Neil Patel

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Imran Khan went from becoming one of the youngest managing directors at JP Morgan to taking Snap through raising $4B, and becoming an entrepreneur himself. His venture, Verishop, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Lion Capital, Cassius Family Fund, Upfront Ventures, and DCM Ventures.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • What Verishop is all about
  • Effective relationships with board chairs
  • Lots more


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About Imran Khan:

Imran Khan is the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of Verishop, an e-commerce platform that champions independent and emerging brands. Additionally, he is the founder and CEO of Proem Asset Management, an investment firm that focuses on the technology space.

Prior to co-founding Verishop, Khan served as Snap Inc.’s Chief Strategy Officer, where he oversaw the company’s corporate strategy, revenue generation, business operations, and partnerships. Under his leadership, Snap’s annual revenue run rate increased to $1.6 billion from zero in less than four years.

Previously, Khan was a Managing Director and Head of Global Internet Investment Banking at Credit Suisse, where he advised on more than $45 billion worth of Internet M&A and financing transactions. Before joining Credit Suisse, he held the role of Managing Director and Head of Global Internet Research at JPMorgan Chase.

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Connect with Imran Khan:

Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Alejandro Cremades: All righty hello everyone and welcome to the dealmakerr show. So super excited about our founder today I mean we’re going to be talking about going from corporate to startups hyper growth companies and now you know launching you know his own companies. And also you know being chairman of others so without further ado. Let’s welcome our guests today Iran can welcome to the show. So originally born in Bangladesh so give us a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up there.

Imran Khan: Thank you for having me I appreciate it. Thanks.

Imran Khan: So ah, it was wonderful. I had a wonderful parents so you know I think that’s very very important. The parents who are loving I grew up, you know in a small town in Bangladesh and ah my mom was very young when she had me and and ah. You know my dad was working for government and then ultimately we moved moved the capital went to public school in Bangladesh I went to high school there I had a lot of great friends and then I moved here for college I did play cricket I was better at cricket than soccer.

Alejandro Cremades: And I assume that you were playing a little bit of cricket. That’s incredible. Good stuff I know that cricket is a really big deal there now you did high school there but eventually you came to college you know in the us. So what was you know? what? what was that triggering event that. You know, brought you here to the Us.

Imran Khan: And so my dad you know had a lot of exposure to international businesses. He was in shipping business. It worked for Bangladesh government at that time and and he always encouraged me to you know expand my horizon and do different things. You know. And learn new things and I thought it was you know he and my family encouraged me and I thought it would be interesting to go to a different country learn different culture and learn. You know you know new things and that really led me to come here for college.

Alejandro Cremades: So how was coming to the Us How was that the you know shock of all of our something you come here. The land of opportunity. You know how was that.

Imran Khan: I yeah I’ve never been to the us before I came to college I know I found my college literally I I told the story to Jerry Young when I first met him I went to an internet cafe and searched for schools in the us and went to the Yahoo us news. But the search engine that I used was Yahoo. And my first you know one of my first exposure was aol instant messenger and ah and I met Yui Verde and I told him that story also and and and Yahoo so ah, ah, you know I think you know classwise school was very easy. Ah but culture shock was you know there’s a lot of. Nuances I had to run learn. You know? Ah, ah, right? you know like in Bangladesh. For example, we do like doing a lot of jwalking here. You know in Denver if you try to do jwwa you want to get killed. You know one of the most interesting cultural nuances is that in Bangladesh. You know there’s not really a personal space people close talk. Very close to each other you know, but in the us you have a personal space. You know? So ah so a lot of the interesting things. Ah so I think the first year was learning about it I had a great roommate Neil Plagg he was with his family was very very very ah welcoming. Ah, but ah, but in general I thought. Denver was a great place and and and people were super welcoming and and school was ah not that difficult. Um, so after a year one year year two it was great

Alejandro Cremades: So for you, you took finance then you ended up joining wall street as a result of having a friend that you know enter the the segment the industry and you know you you ended up scaling through the ranks you know through investment banking then research and then you end up becoming a pretty big wig. You know in in Jpmorgan. So what were you doing at Jp Morgan and and and what kind of things that you learn you know from you know, being ah a senior executive and ah at a large large bank like Jpmorgan.

Imran Khan: So few things I was incredibly lucky you know, right? now you know, um I you know I picked up the coverage of internet stocks in 2002 at the bottom of the market you know and you know what 2001 did you know it discredited so many analysts you know. Because they were paid by banking and and and and really pumping the stocks without highlighting any risk with these companies. Ah, it really opened up the opportunity for new generation analysts like me to come in and build credibility. You know and and I picked up. As a senior analyst covering internet because there was really nobody there at the age of 25 and by age 26 I was one of the top ranked 1 or 2 ranked analyst number 1 or number 2 ranked analyst depending on which survey you look at in the in wall street. So and internet was coming back really fast. You know 2004 Google went public. Um, and ah Amazon stock came back from dead you know became a runway success and really you know I was recommending all these stocks and ah and so my star rose very quickly and you know I became one of the youngest managing director at Jp Morgan at age 27 I think the.

