B2B 52 | Clin.AI

B2B 52 | Clin.AI

 

Start before you’re ready. Entrepreneurship is about embracing uncertainty, trying new things, and learning from every step along the way. In this episode, our guest, Kalyan Obalampalli, discusses the journey of his creation: Clin.AI, a groundbreaking platform for clinical trial vendor selection and management. He reveals the ups and downs, the moments of doubt, and the incredible perseverance it took to build a product from scratch. Kalyan shares how he transitioned from a free pilot to a paid subscription model, scaling Clin.AI to possibly six-figure annual contract values. But entrepreneurship is not all smooth sailing. Kalyan shares his honest go-to-market failure story, where he experimented with marketing agencies and discovered the importance of a founder finding their own voice in messaging. Throughout the episode, Kalyan’s key advice to his younger self resonates: “You don’t know where you can go unless you start.” Tune in now to gain a fresh perspective on entrepreneurship and innovation!

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Clin.AI: Pioneering Automation In Clinical Trials With Kalyan Obalampalli

I have the pleasure of hosting a Founder, CEO, and a good friend, Kalyan Obalampalli, who is the Founder and CEO of Clin.AI. With that, welcome to the show, Kalyan.

Thank you, Vijay. It’s a pleasure to talk to you. I’m looking forward to this conversation.

Same here. We have been in touch over the last couple of years. I’m excited and happy for you to see how we have grown your company from an idea to what you’ve been doing so far. We will unpack all of that in the episode. Welcome once again. As with each and every guest of mine, I always start with the signature question. This show is all about go-to-market, and I would love to get your perspective. How do you view and define go-to-market?

I don’t have any formal knowledge. I didn’t ever delve into understanding what go-to-market is, to start with. I was like a startup founder who found the idea, believed in it, and didn’t figure out how to sell it. The way I have at least thought about go-to-market is, “What am I selling? Who’s my customer? How am I going to sell it?” Those were the questions that I saw in the most basic definition.

Over the years, I identified some gaps in the industry. If you remember, you were kind enough to tell me the most important thing, which was to interview a lot of people and understand, “Is this a problem or not?” Fundamentally, that’s where we started. We understood it was a problem and then believed in it. We gave the clarity after all the interviews that it was an issue because, a lot of times, the question that came to me was, “This is so simple. How can this still be a problem? How come people haven’t thought about a solution?”

Once that was said, we built a product that helps small to mid biotechs with vendor selection. The second thing was we identified who needed it the most. The bigger companies needed it, too, but we identified our ideal client profile to be small to mid biotechs with less than 200 employees in most cases, although we have clients bigger than that.

How do we reach out to them? That’s the part where I struggled quite a bit, but what I identified was our industry is pretty traditional. I identified that the way we are going to find our customers was to go out into the market, go to conferences, speak to people, and make that personal one-to-one relationship, and that’s where I can make them understand the value proposition.

Interestingly, my first client turned out to be one of the first twenty interviews that I did in 2020 after our discussion. One of them picked up the phone. She talked to me for twenty minutes. When I built something, I called her. The funny thing is what I built was not what she needed. She said, “If you build this, I’m going to use it.” As you know the story, I learned how to code. In a month, I built what she wanted. That was how we go-to-market.

The way I summarized and took away from how you view and define go-to-market is it’s very typical with founder-led startups and founder phases or approaches in the early days of a startup, which is based around the basics starting with, “What is a problem? Is anyone out there solving this problem? What is the problem that I saw firsthand? Let me go out and validate if it’s a problem.” That’s one. Second, if it’s a problem, someone is willing to pay money for it. That’s super important as well. That’s the approach you took for your go-to-market, and that’s how you view, approach, and define go-to-market.

In the process, similar to how we touched base, I touched base with the CEO of a small company who had sold his company to somebody else. He was the first one who challenged me. I was telling him about how many contracts we have facilitated through the platform. His question was, “How much did you get paid?” That’s a question that hit hard, but that night was when I wrote my first proposal asking the company to pay me for my services. A month later, they signed the contract.

Let’s zoom out. I’m sure we will unpack and get into a lot of the details around Clin.AI, the go-to-market, the clients, and so on, but let’s zoom out a bit over here. Why don’t you tell and share your career story with our audiences? Who is Kalyan? Why did you choose this space? What were you doing prior to Clin.AI? Let’s take it from there.

