In this week’s episode of The Breakout Growth Podcast Sean Ellis and Ethan Garr chat with Arjun Mahadevan, Co-Founder and CEO of doola, a launchpad for your first or next business.
Most founders want to spend their time finding Product/Market Fit, but unfortunately, the work of just running a business itself can often get in the way.
Doola looks to help founders remove these distractions by offering a “business-in-a-box” solution. The company helps you form your LLC, then manage everything from bookkeeping and banking, to taxes and compliance.
Other companies, like LegalZoom, offer business formation services, and certainly, lawyers and accountants can help with these processes too. But doola’s approach is about customer success and building a community where founders can find the support they need. Arjun says it’s both “high tech and high touch”.
Arjun says doola has helped founders in 175 countries form their LLCs in the US, and his team is all about finding the highest-leverage opportunities that will result in a great product suite and community for the business owners they serve.
So, if you are looking for some great inspiration and insights into how to optimize for sustainable growth, check out this episode of The Breakout Growth Podcast with Arjun Mahadevan, Co-Founder and CEO of doola.
- Business-in-a-Box; the doola backstory: (06:04)
- Meeting the needs of Covid-driven eCommerce acceleration: (15:45)
- Building for retention beyond LLC formation: (25:52)
- Just-in-time user acquisition: (30:38)
- White labeling doula via API: (34:55)
And much, much, more . . .
Announcer 00:00:08 Welcome to The Breakout Growth Podcast, where Sean Ellis and Ethan Garr interview leaders from the world’s fastest growing companies to get to the heart of what’s really driving their growth. And now here are your hosts, Sean Ellis and Ethan Garr.
Sean Ellis 00:00:26 In this week’s episode of the Breakout Growth Podcast, Ethan Garr and I chat with the CEO of doola. Arjun describes doola as a business in a box, providing the tools and services to help you form your business and then manage everything from bookkeeping and banking to taxes and compliance. So when you’re starting a new business, you wanna focus all your effort on finding product market fit. So working with doola can really help you avoid the distractions of setting up a business and, and figuring out all the kind of administrative stuff. So what, out to you, Ethan?
Ethan Garr 00:00:59 Yeah, Sean. This is one of those businesses where the company’s success is so tightly coupled to the success of its customers that, um, I think those kinds of business always get you and I excited. Um, cuz with businesses like that, if you, if you do get it right, um, like the flywheel just accelerates itself, right? I mean, every idea you, you have that helps your customers helps, you know, then gets fed back because and helps you. And it just, it’s this great cycle. So I really enjoyed the conversation and I think because you and I have both formed our own businesses, we know that it can actually be pretty daunting. And, you know, I mean, I think you and I have both gotten those official looking, uh, but very phony documents in the mail that tell us we have to pay for some filing fee that doesn’t exist, or is yeah, you don’t have to pay for. And then we’ve had to navigate things like tax compliance, like you said, and it’s work. Um, but like, but it’s just not the work that you want to be doing as a founder. You’re so excited about your idea, you wanna be focused on that. Um, so Arjun’s really thinking about how to make doola that trusted partner that you can rely on.
Sean Ellis 00:01:57 Yeah, for sure. He, you know, he’s, he’s really passionate about the collaborative aspect, so creating a community of founders, providing content, and really being available to help founders navigate these processes. You know, I, I like the way he called it like high touch, or I think he called it High Tech, high Touch, something like that. Um, you know, a lot of this stuff, you can figure it out if you, founders are pretty resourceful people, they can figure it out, but is that really where they should be spending their time? So democratizing this work and, and just making it available, making it affordable, and just giving you the tools to make the the right decisions for your business is super valuable for, for startups in particular.
Ethan Garr 00:02:38 Yeah, absolutely. And it’s at a time when you need that help most, and it’s, it’s really quite affordable. So I think he’s making it really easy to say, this is like a, a why not? Like why wouldn’t you use this? So, um, you know, another thing that stood out for me was just that the company has this global presence. He, I, he’s, I think he said that founders in 175 countries have formed LLCs in the US with doola. I didn’t even know that forming an LLC in the US from out of the country was, I didn’t even know it was a thing you could do or a thing that you would want to do, but when he explained it, it was actually really interesting. Um, and you know, how Arjun and his team figured that out, um, I think is really good insight for, for our listeners on just how to approach, you know, opportunities and growth as a whole.
Sean Ellis 00:03:21 Yeah, we touched on quite a few important growth concepts. Arjun really understands the importance of finding and focusing on high leverage opportunities and how those drive the flywheel, uh, that, that are really important for the impact we’re trying to drive as founders. So anyway, there’s a lot of really good stuff here. I’m excited to dive into it and, uh, even be before that, I just wanna remind our listeners to share what they take from the interview and, and what are some of their, their key takeaways, uh, so we can we can kind of keep some some conversation going there.
Ethan Garr 00:03:55 Yeah, absolutely. It’s a a great point for anyone listening that you know, Sean and I really do appreciate your feedback. We wanna be accessible and learn from you as well. So don’t, don’t hesitate to reach out. Um, and on the subject of reaching out, I reached out to Arjun before, uh, we recorded this and, um, he said they’re definitely in hiring mode when it comes to looking for growth talent. So if you’re listening and you want a job with a cool accelerating company, uh, make sure you check out their careers page or email careers doola.com. And, uh, Arjun said maybe to his, uh, maybe he’ll regret this, but he said, CC him at Arjun a rj n doola d o l a.com, uh, and reference the podcast this way. He’ll know, he’ll know where you heard it, and, uh, try to put you to the top of the list or something. So, uh, yeah, good stuff. Great company. Really fun interview. Sean, should we just jump into it?
Sean Ellis 00:04:43 Absolutely. Let’s do it. Hey, Arjun, welcome to the Breakout Growth podcast.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:04:57 Thank you so much for having me. Um, yeah, I’m really excited to be here. I guess we’ll dive in, but was, it looks like we have some overlap in a couple places, couple topics of interest, locations, companies, but yeah, really excited to be here. Thanks, Ethan.
Sean Ellis 00:05:09 Yeah. Yeah. And then I’m joined by my co-host Ethan. Hey, Ethan.
Ethan Garr 00:05:13 Hey, Sean. Hey, Arjun. Good to have you here, Arjun. And, uh, yeah, I’ve been super excited for this conversation, so looking forward to digging in.
Sean Ellis 00:05:20 Yeah, and, and as Arjun just touched on, uh, he and I have some overlap. Uh, he was at Dropbox a few years after I was at Dropbox and, uh, both in growth role. So, um, hopefully we won’t go too far down a, uh, geek out on, on Dropbox, uh, riff. We’ll, we’ll keep it focused on doola, <laugh>,
Arjun Mahadevan 00:05:40 Right? I guess the, the panda and the viral tactics Dropbox use. And I’ve learned, I learned a ton of this, which we’ve obviously applied to doola, so I’m really excited to dive in there.
