EP 259 – Paul Meinshausen – co-Founder and CEO of Aampe – Awareness Comes from Attention

by | Feb 22, 2023

Some of the topics that Paul discussed:

  • Being sharply focused on consumer app companies
  • The impact of the change in the funding landscape in 2022
  • Where Aampe‘s products fit in its customers’ minds
  • The importance of every business identifying the right customer
  • Helping other businesses focus on profitability

Some other titles we considered for this episode:

 
  1. There Are So Many Dimensions to How One Can Think About Growth
  2. Enjoy the Joy that People Feel Whenever They Discover Something
  3. The Odds Are Stacked Against You
  4. Actually, Ignorance Is Bliss
  5. You Swim In a River of Fear and Doubt
Read the best-effort transcript

Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):

Michael Waitze 0:10
We are on. Hi. This is Michael Waitze and welcome back to the Asia Tech Podcast. Today, we could not be happier to welcome back Paul Meinshausen, a co-Founder and the CEO of Aampe. And just a super, what would you say, experienced entrepreneur, I really want to dig deeper into that, actually, as we go on. Paul, thank you so much for coming back to the show. I really appreciate it. I think we just missed the window, by the way, and I was thinking about this before we started recording for saying “Happy New Year” because it’s February, what do you think? Like, what’s your opinion on this?

Paul Meinshausen 0:41
Yeah, I’ve sort of the kind of gradually reduced the times I say Happy New Year to someone I haven’t written since 2022. It’s interesting. There’s actually an interesting dynamic underlying that. But yeah, and no, no. And also just even in terms of, are you referring to 2023? Are you referring to you know, Lunar New Year, right?

Michael Waitze 1:02
Well, I’ve had this too. And I find this super interesting. I mean, I’ve been in Asia for 30 something years now, I’m not Asian, per se. But people have actually been on a call with me and said, Oh, I forgot to wish you Happy Chinese New Year, like it’s, it’s me. Just a guy from Connecticut.

Paul Meinshausen 1:18
Yeah it’s funny, maybe you live here long enough, and it becomes, you know, part of the rhythm of your life. You absolutely build your calendar around it a little bit. You’re aware of it and you celebrate it. So

Michael Waitze 1:32
no, I agree. I look, I take it in the most respectful way. I just find it ironic that like some kid from Connecticut is being wished Happy Chinese New Year, I do it in reverse as well. So it’s perfectly fine with me. Anyway, the last time we did this, and I couldn’t believe it actually. Right. Because I feel like we just spoke. It was July of 2021. Can you believe it? Was that long ago? Seriously?

Paul Meinshausen 1:55
No, that was many lifetimes ago.

Michael Waitze 2:00
Feels like it?

Paul Meinshausen 2:02
I don’t even know I think I was I must have been in Singapore at that time. But maybe just back to Singapore.

Michael Waitze 2:08
I think so to actually I didn’t like listen to the whole last episode, I just want to see what the date was. But you know, we always talk about getting the smartest people back on the show, you definitely fall into that category. And I just can’t believe it’s taken this long to get you back anyway.

Paul Meinshausen 2:20
I appreciate it. Well, I’ve I’ve also enjoyed all the folks you’ve had on in the intervening time and don’t get to always listen to everything, but definitely drop in frequently and, and enjoy the conversations,

Michael Waitze 2:34
I really appreciate it, we should definitely do more of this, we can talk about that after we’re done recording. I want to go through a little bit of what happened in 2022 with you and just like what’s happened with amp itself, and then kind of transition into what that means for 2023. You want to just maybe catch me up personally, about like, where you were when we spoke in 2021, if you can remember a little bit, but more importantly, like where you were at the end of 2022?