Alejandro Cremades: Wow.

Imran Khan: Biggest thing I learned at this few things. Biggest thing I learned actually not related to internet but more related to risk management. You know I think the fundamentally I think you know going through the financial crisis while staying at Jpmorgan. Um I still remember when I became and a managing director and it was a big deal like only. 2 oneha three percent of the Jep Morgan ah banking team was Md and we spent some time that incoming class spending some time with Jamie Dimon and one of the things he said still remember that it takes years to build trust and credibility. But you can destroy it in a minute and.

Alejandro Cremades: Oh yeah.

Imran Khan: And and and and during the financial crisis we saw that you know banks like bear stearns and Lehman you know they had built a franchise for 100 years but was destroyed overnight because they lost the trust and the credibility the entire wall street is built on. Trust. And financial system in the United States built on trust right? when you buy a stock you don’t get the you know security you know when you when you transect you never see the money. It’s all happening. You know, ah digitally and it’s even becoming more and more digital. So the entire financial system is built on trust and look and going into this cryto industry. What’s going on. It’s actually very important and and and and I think what we learn my biggest learning lesson from ah Jv morgan days that no matter who who you are if you fail to build trust with your investors with your customers with your partners. Your business can be destroyed overnight. So don’t take shortard. Build trust. It’s better to take the near term loss but build trust because the entire financial system in America is built on. Trust.

Alejandro Cremades: So in your case I mean you were doing pretty well you know as you mentioned you know you became an Md. You know one of the youngest guys there to be an Md at jp Morgan you know pearly doing very well you know, incredible salary going on too and. Why do you decide to jump ship and go to credit suite.

Imran Khan: So first of all, you know so funny story. Um, in 2010 you know I was having drinks with Joe Chai who is the co-founder of alibaba at that time he was a cfo now. He’s the vice chairman of Alibaba and also owned Brooklyn Nets a really wonderful human being um and ah and I was telling him that hey I you know I’m kind of bored being a research analyst and I’m thinking should I move to Asia because there’s so much growth there and you know he said listen I really like how you think maybe you should think about going to investment banking or do you consider that.

Imran Khan: I was like sure I didn’t think much about it. 48 hours later I still remember my son was born in 2010 and I was just hanging out with him and I got a phone call from Joe and said hey I talked to few banks and they would really love to talk to you is it? Okay, if I give them your phone number I said sure and and then. Really led to me joining the investment banking one I was bored and I really valued and even date I really respect what Joe’s advice is on many things in life and he’s a great mentor of mine and ah and that’s really led to you know, join credit swiss to do ah internet banking. Um, you know I learned so much by being a banker and and that opened up what I’m doing now. So so it was a great opportunity to.

Alejandro Cremades: And in this case I mean you were you were for close to 4 years I mean you grew the operation at Creditwis really nicely. But then all of a sudden one day you receive a phone call from Evan Spiegel the co-founder of snapchat you know snap and they. That can like a unfold it I shift in gears you know for you in your professional career so give us ah an insider view of what happened that day when you received that call and the events that unfolded from there.

Imran Khan: And yeah, so it’s interesting right? because um, banking was great. You know, ah like during that time we grew credit swiss revenue from 12000000 you know the year I left in 2014 we did two hundred and fifty million dollars but the number 1 franchise in the internet in wall street in 2014 ah, and ah so I you know I was not really thinking about leaving financial institutions I loved New York loved and living in New York and so once I got that you know. You know, like invitation to go meet Evan and I was familiar with snapchat but I was not using the product. You know? Ah I was 2010 I was 33 years old and at that time so 2014 I was like even lower I’m 37 at that time ah snap was. You know, really used by college students because snap was student founded in 2012 you know and so so I was familiar with snap but I was not super I was not a user ah and so I went to I remember that I went to all the first year analyst at craswiss you know the bull pen and said hey do you guys use snap who you snap and literally 100% of the people raised the hand that they use snap I was like wait a second 100% of the entire credit Swiss first year analysi class use the product there got to be something on it. So I called them bunch of them in my office.