Sean Ellis 00:05:50 Awesome. Yeah. Let’s, uh, let’s, but let, yeah, let’s start out and just, uh, maybe give us the, the quick, uh, rundown on what, what doola’s about and, uh, yeah, forgot how, who, who it serves, difficult customers and, and what the solution’s all about.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:06:04 Sure. doola is a business in a box for LLCs, a limited liability company. And the story of doola actually starts really back in India, which is where my parents originally from. They both grew up in, in India, in Madras and Chennai, and both became doctors there and ended up starting to practice medicine in England. And my two brothers and I were actually born there as well. As you can tell, I completely lost the accent, but I used to have one, believe it or not, <laugh>. And when I was six years old, my parents actually made a huge decision and they decided to immigrate to the United States. They completely uprooted their lives of sorts, had to completely redo their residencies in America. And I don’t know if either of you know, really what a residency is, or a residency is the process to even become a doctor in practice.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:06:49 And they completely redid that in the United States. And I’ve asked my parents, why did you do that? That’s, it’s a huge decision. New country, new jobs, unknowns. And as cliche or cheesy as it sounds, they did it for this idea of the American dream or American opportunity where they saw this opportunity to grow in America in terms of jobs, in terms of education, in terms of opportunity for my brothers and I, and this cultural mixing pot in terms of personalities and talent that you really can’t find anywhere else in the world at the level you can find in America. And they immigrated here. I grew up in Boston, don’t have a Boston accent too, as you can tell. Grew up there <laugh> until I was 18. And
Sean Ellis 00:07:26 Thank God for that. No, I’m just my, I have a Boston, I’m a
Arjun Mahadevan 00:07:29 Sports fan now. So I picked that up, right. Um, and after, after high school, I ended up going to school at the University of Pennsylvania where I did a dual degree studying mathematics in the College of Arts and Sciences and Statistics in the Wharton Business School. And it was at college where I learned from my professors that I was very quantitative, always loved numbers, math and statistics. And I actually was interning at a sales and trading company, but realized rather than pitching tech stocks, I kept saying, what’s influencing that price? What product are they building? What are they, what growth are they doing internally? And I said, that summer, I wanna go work at a tech company. And my first flight to San Francisco was for an interview at Dropbox. Looks like we both overlapped there. Second time there was day one on the job, and I was out there for four years, learned so much at Dropbox, they taught me really everything from scratch.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:08:16 But I was on the business development team, I did retention analytics, I helped build out the retention data science team, and ended up on the growth team as a pm working on retention for Dropbox for business. And this was actually my first glimpse into the world of SMBs where Dropbox serves this huge long tail. They obviously work with enterprise customers, but thousands, hundreds of thousands of these small and medium businesses, which were using Dropbox to do incredible things. Now, when I was at Dropbox learning a ton, but in SF you see everyone out there every day, you’re walking to work, passing Pinterest and Airbnb in Dropbox, and you have friends quitting starting company. So I caught the itch and I left my co-founder and I actually got into Y Combinator with a different startup. It was called Standups. It was TikTok meets email. Meaning instead of sending an email, you posted a little asynchronous video, the pandemic had just hit.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:09:04 We thought, holy crap, there’s huge tailwinds behind us, this thing’s gonna work. But as Paul Graham says, we realized this was a sitcom idea, sounds great for a TV show like Silicon Valley, but no one was grabbing you by the shirt collar saying, take my money, I need this. And it was actually during that pivot process when we were thinking, okay, what’s Pivot? We have a new demo day coming up. What are we gonna build? Where we thought, oh no, we’re gonna have to spend $30,000 to lawyers again to flip this non-US entity to a US entity. And we didn’t know what we didn’t know, but it was actually at that moment when we thought, wait a second, what if we could initialize a company, click a button, and not just form a company and feel like you’ve been thrown to the wolves, but really offer this business in a box solution where you form a company, get a tax number, spin up a bank account, and then wrap that with taxes to stay compliant so founders can focus on what they do best while doola handles the rest. And that was two years ago. Fast forward today, we have thousands of customers in over 175 different countries, six continents. We haven’t met a founder from Antarctica yet, so we really want that to happen <laugh>. But we we’re beyond blessed to be backed by Y Combinator and Nexus Venture Partners and some incredible investors, but end of day it’s only possible with the SMBs globally who have trusted us to turn their dream business idea into their dream us business.
Ethan Garr 00:10:21 Was there, um, was there a moment like, you know, I mean obviously there was that moment where you’re like, Hey, we have to pivot and we, we, we see a problem for ourselves, maybe we can turn that into a business. Was there kind of like that magic moment where you’re like, wait a second, this could really work?
Arjun Mahadevan 00:10:37 There’s one moment when I knew, this is when I really knew, holy crap, we could be onto something here. I was actually back home in central Pennsylvania where my parents used to live, and this was right around the time around the pivot. So I was back home and it’s a tough feeling going through Pivot land. Um, you don’t know what you’re building. You’re kind of, I call it the doldrums of pivot land. When, when I was home <laugh>, we, we were thinking about this idea of this initializer and I was, you know, asking my dad, I was like, Hey dad, you know, have you thought about setting up an LLC? And my dad tells me, oh, I have an LLC I’m, I’m like, wait, what? You, you have an llc? He’s like, yeah, I’ve been working on this. Actually, funny enough, he’s like, I’m working on a Dropbox for health records.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:11:17 My friends in India, we sometimes share records with each other to compare scans before giving advice, and there’s no way to share this specific file type. And he was telling me how he actually had formed an LLC with legal Zoom. We didn’t exist at the time, but he had formed an LLC and he was hacking on this, on this side. And in that moment, I started asking him, okay, like, what’s your e i n do you have a bank account? He couldn’t find his e i n he was still using his personal bank account, was paying someone way too much for taxes. And I realized not only did my own dad have a side hustle, which he didn’t tell us about, but he was really kind of fending for himself out there. And I realized that moment in time, I think everyone out there has some side hustle in them. Doesn’t mean you need to start a business, but that entrepreneurial spark, I believes in everyone. And that’s when I realized, okay, if someone like my dad who’s very smart and accomplished and has worked very hard to get there, can’t handle this part of the process, then we can build a solution to help founders like him globally.
Sean Ellis 00:12:11 Yeah. Can I, can I ask you, when you, when you say L L C, is it, um, is like, is that different than say a C corp or an S corp? And why l c?
Arjun Mahadevan 00:12:21 So this is the most common questions, actually. There’s a couple most common questions we a get asked, I actually just tweeted a thread on this today. The top 10 questions founders ask. First one is, should I form an LLC or a C Corp? Most people don’t know that, and I’ll answer these as we go, but if you’re raising us venture capital investors, like Y Combinator will actually require a Delaware C Corp. It’s required if you are not raising venture capital, nine times out of 10, 90 times times out of a hundred and LLCs a better choice. It’s easier to maintain, it’s more flexible tax advantages such as you can elect to be taxes in S corp two. So we focus on
Sean Ellis 00:12:56 Sbs do an S-corp with through an llc. Okay, correct. None
Arjun Mahadevan 00:12:59 Of that. So we actually support both, but this was yet another moment when I realized, wait a second, there’s this huge underserved market. When I looked in San Francisco, I’ll admit I thought every company in the world was a C corp, like Dropbox that applies to Y Combinator tries to get on tech crunch and posts on product hunt, but then you really realize that 99% of the global economy is small and medium businesses, they power the global economy. So even numbers-wise, we support C-Corp, but the vast majority of our customers are these small and medium sized businesses forming LLCs.
