Neil Patel

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In the heart of every successful venture lies a narrative, a tale of trials, triumphs, and the indefatigable spirit of its creator. Ameesh Divatia, a luminary figure in the tech industry, embodies this spirit, having navigated the tumultuous seas of entrepreneurship, weathered storms of uncertainty, and emerged as a beacon of innovation in cybersecurity.

In a candid interview, Ameesh unveiled the intricacies of his journey, offering insights, wisdom, and a glimpse into the ethos that propelled him forward. his latest venture, Baffle, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Alumni Ventures, Lytical Ventures, Celesta Capital, and National Grid Partners (NGP).

In this episode, you will learn:

  • Ameesh’s journey underscores the importance of trusting your instincts and believing in your vision, even in the face of uncertainty.
  • Collaborative partnerships with visionary investors like Sequoia and strategic alliances with industry leaders such as Cisco were pivotal in Ameesh’s entrepreneurial success.
  • Through innovation and resilience, Ameesh navigated through the dot-com bubble burst, economic downturns, and even banking crises, emerging stronger each time.
  • Baffle’s revolutionary approach to cybersecurity emphasizes proactive measures like encryption, tokenization, and masking, offering a shield against evolving cyber threats.
  • Ameesh’s commitment to mentorship and giving back highlights the importance of nurturing the next generation of entrepreneurs and fostering a culture of collaboration and support.
  • Ameesh’s ability to pivot, adapt, and transition seamlessly between roles as an entrepreneur, investor, and innovator underscores the importance of versatility in the ever-changing tech landscape.
  • Ameesh’s journey exemplifies the qualities of visionary leadership, perseverance, and unwavering determination that define successful entrepreneurs, inspiring others to pursue their dreams fearlessly.


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About Ameesh Divatia:

Ameesh Divatia is the CEO & co-founder of Baffle, Inc., which provides an advanced data protection solution for databases.

He has a proven track record of turning technologies that are difficult to build into successful businesses, selling three companies for more than $425 million combined in the service provider and enterprise data center infrastructure market.

Baffle is Ameesh’s third startup, and it deals with how data is stored and used in IT.

Prior to starting Baffle, Ameesh led a premier CMOS photonics innovator (Lightwire Inc.) from technology development into product development, leading up to an acquisition by Cisco Systems, Inc. for $271M within a timespan of 29 months.

He has also founded two venture-funded startups: Aarohi Communications (Storage Virtualization, acquired by Emulex Corporation for $39M) and PipeLinks Inc. (Optical Networking, acquired by Cisco Systems for $126M).

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Connect with Ameesh Divatia:

Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So today. We have a really amazing founder. My god he’s done so many transactions you know so many companies that he started companies that also he’s led. You know we’re talking about exits you know in the hundreds. Of millions. Okay, so I think that we have quite a very inspiring journey from you know, basically his first meetings with vcs with the likes of psychoia to for example, raising money. How to think about raising money how to think about doing exits and also the timings. Ah, of those sexes and then also how to deal with absolute catastrophe and craziness. They were actually caught on the Silicon Valley bank you know craziness and from one day to another There was no money money was gone. So um, again, you know, incredible conversation ahead of us so without fartherdo. Let’s welcome. Our guest today. Iish devaia welcome up to the show.

Ameesh Divatia: Thank you all Hodo glad to be here.

Alejandro Cremades: So originally born in India so give us a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up over there.

Ameesh Divatia: Life was interesting never without challenges as you can imagine those were the days when you don’t have the India of today right? that those are challenging times back then but we never knew about it. So. 1 thing we did know very clearly is if you make it out of college The first thing you want to do is go to the us which is exactly what I did a week after I graduated from engineering school I was in the us going to graduate school.

Alejandro Cremades: So then let’s talk about that. How was that day was that a big culture shock to come here to the Us How was that change for you.