Paul Meinshausen 3:01
Yeah, so there’s so many dimensions to how one could think about growth and progress over time, in terms of the company, and we’d founded amp in the late summer or the fall of 2020. Just for you know, my I’m assuming almost everyone doesn’t have any context and hasn’t heard that earlier episode. So we found it and then and it is a an AI SAS business. And it’s we’re very sharply focused on mobile consumer mobile app companies. And what we do is, is use AI to highly optimized and contextualize and personalize all of their outbound messaging, and dynamically incorporate the content that they’re already producing, whether that’s in their retail inventory, or their, whatever they sell, whatever they show, we take that and we turn it into message content, we turn it into message UI, and then push that to users. And so any any business in 2022, or 2023, that has a mobile app is called has to be thinking about how their app plays a role in their customers day to day life. And that is not no longer about what happens inside the app. Because nobody is sitting in an app all the time, navigating it, you know, running through all the features. They drop in very momentarily to finalize the transaction to finalize the purchase description, purchase decision. But the majority of their thinking and interacting is actually very quick with the app. It’s just sort of checking if something is available. And then it’s all of the thought process that happens before you go to the app. Just imagine a travel app. Yeah, you think about your travel and then you booked the travel. You don’t think about the travel while you’re in the app too much. And so how can apps participate in that part of the journey of the user journey of the customer experience of their shopping, instead of just helping them facilitate the buying, we can kind of create that distinction between shopping, which is everything we do mentally and thoughtfully and behavioral and socially, that leads up to buying something. So am does that. And we started in late 2020. And when we spoke in July of 2021, we had just done a kind of the public launch of so we set up our website, and we’d already been working with companies. But we, this is where we sort of said now it’s a little more open and available.

Michael Waitze 5:35
I can’t get away from this, this feeling of if we had spoken back in 2021. When you when you did this kind of soft launch right with some of the partners with whom you’re working this idea of AI SAS, it just do you feel like in retrospect, it was early and that something happened in 2022 or just one? And now like everybody gets it better? Is that fair? Or am I just mischaracterizing that?

Paul Meinshausen 6:02
I don’t know. I think it’s sort of like when you’re a fish. Or rather, who the who the philosopher 20th century philosopher kind of came up with that analogy originally, right? But we you don’t see the water. And I’ve, I’ve been building software since I left academia and government, ya know. And I’ve always been actually on the data science machine learning side. So in science, I’ve always been building machine learning that does software that does machine learning, or vice versa. And thinking about it from a product perspective. So there’s not that too much new to me. And I’ve seen this, I’ve seen kind of different, you know, sigh hype cycles. In 2013, when I was working for a big company called Teradata, I remember, trends between 14 and enterprise data and everything was about big data and a dupe particular technology. And every company, every large enterprise needed a dupe cluster, and, you know, and that, of all things, new things that become old, very fast, today’s world. So yeah, like, I think, but But what I’ve also learned as an entrepreneur, especially more recently, is not to worry too much about whether something is old or new, and not to kind of try to teach the market that oh, I’ve been in this, you know, so long, I’ve seen everything and just like enjoy the joy that people feel whenever they discover something, right. And so this is really cool fund in the US called storm ventures, and the founder of that has this concept of catching a wave. And when you’re an early stage startup, you need attention. Because especially if you’re building software, it’s probably some form of innovation. And by almost by definition, people don’t need it. Right. Right. Because their existing businesses, they’ve always run without it, how could they need something that, like, need needs something that, by definition, they’ve already existed without it, right? That’s impossible. So to get them to adopt, you may be solving a pain for them, you know, hopefully, you’re solving a pain for them, you may be making their life better, but they still have to become aware of it before they can adopt it. And awareness comes from attention. So if everyone is paying attention to AI, that’s, that’s great. You ride that wave, it’s not because you’re just joining the hype. It’s just because that’s just the nature of of building and business. It’s really hard. And so, yeah, so I think, I think and even in 2021, or 22, there’s a lot of AI startups, etc. But I think even just since this past fall, when open AI, released GPT, which was just really a conversational wrapper on top of an earlier technology that was already available. And you know, and then just a response in terms of attention. And awareness has been really notable, both in amp, and in many of the companies that I’ve invested in as a as an angel investor. And with friends, companies, etc. And just in the market, you can just see it. So you brought

Michael Waitze 9:14
it up. And I didn’t want to get into this kind of rabbit hole of chat GPT and Dolly and stuff like that. But I mean, you did raise it for someone like you and frankly, for someone like I am, it’s not a big surprise. And you’re right, it is just a wrapper on top of the already existing technology. And frankly, if you asked open AI and if you speak to Sam Altman, he’ll just say, Yeah, this is cool. But even when GBT four comes out you’re gonna be disappointed if you believe all the hype and I like this way you put this this idea of look, I always say discovery is the biggest problem for any company, right? You can be building the most amazing thing but if nobody knows you’re building it then it doesn’t really matter. Right? It’s this whole whole concept of if a tree falls in the forest, does it actually make a sound kind of thing? Yeah. And, and I agree with you like you can be building building buildings. Just because the rest of the world somehow finds out that artificial intelligence is cool through GPT doesn’t change the trajectory or the desire for you to keep building what you’re doing. Does that make sense? Or are you just going on to build something? Do you think it solves a problem that companies will have? And to me, that’s way more important? Yeah.