Sean Ellis 00:13:30 Yeah. And as long as you can do the s corp like tax advantages than, than, than the market’s pretty big. Yeah.
Ethan Garr 00:13:37 Is there, is there anything you’re advising small startups on in terms of, you know, if they’re starting with an L L C, like, you know, it, it seems like there are some, there’s some pitfalls if you do it wrong and you have to go back and change later <laugh> that, which
Sean Ellis 00:13:49 I, I, I have had to actually do, I did all of mine three legal zoom years ago on, on one business, and then my tax accountant said, no, no, here’s, here’s what you have to do. And then all that money was wasted.
Ethan Garr 00:14:00 Sean, where do you think I got this question from? I’m, I got it from, I, I remember you telling me you messed this up, but Yeah, yeah. Um, but like, is that, is that part of, you know, as I’ve been looking at, uh, at what doola does, it seems like it’s a very consultative approach and really like, you know, customer success oriented in terms of, so like, do you feel like there’s like a responsibility to help people understand like, hey, here’s the consequences of making this decision now versus later.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:14:25 Absolutely. We take a high tech and high touch approach. So high tech, meaning a lot of the services in the space today are services very manual. But when we approach this, we were thinking initializer, we were thinking first principles, can’t you automate a lot of this information where, name, address, e i n or employee identification number is the same information getting fed into a formation, a tax number, a bank account, and taxes. So why don’t we architect this the right way? But the high touch is critical. And that’s because forming a business is a scary thing. It’s a one-time thing too. It’s a type one decision. You go in that door, technically there’s ways to edit things later, but it can be painful and there’s fees involved. So we actually take that responsibility and we tell folks, we will educate you, we offer free consultations. But our goal, obviously, and this is why we push out a lot of content, is I could do one-on-one consultations, or I could record a 62nd TikTok explaining why you should form in Wyoming versus Delaware. And that’s a way to sort of scale that personal support too. But absolutely, we believe the onus is on us to really educate customers and help them know what they don’t know. And we get that experience from working with thousands of customers.
Ethan Garr 00:15:33 So when you talk about those thousands of customers who, who’s really, who wins with doola? Like who, like what’s the archetype of, uh, you know, the, the company that, that needs doola from day one,
Arjun Mahadevan 00:15:45 When Covid hit in I guess 20, 20 many economies are many markets sort of accelerated overnight. And one of those was e-commerce, where before covid an online digital presence was maybe optional. Sure, it’s probably a boon to have, but you could be brick and mortar and you know, maybe have a website to sell online. With covid, everything went digital and you actually needed to have a digital way to sell your products. Our bread and butter, the main type of business really globally, which is accelerating. We’ve seen incredible numbers in terms of Amazon seller growth, Shopify seller growth. Are these online digital businesses? E-commerce businesses? So Amazon, Shopify, Etsy, you’re selling marketing services, agency type services, consulting all online. And in this day and age, you can sell from a newsletter, you can sell from Twitter, you can sell from anywhere. So those types of customers and most popular countries. Just to give a couple, we have over 175 countries, but the most popular are the us, India, United Kingdom, Canada, Latin America, and Mexico.
Sean Ellis 00:16:48 And so you’re, you’re, you can set up local entities in any of those countries
Arjun Mahadevan 00:16:54 When
Sean Ellis 00:16:54 We, or is it all in the United States?
Arjun Mahadevan 00:16:56 That’s a great question. So customers ask us, Hey, can you do the same thing in Canada? Can you do the same thing in India? So hint towards the roadmap, we can’t, we won’t boil the ocean all at once. But imagine a world where a customer in India comes to the us, clicks a button, entity, bank account taxes, and we can do the same thing in India. That’s pretty powerful. Not quite there yet, but eventually down the line. That’s something we’d love to explore.
Sean Ellis 00:17:18 Okay. So all those countries you were mentioning, they are, are wanting to set up in the United States and you’re helping them set up in the United States.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:17:26 Correct. And this is actually important. Like why, why do people want to do that? Like why form a US company? When you’re outside the us we take this for granted in the US you can walk into any bank account and open a bank account. You, you maybe aren’t that scared of the irs, but internationally the biggest reasons are one, access to the US consumer market. It’s the most lucrative market in the world and to sell to us customers, having a US company and a US Bank account adds social proof. And some customers actually don’t wanna transact with an international bank account too. So it’s really access to a new market to expand your business, social proof and legitimacy, um, which matters to folks globally saying, I have a US company. It’s an incredibly proud or prideful moment for them too.
Ethan Garr 00:18:06 So when you talk about e-commerce and you know, Etsy and Amazon sellers, so, uh, and you mentioned this earlier, that everyone sort of has a side hustle in mind. Is that sort of the genesis? Like that’s where is it the side hustlers who come, who think, who are looking like, how am I gonna set this company up? How do I get started? Who are finding doola? Um, and, and you know, starting with you as opposed to, uh, you know, maybe like, you know, a more, you know, sort of the, you know, if someone has a restaurant, I mean, I’m sure there are restaurateurs who have come to you as well, but like that, like it’s a different sort of I concept, right?
Arjun Mahadevan 00:18:43 Absolutely. And I think really good point there of we can support customers starting with a napkin idea or established businesses internationally or in the US you want to migrate to us? Sure. So I’ll give you an example actually. Do you guys know the newsletter? Morning Brew?
Sean Ellis 00:18:59 Yeah,
Ethan Garr 00:18:59 I’ve
Arjun Mahadevan 00:19:00 Heard of it. Newsletter, morning Brew formed by, uh, Alex Lieberman’s, one of the co-founders and Austin Reef, they, they f started at Michigan. It’s just really hot. Um, it started to as a newsletter for finance professionals. Like every morning you read it while you’re having your coffee, over 70 million in revenue, et cetera. One of the co-founders, he’s starting a business called the Plunge, where instead of ax throwing, which you can do at some bars, literally it’s a plunger, which you throw and it’s a board. So he is like literally throwing Plunges. He started that with doola. It’s a side hustle. And he’s like, Hey, I heard about doola, let’s start this on the other side. We work with a company in Thailand, they’re an SEO business doing several million dollars of a r r. And they were like, Hey, let’s expand to the US and grow faster there. So that’s an established business, full suite of books needed banking formation and they can migrate to us or a brand new company. The Plunge, uh, we work with direct to consumer e-commerce businesses. I have a friend who’s making, uh, a keto cookie company fresh baked cookies to your door, low carb, high protein, et cetera. So it really runs the gamut and that’s what’s exciting to us is we can empower new founders, but also help support existing founders who can migrate to us too.
Sean Ellis 00:20:04 That’s awesome. And, and, uh, you just raised a pretty big round of, uh, vc, right? Venture Capital.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:20:11 Very grateful to have closed our last round. And the biggest thing it allows us to do is really invest in building product for our customers to provide value. We know formation is this one time event, so what’s the value we provide post formation, why stay with doola? And that’s where having a bank account to control your finances with embedded bookkeeping and taxes to really manage your personal finances, building out the rest of our product suite with a virtual mail solution, thinking about things like insurance. And that gives us to our goal or vision of what is this business in a box or product suite or operating system, where today you come for formation and stay for banking, but in the future you might come for taxes or come for our perks and rewards network and stay for several other offerings too.
