[00:00:05] Adil Saleh:
Hey, greetings everybody. This is Adil. We are at Hyperengage Podcast and today we are going to speak with Akshay Deepali. He's from Austin, Texas. He's the founder of Nasch AI. It's also a SaaS platform that helps organizations better manage their culture to cultivate the best culture into their employees team members. So it's pretty interesting once we first got to know about Nasch and of course, Akshayan, his journey. So thank you very much, Akshay, for taking the time.
[00:00:42] Akshay Dipali:
Hey Adil, thanks for having me. It's really great.
[00:00:46] Adil Saleh:
Cool. Love that. So, starting off, I was looking at your prior background ever since you started early from 2011. Twelve as a co operating engineer at an engineering more on the enterprise side as an engineering firm. And then you had certain experiences on the advisory role as well as some of the AI powered technologies. Of course, back then in 2018, when ChatGPT and all these generative AI was not at that evolution as it is now. Could you walk us through your entire experience, specifically in the AI advising for different startups over the past more than a decade now, and how it all leads back to you founding a platform such as Nasch?
[00:01:41] Akshay Dipali:
Yeah, absolutely. So, first thing, I think I need to let everyone know, whoever is listening this, is that I am not a technical person at all. So I don't know how to code, but I do know the technical languages just enough to get the work done. One thing that I always had even growing up is I think I was able to look at a technology and then say that, hey, that could be the future. I see that this is something that's going to be very important in the future. So we actually started building AI APIs back in the day a long time ago. But of course the data and all that was very difficult to come by and we didn't have the funds to really go with it. We were not able to develop a lot of APIs. Just one or two things that we were able to develop, we ran with that. We even had a few customers. But then some of our clients started asking specific use cases for those AI APIs, and one of the use cases was in the HR tech. Now when they asked in the HR tech, it was purely from the HRMS point of view, like managing payroll or hiring talent and things like that, passing through hundreds of resumes that the Hrs get. But eventually what I saw was a gap in the employee engagement or the employee experience space. And I quickly connected with it because in my previous work experience, I was a victim of bad culture, so I know how it affects someone long term. It was kind of stuck in my head that, hey, this experience that I had was really bad. I wish nobody went through it. And then my dad actually went through a similar experience, but ten times worse. And that's when it really triggered me that I need to do something. So using what we already had, looking at the gap, the lack of AI in this space, we started to conduct market research, interview Hrs and CXOs and employees to gain perspective on the ground realities about what they feel regarding employee experience. And then we really saw that there is a huge disconnect, and that's where Nasch came into play. That's how Nash was.
[00:04:35] Adil Saleh:
Very interesting. It's not just about one use case, one technology, one moment or a day. It's a long six, seven years of journey where you not only realized it, you have basically lived with it yourself as an employee. On the other side of the mean. I was looking at Nasch when I first. It is so powerful to analyze the psychology of your, let's say, team or individual and tailor the technology that is AI powered and intelligent to make it pleasant for them and make an impact into their day to day, which is from a use case standpoint, it is a huge addressable market as well as a huge gap. As we spoke to a lot of employee retention products serving in that category, just a few weeks ago, we met Sandoso. They're helping with employee retention by engagement via digital cards, gift cards. They are more of a sending management platform. So it's just about making sure that you get it right. So I did see on your website it's diagnosing stage. So could you help our audience to understand how does that diagnosing stage work in the beginning, when it comes to analyzing?