Imran Khan: And said, okay let me show me how to use the product and at that time it was just a messaging app. They didn’t have discovered. They didn’t have anything you know, just you just send text and pictures. You know they didn’t have a grove chat nothing just 1 to 1 on one chat and so so when I start playing with that you know I was very familiar with tencent. You know? Um, um. And I was like wow that messaging app can be built on top of it in all the features and services the business could be really really interesting and so I went to see Evan and we went for a long walk and you know one of the most incredible. Um. Benefit and and privilege of you know, covering internet you know in two thousand s was that I get to meet so many incredible people who are iconic figure. But at that time they were very young right? You know, ah right in like a lot of these companies. That’s really really big. You know they were not that big at that time you know, many of them were like few billion dollar market cap here and there you know, ah and so I met lot of really really smart people you know and ah and I was blown away by Evan’s intellect his vision his thinking.

Imran Khan: And I remember after the meeting I got on a car and called my wife and said listen I think you will offer me a job and if he does I will take it and we probably have to move to l a and ah and so so really, you know the product was incredible. Avan’s vision was incredible and his it’s truly and special special human being and that really led me join snap.

Alejandro Cremades: So tell tell us about joining snapchat because I mean obviously what a career shift. You know you go from big institutions from the stable you know 9 to five s obviously you know like with her.

Imran Khan: I Never mentioned about goal.

Alejandro Cremades: Deal of stress and and ups and downs and all that stuff. But now you’re in a hypergrowth company. You know, incredible amount of pressure because also you were tasked with the you know, figuring out the whole advertising side of things. So How was how was that transition for you and then how did you go about. How do you guys go about building the the ad you know side of things on the revenue side.

Imran Khan: Yeah I think ah so you know I make this is my fourth career change right from investment bank is research to investment banking to credit. So is now being a founder first year is always tough right. It is probably the hardest thing you do first as I said first year in college was very very hard. You know when you come from Bangladesh to the us and so first year it was tough clearly because I had to and I had to develop new kind of muscles to be effective in the business. Ah, but I think you know. 1 of the greatest thing about snap was you know we rereated some incredible talent. Really really great talent you know and ah and and and and and you know I think ah that really made my life easier because I worked with some of the smartest people I’ve ever met at snapchat and um. And it was very inspiring you know because they’re building. Great product. It’s and it was an incredible innovative product. So ah so work felt you know exciting because you were doing something fun in terms of building ad business. Um I think you know I never you know I knew ad business well because as a research Ana but I never ran as an ad business. You know from a operating site I think you know so we learned from our mistakes you know? Um, but I think one of the biggest thing was you know at first we really focus on that. How can we extract the brand advertisers because we had a lock on you know a young audience and you know.

Imran Khan: And say you know how can we get this young audience. You know people who want to reach that young audience. You know how can we attract them really focusing on the brand advertising advertising ah that but was a relatively easy you know and then we tried to transition. Ah we we transitioned to direct response at business. Can we build more direct response and and and ah and and and and bring more ah small businesses come to our platform. Ah you know, um, you know I think 2015 and 2016 you know we’ve probably generated most of our revenue from top 500 advertisers but how can we take twenty thirty forty Thousand advertisers how do we diversify it. That required a lot of technology investment and ah and you know again I think one of the greatest thing at snap was we were able to try great talent and I had an incredible team. You know guys like nima who runs Vp of engineering now at snap Peter Sellis who is the Svp of product at Discord ah per senda who a Vp of ah product at Spotify Now all these guys did have done an incredible job building the product and with an awesome team and and you know, um, it was not a smooth ride like it never’s a smooth ride but ups and down but we figured out and we were able to grow the ad business from 0 in January Twenty Fifteen you know we’re raising money and investors are giving us hard time because we are all. 0 revenue in 2015 ah, by the end of q 4 of 2018 and 15 we’re doing one point six six billion dollars annualized revenue. So so so so but you know all credit goes to Evans Vision you know of building an incredible product and the amazing team that we’re able to attract.

Alejandro Cremades: Wow.

Alejandro Cremades: So Obviously you know the company goes public tremendous Success. You know Also for you being part of that experience. You know it sounds like a wild you know Journey a wild experience. You know you were always looking at it from the outside you know more from your. You know a comfortable seat. You know at a big bank. You know now you were actually you know in the weeds of it. You were part of the execution part of the being in the Battlefield. So at what point do you realize? hey you know what I think I can actually start something on my own and what was that moment where you realize it’s time to. To go at it and take action.

Imran Khan: And I think the big thing is I always like to torture myself and take on really really new challenges. You know, um and you know at the end of 18 yeah I was running hard for a very long period of time you know the four years I was at banking was. very very you know do like I went to China for one day I went Hong Kong for a day like I would fly in in the morning and fly back at night and it and and and went at snap I opened you know, ah offices in like 17 countries you know and and hiring people you know. Recruiting is one area that I really really focused on because we always knew Evan and I always knew that our team is as strong as our team. Our company is as strong as our team and ah so so I was really tired and ah one I needed a break and second you know I feel like I needed. To develop new kind of skillset you know, ah you know the thing at snap is you know by the time I showed up, you know the company I had around 50 to 75 people something like that. But you know we had 70000000 users. You know the company had incredible product market fit ah and and and that’s you know? well.