Sean Ellis 00:20:51 Yeah, and I, I did see your kind of side by side comparison with Legal Zoom, uh, on, on your site. And, uh, pricing wise, it just looks like you are, are way more affordable than them. What, um, what, what do you think has kind of led them to be able to, to charge the numbers that they’ve, they’ve charged up to this point?
Arjun Mahadevan 00:21:10 Something which they’ve done an incredible job of and many companies have, which is very hard to do as brand. If you ask most founders globally, actually, here’s the interesting thing. If you ask most founders globally, what’s the best way to form a company? They wouldn’t say a company like Legal Zoom or even doola, they would actually say a CPA or a lawyer. 70% of the formation markets still offline. They’re either going directly to the state or to lawyers. So there’s a huge, huge untapped, I call it non non-consumption folks who aren’t even actively looking for tools like doola. But I think the thing companies like, you know, LegalZoom or other companies, even an Apple building brand has value. It provides trust, it provides reputation, it provides credibility and because of that you can charge higher prices. But my, my candid belief is that I view formation as a commodity there. It’s very easy to form a formation business, no pun intended, but every week I hear of new formation businesses, you, you, you each could start a formation business and go to the State’s website and help people form companies. But it’s very hard.
Sean Ellis 00:22:07 Can we use doola to do that?
Arjun Mahadevan 00:22:08 <laugh> you could White label, no, you could actually white label doola. We have a B2B product. You could white label doola,
Arjun Mahadevan 00:22:13 <laugh>. But what’s very hard is to have a registered agent in all 50 states, a virtual mail solution, a bank account that’s integrated and automatically opened. Once you get an e i n taxes, which feed in your banking transactions and bookkeeping, a network of other founders, uh, we’re working on a chat bot to help, you know, help guide you through your business. Cuz we now have data on the tracks that companies go through and what’s needed when. So there’s these accumulating advantages that comes from scale in the bundle. That’s hard formation’s easy, but everything post formation is where the real value is.
Sean Ellis 00:22:43 And so it sounds to me like LegalZoom part of the reason they charge the, the numbers that they charge us, that they were selling against the, uh, lawyer and CPA sort of, uh, hand guided company setups that that would and and compared to them, they’re probably quite a bit cheaper. But now for you, like compared to Legal Zoom and compared to the uh, compared compared to the more traditional ways of doing it, you’re way cheaper. And, and you’re also, it’s not just price. You’re, you’re looking at all these other services that you can uh, really help help the entrepreneur through, through every step of the journey.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:23:20 Exactly.
Ethan Garr 00:23:21 So if formation is really table stakes, right? I mean that’s like the, the gateway to the larger service offerings. Do you see, uh, what like obviously there’s that, that one-time charge for the formation, the other services, are there opportunities for more of like subscription-based, uh, connections or is it all, all a cart today
Arjun Mahadevan 00:23:41 Formation is a one-time payment. We do have a registered agent, which is required in any state in the us Think of it as a person in the state who’s a liaison. Rome can come from the state in the irs. So very archaic, but it’s required in any state. And why pay for a registered agent? Because you do not want your personal address on public records, your phone number, your address, you want that privacy. We’ll post formation there, we have a recurring tax package and it’s not just a tax package. State filings, IRS tax filings, single member and multiple member LLCs. We can do US based foreign based owners, C corporations, we do bookkeeping as well. And as of now, that’s $2,200 a year or you can pay in monthly installments of $300. We’re also working
Sean Ellis 00:24:22 And that’s with the bookkeeping and the tax filing
Arjun Mahadevan 00:24:24 With bookkeeping and tax.
Sean Ellis 00:24:25 That’s way cheaper than I’m paying
Arjun Mahadevan 00:24:27 <laugh>. And the bundle allows us to bring down costs there. And the other thing too is we’re working on other offerings. So I mentioned a mail solution. Why, why do you need mail? You don’t wanna put your personal address on the website. You don’t want customers coming to your house, a virtual address. You can scan an open mail from anywhere in the world. You can have a suite address. What about a virtual business phone number as well? Hey, your business needs insurance. So to us, people ask us how do we think about the product roadmap? Not to sound naive, but customers make it very easy for us cuz we just listen to like exactly what they need in the process. And then we decide instead of build versus buy, should we build our partner? If customers need web server credits, we partner with companies like Amazon. If companies need a phone line, we work with companies like open phone. If they need a website, there’s services and tools they can go to as well.
Sean Ellis 00:25:12 Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. So the real advantage of kind of business inception businesses are that the, the amount of services and, and things that, that businesses are gonna need long-term are, are they’re there, there’s a lot there. And, uh, it’s just really hard to know who’s, who’s at the brink of starting a company. And so being able to offer that service and then guide them on all the other things that they’re gonna figure out that they need over time, but they, they have no established provider of those. So you really have a, a good opportunity to, to cross-sell a lot of things. And particularly if you can bundle them in a, in a subscription, um, then it’s even better. So yeah, that’s that’s awesome.
Ethan Garr 00:25:52 Yeah, I was, I was curious with that Arjun, um, do you ha do you get, are there feedback loops between you and your customers that let you in, uh, sort of see where they are in their, in their processes? Like, hey, they formed the business today, they’re probably gonna need these services now. Or hey that, you know, it’s tax time, we better help, you know, inform them of these things. I mean, are you, are you guys pretty data savvy in terms of how you, uh, do that customer success side of the business and grow the business? Uh, you know, for long-term retention,
Arjun Mahadevan 00:26:25 It’s absolutely critical. We provide an incredibly easy way for customers to contact us. We have live chat, do WhatsApp, Twitter and DM integrations, essentially. You can email us, message us online. If you have a question, you can chat with us. We have actually seven days a week support too. We joke, you know, your business doesn’t sleep, neither do we, we obviously sleep, but we literally have team members around the world in different time zones so that we can support customers at all times. So that’s critical. And what you’re bringing ups so, so vital where customers tell us all the time they want to work with us because they don’t know what they don’t know. They don’t know, hey that, and that’s what scares them too, is am I missing a filing? What should I be thinking about? So there are certain dates, if you’re filing a multiple member llc, tax return March 15th, single member tax, single member llc, non-US resident form 54 72 April 18th. So those dates we provide reminders. If you’re in Wyoming, you have a Wyoming annual statement
Sean Ellis 00:27:18 Of information. There
Arjun Mahadevan 00:27:20 We go. Yeah. You
Sean Ellis 00:27:20 Know as
Arjun Mahadevan 00:27:21 Well. Got all the dox,
Sean Ellis 00:27:22 I missed that one. <laugh>.
Ethan Garr 00:27:23 Yeah. Sean and I both have to, you know, lament daily what we have to go through to, uh, to manage our own, you know, our own businesses. It’s definitely, I mean, just the, you know, for, for any of our listeners who have not had the pleasure of forming their own business, the, just the, the drastic changes in your life once you form your own business, the num the amount of mail that starts coming to your house that says it’s important when it’s not the number of people who will send, uh, who will send, you know, basically fr fraudulent things. Yeah.