I’m in the pharmaceutical industry running clinical trials. That’s what I’ve done. How did I get into it? I’m an engineer by education. Due to many reasons, I fell into this space. I was in preclinical research, and then I got into clinical research. Since then, I’ve been doing this for years and running clinical trials. People are a lot more familiar with what clinical trials are after COVID. That’s what I’ve been doing so far.

Throughout the process, I’ve always wanted to do something for myself and start my own business. In 2016, I started something to do with vending machines. It had nothing to do with my education or anything else, but I wanted to do something fun. I didn’t have kids at that time, so I had a lot of time on my hands. My wife always used to encourage me to do something in my field because she thought that might be the best use of my time.

As I kept thinking about things, there were clinical research and clinical trials. If you talk to anybody, there is no dearth of gaps. There are so many things that we do on paper or Excel files. It’s almost unbelievable we’re that far behind. It’s well-known that the uptake of technology is very slow. That’s where I identified a few gaps. You have to hit upon a challenge that you’re so passionate about that you want to solve it.

In the process of running trials, everything is outsourced. You outsource things to vendors. When you outsource, the contract costs or the contract values are anywhere from $2 million, $3 million, $5 million, $10 million, $15 million, $20 million, $30 million, $40 million, to $50 million. We were negotiating these all the time using Excel files, and that’s how we did it. I felt that the amount of due diligence I was doing was less than what I would do even if I hired someone to remodel my kitchen. That’s how I felt.

In 2020 September, I selected vendors for $100 million, which eventually became $130 million because of changes and change orders. That was it. I decided somebody had to do this. I quit my job and bought a laptop. It was me and a laptop. I remember walking into this building, looking for a shared space, and learning how to code. That kept going on. I kept coding, built something, and pivoted as every other company does. That’s how Clin.AI started.

That’s a very cool story. Kudos to your wife for pushing you into doing a startup and working on a problem that’s close to your main field versus vending machines. I want to get into the vending machine story though. What prompted you to go down the vending machines? What did you learn? I’m sure if you go back and connect the dots, everything plays a role.

First of all, as far as my wife’s advice goes, I give credit to me because I listened to her. The vending machine thing has a critical role because when I started that business, it was about providing healthier products to the customers using vending machines. That’s what I was doing. The machines were state-of-the-art. You could use iPhones, Google Pay, Apple Pay, or whatever you want on these machines. Plus, you get organic and healthier products.

When I started, there were two companies that I finalized that I would probably work with. I ended up working with one of them, and it worked out. The second that I did not choose went bankrupt after nine months. The first thing that I understood was it’s very important to choose partners. It’s about people. It’s not about the amount of money you’re going to pay them. I went with the expensive one, but I knew that this company was not after my money. They were going to give me at least what they said they would provide. That was my first lesson.

It's very important to choose business partners. It's about people, not the amount of money you're going to pay them. Click To Tweet

The other important thing that came to my mind was, “How do you get customers?” You have no idea how to get customers. I remember walking into this college. I knew nobody there. I walked in and talked to this guy who was sitting in the cafeteria. He was managing the cafeteria. We started talking. Initially, I couldn’t strike a chord with a lot of people, but then this is a place where Pepsi was already there. I walked in and talked to this guy. We got Pepsi out of that college, making a case, “This is unhealthy stuff. Maybe you should offer healthier stuff.”

It was not that easy to sell, but eventually, I was able to kick Pepsi out, which is a huge deal in the vending machine area. That gave me confidence that I could possibly walk into a business that I have no idea about and talk to a customer that I have no idea who that is. People give you a chance. People don’t buy the product. They buy you. That was my first lesson in learning that.

That’s a great story and lesson there. How did you manage to get Pepsi out of that cafeteria? I would assume you or the cafeteria person would have gotten some incentives to keep Pepsi in there. How did you work around that?

Pepsi is huge. That’s a good and a bad thing for them. It’s good because they can give a big percentage of their sales to the college. It’s bad because the products are horrible. It’s full of preservatives. You know the story of the snacks that they make. For example, Pepsi snacks won’t go bad for the next year and a half. They sit in the vending machine forever. This stuff can be good for you. If you look at some of the colleges, there have been a lot of movements in the colleges like Ban the Bottle. They don’t want any water bottles and things like that. The colleges or the next generation are moving into that area.

