April 26, 2023
Indus Khaitan - Mastering the Business Side of Technology

Indus Khaitan is the founder and CEO of Quolum, an On Deck Scale company, that helps companies effectively consume software at scale. In this episode, you’ll hear how Indus went from writing code to launching his own SaaS bus...

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Indus Khaitan is the founder and CEO of Quolum, an On Deck Scale company, that helps companies effectively consume software at scale. 

In this episode, you’ll hear how Indus went from writing code to launching his own SaaS business, how he educated himself on the business side of technology, and his successes and failures along his journey to developing and launching his SaaS solution.

Indus talks about the need he saw with corporate software spend tracking that led to starting his business, the corporate and market factors that created a window of opportunity for his solution, his approach to raising capital to fund his business idea, and the hurdles he had to overcome to secure funding. 

Indus shares what it was like to go back to the drawing board after an unsuccessful beta launch, why it’s critical for founders to know their market inside and out, using his immediate network to grow the business, how your past experience can help you get a foot in the door, and the breakthrough moment that jump-started Quolum’s success.

Lastly, Indus tells us how his marketing strategies changed as his company grew to new levels, how he uses continuous customer feedback to expand Quolum’s offerings, the two strategies he’s using to raise his next round of funding in a tough market, the missing piece in SaaS he sees as an opportunity for Quolum, and the personal cost of being an entrepreneur that no one really talks about. 

Skip to Topic:

1:07 - Launching a business after seeing an unmet need in corporate software spending
9:46 - Going back to the drawing board after an unsuccessful beta launch
12:21 - Using the Jobs to Be Done approach to design a successful product
15:16 - Expanding your product offering based on customer feedback
16:47 - Tapping into your network to raise funding
19:35 - Why it’s critical for founders to know their market
21:38 - How B2B marketing differs during different stages of growth
26:57 - Market timing in achieving product market fit
28:41 - Finding opportunity from a shift in corporate processes
38:38 - Making the transition from coder to entrepreneur
44:22 - The reality of being an entrepreneur that one talks about

Find Indus  at:

Website: https://quolum.com
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/khaitan/

