Kashyap Deorah, CEO and Founder of HyperTrack
Learn how live location tracking is enhancing the “creation economy” and hear what Kashyap thinks is the best way to market and sell to developers.
Sadie: Hi Kashyap! Thank you for joining us today on Scotch with Sadie!
I see that you are in San Francisco, California. How has your day been? What’s your week like? What’s going on?
Kashyap: It’s been fantastic. We’ve been working hard on getting the product right. We’ve got lots of customers using it. They’re very product centric. The response to most of the things that customers want is to build better products. So we’ve been quite busy building a great product.
Sadie: Excellent. Now, before we get too much into the product, because Kashyap Deorah is of course the CEO and Founder of HyperTrack, which helps many different kinds of companies build live location tracking into their apps and solutions. We’re going to get into that, but of course, as usual, to kick this off, we’re going to start the conversation around scotch. Just to smooth things over.
So today I am drinking a Macallan 12 year old, double cast that was cast in both European and American oak cases.
My boss, the CEO of Responsify gave me this for our Secret Santa exchange. I think he was trying to tell me to record more podcasts. That is what I am drinking. Kashyap, what are you drinking today?
Kashyap: I’m drinking a Glenlivet 12, and that’s the bottle that was at our office. I love scotch. Single malt. Any sort of single malt works well for me. We were at this team session with one of the Board members who was buying us beer and soon the beer segued into scotch and everybody had a different preference of which scotch they liked. But we were universal in our love for scotch as a team. And it emerged that Glenlivet is the one that, between the team, all of us like the most. So as a team, that’s what we drink and that was the bottle that was at my office before I started this podcast.
Sadie: Excellent. Now I know what the answer is to HyperTrack’s favorite scotch, but I have one question for you around Scotch Whisky to see if you’re a real connoisseur. I was searching the Internet for these questions, but what is the minimum number of years a Scotch Whisky must be aged in oak barrels for? I can give you three options: 3, 6, or 12.
Kashyap: I want to say 3.
Sadie: You got it!
Kashyap: Oh, cool!
Sadie: Three is the right answer. I checked many different websites and that was the one that came up. The answer is three.
Kashyap: Everybody wants a big market for what they’re selling.
Sadie: Yes. Right. Exactly. So now that the fun part of talking about scotch is over, but we get to keep drinking the scotch as we speak. We’re going to move into more important topics, namely, your baby, your business. So according to your website, HyperTrack is a creation economy company. You help other companies build systems to track their commerce. So, to start, what impact do you have on the creation economy and actually what is the creation economy? We’ll start there.
Kashyap: Sure. You know, the old saying of, when you’re in a gold rush, sell shovels instead of being a gold miner. I think what’s happening is, look, software is eating the world and there are more and more software developers and product builders or building automation, building experiences with software. And their imagination is only limited by the tools available. And the whole API economy of companies like Stripe or Twilio or Algolia. Our goal here is to give these product builders better tools and better building blocks to make their imagination come to life. So the whole economy of helping product builders fulfill their imagination in a certain area using better tools and better infrastructure is the creation economy.
Sadie: And where does HyperTrack fit into that?
Kashyap: So in particular, we saw that lots of companies, lots of businesses and product managers and engineering teams within those companies, want to build great live location experiences. The experience of products like Uber and WhatsApp and Google Maps to share live location with each other, you know, it’s in the palm of their hands every day in their day to day experience. And then they go, well, why can’t I have the same power for making my business better and my product experience better? And then they sort of realized that even simple live location features are really hard to build and match. And that’s where HyperTrack comes in. We say, look, just focus on building what you want, you want to create live tracking experiences for your customers or you want your teams to be able to sort of track their work when they’re out there. You should be able to get far without having to build and operate complex infrastructure. So with HyperTrack, you can build stuff within minutes or within hours, which would otherwise take you weeks and months.
Sadie: And you’ve mentioned developers and engineers a few times in your last answer. So the first time we spoke over the phone, you also mentioned that you learned a lot about how to market to different roles within an organization. That marketing to developers is a lot different than marketing, like, consumer marketing and that you’ve learned some things about how best to go about marketing to these types of people and to different types of organizations. So can you tell us a bit more about that and what you’ve learned about marketing to developers in particular?