Paul Meinshausen 10:19
Yeah. And I think, actually, especially for early stage founders, it’s this. It’s this transformational moment, when you realize it’s not about whether your product objectively improves the world. Yeah, it doesn’t like that is not the the only or even as a main thing, that’s table stakes that you have to have that, right. But it has to improve the world in a way that is aligned with not just people’s needs, right, it has to be aligned with their attention. Because every person, every business has many, many, many, many needs. And most of those needs are not being addressed many, many ways that they could theoretically improve their business. And most of those opportunities are not being addressed. What determines what gets addressed? It’s attention, it’s awareness. Right? Where are they thinking? Like, what are they thinking? What is the CTO thinking about? What are the CEO thinking about? And so you have to kind of read those waves of attention, and then see how closely you can align with them. And if, if they’re aligned, if their alignment is really artificial, right, if like, your product actually doesn’t do anything close to what the attention wave is about. You can try and wave it, but probably sooner rather than later you get discovered and and also just, if you’re an authentic entrepreneur, you’ll just realize that you’re kind of faking it and, and it just won’t work well. And so you kind of have to find the wave that is closest to what you’re doing or slightly move your product in the direction of what that attention is saying. The problem is about and there’s always many ways it’s not one, it’s not as if charging for tea is what the whole world is about. There’s other ways around the crater economy around, you know, remote work, there’s so many things, you know, positive developments and negative developments as well in the world that you can build for, I think, but but recognizing that attention is not this. Neither unimportant nor kind of just cheap. Hype, you know, which is the latest lesson I learned, right? It’s just like, matters. And it’s not just about silly marketing.

Michael Waitze 12:30
Do you want to go back to where you were? You were? So we Yes,

Paul Meinshausen 12:33
I was saying it’s okay. It’s a year later, and are a little more than more than a year later, right? I guess, year and a half later. 2022 was, wow, so much growth in 2022. And, as I said before, on many dimensions. But in terms of MAMP, we grew extraordinarily in terms of customers, and in terms of users going through our system. And our product has grown a tremendous amount as well. And it’s grown in a way that I didn’t, I didn’t predict in 2022, not just in terms of scale, but in terms of direction. So like how we thought about what we needed to solve for. And I think probably an interesting dimension, at some point to talk about is is, is this is this fact that for most of 2021, and then into the first part of 2022, the world was in a particular place in terms of the availability of capital and availability of kind of funding and creating the resources for growth. Yeah, that is very substantially changed in the second half of 2022. And first part 2023. And what I think is just specific to amps experiences that because we’d raised in 2020. And could have raised in 2021, but just wasn’t Top of Mind priority for me. And we had investors and I spoke to investors were like, Yeah, you should raise in this wave. And we didn’t. And, and so we now face startups who didn’t face different problems and startups who did right and both have challenges. You raise it a big valuation, you raise a lot of capital, and Bucha, kind of in order to keep your vote. And I want to go into the technicalities of raising and I’ve early stage startups, but basically, where we were solving a different set of problems, then then startups who did so I just kind of giving that from a company perspective. And frankly, I met and then it’s not just confirmation bias, but I’m I’m glad I’m glad we were in that position because the core problems we face today are much more close to our business and less about, you know, how do we achieve a rate of growth that is, you know, that is unsustainable, or how do we fund have we been funding growth in a way that’s unsustainable. So So yeah, 2022 was, was a was an exciting year, and 2023 is looking to be Yeah, I would say even more excited.