Sean Ellis 00:27:57 Pretend government information. Yeah,
Ethan Garr 00:27:59 Man, it’s, it’s, it’s insane. I mean, you know, I, I get just a few months ago I got something very, very realistic that looked like I had to s uh, do some sort of government filing and it’s, you know, it’s basically, yes, there’s a government filing, but they’re charging you to do something that literally you go online and click one thing,
Sean Ellis 00:28:17 <laugh> I’ll, I’ll give you a nightmare scenario that happened to me last year is that I somehow didn’t, didn’t file like my employee report or something because, you know, I pay myself through as, as an employee of my own company. And, uh, for the first month I didn’t pay it because I didn’t have any income and I didn’t pay anything. But then three years later of all that junky mail that’s coming in, I’m missing something that’s actually legitimate in the mix. And I act, the, the government went in and pulled out like $10,000 from my corporate account and I’m like, what the hell just happened? Where did it go? It took maybe eight or nine months to get it back because it was just simply because I didn’t file something that I needed to file. And, uh, yeah, so there like navigating, navigating all of that is, is super
Ethan Garr 00:29:13 Challenging. And if you have to get, I was just gonna say, if you have to get accountants or, or your accountants or attorneys involved, you may even if you get some that back, you may pay, you may give half of it
Sean Ellis 00:29:22 Back. Well that was exactly, I, I figured it out myself where my time has value on it, but I’m so dang cheap that I was like, I’m gonna figure this out myself. I’m gonna navigate all of this because I know my accountant’s gonna end up charging me thousands of dollars to figure out how to get $10,000 back. And so, but I, I still use thousands of dollars worth of hours to figure it out in terms of like with if I were, you know, billing my hours out, but somehow that felt like the better move for me. But <laugh> aside from that, I wanna go back to the, the real like business challenges for, for, um, for, for, uh, doola. I feel like the, the challenge that I would look at in this business is like, once I’ve got ’em, that’s great. I can hold their hand and navigate them through a lot of the challenges and, and provide a lot of services that are gonna be really critical for, for their success. How do you get ’em, like, that’s where it seems like the challenge would be, is that it,
Arjun Mahadevan 00:30:20 I I think one of you mentioned how do you know when someone’s gonna start a company? It’s not like, you know, when you turn a certain age, there’s a certain decision that you typically make or buy, et cetera. Um, it’s not like a stage in life rope. You’re gonna college typically you get your first car, whatever it might be.
Sean Ellis 00:30:34 Yeah, yeah, that’s right. You’re cranking out babies at this age. You get married at this age. Exactly.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:30:38 So how do you know when someone’s gonna start a business? You can’t or it’s not really effective to me to go to like coffee shops or Times Square and just tap on people’s shoulders and say, Hey, let me pitch you on this. Well, so what ends up being effective is what we call just in time user acquisition. And what that means is you have to literally be where the customer’s gonna be when they decide, now’s the time I’m gonna start researching or start this company. And oftentimes, and I’ll name a few of these things, starts with a Google search. So paid ads is something we run, but instead of giving money to Google, SEO is critical. And we, we’ve actually started to make some crazy, uh, bounds in seo. If you actually search pros and cons of Wyoming LLC number one search result. If you search IRS Ss four examples, we actually outranked the irs. Or if you search Dow llc, it’s a type of entity in Wyoming, we outrank the state of Wyoming. So Google search is a key one too. But the other big ones, you know, we’re pretty active on Twitter, LinkedIn, this is where people will hear about you and see, and then when they’re deciding to start a company, I said earlier, starting a company is a scary decision, but it’s actually quite impulsive. You actually are like, I’m not ready, I’m not ready, I’m doing this thing, it’s gonna happen. You
Sean Ellis 00:31:46 Open up. God. Literally my wife was out of the country, the first company I started and uh, she came back and I’m like, oh yeah, yep, just, I just raised venture capital and started a company while you were gone. <laugh> just, just
Arjun Mahadevan 00:31:57 Like that. Yeah. So people open up four or five tabs. We’ve seen the data too. Most purchases happen within the first session or visit to your website and people open up tabs, they’re doing their research. And the way you acquire customers then is through, obviously we offer competitive pricing. We can do that via the tech we built. It allows us to offer competitive costs. But the other big things are word of mouth and the brand value and why people can trust you. And that comes from many things. Any startup, there’s the battle. Why trust you? So investor backing helps, but end of day, I believe strongest form of marketing enterprise consumer is word of mouth and yeah. Yeah. The, the page we’re most proud
Sean Ellis 00:32:31 Of, we just ask your friend who started a company, it is gonna be founders. No founders, no, no, don’t go the legal zoom route, go this route, don’t go the lawyer route. And yeah. Yeah, that totally makes sense. Are
Ethan Garr 00:32:41 You really starting to see that word of fly, uh, word of mouth flywheel start to take effect?
Arjun Mahadevan 00:32:45 Yeah, and that’s the thing too. It’s, it’s slow at first. You know, they’re trickling and trickling in and then you start to see, oh, my friend told me about this. Or you see it randomly pop up on like a random LinkedIn post where someone recommends doola or a banking product that you offer too. So it takes time. But we actually just passed a thousand Trustpilot reviews and as a company, every week we look at two metrics growth. So we have recurring revenue and transactional revenue, and we look at our Trustpilot reviews every single week. We measure that growth rate as well. So for us it’s like internal to the company customer success and love measuring that as best as possible. And then obviously growth, which shows people trust us and are paying us money to take on these services too.
Sean Ellis 00:33:22 And, and obviously like with our shared background at Dropbox, like Dropbox is so well known for the referral program there, is there anything that you have done or are trying to do that uh, that uh, can, can provide some incentives to accelerate some of that word of mouth
Arjun Mahadevan 00:33:39 Dropbox? The space race, you know, they, they spread across campuses and I think the referral program was absolutely incredible there. We have not tapped into that enough here. We, we, it works here and we’re doing it. But to me I think that’s absolutely huge. Cause every founder knows other founders. You’re in WhatsApp groups, you’re in Facebook groups, um, and you asked your friends, you trust your friends on these decisions. So we’re very excited about that channel specifically, and I think that’s how this can really start to compound at a low customer acquisition cost too.
Sean Ellis 00:34:06 Absolutely. You know, I’m, I’m sorry, Ethan, I know you hear, you’re, uh, on the, but I’m, I’m actually, I just parallel. I’m, I’m in a space right now that is so similar to what you’re in. So I’ve actually looked at legal zoomo a lot, um, but I, I just announced yesterday on LinkedIn that I’m, I’m working with a company called Bounce that, uh, is in a, in a similar sense, it’s challenging because we’re, we’re targeting travelers and people, it’s, it’s not as infrequent as starting a company, but it’s still for most people, it’s, you know, a few times a year and being able to get in front of them at the right time. So our, our service is a, a luggage storage service that, um, you know, across 8,000 locations, uh, you, you know, we, you can use an app to book stores and hotels to leave a bag.