Kashyap: So when you’re selling to businesses, which HyperTrack is, similarly with Stripe or Twilio and Algolia are, the typical way we imagine that sales to be is, you talk to someone at the organization and then the decision makers get involved and you tell them what’s possible. You get some sort of contract going with them and then the integration begins and you take the product live. But what happens with developers is they do not like being sold to and marketed to. Developers do not meet salespeople or marketing people. They go to conferences, but, you know, to sort of learn rather than to be sold to. I would generalize that to not just the engineers writing code, but engineering managers, product managers, the whole product builder side of the organization. They’re not the buyers, they are the builders. And at the same time, we’re selling to those builders! And if we take an approach where we are selling to them, it’s going to be a hard journey because they’re not buying. So the way to get these tools out to developers, is to be where they are. Meet them where they are. You need to be found by them rather than selling to them. If that makes sense. And in that sense, it’s more similar to consumer marketing where you find ways to let consumers find you.
So if you look at these developers as consumers who are sitting inside these companies who are, you know, getting their news on Hacker News or getting the next big product on Product Hunt and are going to open source repositories, like Stack Overflow. They want to answer specific questions. They’re going to Reddit as well. So you need to be found where they are and write content, which they’re looking for. And that’s sort of how you get to the developers and where you’re found. Developers love to tinker and play around with Lego blocks. If you’re an API they want to sort of test it out, use it, you know, see the green light come up. Giving them quick gratification and sort of very quick time to value. So that once they find you, you are able to show them the “wow: factor as son as possible. And once again, that’s more like consumers, where once they find your app, either they’re going to use you for a very long period of time or just abandon you seconds later. So the first impression is very important. And getting them the gratification or the belief within a very quick time is instrumental to success.
Sadie: Great. Well, you’re speaking the Responsify language right now, we are an inbound marketing agency. So we definitely believe in the power of not over preaching to consumers or like you described, these product managers and developers are consumers within an organization. And so I’m wondering, you know, did that take you or your team a while to figure out that this kind of content marketing approach was the right fit for your industry? Was that an evolution of trial and error? How did you guys experience figuring out the right marketing mix for your company?
Kashyap: You know, I think that’s where the world is sort of moving to across the board, not just in the developer tools and API economy or the creation economy. I think the way it’s happening is the attention spans are reducing. You know, you’ve got people with lower attention spans, a lot of different things are competing for their time. And it’s increasingly become becoming harder to prioritize what you should do.
So being able to hold the attention of a bunch of people sitting in a room, first of all, getting them in a room and then sort of pitching to them and having them hold attention for an hour. Gone are those days. And I’m sort of hearing more of that in enterprise software as well. So I’m seeing in general sales and marketing moving more towards learn-as-you-do, get found rather than, you know, more pull than push. Make incremental sort of changes. So you go one step at a time. You can build sort of big things or get to a big sale, but you have to start small and iterate. So I would say, you know, that that’s where things are going in general and in particular I think the beauty or the curse of the creation economy is that developers are hard to bullshit to. If I can use that word on your podcast! So they see through it and get to the truth very, very quickly. That keeps you honest at a sort of different level. You know, you can’t fake it. If you’ve released the product to someone or your product doesn’t hold up, they’re going to know that very quickly. And then other people will know that very quickly as well. So I think we learned the hard way as well, that building the right product and evangelizing that through the right content is very important. The quality benchmark is relatively higher in the creation economy because these guys and girls are building real stuff. And they see the truth very, very quickly.
Sadie: Well, you know, transitioning the conversation from different types of roles within an organization to marketing to different regions, different cultures with different business behaviors. I know that you guys also have locations around the globe. You have offices in Ukraine and India and in the US and in any case, you’re selling across different regions. So what lessons learned? What takeaways do you have to share about marketing to different regions, North America vs. India or South Asia, for example? What you just said about content marketing and the pull versus the push, does that hold up internationally as well in your experience?