Michael Waitze 15:02
Because a lot of people asked me, right, like, how do you monetize this? How do you make money and stuff like that, and you said, you were gonna make money this way. But the product changed. And now you’re making money another way not to be too explicit about it, right? But you said, the product grew. And the product suite probably grew in a way that you didn’t anticipate. I think this is really important for other entrepreneurs to understand, if you don’t mind, maybe you can walk me through a little bit of like, what we expected to build, and maybe what we ended up building where that product actually went in a way that was kind of unanticipated, I can share my side with you if you want, but I’m just curious about, you know, yeah, we’d

Paul Meinshausen 15:34
love to hear and I’m sure listeners would as well, some of those stories, I’ll just, I’ll just clarify for a second. It’s not we didn’t change the, we changed. And we learned a lot about how to develop and position the product, I wouldn’t necessarily say we were making revenue or differently than we would have. Fair enough. We’ve just learned that where the product fits into our customers minds, we just learned a lot about that during that year. Okay. And we continue to do so. But I will, I will emphasize that. And actually, in many ways, the broader economic process, you know, situation that the world is in in terms of the recession, in terms of inflation, and things like that, in terms of reduced funding, which affects many of our customers, in terms of their marketing, spend, etc, right, as actually positioned. Really well, we are better suited for this climate, then we were for the 2020 and 2021. Climate, because because when people think of when eight out of 10, people think of growth, they think of acquiring users, technically speaking, they think of app downloads, I think new customers, that’s where most of the money in the world is spent, right. And amp just doesn’t really solve for that problem. And so now, though, with reduced budgets, with greater focus on profitability with, you know, more expensive capital in the world, people have to think about profitability, which is something that’s generated from customers over time, you don’t get a person to download an app, and then they have a transaction in week one, and you’ve paid back your customer acquisition cost, it just doesn’t work like that. And, and even if you did, you know, paying back the cost is not what you need to do as a business, you have to generate profit, right? So that means second, third, fourth transaction, it means better value from the for that customer than you were getting before. And that’s where the world is focused now. And that’s exactly what am solves for. So in that sense, we we’ve we’ve been, we benefit from this climate. Incredibly, do you do you think

Michael Waitze 17:39
most and this is maybe a little bit off track, but I’m curious what you think in your interactions with other founders that are in Singapore, and frankly, in the rest of the world? Do you think most founders actually have a decent enough understanding of macroeconomics so that when talk of inflation happens, and the US Federal Reserve says we’re going to start raising interest rates, that they understand what the impact is on their ability to raise money, and what the value of that money actually is? Right? In other words, plenty of venture capitalists will still tell you, they’re still raising money, and they still have money left over from their previous funds, but their expected returns because of higher interest rates, and the relative returns are just different. You’re smiling, right? But do you think everybody actually understands this? Or

Paul Meinshausen 18:18
no, no, absolutely not? Absolutely not. They don’t understand it. You know, I barely understand it. Just because I come from more of an economics background. My wife was an economist at the World Bank, and she understands for sure. So I it’s not that, but so so no, they don’t understand it. Theoretically, would have helped them. Yes, at the margins. But actually, ignorance is bliss. And I would actually say that they have so many problems to address when I speak to early stage founder, who’s just raising an angel round or something like that, right? There, like nine 90% of them have never even spoken to many investors before, like the concept of capital is different, right? So I spent a few years with an early stage fund in India and India and Southeast Asia. So I’ve spoken to lots of LPs from Hong Kong to Abu Dhabi and Dubai to to India in the US and Dotco University endowments. So I’ve even seen the upstream of venture capital, but most in most founders have not even talked really to venture funds. Yeah, they call it Vc as if it was this this entity, you know, like, you know, consistent entity, and rather than just a bunch of individual investors, organized around individual organizations, so they don’t have that, but you know, what, they don’t need to know all that stuff. And that’s the beauty of being an early stage founder. The odds are stacked against you. If you make it through, it’s because you had a lot of luck on your side. And more importantly, you had a lot of persistence on your side. Yeah, and Frank Believe it doesn’t matter if you make it through because the experience is going to is going to be a good one for you. I hope and I believe and I’ve seen so many instances of that being true. So what you need to solve for is what is your customer want? And who’s the next person that looks like your customer? And how to find them? Yeah. And in that sense, I would almost like tune out the noise of what the Fed is doing and what inflation is doing. Like, that’s something for you to retrospect on five or 10 years from now and be like, Ah, I see, here’s what happened. You know, when you’re Cozido for the book, you know, and Britain’s a founder, it’s probably more like 15 or 20 years from now, five or 10 years from now. But that’s for retrospection. I don’t think that’s for active day to day awareness.