Visit Stephanie at:https://stephaniehayes.biz/

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Welcome to the Real People Real Business Show. My name is Stephanie Hayes, and I'm a business strategist who helps mature entrepreneurs design asset-based business models that set their businesses up for growth and exit. I love to speak with like-minded entrepreneurs who share their real stories and the gritty details on how they have navigated their own way through. On this show, you won't hear about the glamorized entrepreneurship journeys that you can see online, and you won't be told how to make six figures in six weeks. Instead, you can expect to hear real, vulnerable and inspiring stories that you can relate to that have helped create the foundation for each of our guests businesses. Today, I'm so excited to welcome Indus Khaitan. Indus is the founder of Quolum, an OnDeck Scale company funded by Sequoia and Nexus. Quolum has developed a technology stack to help organizations effectively consume cloud-based services at scale. He also founded Bitzer mobile that was created on the heels of the '08 recession. And exited in, what was Oracle's first acquisition in Mobile. In his free time, he flies a single engine Cessna 172 over the Bay Area. So he's a man after my heart, for sure. Welcome to the show in Indus and thanks for taking the time to share your story today. Hey, Stephanie. Great meeting you. Love to chat more. So tell me, tell me the story. How did we end up in, um, Quolum? Interesting one. I think the, now when I look back, it was all sort of serendipitous connections from one thing to the other. My, my job at that time was with a company called Charge B. It is one of the unicorns now that does subscription management as a service. So, you know, let's say you're run running a SaaS business, you need to manage the pricing page and plans and collecting money. Charge B would power that without you worrying about it. And in six-ish months, we groove very rapidly and we revenues were like single digits. And we grew double digits, like three to four x. And my team was spending a lot of money on software and and growth campaigns. When we audited a year down the road, what we discovered jointly with financing, oh, who is using this tool? Why isn't Thises card on file? And I wanna, Hey, yeah, my card, my statement, but I do not know. And I thought, hey, there must be a better way to track software, spend hundreds of these SaaS tools that we have acquired. And the idea just hung in my mind for a long time. And finally I caved in, could not let it pass. Quit charge me in summer of May 19 and thought, Hey, let's build something to solve this problem for buyers where they don't waste money on software and hence, Quolum was born. So this is interesting because we, uh, we talked to a lot of, um, business owners who have maybe like a more of like a consumer focus. And I happen to know your space really well because I do work in cloud finops and, and in, uh, in technology business management, which is, you know, cost transparency and all that sort of thing. So I'm, I get it. I get it. But tell me a little bit more about recognizing the opportunity, because these are big business to business customers, right? These are customers who have significant amount of spend on software as a service, infrastructure, as a service platform, as a service. These are, so who, who are these clients? These are companies that have a hundred million in revenue. Um, thousands of employees. Typical SaaS spend would be 10 to 20 million annual. And I'll give you one example. You know, a 300 people sales team having 300 units of Salesforce license and then later downsizing it to hundred. And in nobody's mind, it would reckon that, hey, we have to also downsize the contract when it comes to renewal because nobody's paying attention to a five line item description in a contract with somebody else signed because the VP of SalesNow moved on. New guy comes in and now multiply that Salesforce investment to 25, 50 different tools and you have a problem of plenty. It's my refrigerator where I went shopping. Accumulated all the groceries I could buy and then not cooking for the whole month. So what happens? You know, things rot. I have to recycle or throw it out, and that's what's happening to software. That sounds like my house. I have teenage boy and he eats so much food that I feel like my fridge just gets, it just keeps getting full and full and full and full and full. And then he changes his mind about what he likes the week after. And so then I had all this stuff that sounds like a C M O, that sounds like a VP of marketing saying, Hey, I changed my mind on the stool. Let's get another one. What happened to the one that you bought earlier, Mr. No answers. Yeah. And, and interestingly enough, like you, you, to me, it's interesting that you focus on sort of this, the, the marketing, um, the marketing department as a consumer. Because typically when we're talking about cloud spend and we're talking about, you know, institutional spend, we go straight to IT. Like, what isn't it responsible for this? Except finops is all about, you know, the, the end users owning their spend and becoming accountable for their spend. Right? Absolutely. I think this is, this is the classical, uh, mistake that has happened in SaaS purchases saying, oh, who buys software? Not me. It's it, guess what's happening with it? They are busy provisioning laptops. They're busy giving you accounts and worrying about nobody should hack into your enterprise. They're not worrying about whether you're using software or not. It's finance because they're writing the checks. Hence this, you know, phenomena of emerging FOP saying, oh, let's go to finance if you wanna choke that, you know, the flow of money. And hence, it is becoming important as an intersection of the user and finance to control the spend. And do you think that your clients, your organizations who are, who are interested in the, in what you offer, do you