Kashyap: I would say across the board, across industries, the word is, you know, business is becoming far more global. I see more American companies go global quicker, earlier in their lifecycle and have a more fragmented global footprint compared to, let’s say, 10 years ago, 20 years ago. And so in general, that’s the trend. Now, imagine that you have to support a global footprint through local sales people and local support people. There are structural limitations to how global you can be. In a creation economy company, those constraints do not exist. You put your software up on the Internet, you put your Lego blocks up online. Developers find you where they are and where they are is the Internet! They’re not in any one geographical place. So it’s really a great leveler for where the market really exists. And you’ve discovered that very quickly. You could post something on Hacker News and go trending and you’ll find how solid and why that message spreads and where the consumers of that contact are. And what we observe very quickly with HyperTrack was our global footprint was very wide very soon, and we thought, are we doing something wrong? Are we doing something right? What’s happening here? This is not similar to any of the companies I’ve worked with before. And my colleagues as well, they had a similar experience. And we realized that, developers are everywhere. The market is now everywhere. It’s far more wide. It’s just that you do not have the constraints of geography when you’re selling something on the Internet which works for everybody right off the bat. So you find that in reality, the world’s really become a size small or the world’s become flat, whichever metaphor you prefer. And that reflects very quickly in an API kind of company.
Sadie: And was this because you were getting inbound leads from companies based internationally? Were they coming to you? How did you build that out so quickly?
Kashyap: Absolutely. So, you know, if your playbook is you publish content, you open source sample apps, you put your product out on the Internet. And the only way you’re selling is, developers finding you and then sort of tinkering around with your platform and then going to production and swiping that card. You know, we sort of discover our market while we’re asleep. We wake up and see, oh, here’s a new thing on this side of the world. Or, hey, what’s all this activity happening with this company, and so now I wonder what they do. And then you realize, this is the largest grocery delivery company in Southeast Asia!. And so, you know, the beauty of the world of the creation economy is, people find you and then you’re sort of discovering where the market exists and doubling down on the trends that you observe and sort of do that. And our observation seems consistent with other companies in the creation economy as well, where their global footprint by default happens to be more fragmented than a traditional B2B company. Because truly we’re in a world where, you know, the world is flat.
Sadie: Great. Well, then going from, you know, your market and your clients that are international, I’d like to now focus in on your company, on HyperTrack itself, which I read on your website is also very international. Again, global office locations, but also under the About Us section, it mentions that you guys collectively speak 10 languages amongst everybody! So how has this international aspect of your company affected your work, your workforce, how you all work together, how the company operates, pros and cons? You tell me!
Kashyap: We need to update our website! It’s 12 languages now. It’s phenomenal. You know, even in the San Francisco office, we’ve got a fairly diverse, I guess, ethnicity, religion, languages and you know, where we sort of grew up geographically and I think what that brings is a certain diversity of perspective, which can be a double edged sword. We’ve done things to make it a strong positive. And, there are things that you can do to make that a compelling advantage as opposed to being neutral about it. And, it really helps to have different time zones represented where we can support our customers. You know when Ukraine is asleep, we are awake and when we’re asleep, Ukraine is awake. We’ve got a lot of customers in India because India has seen tremendous growth in the last few years. And our usage growth in India is phenomenal.
So having people who can show up or speak the same language or be in the same city invokes a lot of trust. When customers are ready with their production applications on HyperTrack and culturally in our conversations, it automatically makes us be better listeners. If you have a homogeneous culture and you all naturally align and think the same way and look in the same direction, you can often reject ideas which are not consistent with that consensus. But in a diverse group, you sort of program yourselves to be better listeners to get work done every day. And that ends up being a great advantage. As long as you can figure out how you resolve conflict and how you come out strong on the same page and not leave important things unresolved or hanging.
Sadie: I also want to ask you about some of the hiccups that you face in a fast growing startup. And I’d also like to know specifically if it has anything to do with the creation economy still being defined. But of course, you know, you’ve had a lot of wins since HyperTrack’s inception in 2015, I believe it was. Like investment rounds. So I’m just wondering, what were the challenges that may be more specific to the creation economy or are more specific to your company? What challenges did you face at different stages of your growth? Which ones were unexpected or when you were the least prepared for them? And which challenges taught you the most in your growth?