Those were my talking points. I made a case, “Would you want to consider giving something? I’m not saying that this is perfect. This is healthy. Do you want to get to that next step where you are providing products that are healthier than what you have? You can’t go to healthy. You can’t start putting bananas in there because nobody is going to buy.”

That was our step, “Do you want to take this interim step to get slightly closer? We’re never going to have sugary products like Coke or Pepsi. This is what we’re going to have. We’re going to have organic bars and things like that.” That was attractive to them. They felt like they were going to make a move in the positive direction. It’s going to be seen as a positive step by their management. That’s how we were able to sell it. Financially, we tried to make it as attractive for them as possible. It’s a combination of the intent and the monetary side of things, plus making a case that they can sell internally. That’s how the whole vending thing started.

Those are all key points, especially in the B2B space where you have to connect with the buyer or the person who has the buying power. More often than not, especially in B2B, it’s not one buyer, but it’s a team of buyers and influencers.

There’s more than one person who makes the decision. Another big lesson that I learned was how you service the client is another important part. You can get the contract, but then if the customer is not happy, it’s very easy for yourself to get demotivated and also for the business to collapse pretty quickly. That has been the mantra for Clin.AI when I started. The biggest thing was to find customers and then make them extremely happy. That has been how the company has grown so far. We have spent probably zero on marketing in quite a few months, maybe up to a year. We spent nothing on marketing. It was all word of mouth and people talking about us. I didn’t mean to digress there, but that was something I kept to my mind.

You can get the contract. But if the customer is not happy, it's very easy for your to get demotivated and for the business to collapse. Click To Tweet

This is relevant to the next topic that we are going to talk about, which is where is Clin.AI at in terms of customers, pipeline, revenue, or whatever you’re comfortable sharing with. We all know that it’s still early days. No number is small. It’s more about the growth. It will get bigger and better from here.

2022 was a great year for us. 2021 was when we launched, but that was the year when we were testing the system. It takes about 4 months to 5 months for a vendor to be selected because these are anywhere from $15 million to $30 million and $40 million of contracts. In 2022, we had an excellent year. We have ended up with a very strong number of customers.

In terms of how we have grown, we have seen a 500% growth year over year from ’21 to ’22. ’22 to ’23 may not be in terms of customers but in terms of revenue. We’re going to be six figures in terms of signing contracts. We will have to wait and see how everything turns out. It’s not been easy, but fortunately, we have hit upon an area where there is a need because I remember going to a conference. I was late for breakfast. I was kicking myself that I spent all this money and came to the conference, and now I wake up late. I was late for breakfast. I was getting into the elevator, and somebody else was late too. We had breakfast together. They became a customer. I figured out, “I’m walking into customers.”

I felt like this is a need in the industry. That’s where we started in 2021, but now, we have seen significant growth so far in terms of how we have done it. One of our customers has been telling us we have saved them $8.5 million in 2022. The ROI in at least one of the cases is greater than 100 to 1 or something along those lines. That has been our story.

We’re making sure the customers are extremely happy, using their word of mouth, and getting more customers. In 2023, we have invested quite a bit in getting a salesforce on board and also going to a lot more conferences and having a lot more discussions. That’s where we are. Another significant step in this is we took a step back earlier in 2023 to build another product.

Generally, what I kept hearing from the people I was talking to was, “If something is selling, keep selling it.” Although I agreed with that, I felt like vendor selection was one part of it. You have to manage the vendors too. We took a step back for about three months and developed another product for management. We have rolled it out to a few customers. It might become our flagship product in the future.

Back in the days when you and I were talking, you were contemplating building a marketplace on a platform. Think of it. If you are trying to build a one-sided marketplace, let’s say the pain level is 100. If you’re talking about a two-sided marketplace, the pain level is 500. It jumps exponentially. You and I went back and forth. The advice that I gave is, “Which side is willing to pay? Start on that side of things first.”

A marketplace is a very simplistic idea that a lot of people dream about. In the limited research that I did or whatever I could do, I learned that there’s only one marketplace typically that survives the market. Facebook was the last one. Beyond that, maybe there haven’t been too many of a similar kind. It’s a simplistic idea. As we discussed, which side do we go after first? A marketplace is something that people can get to eventually. The main thing is to start on one side, find the pain point, start filling that gap, and deliver the results.