think they get that? Do you think they are starting to see the transition of responsibility and accountability for spend go moving into the, and do they want that? I think we are seeing that. If you look at, um, a company that has, let's say six, 700 employees, um, a hundred million revenue, the strongest theme is finance. And it either reports into finance or reports into the CTO's office. It's, uh, you know, five people and a dog IT team, right? There's a, like a small infrastructure and it's a shared responsibility. So emerging thesises, they're starting to understand that, hey, somebody else is buying, I'm only provisioning or deprovisioning an account, so let's talk to finance. And they are on the table now. It was not the case, let's say 15 years ago, 20 years ago, when we had, yeah, a handful of vendors. If you wanted software, let's say 15 years ago, you would go to it and say, okay, I'm gonna call Oracle. I'm gonna call Microsoft, I'm gonna call ibm. And those were the vendors of choice to buy software. It made sense back then to go buy it Today it's me as a VP of marketing. My department has 50 employees. They buy wherever they wanna buy. They're not going to it. They're going to finance to get the money. That's it. So who's responsible? Me as a VP of marketing and my finance team, and that's becoming more and more mainstream as a thesis that, hey, it's the finance person who's writing a check that, and that's because there's no responsibility for the, for you as the consumer to provide any sort of infrastructure, right? You can consume a service. And so what's, what would be that, you know, you know what you need best as a line of business. So there's no reason to involve it anymore, right? At, at least for some of these SaaS products. So you recognize this need, you recognize the need to have a better stack for controlling, having visibility into spend, et cetera, et cetera. And you went out to start up a new business to start up a new, um, a new venture. And you went for money, right? Sorry, I didn't get the last one. You went for money. You raised, you raised funds. Yep. We raised. Yep. Sorry, go ahead. And was, and was that, you know, right away, did you, you know, how far did you get before you went for money? I mean, if you look at the, the timeline, uh, left charged me in summer, had a pieces in my head that, hey, this problem has to be solved, but did not have a product in mind in terms of how would we solve it? You know, would we do a better version of a dashboard, a spreadsheet or workflow? No ideas. It's just some, some, you know, sketch in the mind. And then six, seven months down the road when thesis got cemented a little bit more, we raised our sea down in December, January timeframe. This is like 2019 December Jan, 2022. And, um, with that money we started building, uh, towards the product. And when did you, when did you launch sort of the full stack. So we went, we, we had a slightly tumultuous journey, and this is because of the nature of the beast. Nobody wanted finance to engage with software buying because, you know, it was the mainstream. So our thesis was, hey, finance has to be in the mix, the product has to be built for them and it requires widget A, widget B, widget C. So when we did our beta launch in the summer of 2020, unfortunately Covid had just happened. So there are all sorts of other issues that happened. I had a six people team, everybody quick thanks to Covid, but you know, we kind of overcame that piece and build the beta version of the product, the C, every CFO F that I chatted with and said, yep, this is interesting. But unless I am in the flow of money as a cfo, as a finance department, this does not excite me because all you're giving me is. What you had given it to it, except with some more bells and whistles. You have to foundationally think if you wanna do spend management for finance professionals or for the office of the cfo F So you were like distraught and went back to the drawing board and start thinking about how can we do better? And of course we were surveying the, the finance folks, you know, what would you need when you set blow of money? Fast forward 2021, we did a beta launch. Uh, we had 10, uh, customers using the product. Fast forward to today, 2023 that we ended, we have 50 customers, 26, 27 of them paying and the thesis still remains build it for the CFO's office. So little bit of a upside down journey. But you know, we were on track too in terms of what we are building. No, but I love to hear that because I think a lot of people think, you know, you've got this one shot, you've got this one shot at your hypothesis and you gotta build it and you're lucky if it, if it works. But it sounds like, you know, you went in, you thought, I think I know, I think I know what we're building and, and got knocked down. But that probably was probably the most valuable information you could have been given because the, the customer is gonna react in a way, and I know I've done this, I've had customers react and say, nah. I'm like, but I know you need it. I know you need it. And they're kind of like, no. And so we learn that it's not just about the product design, but how we're messaging it and how we're presenting it. So what did you learn through that process? I think the most important part is, and this is a classical thesis in product management, it is called jobs to be Done in terms of, hey, if you're targeting a finance person, Let's say you're targeting a fp and a controller. He or she is busy with three things that she does every day. How can you make her jobs to be done, um, in a much better outcome on a daily basis for us? I'll give you an example, and this is where my eyes just lit up. After our phase first fail attempt. The F&A controller, uh, you know, Jackie, she said, oh, by the way, we have hundreds of invoices of SaaS products that come to me every month. And these are expense reimbursements sometime, sometimes just in a statement descriptor without invoices, but there are