Sean Ellis 00:34:55 So most people don’t know that kind of service exists. And they, and, and even if they do, um, it’s, it’s just kind of hard to, for them to remember when they might actually need it. And so, um, you know, a lot of the challenges that you’re talking about are the ones I’m, I’m living day to day myself right now, but, uh, yeah, SEO and uh, and paid search are, are huge because if the intents there, you want to be able to intercept that intent. But exactly the same thing. If we can, if we can feed off of word of mouth of passionate customers and just as you’re saying business owners know other business or, you know, business owners know people who are likely to start businesses, you know, travel is a very social thing as well. And, uh, and, and people ask for advice and, and things like that, uh, with, with travel as well. And so, yeah, it’s, it’s interesting to see those parallels and uh, and it’s fun to figure it out cuz when you figure it out, it’s, it’s, uh, yeah, you know, can, can unlock a lot of ground.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:35:51 One thing I really wanna add here is one of you had mentioned earlier, hey, like I said, it’s very easy to start a formation business, which is true. And what each of you could actually start a formation business and something new we’ve launched is you could actually use doola to do that. White labeled. We, we actually call it our formation api. And what that is, is we built tech under the service, a customer comes through our signup flow, gives us a name, email address, entity information, and then we’ve built tech to take that information and form a company, spin up a bank account, help do taxes. So now we’ve packaged that and we can actually sell it to businesses. And I’ll give you an example. There’s a real estate company we work with called lofty.ai. They allow tokenized real estate investments and every property that’s listed needs an llc. And they started, they were doing manual formations in-house. They heard about us and said, wait a second, can doola power that formation for me? So now, now they just pass us the information and we programmatically conform companies. So to us it’s exciting because partnerships in this B2B motion really unlocks this new channel for growth for us where instead of a one-to-one sales motion, it’s sort of one to end and businesses can sell the product for you.
Ethan Garr 00:36:56 Just a, as you think about that, cuz you mentioned, you know, you mentioned like why is Legal Zoom so successful? They’ve built a successful brand. You’ve talked about how, uh, for you, like word of mouth, like that builds on itself, but it takes time. And like, so as you’re thinking about all the things you can do in prior prioritization in API and white labeling, your, your, your service, and I’m not disagree, I like, sounds like a great idea to me. I’m not, uh, but I’m curious, just your thought process in saying if other people are, are reselling our service and doola, the na the doola name falls off, uh, falls off the back end. Is that something we have to consider or do we have to think, okay, we have to work in parallel channels here and see what works and, and double down on, on where we’re going, what, what actually gains traction?
Arjun Mahadevan 00:37:44 It’s a very tough decision and interesting one because startups need to focus. The way we view it though is we’ve built the same tech. So there’s two different distribution channels. And interestingly enough, when we sell to businesses, a lot of them say, this is a process powered by doola. They actually want our brand associated with it. And that’s for the trust of, hey, we’re doing this formation thing, but it’s powered by this company. You can go check them out. Now we obviously do wholesale pricing, there’s an integration specifically, but to us there, I think it’s, it’s a very tough thing to balance. We wanna own that brand in the relationship, but the way we view it too is, hey, if someone’s programmatically forming hundreds or thousands of companies and they’re doing it through a lawyer and they’re gonna inform those companies anyway, if we can make that easier, it’s business for us. It’s a win-win for them and it’s a scalable solution with them too.
Ethan Garr 00:38:27 Sure. So like, and that sort of dovetails into, you know, you’re a couple years into this sounds like you’ve had excellent growth, you’ve raised raised some money, things are going really well as a, as a leader of this business, um, you know, what, how are you thinking about just team leadership and you know, getting everybody on, uh, in your, in the room on the same page, focused on the right metrics? Uh, like what, what’s, what’s been, what’s worked or not worked for you as you’ve been learning that
Arjun Mahadevan 00:38:56 A lot has worked. A lot hasn’t <laugh> and we’re, we’re working through that. This is part of the challenges of growing up as a company. I’d say personally the biggest transition has been when you start a company co-founder, now you do it all. And that’s part of a co-founding team build, you sell design, marketing, cs, um, I actually like bought on my phone. I don’t have it next to me, but I bought this phone stand, which has a clip like this and I would put it up with me anywhere so I could see customers messaging, I could respond. I used to go in and update the website. Now I do not touch it anymore. I can get feedback, but point being said, you do it all. And now at this point, yeah, it’s actually a disservice to the company. It’s not that, look, I think I’m good and I can learn things fast.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:39:33 It’s a disservice to the company if I’m trying to do everything. And I’m not saying I’m good at everything too, but point is the transition is the largest value now comes from hiring world-class talent and then setting them up for success with clear ownership. And me really thinking about here’s what we’re bullish on, here’s an initiative, here’s why we should go at it very hard. And then for myself, focusing on the highest leverage things that could be focusing on strategic partnerships, building our brand larger B2B sales, and then thinking about, hey, six months from now maybe we should launch this insurance product or a year from now, hey, we have this idea for this AI assistant, whatever it might be. So those are the types of things as a transition where instead of my days being a hundred percent pure execution, I’m still gonna execute and roll it by sleeves. But being really focused on what the most high impact thing I can do is.
Sean Ellis 00:40:19 Yeah. And, and in fact, if you can, I I think it’s a sign of a, a really good CEO who tries to make yourself redundant and uh, and not needed in, in a lot of different areas because ultimately the company can grow a lot more quickly if, if you’ve got people who are really good and trustworthy in those areas. And, and just as you said, the challenges in the, in the early days, you’re doing everything. And so it’s a matter of saying like, okay, I’m no longer doing this. I’m no longer, the more you can clear those things off your plate, the more you can free yourself up for those really super high value add, uh, areas to focus on. And so it’s, uh, and, and I was just looking at the growth of the, the team. I mean, it’s more than doubled in the last year it looks like. And so, um, these things are happening in real time every day while you’re prioritizing and, and trying to keep, you know, probably a ton of time on recruiting and yeah, it’s, uh, it’s, it, it, there’s a a million balls in the air
Arjun Mahadevan 00:41:17 Changing, changing the car tires as we’re trying to floor and go even even faster. So the analogy’s cheesy, but it really feels like that.
Ethan Garr 00:41:24 But you know, I think you bring up a good point. Like one of the things I’ve, one of the terms I’ve poorly coined is the step back leader, um, which is I think like, uh, really good heads of growth, uh, or growth leadership executives. What they’re really good at being is doing, and I, Sean and I have talked about this, is being the person to step back in the room and look at the big picture and ask the the questions like, Hey, do we need to run this, that experiment to get this learning? Um, is this the highest leverage opportunity we, we should focus on? Um, and really being able to kind of look at the big picture. And I do think for startup founders, that can be a challenge because you do start in that role where you, you can’t just step back because you gotta do everything, right.