Ameesh Divatia: Um, well it wasn’t really as much of a culture shock other than the fact that yeah I mean there were aspects of it. But in general we were very exposed to Us influences. In fact, growing up 1 of the biggest. Ah. Things that I remember while I was just graduating high school and getting ready to figure out what to do is time magazine this you know declaring the computer as the the man of the year if you will so there was ah there were a lot of influences of of what would be. Considered american culture but coming to California was definitely different because I always imagined America would be like New York um long story short though couldn’t have imagined a better experience about the the kind of opportunities that were available out here. So I pursued what I thought was my passion which was communication networking very early days of of doing all of that and graduated actually before I graduated I had an amazing internship experience which really made me think about actually not going to school anymore. Any longer than I had to I got my masters and got out I was not the ph d types so got got to Silicon Valley actually thankfully because I was in Southern California the only jobs out there were for people who were born here or for citizens so moved through to the valley and the rest.

Ameesh Divatia: As they say is history.

Alejandro Cremades: So in your case, you know you got started as a developer and then all of a sudden you know you find yourself being an architect and then you know you decided to start your first company in the late 90 s you know I’m sure it was a little bit of a different environment. You know what were you what you were seeing I’m sure that the venture capital. Ecosystem was not as developed but hey it was your first company which also had a really nice exit. So pipelinks. What were you guys doing at pipe links.

Ameesh Divatia: All right? So we have um, well it didn’t happen it overnight I worked as ah I started out again focus on communication networking started out as a support engineer made my way into design and then eventually system architecture and bouts. 7 years into it I decided. Okay, um, there’s just so much stuff going on around us in terms of new ideas and that I want to give it a shot just to figure out how to how to start a company and come up with I had lots of ideas. But it was hard. It was really hard to let go of that you know that support lifeline right? your your job. So I go up to my boss. This was a company called Threecom which by the way was super successful which is why I I did have a little bit of a nest egg. Um, the stock was doubling every year and he told my boss I want to go do this but I’m really scared and he gave me an opportunity that I will never ever forget which is he said just go ah come back in a month if you don’t like it. Um, stepped out. And actually that’s when the ideas really became reality. Um what I always tell first time entrepreneurs especially is. There’s only so much you can do while you have a job of course for legal reasons you shouldn’t be doing that. But even from a mindspace perspective you want to be able to do it full time. Be able.

Ameesh Divatia: Really put in the effort because by the way that’s what the investors look at as well if you’re still hanging around in your job and trying to think of things to do The investor is also going to look at it differently like okay this guy’s trying but not quite fully committed right? So that’s really the. Turning point I got out there. It took me a full six months to actually come up with an idea but then I was confident enough to say okay so pipe links was was a concept of actually being able to create what is what eventually became something known as a multi-service provisioning platform where what you do is you take in. Traffic from corporate environments and you pipe it into the telecom network this is the early days of the internet you know cost a lot of money to actually be able to get connectivity but everybody had a voice line coming into their environments. So what we figured out is to build a product where you could have 1 single pipe from the telecom provider where you can do both voice and data and you do data with the same kind of service level guarantees that voice has which is really what made it more enterprise less.

Alejandro Cremades: So then so then let’s talk about there you know because with pipe links. Also it was pretty interesting I mean the first Vc meeting in your life. You know it happens at none other place than sequoia. You know one of the best venture capitals of all time I mean.

Ameesh Divatia: So that’s what openings meant.

Alejandro Cremades: How was that experience for you.

Ameesh Divatia: Crazy story. So um, and there’s a lesson to be learned here as well because I think a lot of entrepreneurs feel like you know these vc meetings are like like Shark tank like happen. You know you go in there and you walk out with a check it never happens like that. Um, you’ve got to make sure that you have all the groundwork done and then the Vc meeting and you know the actual commitment is just a formality in our case, what happened was. My co-founder and I basically came up with this idea fine tuned it and got Cisco fully committed to it so pipeings is actually a Stanford school of business case study where Cisco wanted to get into a new space. They wanted to get into the the telecom business. Mostly a data networking company and they would do these kind of projects where they would fund a company and create a product that can be brought can leverage from what they have and brought to a new market so we went to Cisco and convinced them about this particular concept and again. Right? Things align timing was great but I do give it give them a lot of credit. They were always that forward looking comfy that you know wants to get in new markets. So they basically said yep with invest but we need a Vc to keep us all honest. So um.