Michael Waitze 20:46
Do your angel investments change the way you look at the way you build your own company? Do you know what I mean? Is it a window on to Alaska, your

Paul Meinshausen 20:54
main reason I do it, I’ve been fortunate to be, at least theoretically, if I am financially successful at early stage investing, it takes a long time to be actually successful at Angel investing, for sure. And I mean, for it to be I’m not sort of spending money to spend money, but but the main reason I do it, rather than investing in real estate, or you know, putting money to work elsewhere is, is is the learning. And it’s the opportunity to kind of just see, see that journey. And, and and not just from, you know, try this or try that or build your business model this way, or go to market this way. Or this is how you do early stage sales, all that stuff you can learn. But it’s more the mental journey and the emotional journey and just the energy that you get from it. So yeah, it definitely changes how I build them. Do you

Michael Waitze 21:52
ever get the sense because you said like, this is a fight, it’s not a five year timeframe, right? Maybe it’s a 15 year timeframe? In the interim, when you’re building and even though you’ve built successful things, and you’ve also invested in successful things? Do you have moments of doubt? Do you have moments of fear where you’re like, I’ve committed to this entire infrastructure of building this thing? I have people working for me, I’ve got clients that rely on me. What if this doesn’t work? Do you know what I mean?

Paul Meinshausen 22:17
I mean, I would flip it around, it’s more like you swim in a river of fear and doubt. And you have moments of clarity, of confidence. And yet, and you know, what I do is I float in a canoe of confidence. And what I’m confident in everyday, what I’m incredibly grateful to not have ever doubted, is my co founders and the majority and our team, the majority of who I’ve worked with many companies before. And I’ve I’ve never had, like I just the core thing for me is I want to work with them. Right. And so it doesn’t really matter a lot, a lot of times, the details don’t matter. It’s like we’re working together, and we’re building something. So I’ve never had doubt about that. And I’ve never had doubt about the core technological improvement and value of what we’re building. It’s just obvious. It’s like, sometimes I’ll be talking, I was speaking to a professor at Columbia University, in the business school works between business school and data science about six months ago, and we were chatting over coffee, and you’re just like, you know, from a theory perspective, it what you guys are building is exactly how messaging should happen. And there’s nothing like obviously, you should do it that way. And so this is like, yeah, it’s no, no, no experienced data, scientists would look at our technology. We’re like, oh, yeah, that every time. It’s the problem is just that marketers don’t know that. And CRM, people don’t know that. So I’ve never had doubt about that. I know, there’s no almost days it’s nope, product risk, from my perspective there. But there’s business risk is there’s complexity risk. So that’s where all my doubt and uncertainty is. And where I’m trying to constantly address is like, how can we reduce that uncertainty? How can I reduce it? And then in terms of like, personal fear and doubt, yeah, well, I’m way over my head. Like I’ve never, I built a company before, but entirely on the technical side, I’ve never built the business as the CEO as the as the person primarily doing the sales. Man, there’s so many dimensions to this that I’ve not done before. And I’m in over my head. So of course, I have doubt. And it’s, it’s, it’s about the end, it’s about getting being okay with that just being very uncomfortable with uncomfort. Very comfortable with discomfort, discomfort.

Michael Waitze 24:28
You’ve really touched on something that I’ve experienced a lot. And I really was not able to put words to it. But this idea of like swimming in a river of fear and having these periodic moments of particular got it, and then going right back into the river of fear. Yes, such because it’s reverse, right. It’s not like every now then I feel like I don’t know what I’m doing. It’s constantly I feel like, this is so scary. And every now and then you come up for air and you’re like, I think it’s going to be okay. And then you just dive right back in. Yeah, you know, you’re still early in the building of amp as well. And Did you said sales? Were your leading sales? How do you? And I’m curious, I’m super curious about this, like, how do you transition from? I know this product so well, I’m super committed to it. It’s so easy for me to sell this thing, because I really believe in it. And as a founder, I’d like I don’t want to use this term founder led sales, but I think it’s a real thing. When do you get the confidence? Or how do you train somebody up to be able to have the same not the same but close enough feeling for you that you have? So they can go out and do the same kind of sales that you can you don’t I mean, where they can sit in the room without you there and just know this thing inside and out? And you feel comfortable sending them out? To do that? I