[00:06:01] Akshay Dipali:
Yes. It's actually a very important piece of employee experience. You mentioned Sendoso. Sendoso is something different. They're doing something different out of the box for the employees. Correct. And that's exactly what we wanted to do. When we looked at how the companies right now understand people or diagnose or identify people challenges, we saw them doing only one thing that is conducting long, boring, deadbeat annual employee satisfaction surveys. Almost everyone did it, all the way from small companies to big Fortune 500, fortune 100 companies. They had this one long survey every year, and then based on that, the Hrs would change policies and take calls regarding employee experience. Well, we are humans, right? We go through a lot of things every day. How are you going to gather feedback just once a year and then determine HR policies for all the employees for the whole year? It just doesn't seem right because let's say I was having a bad day, and this is the same day that the HR sends me an employee yearly employee satisfaction survey. Now, my responses in the survey is going to reflect my emotion on that day, not as a whole experience, but what I'm going through that day. And that just didn't seem right. We had to gather information in real time, identify and diagnose problems in real time and resolve them in real time. And while doing this in real time, we had to find patterns and anomalies patterns. Just like if I gave a negative review, is that a review that I gave just today or every time I'm asked to give a review? And that's where we started finding patterns. And that's how we identify challenges, in fact. So what Nasch does is sends out micro surveys I hate to call them surveys because we are not a survey platform, but then that's the best way to gather feedback from the employees is by asking questions just once every few days, but asking just one or two questions, not bombarding them 50 questions or 100 questions a year. Let's say I ask you one or two questions probably once a week. Adil. You wouldn't be too worried about answering those, right? I'm barely asking 20 seconds from you. And that's exactly what we do. So we ask questions more frequently, but because we are more frequent, we ask questions just once or twice, one or two questions. We ask a lot of open ended questions. And that's where the AI plays a big part, because people write responses and these responses have to be analyzed. The emotions, the sentiments behind it, the behavioral analysis part, that's where the AI comes in. And that's how we gather feedback in real time and identify challenges in real time.
[00:09:19] Adil Saleh:
I have a question, Akshay.
[00:09:21] Akshay Dipali:
[00:09:22] Adil Saleh:
I get an idea that you built it on a generative AI backend. Of course, you have overlap your own databases on top of it, which is quite smart. As for my understanding, you're taking some data points from employees to gauge their intent or maybe patterns, and then you're trying to build some sort of data science on top of it. Is that something we are building on the back end of the technology that works?
[00:09:48] Akshay Dipali:
Yes, we are. But this is just the 30% of what the product does. The big chunk of what the product does is what happens after this. If you recall, I said that I conducted these extensive interviews with Hrs and CXOs. What I found out was 92% of the Hrs had no idea what to do once they conduct the survey. They are sitting on all this data. But what needs to be done with that data? 92% of them have no idea. So that's the big problem that we actually solve at Nash that nobody does. In fact, we have combined AI and psychology. So the challenges that we have identified through asking questions, we take those challenges, then our algorithm comes up with solutions to those challenges in the form of small action items or nudges. And we send these nudges to relevant people within the organization. It could be either the employees or the managers or Hrs or even CXOs. So depending on what the problem is, how serious or how big the problem is, people within the organization get.
[00:10:56] Adil Saleh:
So in an organization, of course you can absolutely predefined. Like, in a nutshell, you have like 20 different industries. Across those, you have 150 different teams, range of different teams that have different roles. Out of those roles, they have different expectations, work wise, and then on person level, they have different I would say they would want people of different traits. That is something that you can definitely predefined. But when it comes to humans, when it comes to people, they change all the time. And how you're dealing with these personal traits that people develop out of different experiences they have onto their daily lives? How are you trying to make it efficient in terms of giving responses and giving outcomes out of these surveys that you're talking about?
[00:11:53] Akshay Dipali:
Yeah, so that's a good question. Adil. So we don't tell them what to do by giving them just one action item. We give them seven or eight action items. They get to choose whichever they're comfortable executing. Because these action items, some of them require people to be outgoing. But not everyone is outgoing. There are introverts as well. So we have action items. The action items that we suggest, they are all across board. So outgoing action items, something that people can execute if they are an introvert or they think they're an introvert. Things that they can do through email or things that they can actually walk up. So these are all suggestions that we give, and people will definitely connect with one or two of them, which they may find comfortable to execute.