Ameesh Divatia: Here’s the deal introduced us to so the sequoia partner and said Monday morning eight thirty show up and pitch and we showed up and that room was full of every so sequoia apartment that was out there. Don Valentine god of venture capital was there right at at the back very interestingly. Ah, he asked only 1 question. He asked my cofounder and I how long we have known each other. This is very important when you’re trying to build that founding team. You want to bring people that you really first of all trust and you can show how you’ll be able to work together because. Founding journey is not easy. There’s gonna be lots of problems. There’s gonna be lots of twists and turns and if there’s founder dynamics that are in trouble and the great ideas can fail. In our case was lucky. my co-founder was my kindergarten classmate so it made for a really good story but by the way the the path forward was not without twists and turns um, he had to come to me and have me you know. Do things that you know we had to do for the good of the company which it required a lot of sacrifices and a lot of hard decisions to be made. But that dynamic is very very critical when you’re starting a company.

Alejandro Cremades: Oh man, a hundred percent now in your case you know with this company. It ended up being a really nice successful outcome because the company ended up getting acquired for to 126000000 by Cisco. So I’m I’m wondering like obviously first company first exit. What? how. Make us inside us for a bit there I mean how was how was it like going through that process.

Ameesh Divatia: To be perfectly honest, it was somewhat unbelievable right? I mean again, this is Ninety Ninety Nine so crazy things were happening around us but still, um, you know getting there was was certainly surreal in some ways it felt like it was. It was too easy to be perfectly. Honest, just because it happened so fast and it was the first time for me at least that it had happened so um, but again you know. And absolutely no complaints. So it was. It was great to have that happen and I made ah actually a strategic decision for my career to switch from being a technologies to going with the business side. So I used the opportunity to be at Cisco to be on the marketing side product specifically to learn how product works how marketing works. Because that’s something that I had not been exposed to. So yeah, it was it was it. It. It’s it’s the so one of the things that people always talk about is the honeymoon right? when you first get acquired, you go through this honeymoon stage where you are the darling of.

Alejandro Cremades: So then.

Ameesh Divatia: Of the company right? You get invited to all kinds of events and every sales guy wants you to go come talk to their customer. It was amazing. But again it doesn’t last and there came a point where reality had to come through and we had to. Actually show exactly what we were able to do in terms of creating new markets.

Alejandro Cremades: So as they say once an entrepreneur entrepreneur always an entrepreneur I mean in your case you had to do the vesting and resting for a little bit with Cisco. You know, just a couple of years you know some people you know, rest more than others you know I’m sure that at Cisco. Maybe you know like you didn’t have that much time but but in this case, you decided you know to go out it again with a rohi. Communications. So at what point do you realize you know that that’s the next you know, best chapter for you in your entrepreneurial journey.

Ameesh Divatia: Very simple 2001? Um, my boss at that time comes to me and said look you know times are really really tough and what we’re going to do is shut down everything that is forward looking. So we’re going to milk what we have in the product line and you want to shut down everything that. That you were looking at as sort of the next next gen and beyond so I have the choice to go and you know go milk what we had versus do something different having done it once. It’s a hell of a lot easier to do it again and this is where again I have a lot of respect for the people who give you their first. That first chance and it’s not just about the first chance for the first company even when you are starting a company the first check the person who writes the first check in my mind is the one that takes the most risk so decided to go and actually. Ah, help another team that I had seed funded this is something that also happens once once you make a commitment to and to somebody else. It’s very important to follow through with it the valley especially is a very small place where travels fast. You want to make sure that your reputation is the most important thing that it’s out there. So I decided to join this team that had seed funded and raising money was actually a lot easier than the first time around I did not have to wait those six months to get that going and very interestingly again, there’s the the biggest thing about entrepreneurship is the.

Ameesh Divatia: The ebbs and the and the flows. So so we close this round and we’re ready to get going. You know we have $15000000 and in in the bank and ten days later Nine Eleven happens which completely changes everything again. The market was starting to slow down but that was sort of everything came to a screeching halt. So again, we luckily had the money in the bank. So we weathered it through but I still feel like in my 25 years of doing this that was probably. Two Thousand actually 2001 more 2002 was probably the worst time to be raising money or being in the entrepreneurial business so it was really lots of lessons learned now if pipelings was easy. This was much much harder because of the macro. Is something I always tell entrepreneurs all the time you know if you are doing do something. Um you always have to watch the macro as to what’s going on and adjust accordingly because those are things that you can never control.