Paul Meinshausen 25:37
don’t think there’s a good answer to that question. You just here’s how you feel. But I’m gonna I’m gonna give you an answer. Because I don’t think that there’s no good answer that question is ever a good answer to a question to question. But I want to, I want to preface that because I think it’s, it’s really important to highlight. There’s this term called tacit knowledge, which is, which is refers to things that we know how to do, but we don’t know how to speak to how we do them. And the classic example of that is riding a bike. And I have a three year old who’s just learning to ride a bike, right? So that’s the example that comes to mind. But it’s also the classic one, you can’t tell. So you can’t give them step by step instructions. Don’t lean too far left, don’t lean too far, the right balance is tacit, it’s just you do it. And then you feel it. It’s a muscle thing. Right? So there’s a lot of that to it. But here’s one of the things that that I think is maybe a less less is a concept that I’ve seen in fewer, you know, Sastra videos or YouTube content about this general topic. And that is, what is the ratio as a, as a founder doing sales, between how much learning you’re doing, and how much pitching you’re doing in a customer conversation? Pitching is not it’s not like a hard sell. It’s sort of walking through a process of okay, I hear what you’re saying, Now, is this the pain you’re feeling? Yes, it is. And what happens when you don’t have the pain? So you’re trying to elicit the pain? And then you’re kind of presenting the solution and seeing how they respond. And you kind of know, and you you can predict the steps that are going through that. So primarily, you’re walking them through a guided perspective, versus how much are you listening at those steps and be like, Oh, they had that they had that response to it, or, you know, this is they actually don’t care about I’ll give you a quick example from amp. It just makes it a little more concrete. We speak to CRM and marketing folks who run messaging. And theoretically, I think you would think, okay, your objective is to improve your conversion, your improve your transaction, so you’re gonna get your customers to do more things in your app. Yep. Great. So when we speak to the value, we should be speaking to how can we increase that click through rate? How can we increase the transaction rate? How can we increase app opens? All right. Let’s imagine a retail app. Okay. And you’re like, Okay, that’s great. Now, let me pitch that. Now realize that actually, CRM people, their primary or only stakeholder is not their app is not the app customers, not the user. It’s not your AI as a shopper. It’s their business unit, who bought items who bought their inventory. So imagine a retail and I was speaking to a big retail app in Asia, who was telling me basically that in 2021, they were they sold an incredible amount of yoga wear. And that’s because during the pandemic, everyone’s sitting at home, they’re buying yoga, they’re doing more yoga, they’re exercising, etc. Right. And so that is great sales in yoga and trade 21. Now in 2022, so they bought a bunch of yoga where they the procurement team went out and they acquired it, and they developed it, right. It’s a long, you know, cycle to get that manufactured and shipped and all those things. Okay. And in 2022, the pandemic by the summer is going away, people are going out more, they’re going back to the office, they’re getting pulled back to Office. So they’re not buying as much Yoda where they’re buying office where they’re buying former, where they’re buying going out where So, but now the business team that bought the yoga aware, is under pressure to sell the inventory they bought. So who do they go to? They go to the CRM and marketing team. And they say, you need to run more campaigns about yoga where now the CRM team is caught between a large, you know, 235 million users who they never talked to, they never see their behind there in the app. They don’t talk to them like so their preferences and needs are far more ephemeral and kind of distant. Then their colleague who is a senior business leader, maybe a VP of whatever who’s coming in the office be like we need to run this campaign. Why did we sell More yoga. Yeah, exactly. So as a CRM as a as a SaaS tool, if we’re going in and telling them about how we can, you know, what is your customer care about? What do they want to buy? And, and we’ll learn how, you know, to detect whether someone is interested in yoga way or fashion where and they say, You know what, it doesn’t matter if my click through, you know, drops off, it matters that I have to respond to that, that person. So it’s a different stakeholder. And that’s something that, you know, if you position this as purely customer optimization, you’ve not handled the stakeholder operational management component of their job. Yeah, right. And so your problem is not really solving their pain for today at solving it, yeah, that’d be nice to have, not the actual pain. So that’s an example. So a salesperson, if they’re not invested in the product, they don’t know how, with a slight modification, you can actually handle and address that stakeholders problem, or need, they don’t know that they’re, they’ve been given a kind of pitch to sell, right? So if the pitch deviates, they can’t, they don’t learn as fast in the conversation. Instead, after three or four conversation, they come back and say, it’s not working, nobody’s responding. And then you have to walk back through the conversation with them and realized, oh, wait a second, this would happen. So it’s much faster if the founder is doing that. So when you’re ratio when you can go out and sell over and over and over again, and you’re not learning as much anymore. I think that’s when you can start to pass it over to a sales team. Because yeah, it’s just about a repeatable process of selling. And it’s less about, about learning what your product needs to be doing, or how it needs to be positioned.