hundreds of line items every month. Can you make my life easy that I don't have to spend two hours every week or three hours every week chasing those invoices? And this basically gave us a very simple hack saying, what if we aggregate. All these hundreds of invoices give Jackie a single dashboard with invoice one, invoice two, invoice three, invoice four, invoice five, bingo. Jackie does not have to chase anybody. She does not need to call that your invoice is missing. Jackie sees it on Quolum's dashboard, all the invoices, and we went off to the races after that. And that was in, that was enough of a change. That was enough of a, of a solve for her problem that she could absolutely see that either giving her more time, more um, accuracy, less, you know, less room for error, whatever, right? Yeah. Yeah. And finance is also about matching off things, right? You told $5. The vendor has given a $5 and 1 cent invoice. Your credit card statement says $5 or 4 99. They need to reconcile these. And the reconciliation is based on evidence. So your statement, the charge on the card, the invoice, and your expense report. Right? So we basically solved two parts of the problem very well, saying you don't have to look at the statement descriptor because it's automatic via column. You don't have to hunt for invoices. That's also automatic via column. Of course, somebody has to file the expense report if it is a norm in your organization. And you know, of course we have not solved the third problem yet, but still with those two, the enough insight into building what we have built so far, and you have evolved into more of a stack than just your original. Functional concept, right? Yeah. And this is again, continuous feedback. So we launched the beta Jackie, um, and his, his team and her team, 2010 customers. And they continuously told us, do this more. I'll give you one more example. So same set of customers. I said, oh, by the way, we have this Salesforce subscription and I wanna renew this. Do you have staffing? Because I don't understand how to negotiate a Salesforce license and being a product entrepreneur, I said, uh, no, but this is not a per wheelhouse because, you know, we write code and things just worked magically. And what went on is, yeah, just put one person and make my job easy. So we added this thing now called the buying concierge. Essentially it's a professional service. Where you don't have to put your time to negotiate or cancel or buy a new product, we do that. So it's again, you know, to your comment, Stephanie, we evolved as a full stack. So start with the front, which is helping buy and, and pay and renew, go with the back of finops, say aggregating contracts, aggregating invoices, and make the time much, much more compressed that you don't have to waste it. So one of the things I hear from a lot of entrepreneurs, especially in the tech space because things change so quickly, um, is, is that that process, first of all, the process of going in, looking for money, and secondly, the, the process of going through the iterative development can be really demoralizing, can be really, really ch challenging. Right. And a lot of people, that's when they, that's when they throw up their hands. They say, I'm done. So how did you find, um, How did you find yourself kind of moving through those phases and through those, you know, discovery phases without losing the momentum? Fundraising is, uh, is absolutely, um, I don't wanna use those words, but, uh, let's say draining, I think there's easy diplomatic word out. Uh, it's draining. It takes time. You have to find people who are convinced with your idea based on where you are convinced with the market, based on where everything is, which is the macro and convinced about you as an individual and your ability to execute. One of them showing, um, a yellow flag, chips are down, right? You won't be able to raise money. Um, so in my case, what I did was in 2019 and. The easy ways you pull your immediate circle of influence. So investors that you interacted in the past or you build relationships over the last 10 years or angels that, you know, that's the first port of call. So when the plan was to raise money, I started reaching out to folks in my network and got few of them interested saying, Hey, this is what I wanna build. And luckily, and this is, I, I do not know how to position this, but sometimes, um, it works in the favor of someone who has done one startup in the past because, uh, it gives a proof point to, to an investor saying, oh, this guy, maybe he will be able to execute this idea because looks like he is done one in the past. So that conviction on the side of the investor is easier at for you as an individual. The two things that are variable is the market, the macro, and what you're exactly building. So using some of the people that I have known in the past, I, I reached out and I was able to raise money. I'm in the process of raising another round. I'm, I'm digressing on on your question. I'm in the process of raising another round because we have seen growth in the last six months and I think we are ready to scale. I kid you not Absolutely worse time to raise funds. Right now. This is what I've been hearing. I've been talking to a few, a few founders over the last few weeks who are just like, oh, my own, it's just a s slob right now. Yeah, and to answer your question, the second part on, in terms of the product, I think you, as a founder, you have to be the judge. You have to know your market. Like crazy, like nobody else understands it. Otherwise, there'll be hundreds of people who will tell you that you are wrong or you will start having your own self-doubt. So I think there's no right answer to that. How do you do it? But you as an individual, you have to have the conviction that if I'm building for the cfo, F O, I better be in that direction. May not be right, but better be in that direction. You would change what you would build. You know, for us, we built something else other, not other than