Alejandro Cremades: So obviously you know you got to control whatever is in front of you right? But I mean what? Ah what a tremendous journey there you know and and and a great exit to emulates to you know there for thirty nine million bucks now in your career. You know, obviously one of the things that is very interesting is that. You’ve had the opportunity to look at things as well. You know on the investor side whether you were an entrepreneur in residence. Um, you know with an art team and ventures or later on. You know you would also be a partner on in karta where you were looking at more of the early stage a companies at a seat level. Ah, but 1 of the things that they. s kind of like a little of a different approach to the venture mentality whether it was on one side or on the other on the table was the route that you decide to take when you took on the c roll at lightwire which was kind of like a turnaround that ended up being a really nice exit to another company. None. Another. Then one called cisco. so um so Cisco ally why were you brought in what were you encounter when you were brought in and how did you go about turning things around to get things to the finish line.

Ameesh Divatia: Yeah, so um, you know one of the things I’ve always done and this is something I advise everybody whether they’re an entrepreneur or not is when you start your first job and when you proceed in your career always look for the big picture.

Ameesh Divatia: And large companies. Especially it’s very easy to get slotted into a little role where you’re doing something that you’re doing and you know if you’re happy with that. You’ll never grow. You want to find out what is it that you’re doing and what impact it has to the overall product and eventually to the overall strategy. So this is something that I always wanted to do all along where you know that’s how I grew in my career and then when I exited or aroi actually spent two good years at at Mlx doing the corporate thing and. And it’s something you should also do when you’re doing multiple companies you want to make sure that you get a variety of experiences because the entrepreneurial journey is not easy. You need to recharge so I decided that I was going to go and look for a different role on the investing side and quickly figured out. The best part about in the investing side is where I right? you talk to very smart people and you learn a lot every day and you get a lot of different experiences there but um, it is still a passive role so at light for I was I was trying to help that company. Being an advisor but very quickly figured out that when I went out to help them raise money. The investors would look at me and say well what you have to off I mean what’s what’s your skin in the game here. So.

Ameesh Divatia: Very quickly I figured out that if I really want to make an impact I needed to jump in which wasn’t a surprise but it’s something that I did try to avoid for a while so lightwear was actually a very very innovative company. It is by far the the most innovative and something that i. I mean it is something that changed the world if you will so we were in a situation where we had some tremendous technology tremendous innovation but we couldn’t find a very good path to market. So I was brought in because again our friends at Cisco were interested. You know, very specific innovation and they were willing to put money where their mouth was write a big check. Um and they wanted to make sure that they had somebody that they had worked with before who could who they could trust and that’s how I got in there and then once I was in there. Was ah, a lot of painful decisions to make because this was again a very technology different company. It had a lot of different things and we had to shut everything down except for what Cisco as the partner at that time was willing to fund and willing to to work with us on. So. For engineers. It’s very hard for to tell them hey this this thing is not going to go forward but we did that I give the team a lot of credit. Not only did they do that they actually focused and executed flawlessly so that we delivered exactly what we had promised and at that point surprising to us because Cisco is not.

Ameesh Divatia: Ah, somebody who’s interested in components. They decided to work integrate vertically and incorporate that team into their organization and acquired the company.

Alejandro Cremades: And obviously quite the acquisition 271000000 now there was ah a little get together a little gathering there that happened to celebrate that you know at an Italian restaurant and take quite a coincidence that you also happen to have ah an exchange with one of the italian. Executives You know there was quite a surprise you know for them. But what did you tell them.

Ameesh Divatia: Well, um, one of the things about entrepreneurship is you know you get very attached to what you’re doing and when I did light bar I was all in this company was not even in the valley right was in in Pennsylvania so I spent a year and a half commuting so I had a lot invested in it. Um, but once the acquisition happened one of the things I realized was um um I didn’t want to go back to corporate life and be you know again. Ah gives again I give Cisco a lot of credit for thinking ahead and making that bet. So I wanted to make sure that our champion at Cisco had a clean slate to run the company and run the that team so you know this was a you know italian restaurant where you were at and my champion happened to be italian and I just said well think of this as a big italian weettdding. Where I’m going to be giving away the bride and that’s that’s the end of it after that you take it from there. Um, ah, fortunately he was very. Understanding of that and actually that particular product has absolutely thrived inside of of Cisco. It’s created a massive product line so it was a good story but but 1 of the thing was that we want to make sure well one of the the funny parts was my my Ceo was the founder of the company.

