your head.
[00:44:10.670] – Garima
Yeah, it’s just like, whatever doesn’t make sense.
[00:44:13.920] – Sean
Let’s flip that equation. What is the best advice you ever received?
[00:44:18.370] – Garima
So many good advices, I think just so many good advices. I think one of the thing the advice that I received was on the leadership as a first time entrepreneur, as you’re starting the journey, also, you’ve been doing so many things yourself, right? At some point of time, you need to build the team, you need to scale the team. So also you need to have that kind of way to step back a little bit and let others drive what they’re best at rather than wanting to do everything yourself. So I think it is very hard for an entrepreneur to do that because by design, entrepreneurs are very perfectionist in terms of how they want things to be done, how they want things to be delivered. So I think that was a very good advice that I received early on that your responsibility as entrepreneur, as a founder, as an operator, is to bring the right kind of team together and help them be successful. It is not a show for yourself. It is for the company that you’re doing. So I think that was a really good advice that I received very early on as I was building the company.
[00:45:27.160] – Sean
Right on. Yeah. Great advice. All right, and last question here’s a time machine question. If you could go back in time to give your younger self advice, what age would you visit and what would you say?
[00:45:39.070] – Garima
So many, I think just redo everything. If I could. I think teenage years, maybe like 1415, I would like to go back and tell myself that, first of all, I would just tell myself to be just kind to your own self, not take things so hard and not take so many things so seriously all the time. And then secondly, there are a lot more things to explore in the world than just being like, with your blinders on, because when you’re at that age, you’re getting lot of input. And especially I grew up in India, right? So the environment is a little bit different there, and you’re expected to do certain things and not look beyond that horizon. Either you can be a doctor or engineer or whatnot. Those are limited options that you have at the end of the day, and that’s the thing that you need to think about. But I think I would like to go back and tell there’s a lot more to life. Just explore, take your time. There is no rush. Even if you take one year off, it’s okay. Things are going to be fine. Just don’t be in a rush.
[00:46:47.740] – Garima
And in a race to get to a destination, you need to spend time to understand, really absorb how the world around you is, and then do things what makes sense to you.
[00:47:00.390] – Sean
Right on. I love it. All right, I’ll turn it over to you. Where can the audience reach you?
[00:47:05.460] – Garima
Yeah, you can reach me on Twitter. I’m at Garimacap Twitter handle. And I’m also on LinkedIn on Garimakapoor Minayo. And if you’re on our website, Min IO, you can just reach out to me at hello at min IO or Garima atmin IO. Very simple emails.
[00:47:24.680] – Sean
Yeah, when we promote you, we’ll have all those links so the audience can easily access. You. So cool.
[00:47:31.280] – Garima
[00:47:32.360] – Sean
All right, well, thank you so much for your time, Garima. This is great.
[00:47:36.610] – Garima
Thank you. Thank you for having me, and it was a pleasure talking to you.
[00:47:39.680] – Sean
All right, we’ll talk to you soon. See ya.
[00:47:41.550] – Garima
Great. Thank you.
[00:47:44.930] – Sean
Hey, I’d like to say thank you for checking out this podcast. I know there’s a lot of other podcasts you could be listening to, so thanks for spending some time with me. Also, if you have a moment, could you please head over to Apple podcast and leave a review? The more reviews we get, the more Apple will share this podcast with the world. So thanks for doing that. And last thing, if you do hear any stocks mentioned on this podcast, please keep in mind this podcast is for entertainment purposes only. Please do not make a buy or sell decision based solely on what you hear. All right, thanks for your time. We’ll talk to you later. See ya.