Ethan Garr 00:42:06 There’s no one else to do it in the, in the beginning. But there is this transition and, you know, and you know, just the language you’re using, it’s like, you know, the language that gets Sean and I like makes our hair stand on end in a good way, which is like, you know, when you talk about the highest leverage opportunities and f you know, and focus, I think that’s so critical, um, for effective growth. And I, especially as you start to achieve breakout growth, success, I mean, Sean just alluded to just your team growth. When you’re growing that fast, um, sometimes you gotta just kind of hold on for dear life as you lead. So I think those are the, those become really important skills and, um, hard to, to, to learn without making lots of mistakes in, in the, uh, in the interim <laugh>
Arjun Mahadevan 00:42:47 A absolutely, and that’s, that’s the thing where mistakes are okay, but the truth is for startups, you can’t afford to sometimes make these mistakes. Time is limited and time and speed is your greatest asset. So I, what I’ve learned during this experience is the best way to avoid that is to investors who’ve seen things before and then talent joining your team with experience. And you know, there’s definitely this transition to have, we, we joined in, I I knew nothing about L L C formation, C-corp formation, EIN’s banking taxes. Now I joke, but I actually don’t joke. I think I could be a cpa, an international tax cpa, <laugh>, I, I think I know enough now in a second life, but
Sean Ellis 00:43:22 You missed calling. I’m sure that’d be way more exciting, <laugh> <laugh>.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:43:25 But the point is like now, uh, we, we should go out and hire, if we need an international tax cpa, we should do that. So the experience is critical. And then investors, advisors, awesome podcasts like this and other resources, using that knowledge to learn best practices and sort of, you know, peek around the corners you don’t know exist, but then applying that to your startup because time is so critical, really, I, I always like to think, you know, instead of months and years, let’s think in terms of days and weeks, and that’s really the time period when we can really push things forward for the company.
Sean Ellis 00:43:55 Yeah. So one of the, the the kind of interesting backdrops to, as you’re doing all of this, obviously the, the world is transitioning from kind of, you know, Dropbox is a classic example of, you know, this massive beautiful office in San Francisco that’s mostly empty now is it’s moved to being, you know, all virtual. How have, how have you kind of navigated the, the, the virtual versus the, the, the benefits of, uh, in, in an office together and riffing off of everybody, riffing off of each other, are, what’s, what’s your philosophy there?
Arjun Mahadevan 00:44:27 For our business specifically, we knew from the get go we would need a global team. Our customers are all over the world and simply for time zones, we needed people awake, literally just awake to be able to respond to messages. Now obviously we want talented folks across the board, but we knew from the get-go that we would need a structure with hubs or at least people in multiple places. So the way we’ve structured things is we have an in-person hub in New York, that’s where I’m based here on the east coast, we have an in-person hub in Hamburg, Germany, so in Europe, six hours ahead. And then we have for team members who are distributed around the world, specifically sales, customer success, and then engineering. And I think there’s a couple things here end of day it comes down to at least I think what you personally enjoy as well.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:45:07 We’re, we’re building the company, we’re going through this, and I very much love feeding off and being in person with the folks too. But for our business, again, it’s critical to be able to scale and work with a global team as well. So given this structure, we call it hub and spoke, you know, we have these hubs, we have distributed team members, but um, you know, in New York, we’re in person here, but we wanna have the opportunity for the global team to come together, offsites all hands, you know, multiple times at least weekly, and then in person at least throughout the year to really come together and, you know, build those relationships in person and then be able to execute with trust and confidence too. Mm-hmm.
Sean Ellis 00:45:38 <affirmative>. Yeah. It seems really similar to the model we have at at Bounce.
Ethan Garr 00:45:42 One, one thing that struck me is you just mentioned that right from the get-go, you knew you were gonna have to be distributed, you knew you were gonna be having, having to serve customers all over the world. How did you know that from the beginning? Like to me, if I were like, if I were starting a formation business, it would never cross my mind that people out of outside of the US would wanna form us businesses. Like, am I, am I just dumb or Sean, don’t answer that. Or <laugh> uh, or like, was there something about your, your, you know, your experience growing up or something that told you that that was gonna be a big part of this?
Arjun Mahadevan 00:46:19 We actually, when we were going through Y Combinator, we were a non-US team. My co-founder was based in Germany at the time. And that means you’re viewed as this international team because you have a member of the team without a social. And in the, even in the YC batch, we saw how many companies from outside the US were looking to go into Y Combinator. And to do that you need a Delaware C Corp. And that was again, the venture back perspective. We completely, you know, hidden in plain sight was how big this global SMB economy is too. And we realized they were even more underserved. We realized incumbents in the space actually do not serve you unless you have a social or if you live in the US just completely say, Hey, sorry, we won’t serve you. You have to prepare the forums on your own.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:46:56 And then we, we thought, why is that the case? And we realized it’s cuz it is a bit more complex. I’ll give you an example. There’s a form you need called an e i n to get a bank account you first need a company, then e i m if you have a social, you can apply online on the IRS’s website. You still have to navigate a pretty clunky form. It looks like it was made in the AOL era, but you can do it online. If you do not have a social get this, you still have to fax a form to the IRS and it takes eight to 11 weeks to get back. Those are current timelines. You can expedite it by using this thing called the CIA, a Certified Acceptance Agents. But all of that is complex. Now we’ve built ways to automate it and bring it down, but there’s opportunity there. Like these are legitimate entrepreneurs who weren’t being served. And now other companies are starting to realize it. But the way we view it is there’s this massive opportunity globally and then also in the US too. And we saw that paint ourselves and realized they were underserved and we didn’t really like it. You know, cuz we felt like that was us and we were underserved and we thought, let’s go help out these people. Right?
Sean Ellis 00:47:53 I love that. And it, and it’s probably one of those things that, um, it’s a huge market to gain traction in, but for the, for the legal zooms and the, the, the other kind of ones that have now become sort of the established, uh, formation companies, they probably look at it and it’s just not that interesting to get that all figured out and there’s enough, you know, market to go after in, in the us and so they, they kind of left it un untapped. And then, uh, and then for, for you to be able to, to, to go after like the most underserved market and build some really good traction, there is, is a, is a great starting spot. So that’s, uh, that’s cool.
Ethan Garr 00:48:33 <laugh>. It just, it really seems, um, you know, that, and we, uh, Sean and I have seen this with a few other companies before that one of the things that, that must be helpful for you as, as a business is the success of your clients is directly tied to your success. Like, if, if someone opens up it forms a business but never does anything with it, not gonna really create a lot of long-term value for doola. But if the more you can help them solve these problems, the better it’s, the more likely it is that they’ll focus on the things that will grow their business so that they can f have new needs that you guys can serve. And it seems very cyclical. So, uh, I’m just curious, is that, has that been a big part of your, of your thinking on this
Arjun Mahadevan 00:49:16 Spot on, if our customer’s business dies, so does our business. If, if that happens to all of our customers. So their growth is literally our growth. We have to do whatever it takes to help their businesses grow. And step zero of that value proposition is outsource this to us. Yes, you can do it, you’re a founder, but is it really the best use of your time? We’ve done this thousands of times, let us handle this unsexy at critical back office and let the founders focus on what they do best. Building product, selling, talking to users, which is the hardest thing. There’s no formula for that alone, but let us take the cookie-cutter stuff and handle it and let them help there. Now we also wanna help there, and I’ll give you some examples of how we tactically do that. We are building a megaphone through our social channels.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:49:56 We like to actively promote our founders companies, it helps them get customers. There’s a network they can learn from other communities and or other customers within our network too, offering them discounts on SaaS tools to get their business off the ground. So we don’t like to take this passive view of, hey, they formed with us, best of luck. We genuinely think our existence can make it more likely their business can succeed. But here’s the truth, 20 to 40% of small and medium businesses die every year. And that’s organic churn. Starting a business is really hard. And given that that just means that we need to be able to acquire customers at a low enough cost just given those economics, but we genuinely believe, like if it’s 20 to 40%, if you form a doola, can we make it 10 to 30%? And we genuinely believe that’s possible.