B2B 52 | Clin.AI
Clin.AI: Start on one side, find the pain point, and start filling that gap and deliver the results.

 

I have a lot of vendors reaching out to me, “Can I be on your platform?” There’s no need to be on our platform. If a sponsor wants to reach out to you, we will get you on for free, but a lot of people keep reaching out. That’s a good sign. Will we implement that in the future and make that a main part of our business? It’s something that we can contemplate in the future, but as of now, we have identified an area or a niche of selecting vendors and managing vendors. We want to stick to that. Eventually, will we serve both sides? We potentially may, but as of now, we’re going to park that idea on the sidelines and consider what’s working so far.

Here’s the reason why I wanted to bring it up, especially for the audiences who are aspiring founders or founders in the early stages. You can, you will, and you should go with a hypothesis. In your case, it was building a marketplace. Maybe that’s a pain point, and maybe that’s what you need to pursue, but after you reach out and talk to “the buyers and customers,” that’s where your hypothesis will evolve. It was not the marketplace.

Those interviews were critical. I give a lot of credit to the interviews for this reason. You had forwarded me 3 or 4 articles at that time. They’re very simplistic ones. I probably didn’t read three. I only read one. I asked you this question specifically. You had formed a hypothesis statement, “We do this for,” and then there was a dash and something else. I followed that template and created my hypothesis.

Another important thing you were telling me was, “Don’t prod the answers. Don’t suggest. Let them give the answer.” The hardest part during the interview was to shut up and let the customer or the interviewee talk. Those interviews were the ones that told me that this probably is a good idea, but then there’s another need that people are still waiting for.

Sometimes, the hardest part during an interview is to just shut up and let the customer or the interviewee talk. Click To Tweet

I remember a couple of conversations at least where the last thing that the person I was interviewing said was, “That sounds like a million-dollar idea.” In my mind, I thought, “I hope tens of millions.” That was validation of the fact that people who are in my industry who are in similar roles to me are thinking about the same problems that I have thought about, and they don’t have any solutions for it. Will they pay for it at that time? They did say they would, but you can’t take their word to be the truth at that time because some of them may not even be the decision makers although they’re influencers.

Small companies’ CEOs have to be convinced that this is a good value for the money, but now, we have crossed that path. Sitting here, I can’t tell how we got to this point. It has been on the shoulders of a lot of other people like you who have been CEOs of small companies who have given me 2 to 3 hours of their time without any reason, just believing in my idea, “Tell me what you want.”

I applied to YC. I didn’t make it there, but then people from YC are still in touch with me. One of them, for no reason, reached out to me and gave me a lesson on how to do email marketing. Until then, we were not doing any of that at all. All those things have had a role in how we got here. That’s a thought that came to my mind that was important that I thought I would share.

That’s a good anecdote. That’s a testament and a validation. We all read about these approaches, especially in books like The Lean Startup. Eric Ries and others have promoted this topic and the idea heavily. When Google and other companies want to launch a new product, they always test it. They always go out and see if it’s viable or not. The reason I wanted you to share your story is a validation.

It’s not something that people do only in the big companies. It’s more important for founders to do it in early-stage and smaller companies because there are a lot of stories where founders have invested 3, 6, to 12 months or even 1 to 2 years. At the end of two years, they have nothing to show because they went about building the product based on what they were thinking versus going and talking to the customers and seeing if it’s a valid idea or not.

The process has made me a lot humbler in the sense that when you’re saying that, I’m thinking about all those founders who put their heart and soul into it. You believe the idea. You go after it. You build it. It’s important to make sure that you validate your idea. Plus, some of it has to do with a little bit of luck, timing, and things like that. I have an immense understanding or feeling that those who didn’t make it were not fools. That’s one of the biggest learnings I believe from the process.

There have been so many ups and downs where in the morning, I’m thinking of something. In the evening, I’m thinking something else. Six months down, I’m like, “Maybe I should wrap up.” Suddenly things pick up and happen. This process has taught me that I’m here probably on their shoulders and those who did not make it were not fools.

Those are truly humbling and inspiring words for sure. We’re switching gears here. With every guest of mine and whoever comes on the show, we always go deeper into a go-to-market success story and a go-to-market failure story. Specifically in your case, I was thinking it would be a good insight sharing for the audience if you could walk us through how you landed that first customer, all the challenges that you had to go through, and the disbelief, “Is this the right thing? Am I doing the right thing?” You eventually got that first check. Walk us through that process.