[00:12:46] Adil Saleh:
Very interesting. I love the way you made it so simplified towards answering this because this is just a layman question. I'm sorry, I've been asking random questions. So, looking at your team, you're a team of about five to six people, including you co founders. Okay. So you've started back a few years back, is it right? Yes, three to four years back.
[00:13:13] Akshay Dipali:
[00:13:16] Adil Saleh:
Where are you guys at at this moment? As a business?
[00:13:24] Akshay Dipali:
Yeah. So even though we started three years ago, we didn't really launch three years ago. We launched about almost two years ago. The initial first year was us doing the research and all that. But since then, the first few months was very difficult because I'm not NHR, I don't come from that background. So I had trouble connecting with the HR people. But right now we are at a stage where we have come out of it. We have a user base present in three continents, the America, Europe and Asia. We are a global company. We have clients in us. India, and we have partnerships in APAC and EMEA regions as well. And we are looking to expand greatly in the next few months there.
[00:14:26] Adil Saleh:
Oh, very interesting. And actually, looking at the industry and category that you're serving in, how do you think in terms of go to market, how you want to expand and position your product going forward? Right now, of course you have a handful of customers, which is good. You have proven and validated your solution, which is fine. But on a scale for a category like this, I personally haven't found a platform that is working towards psychology like a SaaS platform for tech companies or employees in the It industry. So what kind of expectation and what kind of plans you have towards expansion?
[00:15:05] Akshay Dipali:
So, one thing that I have seen that's really working for us is the one to many strategy. So we have been integrating with a lot of HRMS companies and through them we sell to their clients and they sell us to their clients because we become the HRMS extension or an upselling opportunity for them. So on the revenue sharing basis, this has been working really well for us. So I've been partnering with a lot of these HRMS companies who do not have this employee experience vertical and they don't have the bandwidth to build that vertical because they have a lot going on with all the other modules. So I plug in perfectly, I enhance their product, make it white labeled, it looks just like an extension of their product and it works for us as well because I get a direct entrance into all their clientele. So this is one of the strategies that I have recently started.
[00:16:11] Adil Saleh:
Yeah, that is community partnerships and network partnerships, which is really good. So let me ask you this Akshay, if you are tapping into, of course you may not have competitors that are serving in the same way as you are, but you'll find a lot of SaaS companies, small, mid size, even medium sized, medium enterprise companies that are serving the same customers. They are working towards employee retention, which is a very big problem starting from Google to Microsoft, it is a very huge problem that they are facing towards employee retention. So are you open to doing partnership with these SaaS companies of any size that are serving in the employee retention space to maybe have sort of augmented integration or maybe you can work as joint ventures or maybe a lot of them might reach you out to acquire talking about companies like salesforce.
[00:17:13] Akshay Dipali:
Absolutely, that's definitely a possibility. Yes, absolutely.
[00:17:19] Adil Saleh:
Okay, so thinking of finances like you guys self funded as to this day or you're trying to looking for funds, raise your round or something?
[00:17:34] Akshay Dipali:
We have raised a small precede amount about a year and a half ago and with that money we went from ideation stage to where we are today and from here we are almost very near to breaking even. So I hope I break even in the next couple of months. But parallel. Yes, I'm looking to raise funds, but because we are very close to breaking even, I'm being very picky of who I work with.
[00:18:14] Adil Saleh:
[00:18:15] Akshay Dipali:
Yeah, I was just saying that I'm being picky because of that and it's actually both ways because I am also being picky and also 2023. The market, the funding market has been very slow, so I actually got a lot of calls last year compared to this year. And this year, the calls that I'm getting, the messages I'm getting on LinkedIn or the people that I'm approaching myself, it has been less compared to last year. But, yeah, I'm being picky because of the situation where I'm in right now.
[00:18:50] Adil Saleh:
Okay, if you are to raise your next fund, is that going to be the seed funding or Series A?