what where we started, but directionally for the office of the cfo, directionally for SaaS spend management, but not the exact product that was designed in the January of 20. You know, I think it's, I think it's an interesting conversation because I have worked in b2b, right? So selling into corporate and big organizations and in, in this space and selling services. But I've also built a business selling into, you know, the consumer space we're selling to individuals. And it's such a different world. It really is, even if you are selling somewhat similar services, because I find on the consumer side, um, it's so much more about the messaging and on the corporate side, it's so much more about being able to, um, demonstrate relationships and, and an understanding of the business, even if you know the service. Is similar. And so I, I'm wondering like when you're, when you're building a business to serve the corporate market, are you focusing on different types of kind of growth mechanisms and different types of marketing and different types of relationships? Yes, definitely different compared to consumer. Um, you know, product is an after fact for consumers. It's the packaging, it's the messaging that's the primary. You drive footfalls into the store that you have. Um, in case of b2b, it's, I think it's in stages, right? And cliched, but your early first million dollars in revenue versus how the first to, uh, second to 10 would look are slightly different. And your growth mechanisms, you know, for example, for us, a hundred percent. Of our first million of revenue is through our LinkedIn as a channel. Uh, who I know, who do I know who has the problem? Who do I, uh, who's gonna refer me there? Who can I, uh, call and he or she's gonna pick up my phone? I think ex, doesn't matter what your product is, your messaging is your website, your connective tissue to the customer has to be your first degree of connection, uh, your immediate network. And we use that. And that's, I think, the growth mechanism in your first phase of the journey. The second and third, you know, is table stakes. You have to have content. You have to have press and media and demand gen mechanisms. You gotta go out and speak at events, do offline marketing, you know, go do Google ads, you know, do LinkedIn advertising. So all of those channels are table stakes. And then of course changes, um, you know, amplifies beyond in 10, 200 million journeys. But zero to one is absolutely, it's also excruciating, but that's the only channel you can, you know, harness a hundred percent. And I think corporate buyers, the number one thing that they want to know first before we even talk about features or product or anything, is that, you know, my space. Yeah. Have you worked in my space? Do you know my space? Do you understand? And I'm mean to varying degrees, right? Sometimes it's like, do you know my functional space? Maybe if you don't know my industry, but have you, you know, do you I want a level of comfort that, you know, It that, you know, change that you know people, and then we can continue the conversation. Um, I, and, and sometimes it's almost to like an nth degree, right? I mean, I've, law firms are the worst this way. They're like, we can only talk to you if you've worked with other law firms. I'm like, nothing. Listen, we're okay. We, we, we know the, you know, we know the functional space. No, no, no. You have to work with other law firms. So, so I think that in corporate, the fact that you had the experience already with charge B and in the, in the, like, in sort of in the financial space or dealing with financial space, do you think that helped? Was that a, was that a leg up for you? I think it was, um, a help in a way to get the foot through the door. Mm-hmm. Um, because let's say you are doing an outreach to A C F O and the first thing is they're gonna look, look up your LinkedIn profile before they even respond. So that resume helps, but then everything else is then table stakes, right? You gotta have the product, you gotta have your packaging, you have to have features. So there's, you cannot break through the wall if those three do not exist. What you did in the past gets you through the door. That's the only, only accomplishment there. But unless you know the person very well, or she or she's an advisor to you, they will not get your product asap. You know, they will bring you on the table and you are third or the fourth option. They are evaluating and then you have a better chance now rather than, hey, just kind of, you know, shooting darts in the air. Yeah, I, I own a software company too, and we have a, a product that we've built that really is actually, um, tricky to position because it's a platform product, right? And it could very well be, you know, utilized in any industry in any vertical. But it doesn't work to go forward and say, I have a product that, you know, you can use it for anything. So we ended up building, you know, vertically based accelerators on solutions on top of it. And that's what we sell, right? We sell the solution and the platform powers the solution. So I suspect in some regards, you know, that's the same for, for most B2B sales, is that we need that context. And I think that's what you led with, right? You led with the problem and you led with the context and then dragged through the rest of the development from there. Yeah. And we got slightly lucky as well because in, to give you one example, You know, when we started selling into the finance office, 2021, October, November timeframe, we did the, you know, the product release. It would be received by the cfo, F o but there will not be any buying interests saying, oh, I'm not worried about hygiene, compliance and risk spend management and proverbial middle finger to you, and then put the phone down. Fast forward to 2022 summer, the story, the macro has changed and people were now heightenedly aware about, Hey, we gotta optimize our spend. And in, in a way, you know, the, uh, we achieved a PMF