Sean Ellis 00:50:38 Yeah. And I, I think there’s another piece there too that’s not just about like good business, which is, which is really critical, but it’s about what, what motivates you day to day? What drives you day to day and the mission of knowing that you’re, you’re helping these businesses get off the ground and actually survive and, and creating all the, all the, you know, jobs and, and fulfillment and all the things that, that happen with those successes. That’s gotta feel really good to, to just, you know, get you outta bed in the morning. And, uh, versus versus a business that you maybe don’t feel like is, is offering that much good in the world. It’s, it’s a little harder to sustain, uh, passion and energy for it in the long run.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:51:21 Yeah, I I completely agree. And sometimes it’s, and I fall victim to this too, and even externally, a lot of people see our website or sometimes I think we’re just forming companies and guess that is the wedge offering. And yes, over time it’ll be unburnable, you can come to different things, but the truth is, it’s not forming a company. It’s really, and we hear this directly in trust, pilot reviews. It’s making a dream come true. People dream about this for a long time, and a lot of founders didn’t even know it was possible to start a company in the US and it’s a lifelong dream. They have customers now, their families are involved. So, so many more people are impacted than we originally thought. And just seeing people say, oh my God, doola and this person on our team, you made this dream come true that that literally never gets old.
Sean Ellis 00:52:03 Yeah, that’s awesome. And that’s, and that, and that creates a lot of the, uh, gravity that, that attracts really good talent to work with you and, and, and ultimately, you know, spins that flywheel of, of creating a, a big successful business long term. And, uh, as we, as we get tight on time, I think that’s a just a really good message to, to, to end with. We, we have one question that we always like to, to end with that we’ll get to. But, um, the, but just that, that idea of like having something that is so worthwhile that you’re gonna put in all of that, that difficult, uh, energy to, to, to figure it out and, um, and that, that over time that that’s, that you can sustain that energy because it, it is so important. Um, but the question that we like to end on, go ahead Ethan. You hit it.
Ethan Garr 00:52:51 <laugh>. All right. One last question before we wrap up. What do you feel like you understand about growth now that maybe you didn’t understand as well a couple years ago, maybe before, you know, as you’re starting this?
Arjun Mahadevan 00:53:02 When I was at Dropbox, I was a retention PM and I was very focused on, obviously to grow. There’s multiple things you can acquire new customers, so more customers coming to you paying the same price, uh, revenue expansion. So those customers can pay you more. You can ups cross sell them, add new products, or you can have less customers churn. So if lesser, lesser churning, then you keep more revenue. So I was very focused on that tail end, which at Dropbox was huge. It was growing, it was growing. And if you can even have a percentage point or half a percentage point impact there millions in error for the business. And I was blessed to have the opportunity to work on some projects there, which really had a huge impact. But I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is that I personally had experience in our retention side, but it’s been really fun for me and challenging to understand everything from, and as a startup, we don’t have at Dropbox, there was a full growth team.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:53:50 I guess when you were there, Sean, there was, you know, eight people at Dropbox. Each team had maybe eight people, right? There’s a growth PM on each vertical, and at a startup you don’t have that. So comes back to what I love YouTube, pushing that, or even just said this idea of what’s the most high leverage thing. It me might mean we can’t work on referrals and activation and new upsell opportunities and retention all at once, but how, what insight, what’s the cheapest way or the best experiment we can do to get the insight and what should be focused on right now? That’s been challenging. It’s obviously something, and when you’re, when you’re a startup growing fast, you can afford to make like very dumb mistakes. I’ll, I give you an example. We realized that our free consultation bought, or Calendly wasn’t working, so people just hadn’t scheduled calls for four days.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:54:34 We usually get like 20 plus a day and we are like, oh my God, we didn’t do that and we still grew faster than we grew the previous week. So all those types of small things, <laugh>, uh, it’s fun to see that growth and make those, you know, dumb mistakes. But, uh, overall I would say the biggest thing I didn’t know is you just have to be hyper-focused around each of these verticals. And it’s been fun for me to roll up message and think about signup low optimizations, how important copy is. Like it’s wild. We’ve tried things where buttons from all caps to lo lowercase has impact and the conversion copy. So it’s a whole interesting world and it’s been really awesome to work with talented folks to just really help own each of those verticals, Sam.
Sean Ellis 00:55:09 Yeah. Fantastic. So, um, I, I, I think we could probably talk for five more hours and, and, uh, all enjoy it, but, uh, <laugh>, we, uh, we, we all, we all gotta get out there and execute too. So <laugh>, um, thank you so much RJ for sharing the, the story. Um, doola sounds like a fantastic company, uh, and I’m, I’m excited that you have that nice round of funding that you have in there to keep, keep building on the momentum and, uh, we’ll, we’ll have you back on hopefully to, uh, to, to share the story in another year or two about, you know, all the, all the amazing companies that you’ve helped bring to market by, uh, having such a, such a powerful platform for, for new businesses to emerge on.
Ethan Garr 00:55:51 Yeah, really grateful that you, uh, you know, were able to share some of this with us and, you know, talk about everything from the passion, uh, you know, that’s, you know, the passion behind the mission, how that alignment with customers is pushing growth and how, you know, leadership really is about that high, finding those high leverage opportunities and being able to step back and see, you know, see the big picture. So really fun conversation and, uh, glad we glad we, uh, we came across each other. Ar
Arjun Mahadevan 00:56:15 Yeah. Tha thank you so much. This was a ton of fun. And, um, we’re, we’re beyond blessed to have support from customers, support from investors. And what, what I, I like to tell the team is we’re obviously blessed and, you know, people congratulate us on raising the round of funding, but I like to think of it as, it’s like congratulating a chef for buying ingredients. We’ve got the ingredients, we can buy a lot more ingredients, but now it’s time to start cooking. So, uh, good thing, we have a lot of cooks on the team. We have a Slack channel where people post meals, so a lot of hard work ahead of us, but really, really excited for what’s in, what’s to come in front of us and really, really nice to chat with you two today.
Sean Ellis 00:56:47 Yeah. And Justin, but I, I do want to touch on that one piece. I mean, yeah, you don’t wanna celebrate fundraising too much, but it’s a really tough fundraising environment right now, and I see a lot of great founders that are hitting that wall and, and it takes real quality to attract, to attract funding these days. And so it, it means that you, uh, there there’s a lot of really good things that you’re doing to be able to, to, to bring in that funding and, uh, yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s hard to keep going without, without fuel in the tank. And so, um, we’re, we’re excited to see where you take it from here and for everyone tuning in. Thank you for listening.
Arjun Mahadevan 00:57:23 Thanks very much. Thanks everyone.
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