Michael Waitze 31:39
That’s such a great answer. And it you see me smiling when you’re talking and it reminds me like this thing is just so cyclical. This idea of like who the real customer is, right? And then think it takes a wonderful cycle for most people to learn this. I just remember when I was a kid, you know, when these new phone companies were bursting United States when AT and T was being deregulated. So you know how long ago this was the AT and T was sort of having commercials, it said nobody ever lost their job. by recommending at&t. It wasn’t even like the product was better. Just like who’s the customer? It’s the guy or the gal on the other side buying the service? Not the people actually using it. You’re saying something a little bit different, but it just reminded me?

Paul Meinshausen 32:15
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. No. And that’s the point that there’s the risk, there is a tear, did we have the same thing as a modification of that was nobody ever got fired for for buying IBM? Yeah, or Microsoft at the time? Oh, Microsoft, etc? Exactly. And that’s the point is that, like, the risk of that customer is not that they don’t increase conversion rate by 5%. It’s that, you know, some it doesn’t work out. And then someone says, Wait a second, you bought this technology that nobody’s ever heard from, you know, you’re fired. So better to finally fail? By having a worse technology, then, you know, then to have even a small chance of failing and someone blaming you internally for that for procurement. Yeah. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 32:59
Just you’ve just reminded me of this, as I go on, and I teach people like how to do sales, you really have to get a sense for who is the end? Not know who’s the end customer? But who’s the real customer? To whom are you really selling? And what is their kind of axe to grind? Like, what are they? What are their expectations? What do they want out of this? And how does that then filtered down to the people that are actually going to end use this product, right? Because in sometimes, you know, Microsoft against the perfect example of this, when they came in to Morgan Stanley or Goldman Sachs to sell, they were selling to the head of it. And then that guy was normally a guy back then would just be like, Okay, this is what we’re going to use, because it integrates with every other product that we already have. And it’s just easier. So if Microsoft SharePoint, were just using SharePoint like that’s it. Right? Yeah. Yeah. So having that understanding is actually super important.

Paul Meinshausen 33:39
Yeah, there’s, there’s kind of, you know, like, the language for this is often that distinction between a buyer and user. Yeah. And it’s like, okay, your user might be the CRM team, but the person has the budget as the CMO or the CFO, you and you have to speak to both of them. But now, you know, increasingly organizations and increasingly, like this happened 10 years ago, are so diffuse and so democratic and so upward, no, very few leaders are willing to they they don’t give commands downward anymore, they have to have the confidence of the operator who’s going to be using it. And so there’s more stakeholders involved and marketing needs the data team to implement it and the data team, you know, skeptical or so there’s so many stakeholders you have to solve for SAS has gotten quite complex in that sense. And that’s I think, why a different wave than AI from a from an investor perspective has been this world of you know, a product lead sales and that is because I think that oftentimes I see enterprise SAS tried to be product but sales in order to catch the investors attention to come back to that concept of attention, right? I can kind of because like this go this go to market model is the best one. It’s obvious. And the key distinction I think that gets missed about that is you know is more like it Do you have a price prosumer, like a professional consumer is, can someone use your product as a single person and benefit? Right? So think of something like figma, which blew up last year, and that was very successful acquired. figma is something a designer can just choose to use and start using, without ever checking with anyone else. There’s no, the buyer is the user. And it’s a very small tickets, they can’t pay that much. Or maybe they can’t pay anything at all. But they can use it independently. Other tools like that, or you know, Slack is a little bit you don’t use Slack as one person, but you can get two people together and put a Slack community together and three people, right, you don’t have to, there’s so many tools like that, where it’s really developed a lot of developer SAS tools where a developer can just make their life better by using your product, enterprise sales where you need to interact with a broader system, you can achieve that. And so if you run from the multiple stakeholder, you just end up wasting your time you have to deal with multiple stakeholders head on you can’t try and like roll out some simple thing that let someone like log in and do something by themselves. Because that’s just not the context. It’s you’re building something for a company, and and no one person chooses that company. Stack tooling. Yeah.