as an inflection point. The hey looks like there is, there's leg into the product that could penetrate the market, acquire customers, and we are just lucky with how the market shaped otherwise. We would be struggling if the market was still very much Gaga days of growth, having free money. People are not even, would not be worrying about saving 30, 40% of their software infrastructure cost. Yeah. I mean, this is a typical of the evolution of an industry of, you know, specifically of, of cloud, cloud as a financial line item, right? And there's, there's such a shift, there's a change to, you know, the, the concept of operating costs as opposed to capital and, and the way that we look at money and who's responsible for it and, and the distribution of all. So I think all of that's probably working in your favor, but you're, it's very good timing right now to be servicing, you know, finops and to be servicing the emerging, um, focus on financial management within. The, the technology world and within IT spend, and I don't think it's just IT spend, right? Like, like you've said, this has become very distributed in the organization because now we can consume software and products and services without needing any sort of help from an internal. And so the role of the internal IT team changes as well, right? Yeah. It has become, um, uh, what's the right word, as a key holder for ensuring there is security. There is, you know, data compliance. Uh, people cannot break into your organization, but the days of it as a stakeholder, a key stakeholder for buying products has moved on. Yeah. You know, I agree. It, yeah. It would typically buy an organizational purchase. Let's say you need, let's take an example. You need an HR management tool. Maybe it, maybe you need a. Corporate collaboration too. Maybe Slack. And those are some of the IT purchases that are still being influenced by it. But 99% here, you and I need Miro to whiteboard ideas. IT has no idea what Miro is in the first place. You know, they are friends. I'm just working on Miro right now. There you go. There you go. And, and to be honest, even finance does not know the nuances between a Miro, a Slack, or a Jira or a fig jam in Figma, which is Miro equivalent. And hence, you need specialists to handhold them. And then where we come in saying, oh, by the way, this is what Fig Jam and Figma does. Why do you need Miro? If only your designers are looking for Miro as an. But if you look at the, like, and we're gonna nerd out here for a second, but if you look at the, the definition of agile and safe, you know, scaled agile, we move away, like one of the guiding principles is people and sort of interactions over tools and processes. So we're moving away from having to have harmonized tools across an organization, and these working groups decide which tools they want. And it doesn't matter whether they work on one thing or they work, unless you're talking about like collaboration tools and that sort of thing, then that's a little bit different. But, um, this decentralization, I think, as a theme when it comes to technology, when it comes to spend is, you know, the, the opportunity that you guys are sort of attaching yourselves to, right? Yeah. And, and this decentralization is gonna go five 10 x from here. I'll give you a very tactical example. Uh, there are country specific laws, we could call them draconian. But the law says, oh, a resident of my country can only have its data stored in a data center locally, and which is happening in cloud, right? It's also happening in SaaS. So people are saying, where are the identities of my country's employees are, it should be in a data center locally. And let's say if Zoom says, sorry, we don't have a Zoom local in, let's say I'm gonna, you know, let's say Bangalore, India, it has to be cut off with another tool. Hence you have a Zoom, which is global, and a Zoom, which is local, you know, or, or with a different name. And this is also gonna increase across the world as politicians wake up and say, Hey, I gotta have my own country's own GDPR equivalent laws. What do you. But that's also, that's also relevant for spend too. Because you, when you, when you consume cloud services, you have to specify regionality, right? Because of, you know, all the different reasons, but then your costs are different from a regional perspective, right? Your costs are gonna be different if you stand up services in one region as opposed to another region and their, their price differently. So all this like minute detail around tracking and managing spend is so, is becoming so astronomically complex. Absolutely agree. And, and if you decentralize it, the specialized buyers are not there in that country. The specialized buyers are there in the corporate headquarters. And I have no idea what the local laws, you know, what the taxation policies are. Are they in compliance? Are they violating? And if. You know, if, if a department has been let go, which is happening now, who's canceling those? Right? So it, it is gonna be 10 times more messier than where we are in January, but you're going to be positioned to, to, uh, accommodate that opportunity. So you're going for some money right now, and as you mentioned, it's, it's a hard market right now. It's a, it's a hard environment. How are you preparing yourself to be able to, you know, power through that? I think there are two strategies. One is, um, if we are not able to go the, the path that we are planning to and the money that we are planning to raise, convince the existing investors to extend, help extend the runway because hey, we are growing, you know, exponentially revenues up four, five x you know, year over year. Um, can we use the bridge? To walk to the other side and then as the market changes go raise at whatever terms you wanna raise. Um, I think it's also, in my mind, it's gonna be temporary cuz investors are in an overbought position. They have paid whatever price everybody was asking for. Uh, SaaS specifically was at a hundred