When I initially imagined this idea in my mind with no coding experience, my brother-in-law who you know well went through four things. His brother is also into programming and all that stuff. They said, “There’s UX. There’s UI. There’s a back end and a front end. You don’t know any of this stuff. Know that’s where you will start. There are better people who have done it many times.” They were coming from the right place in their heart. It was good advice, and I was going against that.

To start with, there were doubts. I’m trying to code. I would ask everybody who walked into my house, “Are you a back-end guy or a front-end?” That’s all I knew. Some of them would say, “I’m a back end.” I was like, “Let me talk to you later.” That’s where it started. I hired anybody who would walk into my house while I was learning or trying to build the product.

Trespassers would get a demo. That’s how it was. I give a lot of credit to the initial people around me who never discouraged me although they saw a crappy product in the beginning. When I showed it to my brother-in-law, he was like, “I wouldn’t show this to investors,” instead of saying, “This looks like crap,” which is how it looked like. That’s where it started.

You asked a very deep question. On November 27th, 2020, I had this conversation with Dave Hadden who runs a company called Pro-ficiency. He told me, “Free only takes you so far.” I thought that was very condescending. My ego got hurt. I told him that day that by January 2nd, 2021, if I don’t have this ready, I’m going to quit. I closed the doors from December 16th or 14th onwards for about twenty days. I have two young kids. They were two and a half and one and a half at that time. I told my wife, “I’m not coming out. I’m sorry, but this is it.”

By January 2nd, I built it. I texted him and said, “Dave, the MVP is done.” That’s when I reached back out to the people that I interviewed to talk to them, and one of them said, “That’s not what we want. If you build something for vendor selection, that’s where I want to use it. February 15th is when I want to send it out.” That gave me a month and a half. Here I was coding. This is the second round of coding for a month and a half to build a completely new product. I never believed that I would build it. I did not.

I thought that I would probably get somewhere in the middle and get somebody to help me or hire a programmer, but things happened such that I got to that point. Every week, I would show the progress to this first customer of mine. Her name is Audrey. She would say, “This looks great.” For me, it didn’t make any sense. I kept building, and she kept saying, “This is great.” Initially, we had people enter data into the cloud. Now, everything is automated.

Let’s take one step back. How did you find and get Audrey to sign up? That’s a critical point.

Audrey was one of the people that I interviewed in June 2020. I interviewed her. She was one of the nicest people. She answered a lot of questions for me. I had all the questions lined up, and she answered all the questions for me. She was one of the ones who ended up saying, “That sounds like a million-dollar idea.” I had no idea who she was. I opened LinkedIn. I searched for clinical operations professionals. I sent a message to whoever showed up. She had these fireside chats. Once I knew her, I started getting to talk to her a little bit and participate in anything that she would do.

That’s how I found her, and that’s how we kept in touch. I said, “I built something.” From June to December, I don’t think we talked. In December, I talked to her and said, “I might have something ready for you that I want to show you.” When I showed it to her, that’s when she said, “That’s not what I want. I want this.” That’s what I built. I told her, “If I build it, will you use it?” She was like, “I’ll use it if you want to cut down my analysis time by 80%.” That’s what she thought it would do, and I built it. I started building it.

On February 14th, Valentine’s Day, or the day before, I was showing this to my family. Some of them were like, “This doesn’t look very good.” The day before the product release too, they gave me so many improvements that I did overnight. We released it the next day. When I released it, I caught this because the vendors had to put their data in. At 7:00 PST, I released it. At 7:19, I got a call from one of the biggest vendors who was invited through that platform telling me, “What are you doing? Why are you increasing the amount of work? You’re asking me to enter all this on your platform. Why would I do that?”

He gave it to me left and right. He put the phone down. I texted my first customer and told her, “This guy is going to call you. Can you handle it?” When she talked to the vendor who was supposed to enter his data, he said, “This is a lot of work.” She said, “Does it seem like a lot of work? That’s okay. You don’t have to bid.” That’s exactly what she told him.

He called me back, and we figured out a way. We wanted to meet the vendor beyond halfway. We created a method for him where he can upload the data pretty quickly. Another significant lesson was you have to add value to both sides. You can’t add value to one side and ignore the others. That’s how I found my first customer, built the platform for that customer, and released it, the initial feedback that we caught, and learned lessons from it. We immediately identified the big holes in the platform.