Ameesh Divatia: Ah, was somebody that I felt strongly that they should keep so I said well the bride goes with you which is the company but the father of the bride goes with it. So so that was the the handoff and it was very hard at first for me because it felt like okay is this. Baby going to be maintained properly and um was very happy a few years later here how well that company had done ah inside.

Alejandro Cremades: That’s amazing and nothing like setting up expectations right of the bat. So good stuff now in your case, this was a really nice Sequence. You know or so or secway you know that would ended up being propelling you to your next day company a company that you’re running now that you’ve created. Cofounded called Buffle. So for the people listening what is Buffo. What are you guys doing at buffal and what is the business model.

Ameesh Divatia: Well has the name suggests we confuse hackers. Um, what we do is build a product where your most important asset which is your data is protected so the cyber security market if you will is very very. Big from the perspective. The number of companies out there and the number of solutions that are out there. But as you also know the hacks are not ending. In fact, there’s a lot of backlash right now about the fact that we’re spending over $ $100000000000 in cybersec security spending but the hackcks continue to happen. 1 of the big reasons is because most cyber security. Solutions are all about observation. It’s about making sure that you have a security guard in front of your asset to make sure that they monitor who’s going in and out well as we know from other examples as well. That’s not the best way to protect your asset. The best way to predict your asset is to disguise it in such a way that when the hacker gets in there. He thinks it’s just rocks, but within the rock is gold. So that’s what baffle does we protect data at the record level of the field level and we do that by either encrypting it. Tokenizing it or masking it what we do depends on how the data is going to be used downstream and we do it all the way down at the field level. So when that data ends up in the cloud. For example, nobody can see it including the cloud administrator.

Ameesh Divatia: This is becoming a massive requirement now for enterprises as they migrate more and more assets to the cloud where they want a cryptographic guarantee that the cloud service provider actually cannot see their data I’m not suggesting that cloud service provider either wants to see the data or will also steal data. Because and you know they’re there rules about how they work. But what you worry about is somebody pretending to be the cloud service providers administrator by phishing them or somehow getting the credentials of the infrastructure administrators with a solution like baffle. What would happen is that the cloud service providers admin would just see encrypted data or tokenized data so that even if somebody pretending to to be them get access to it. The data is useless number 1 number 2 when that data is exfiltrated. Since the data is useless. There is no notification requirement a lot of companies suffer tremendous reputation damage. It takes them years to to mend that you know think think target thing equifax because of the fact that they lost their customers data if you lose. Your customers data but it happens to be encrypted. You don’t have to notify anybody. So. It’s really making sure that you create that proactive security posture and protect the data all the way down at the record level.

Alejandro Cremades: So for this, you guys have raised a a bit of money. So How much have you raised and obviously at this point you’re what is called a tier 0 founder where you can like literally grab money from any investor that you want So how did you go about? you know, picking up your the people that you going to kind of be marrying. And going to the wedding you know with.

Ameesh Divatia: Well, um, ah while I’d love to say that it’s it’s easier easier. It’s not easy. So once this look at your track record. Yes, they do trust you but at the same time you have to be able to demonstrate that you’re really building a business especially in the field like cybersecurity where. You know you have almost 3000 startups now. Um you know you want to make sure that number 1 you differentiated you know the technology is something that is unique. You have a barrier to entry number 2 you have a team that actually has credibility and it’s the ability to actually execute. And number 3 and the most important one that you’re building a large market. So the way we convinced investors to to invest in this is you know we’re sort of turning the whole model on its head typically as I said security is all about monitoring. You talk about which security. Requirements you’re adhering to and that’s important, but we turn the model on its head and the solution is actually built into the data pipeline. So what we are saying is this is not something that is dependent on your security budget. It really is just an adder to your infrastructure budget. It’s part of the data pipelines as soon as data is created you want to protect it so that you can never ever be considered liable for it. The secret sauce though is how you can actually process that data data is ingest into data pipelines sent to the cloud.