to 200 x multiples of revenue, which is kind of mind boggling. So now the pendulum is swinging on the other extreme saying, okay, let's go on holiday. Let's not invest any money because let's gonna average it out by not doing any deals. And that's gonna hurt entrepreneurs who are trying to raise money now. So I think it's me gonna ride this out for six, nine months, I would say, and then when things get better, then do it. But, uh, I think that's the situation. We are. So what's the, what's the future vision? I mean, what, where are you working? What are you working towards? I think for us, two or three things, um, are directionally gonna happen. A you know, spend, management by itself is a very large play. If you look at companies such as Cooper and s a p, Ariba, Oracle, um, if you look at pure place spend, such as Expensify or even the card vendors such as American Express, they do not have the capabilities of recurring software purchases. You know, and software itself is, you know, six, 700 billion business in the next, you know, five years. How do you build a very large business around it? That's what we are gonna enable. So a vertical inside the organization with a large TAM of controlling software or cloud spend, I think that's where we are going after other directionally possible journey is, Hey, can we be the marketplace? To help companies buy software easily. Again, it's a far-fetched three, four years down the road there are a couple of marketplaces already in action, such as AWS does it extremely well. Some parts and you know, cause some parts are not there. Um, the big piece that is missing today in any of these journeys is it's only about transaction. Hey, pay me and get done. Which is like, you know, you're buying whatever you wanna buy on Amazon, like a pair of shoes, pay me and done. Amazon doesn't care. You know, you wanna return and that this, and that, you're done. In case of software, recurring software, the purchases are every frequent month or a year. There is no infrastructure today to enable that behavior. So for us, there is an opportunity to build something a much more grand beyond where we are. And all of this vision comes from knowing this market very, very well. I think that's given, you have to know the market. Um, I've been in the industry for almost, uh, 20 years now. Um, as an engineer, I wrote code for, you know, backup products and then built B2B businesses and, um, security businesses. So you have to know the market, either as a consumer, you would know a little bit of the market, but if you're on the other side, who the players are, who the buyers are, who influences that decision, I think that's table stakes. You gotta know the market very well. Well, and, and, and so another interesting question for you is you came from a technical background and like, you know, I've, I've been in the IT industry. 30 years and you see a lot of sort of the technologists, you know, become founders because they ha And so I, and in my mind there are sort of these two types of technology founders. There's the ones who are completely obsessed with the technology, and then there's the ones who develop sort of a, a business education. They de develop a business focus. When I talk to you, I hear, you know, a very developed understanding of what the business side of the business needs to be as well. So when did you make that sort of transition and how did you make that transition? And how does a tech founder who has been iner immersed on the technical side, you know, who knows that they have something, how do you make that transition? Hmm. Great question. I'm thinking, I think. How it happened for me. So I was just a coder. Um, I'm a computer science major by degree, and I, I loved writing my two lines of code, drink beer at 7:00 PM go home happy, nothing else to worry about, right? And over a period of time, then I had, uh, a transitionary job, uh, at a company called Symantec. Now very pop, then very popular. They do, you know, backup software and then, um, antivirus and all that. There I got infected by this bug of marketing where I saw firsthand how campaigns are launched, how digital media and assets have managed, how you personalize collaterals, you know, very practical sort of things. And that educated me and, and luckily some of my bosses, you know, mentors back then, and managers and deciders of my fate. Were kind enough to educate me a little bit more beyond the technologist I was, or the coder I was. And that was an early transition. But then I realized that, you know, the, the things that I talked to my wife about became successful businesses 2, 3, 4 years later. And I kind of started contemplating, maybe I understand the market a little bit, maybe I understand buyers a little bit more. Maybe I understand the, the segment of technology a little bit more. And then one thing led to the other, I, we got two of my co-founder, we started this mobile security business in 2010 that became successful. I was still kind of a, in-betweener new technology, but little bit of a market. But that three and a half, four years was my graduating class to, from a transition from a pure play techie to somebody who understands the business. And that has not stopped until you know where we are right now. But I think you're unique in the sense that, um, I don't necessarily think that you can just teach those kinds of skills. I'll tell you why. I have a master's degree in business, but my, my m MBA was in the management of technology, and this program was designed, you know, early on with the intention of putting technologists through a business education to grow these sort of like, You know, um, expert resources that both knew the technical side and also knew the business side. And what we found was that there were four of us that were in the program that actually came from a business perspective. And the rest were these like, kind of hardcore, like, you know, probably haven't left, left the, the dark closet in the basement for a really long