B2B 52 | Clin.AI
Clin.AI: You have to add value to both sides. You can’t add value to one side and ignore the others.

 

Was it a paid pilot or a free pilot?

Free pilot. I wasn’t even thinking of money at that time.

At what point in time did Audrey decide to pay?

We did our first one and then had a second one. They immediately had another requirement. That’s why I say timing. They had another requirement, and then they went through the platform again. Once they went through a platform for the second time when they were at the tail end of it, that’s when I had that meeting with another small company’s CEO who was introduced to me by a mutual friend. He was least interested in the presentation. He was like, “Did you get paid?” That was his question. That night, I wrote this thing. I got paid on July 30th, which is a day before my birthday. I thought I had forgotten, but it looks like things are fresh in my mind still.

That was your first customer who cut your check.

It was Audrey. It was the same company. They did another vendor selection. The vendor selections take 3 or 4 months. We did the first one starting in February. In March and April, they had another one come up. They did that one. We got into May. May is when I floated the idea of getting paid. June is when they approved it, and then it takes 30 days to get paid. On July 30th, we got paid.

That was a 3 or 4-figure ACV at that point in time.

4 or 5.

Earlier, you mentioned that you are at possibly a six-figure ACV.

Our Annual Contract Value per customer is more than six figures. What I was alluding to before was getting to a revenue per year of seven figures.

That’s a great go-to-market success story. Thank you for unpacking a lot of actionable insights for the audiences here, but as you and I know, it’s not always up and to the right. I’m sure you must have experimented and tried different ways, going to events, sending emails, or doing cold outreach, and things have not worked. What is a go-to-market failure or a three-month experiment that you tried and didn’t work out?

You look for solutions and talk to people, and people suggest solutions. One of the solutions that came up was, “Why don’t you use these marketing companies that can find vendors?”

They’re outbound agencies and cold-calling agencies.

It’s not cold calling but rather people who can email, use LinkedIn for you, and find those clients for you. One of the suggestions came from the CEO of a huge company. There are a lot of people in the industry, but it’s hard to find who does it, especially in the pharma world. It was a challenge even to find them. I found this person who has been in the industry for twenty-plus years. She worked with some huge labs. I invested in that for three months, and I felt that there was nothing coming out of it.

As a founder, when you start a company, you probably have the messaging the best. When you haven’t done something, it’s about experimenting. When a marketing agency starts this, they have to send some emails, see how it goes, send something else, and tweak it. I don’t know if an outside agency has that commitment, or maybe I found the wrong agency to work with, but I found that after three months, I was not hitting any of the goals.

One of the problems that I had was they wanted to put something out there on LinkedIn. They said, “This looks like a nice image. Let’s put it out there.” I remember she posted it on LinkedIn, and I had to remove it. Maybe some of this is my weakness too. I don’t want anything that doesn’t look good because whatever goes out there is representing my company. You don’t want to put something out there so that people will start looking at it or clicking on it.

My point is I don’t think my mindset and this marketing agency’s mindset were aligned because I didn’t want to put whatever comes to my mind out there. It’s not about the number of clicks for me. It’s about quality and messaging correctly. I don’t think they were getting it, and it’s not their fault because it’s me who should have done that job, which I eventually did.

B2B 52 | Clin.AI
Clin.AI: It’s not about the number of clicks. It’s about quality and it’s about messaging correctly.

 

That’s an example of how the LinkedIn strategy or the email strategy didn’t work. I was in analysis paralysis mode for a long time, “What am I going to post on LinkedIn?” I finally started posting on July 10, 2023. In the few weeks that I’ve posted, I’ve at least had three companies reach out to me telling me that they enjoyed the way I’m using my personal expertise because I’ve worked on the sponsor side, and now I’ve become a vendor. They have enjoyed seeing the push, and they’re very authentic.

It’s early days, but whatever feedback you get is valuable in the early days. I’ve been encouraged by that. What results does it generate? We will have to wait and see. There are a couple of good leads that have come through, but we will have to wait and see if they turn into anything. I feel like at least I’ve found my voice on LinkedIn. Something didn’t work. There are a lot of other things than LinkedIn, but at least I figured out my voice of what I’m going to say on LinkedIn about my company, which I don’t think a marketing agency can do for you.