Ameesh Divatia: For a very specific reason. The reason is that you want to actually either process it or share it. So what we have figured out is a way to actually process that data in the cloud without again, anybody seeing it. The concept is known as privacy preserving analytics. Where you’re able to get insight from data without actually decrypting it so that’s the the secret sauce when it comes to the next gen of analytics which is really any kind of llm interactions or generative Ai. Now. It’s become a requirement that you have to share data and so that’s where this solution becomes even more critical because now you can share data without actually compromising on the privacy of the people who actually provided that data to you your customers.

Alejandro Cremades: So then so then in this case, you know with the company with Buffo you know one of the toughest moments that you guys had to encounter was the the catastrophe. You know that that that that really unfolded once Silicon Valley bank you know went down. You know how was that for you guys and. Ah, did you manage that crisis.

Ameesh Divatia: I was surreal. It was exactly a year ago now um and actually the the rumor started to to swirl that this might happen and I actually collected my team and told them this is never going to happen. You know this is a very conservative bank. This bank will never ever go under. What I did not understand at that point is actually there is no bank in the world that can survive around on their money because of the fact that they are always leveraged again. I’m not a finance guy I’m ah an engineer. Um, but I understand math and as soon as I knew that um. I knew that there was a possibility but I still thought that they would find a way to actually say solvent so I had to go to my team 24 hours later and say I was wrong but I still told them that I have I have faith in in in the system. This is what makes this country so unique, right? Which is that you you have to trust a system. And you have to believe that if you haven’t done anything wrong that you’re almost likelyly stay out of trouble. So um, what was amazing was what happened afterwards in terms of the people that came to us can. Um, you asked about vcs right? This is this is how you pick vcs. The first thing that told us is when is your next payroll and how much money do you need? That’s ah the quality of venture capitalists that we have in our industry.

Ameesh Divatia: So when you pick them, you know, look at what they’ve done in the past and make sure that you have that Implicit. Trust you know, just like what you have in your founding team. So our vcs essentially said you know and by the way the the part that made it really really. Interesting is our Vcs money was in svb as well. But they just said we’ll find a way just tell me how much money you need by next week by a twist of faith. Actually our payroll was not on that Monday, but the Monday after so I told them I don’t need any money right now. Let’s wait. For the weekend and let’s wait for Monday and I’ll tell you how much money we need to pay our bills so it was that Friday was very tough because we literally had access to no money and I’m sure a lot of your listeners would know that these banks have.

Alejandro Cremades: Wow.

Ameesh Divatia: Balance control requirements that you know if you have venture debt which by the way we we had but we had not drawn down on it so we had a venture debt instrument in place. But we’re not drawn down on it but just because we had it. We had to put all our money in 1 place and that’s something that’s never going to happen again. But. What was very interesting is Saturday afternoon. Do 30 when Janet Ellen goes up there and says nobody’s going to lose money so the saying we always have around here is you know our our dollar bills say in god we trust. But to believe in god we do need the the treasury department there.

Alejandro Cremades: My god absolutely so so iish I’m putting you now into a time machine and I’m bringing you back to the late 90 s when you got started with your first company and you’re able to give that younger amish one piece of advice for launching a business. What would that be and why given why you know now.

Ameesh Divatia: I have a lot lot to say but let me say just 1 thing which is trust your instinct you know one thing that you we always tend to do is we tend to second guesss ourselves and nobody is going to believe in something that you don’t. See right in our in our business. It’s not necessarily seeing and is believing. It is usually believe it and then you will see it. So trust your instinct to make the right call about what is it that you strongly believe in because if you believe in something you’ll be able to find other people that. Ah, like you will believe in it and then you’ll make it a reality.

Alejandro Cremades: I Love it I love it. So I made sure the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.

Ameesh Divatia: Well, you’re always welcome to reach out to me on Linkedin. Um, you just ping me I’m happy to provide any kind of help that I and that I can one of the things that we believe as a community very strongly is. It’s all about giving back I mean that’s one of the biggest reasons why I got into seed investing as well because you know somebody did it with me and I owe it to the community to do it with with others so I may or may not be able to invest but I can absolutely put you in touch. With the right people the right ecosystem to make sure that we can get your ventures off the ground.

Alejandro Cremades: Amazing! Well amish. Thank you so much for being on the dealmaker show today. It has been an absolute honor to have you with us.

Ameesh Divatia: Thank you I Appreciate the opportunity.


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