time. Super smart people, but they just struggled so much with, and, and I don't even think it's that they couldn't understand it. It's that it wasn't of interest and it wasn't, you know, I think what you have that a lot of, like the technical founders who don't necessarily graduate to that level is an interest, right? You have an interest and a curiosity and um, you wanted to learn. And so I think there's a difference between understanding how markets work or, you know, from a textbook being able to be taught accounting or managerial finance or economics or what have you. There's a difference between what you learn that way and what you learn by just being curious and interested in, like, having a passion for it. I think that's given, um, as an individual. I think definitely the curiosity bit is super high. I'll give you 15 seconds on that. You know, before starting Quolum, I had no idea how finance works. Um, we taught ourselves, and you laugh at this, me and my couple of engineers watch YouTube videos for hours to understand how left and right debit and credit accounting works to that level. And then we ultimately designed the ledger, we coded it and it's functional. It, it, you know, sees millions of transactions every month, millions of dollars going in every day. To just learn it on the fly. Whatever is needed, I believe it. Right? I do. Cuz I've done it myself. I've sold, I've sold work that I had no idea I was gonna deliver, but I knew that I could and I knew I was interested in it and I knew I could dovetail it into some of the work that I had done in the past. So I like, I believe it and I, and I think there are certain elements of, you know, the work that we do that can be acquired that way. But I think it came down to wanting it Right. To wanting to learn it. Agreed. Yeah. I think that that defines the, the innate. Nature of, um, an entrepreneur, an explorer, a pioneer, you know, you know, wanting to figure out what's there and let me just walk that mile to see what's there rather than maybe there's nothing there. Right. That's kind of differentiates. I just know my technology and I'm just gonna like shoe horn it in and somebody's gonna like it. We're coming up on time. I have a question that I ask everyone that I, that I interview, and I, I would love to hear your perspective on it. What's the difference between what we sort of hear out there in the business world, in the online business world and the stories? What's the difference between that and what's real about being a business owner? I think what's not told is, and is how much pain our families go through. What's not told is how much time we do not spend with our children, our, our spouses, and. How much advice they give us, just sitting on the dinner table saying, but maybe you should have done this. You know, maybe you should have asked that question and say, oh man, I was wrong. Those stories are never told anywhere. The irony is that a lot of us start our businesses so that we can spend more time with our children. The driver, for me, finally taking that step out was the fact that my kids would come home and talk about their teachers and their friends, and I had no idea who any of these people were. I felt so isolated and so out of touch with my little kids at the time, and now it's like all I, my kids are teenagers now, and it's like all I can do to like get any information outta them, but back then that was, that was the sacrifice. And so the irony is, is that we sacrifice so that we can have more time with our kids, but sometimes it actually works out to the opposite. Yeah. But also the, the hope is longer run. That, Hey, when we are done and dusted with whatever our adventure is, we spend like 24 by seven with them. Yeah. Has happened with me after my previous venture. I, I took like a year off and did nothing except sat at home, traveled and, you know, absolutely amazing time. I think that's the hope. Yeah. And I think it, like, once you, once you settle in, right, you get past that initial like, ooh, phase and, and this becomes more of a routine and a process. You know, the, I would never trade the flexibility that I have to be able to go and pick my son up from his friend's house yesterday, because he didn't think about the fact that there was no bus coming. Right. I could drop, I could leave at the drop of a hat and I could go do that. Right. So I, I absolutely agree. I love that answer. Nobody has actually answered that with that answer before. Okay. Um, we could talk forever. Obviously we have a shared interests here. Um, but could you tell our listeners how they can find you? Very simple. I am Indus Khaitan on Google, LinkedIn. Any social Indus@quolum.com is my email address. If you just wanna save money on software or you think that you have saved money, but we could harness it a little bit more, reach out to me. Amazing. Thank you so much. And we're gonna wrap things up. I am so happy that we had the opportunity to chat with Indus today to hear more about how his business came to be, his experiences along the way, and what the future of the business entails. And thank you for tuning into this episode of the Real People Real Business Show, where we get the real entrepreneurial stories and journeys that you can relate to. Show notes, resources, and links from this episode are available on my website and social media platforms. If you've enjoyed today's content, I'd love for you to give us a review on whatever platform you're on to help us share these genuine stories with an even bigger audience. Till next time, keep building, keep dreaming and keeping real.

Indus KhaitanProfile Photo

Indus Khaitan

CEO & Founder

Indus Khaitan is the founder of Quolum, an On Deck Scale company funded by Sequoia and Nexus. He founded Bitzer Mobile that was created on the heels of the ‘08 recession, and exited, in what was Oracle’s first acquisition in mobile. He led growth at Chargebee where revenue grew 3X. In his free time he flies a single-engine Cessna 172 over the bay area.