Michael Waitze 36:23
So I’ll let you go in a second. This has been an amazing conversation. This is why I want to get you on the show more often. Because, again, it makes me think and I think it’ll make people that are listening to this conversation, think about sales, about product and about all the things that we’ve been discussing. You said that 2023 Looks like it’s shaping up to be even more interesting than 2022. What does it look like to you? And how do you take all the things that you’ve learned over the past few years, and make 2023 different and better?

Paul Meinshausen 36:51
Yeah, so 2023 Interesting, in the sense that for all early stage companies, they need to get their operations in business and finances in order to kind of weather weather a storm period. And so there’s just like a lot of operational management and a lot of things just discipline and kind of figuring out your payment cycles, you know, you can’t wait six months for a customer to pay you anymore. Because you need that cash, you need that cash flow, all the things you just didn’t have to pay attention in 2021. If that’s one thing, I think, identifying the right customer. So also super important to 2023, because there will be so many companies could build fast and show growth by getting early stage companies, for instance, or SMBs. on very quickly. Many of those companies, unfortunately, will die as a business as a formal business and 2023. So you can go out and sort of get them on board. But if they stop paying you halfway 2023 You’ve been significantly damaged. So one of the smartest, I think the smart founders are going to be looking at and asking themselves, who am I selling to in 2023. Right. And that is going to be folks that are likely to survive, and folks that are likely to benefit from my product in an enduring way. So that’s very interesting. But I think also in terms of innovation, there are things about chap, GBT, that that change the nature of possibilities. And really more like GPT three in the underlying technology, other companies will be rolling out similar services. And then just attention will be on that space in a way that will allow you to take advantage of of that. So it’s not all it’s not all about storm and doom and gloom. It’s there’s there’s really cool innovation that’s coming. And and it’ll be, you know, trying to figure out how to operationalize and monetize that. So yeah, so that’s, I think, core reasons for 2023 being exciting. And then you know what, also just because it’s the year we’re in, so it better be the we don’t get we don’t get to live in 2024. Right now we live in 2023. It’s the only one we get to let’s enjoy it.

Michael Waitze 38:59
Yeah, that’s the best way to end. Okay, I want to thank you, Paul Meinshausen, the co-Founder and CEO of Aampe. Thank you so much for coming back and doing that. And as I like to say, let’s not wait another 18 months until we do this again

Paul Meinshausen 39:12
I agree. I agree. Thanks so much.

Latest Episodes:

EP 315 – Nathaniel Yim – Founder at Nila Studios – You Cannot Sell What You Don’t Understand

EP 315 – Nathaniel Yim – Founder at Nila Studios – You Cannot Sell What You Don’t Understand

The Asia Tech Podcast was joined by ⁠Nathaniel Yim⁠, the Founder of ⁠Nila Studios⁠ and a non-executive co-Founder of ⁠Janio Asia⁠. When Nathaniel asserted during our recording, “You cannot sell what you don’t understand.”, it really resonated with me. When you understand your products and their impact on customers, your enthusiasm, confidence, and sincerity shine through naturally.

read more
EP 314 – Nirali Zaveri – CEO of Friz – We Want to Simplify the Workflow of a Social Media Manager

EP 314 – Nirali Zaveri – CEO of Friz – We Want to Simplify the Workflow of a Social Media Manager

In this episode of the Asia Tech Podcast, we spoke with ⁠Nirali Zaveri⁠, co-founder and CEO of ⁠Friz⁠, about her transition from a corporate job, to founding a neobank for freelancers to pivoting towards a SaaS platform for marketing tech. Nirali discusses the challenges of scaling her initial venture, the strategic decision to pivot, and the lessons learned from being part of Y Combinator. 

read more
EP 313 – Maaike Doyer – Epic Angels – Using Wealth as a Proxy for Financial Literacy Just Blows My Mind

EP 313 – Maaike Doyer – Epic Angels – Using Wealth as a Proxy for Financial Literacy Just Blows My Mind

The Asia Tech Podcast welcomed ⁠Maaike Doyer⁠, a Founder and Managing Partner at ⁠Epic Angels⁠, back to the show to discuss a recent article she wrote on ‘⁠Why Stricter Angel Investing Rules Miss the Mark⁠’. In the 3 years since Maaike founded Epic Angels along with ⁠Hester Spiegel-vdSteenhoven⁠, the network has grown to nearly 300 female investors across 27 countries!

read more