That’s a critical lesson. Typically, once a founder has found a playbook for a go-to-market, outbound, social media, or SEO, then they can delegate and offload from the data responsibly, but you cannot offload something that you have not figured out and expect an outsider to.

You asked me for one failure, but too many failures are coming to my mind, including salespeople that I’ve hired. Somebody gave me the same advice that you’re saying. When I was hiring the salesperson, they said, “Do you have a repeatable sales process that you can give this salesperson?” Initially, my thought process was, “Salespeople are motivated enough that they will sell because they’re going to make money out of it. That should be motivation enough,” but what I’ve realized is it’s a lot more than that. There are no clear instructions about how to go about the process with eyes closed where you have Step 1, Step 2, Step 3, and Step 4 clearly defined. The wheels will be spinning, and they will be in the same place. It’s not their fault. It’s the founder’s fault that they did not put the procedures in place.

Kudos to you. By training, you are an engineer. You were on the technical side of things, but given how passionate you were in this problem space and how passionate you were about solving the clinical trial gap and the automation piece that was missing, you took it upon yourself to learn, first of all, doing customer discovery, validation, and sales. You’re putting yourself out on LinkedIn and finding your voice. The biggest takeaway and message is if you’re committed, passionate, and persistent, there will be challenges, failures, and a lot of areas where you have no experience, no confidence, and no belief, but if you’re out there for a long duration, you will figure it out, and things will align.

That’s one lesson that I’ve learned. My mind always goes back and says, “Why couldn’t you do this one year back? Why couldn’t you start posting on LinkedIn? Maybe you could add a couple of more customers or a few more of whatever it is.” Things happen at a time. That’s one thing, but the other thing is the biggest lesson that I have from that is to try. It may be right, wrong, or whatever it is.

There are so many different channels for identifying your potential customers, and you may try one because you’re comfortable with it. That’s one area that I still feel like I’m behind where I don’t try because of fear of failure or because I don’t know the area well enough, fear of it not working, or fear of what people are going to think if they look at a certain email a certain way.

Something that I have learned is I’m not that important. There’s so much going on out there. I don’t think people care if I put a bad LinkedIn post out there or send an email unless it’s a horrible email, which I’m hoping I don’t send out. If it’s average, you will get a chance to improve. People won’t remember your average email and hold it against you. At least, that’s my belief. If it turns out not to be the case, I’ll learn. At least, that’s what I’m still trying to tell myself every day. I’m still learning. I’m not even close to accepting my weaknesses or faults yet.

Bring it home. We are almost close to the finish line. What advice would you give to your younger self? You did mention that. I’m pretty sure you’re going to echo it and re-emphasize it, but I would love to hear it from your words.

The one thing is you don’t know where you can go unless you start. That’s one. I had never in my life thought that I would build an application. I have a team, but when I started, I was building this application. You never know where you can go. You get your feet wet and then figure it out. If it’s not for you, you will find out. I’m going back to the same theme. Although as daunting as it is, it’s important to give it a try. The worst that can happen is that you will fail. I don’t think it will take that much time for you to realize that this is not working. You have to back yourself to do that.

For example, in go-to-market, there are so many ways to find your customers. At least in my case, I didn’t try a lot of those because I wasn’t comfortable with them. It’s getting comfortable, getting started, not worrying about what the result is going to be, not being afraid of what people are going to think about it, and thinking about whether I’m going to get a customer with this or not.

As long as it’s not hurting somebody and as long as I’m being true to myself and putting a message out there that I believe will resonate, that’s a good start. If it doesn’t resonate, you will find out pretty quickly, and then you can change. If it still doesn’t work, then you will change. If it still doesn’t work, then maybe that’s a bad idea, and you move on to the next one.

As long as it's not hurting somebody and you're being true to yourself and putting out a message out there that you believe will resonate, that's a good start. Click To Tweet

Let’s end this on a high note. I loved the conversation. Good luck to you, Kalyan, and Clin.AI.

I appreciate the time that you took for this episode. I know a lot of work goes into it. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Since the time we talked, I kept texting you the updates even when I got the Vice interview and all that stuff. You’ve always been a sounding board for me to run ideas by and also give me advice because I don’t read books. I rely on people like you who read the books and then give the significant points from it. Thanks for your help. I enjoyed this discussion. I’m looking forward to where this company takes me.

Thanks once again and good luck.

 

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