Kashyap: This is actually a great question. And it’s increasingly common, you know, that it’s hip to say that remote work is our strength. You know, remote is the way to go. And especially in the developer tools world, you do have some great successes with companies that have been remote first. I actually have a sort of contrary view to that. Remote work has not worked for us, has worked pretty badly for us. And what we find is sort of making, you know, building a great product and making sort of day-to-day decisions with tremendous amount of fast changing context, is best done in the same room. With face to face conversation with a whiteboard, feeling the emotion of the other person. Building developer products is no exception to that rule. So I would say in the history of HyperTrack, you know, if you’ve made some missteps or lost time, it’s primarily because of the collective desire of global talent to be remote. And we sort of said, hey, look, that’s where the world is moving to, a lot of people are making that work, I’m sure we can, too. But we were consistently unable to do so. We have relied on teams in the same room with strong leadership, a strong sense of team and a culture that binds us together, you know, the old school stuff? We have relied on that for success. And wherever we over did the remote thing and went too process oriented or too written oriented, or too contract oriented, which you sort of have to be with remote teams, the more the ability to deal with change drastically reduces. And that was our experience at HyperTrack. This whole remote thing does not work.
Sadie: Now, that’s a really interesting perspective. It’s almost like, you know, any trends that kind of happen in business or otherwise, there’s usually a reversal. So like you said, it’s become very popular to work remote and people think that that is the future. But maybe there’ll be a swing to closer communication across different businesses. So I just have a few more questions.
Kashyap: I don’t mean to interrupt you, I’m sorry, but, you know, I think there’s a selection bias also that we suffer from. There are a bunch of companies who achieved product market fit very quickly who are lucky enough to get the product right at first pass, usually because of the collective efforts of a few people in the same room. And then, you know, post product market fit then remote can become a strength. Formal contracts and clear written communication can be an amplifier. But for every success story that we hear where potentially product market fit happened very quickly, and then scale was enabled by remote, what we’re missing is hundreds, maybe thousands of companies which went straight to the graveyard! Because of trying to make remote work at an early stage. They failed and to a large extent this is because they tried to build a product remotely too soon.
Sadie: Thank you for that clarification. I was going to ask just one of my final few questions to kind of open the floor and ask you what’s next for HyperTrack?
Where do you see yourself, typical question, but in 2, 5 years and what impact do you think HyperTrack could have in the creation economy?
Kashyap: I would say any business that has things on the move, like people deliveries. In any business that has things on the move, wants to use the live location of those assets to build a better business, to build better product experience, better efficiencies. And that sort of inevitable trend is reinforced every day when we use ride shading apps or consumer apps with location scanning in it. And we think, if I can track my $5 ride, I should have all of my business on the move, I should be able to use that data to build a better business. And the goal of HyperTrack is to get more and more of these products out and fulfill their imagination in the context of business. But in particular, we’re staying away from tracking consumers because we believe that violates their privacy and consumers do not expect to be tracked. But when you’re working and there are business assets on the move, the company tracks them to automate and to make the workforce more productive. That’s the space we’re focused on. Our goal would be to see more and more use cases being built with HyperTrack that we have not even imagined ourselves. So, we get a lot of pleasure rom companies popping up and start using HyperTrack and after a few months we can see what they’ve built with it and we think wow, this is phenomenal, we never thought something like this could happen with HyperTrack. So more and more applications are being built in ways that we have not imaged, and that would be very gratifying for us.
Sadie: On that note, ending with a positive outlook for the future. I want to also end with a quote from a very wise philosopher, and that philosopher is you, Kashyap! I read this on the Internet. And the quote is, “Location isn’t a point, it’s a line. Location is at the heart of modern commerce.” Kashyap, Confucius, same thing! Just wanted to end with that. How can people learn more about HyperTrack?
Kashyap: Thank you for that! Go to HyperTrack.com, sign up for a free account, start playing around with the API. It will be fascinating to see what kind of data we can generate with you, and the real time-ness of that data, the accuracy of that data, and the beauty of the platform is that location based services were restricted to the boundaries of a device. You can do a lot of things on the device whose location you’re tracking to make the experience better, but a lot of applications need to be built where the location of the device is being available to you in the Cloud. That unlocks a whole world of possibilities. And that jump is just harder than it needs to be. The OS will give you locations on the device but not on the Cloud, and the maps guys will say, come to me with your location, I’m not here to manage your location for you. So the whole power of having live location data of your assets in the Clod unlocks a whole world of data and you will experience that quickly when you sign up with HyperTrack! That’s the way to try it out!