[00:18:58] Akshay Dipali:
I think it will be seed funding because we raised kind of a precede. Yeah, I think it will be seed.
[00:19:03] Adil Saleh:
You already had. Okay, cool. So looking at your growth metrics as of today, could you also help us understand how many paying customers you have? You can give us a ball rough idea. You can also tie it to the revenue if you want. Whatever works.
[00:19:21] Akshay Dipali:
Yeah, we have about total customers somewhere around 35 or 40, and about half of them are paying customers. The customers who are paying, they include customers as small as 45 employees and as big as 9000 employees. So it's a wide range.
[00:19:44] Adil Saleh:
Yeah. But it is good that you have customers initially that are using the platform that extensively with that big of a team.
[00:19:55] Akshay Dipali:
Yeah. The first year, we didn't make any money because I just gave away the product for free for one whole year because we had to validate the product. That's just the journey that we have to go through now that the product is validated. A lot of the free customers became our paying customers. In fact, we lost only one customer. Almost everyone else became paying clients after that.
[00:20:26] Adil Saleh:
Oh, that's very interesting. That's a great sign of a great product and product that delivers value. So now we're just up on time. Last question I would have is regarding your own team and how are you staying on top of your customer journeys? So are you using any kind of technologies to stay on top of data their usage patterns for your own customers? If so, how you're tracking all of those, and how you're ensuring success of your customers as well as success of their course retention overall from a revenue standpoint as well. So could you explain on that?
[00:21:06] Akshay Dipali:
Yeah, I use a bunch of tools to automate my email and LinkedIn outreaches. I use Apollo to maintain the leads. I use CRMs like Pipedrive, then for product management and the onboarding processes. I use ClickUp, and I use Airtable for a lot of bunch of other different things, including like finances and some of operations and all those things. But yeah, founders life, we always are surrounded by a bunch of tools. Yeah.
[00:21:50] Adil Saleh:
I like the fact that you have integrated tools that are well mature, like click up in the names of Airtable. You said notion for documentation as well.
[00:22:01] Akshay Dipali:
Yeah, notion for documentation.
[00:22:03] Adil Saleh:
We're also using Notion. Cool. So I was more concerned about how you're staying on top of your customer usage patterns to ensure, of course, onboarding adoption to the platform and of course, retention to the platform of some of the paying customers and even active users that they have altogether around 50, as you said.
[00:22:23] Akshay Dipali:
Yeah. So given the nature of the product, we have actually developed those tools in house because we have to measure a lot of things and few of our clients, we have also incorporated our solution on premises on their cloud, given their internal policy. So that bars us from using any third party tools. So we were kind of forced to build these tools internally and deploy it on their servers as well. And that's what we are using for everyone.
[00:22:57] Adil Saleh:
Now that makes sense because you have this kind of product where you work with cross functional software that also sit with your customers and a lot of times it's impossible for you to migrate all of that information or capture all of that information from your customer from a data security standpoint as well.
[00:23:24] Akshay Dipali:
[00:23:26] Adil Saleh:
Okay. It was real nice meeting you. We had a really good conversation getting to know you, your journey, your product, where you guys heading, and how interesting this technology can be at scale. So I wish you really good luck for the years to come.
[00:23:42] Akshay Dipali:
Thank you so much. It was really great to be on this podcast. I really enjoyed speaking with you. If I ever get a chance to do this again, I would do it once again. Maybe at a matured stage, but it was yeah, definitely.
[00:23:57] Adil Saleh:
We have like a big email list. We follow up with the products that are evolving rapidly in very quick succession, that are raising funds. And of course, funds give you a leverage of moving fast and smart. So we always will definitely keep an eye out for you guys.
[00:24:16] Akshay Dipali:
Love that. Thank you so much.
[00:24:18] Adil Saleh:
Have a good rest of the day, Akshay. Take care.
[00:24:20] Akshay Dipali:
You too. Bye.