Imran Khan: Once you have a 70000000 users you know and it’s growing. It’s not easy, but you know I think I always like to think if you have a great product monetization. You can build ah and so so I appreciate people give me a lot of credit for it. but but I also think that real credit lies with people who build it from 0 um, and so I wanted to try something. You know, try building a bunch of things from 0 and and so that really led to you know, start taking on this new challenge.

Alejandro Cremades: So let’s talk about the new challenge. You know how did that the incubator and how did you bring it to life.

Imran Khan: Yeah I Think the biggest trend I saw when I was at snapchat and living in La is this creators economy. You know, ah all these creators were creating amazing incredible content and disrupting the content industry particular and. Second leg of that trend I saw was that a lot of the small businesses were creating. They’re building incredible product with a great product vision you know and and they’re They’re really trying to build a brand you know and and and at the end of the day. What is a brand a brand is a promise. And we lose connection to startup Ro New. Okay, so at the end of the day. A brand is a promise and ah and and did this great individuals who are Grant building. Great product with great promises and and and my thesis was that we’re gonna see explosive growth of these brand creators.

Alejandro Cremades: Yep.

Imran Khan: And what I realized that the world needs the platform that supports this brand community you know and that really led the creation of verhop group. You know what workshop group is is really a community for independent brand creators and we support this brand’s community 3 ways number 1 we help them sell more product. Through our owned and operated site like vshop.com. Ah second we help them on marketing solution. You know we created a premium media at and network for these independent brands because if you’re a small business as he only can advertise on Facebook or maybe Google ah so what we did is we brought in ad invently from. Connect tv by partnering with the media company or partnering with a lot of the written publications and bringing premium media plasma opportunities and helping these independent brands get opportunity to tell the story beyond the social platforms you know because that’s getting really crowded with Apple etc issue. It’s getting really really challenging. So and the other thing is what we found that you know if you just spend money on any ah 1 channel 100% your ah Roi is lower if you diversify and and tell the story or social or performance marketing channel does better and so that really really creation of our premium media ad network. And then the third thing we saw all these independent brands. They’re really struggling with on the cost side because they don’t have enough scale everything they do is cost them more money and as a result they are a difficult spot compared to their larger competitors. So what very sharp group as a community. We’re like an union right.

Imran Khan: We go to all the vendors that our businesses use and negotiate a lower rate. Ah for our merchant so you can get packaging at a 30% cheaper rate you get shipping as a 40% cheaper rate you get all these software companies at a 25% cheaper rate. So when you join very sharp brand committee. Not only you can sell more to our owned and operating site. Or tell your story to a broader ah broader network through your ah through our media network. But also you can access a lot of services at a significant a cheaper rate and save lot of money so that you can reinvest in your business to grow your business and so that’s really where sharp is our mission is to help. Independent emergaging brands thrive create a lot of jobs and that’s that’s what we’re really focused on.

Alejandro Cremades: And how much I mean how how do you guys? capitalize here here. How how do you guys make money.

Imran Khan: So we make money ah two ways number 1 is to ah when brands sell to our platform. We take a percentage of itup. So. It’s a no risk you know you come you only pay as a fee if there’s a transaction happens and second to our advertising solutions. So um, so you can you know use our marketing solution to tell your story beyond Facebook and other social network a world govern platform to grow your brand to equ more customers. You know like we have this partnership with Nbc Nbc which is 100000000 how people in the United States you know. So now you can tell your story through this. These partnerships you know and connected Tv and other areas and and and and and what our brands found by advertising through our new media network their overall adoi improves because you know they’re diversifying their channel. The mix gets better and and and and the storytelling gets better. So so those are the 2 ways we make money ah and on hundred and 40000000 so.

Alejandro Cremades: And how much capital have you guys raised for this company imran hundred and forty million and how have you gone because obviously with a snapchat you know you were able to really understand you know like the relationship with investors. You know how that works you know the dynamics with the early backers. So. Were some of the lessons that you learned you know when it came to fundraising and to investor you know, communication and relationships that you knew you wanted to apply to very shop and and and how and why did you go about bringing on board the investors that you did.

Imran Khan: Yeah, and and listen I raised like over like one point eight Billion Pre ipo and two and half billion at ipo so over four billion dollars at snap. Also um, and ah you know I played you know I worked with the team. Obviously it’s not a myself. But. Brought a team worked on it. Ah, and so I have some experience there as well. Ah I think you know the the big thing here is a few things learning right? So again I want to go back. You know the first lesson I learned trust right. When investors give you money they give you the Trust. So you really have to deliver on the trust and so that’s single most important things. So I think you have to be careful what you communicate and how much you can deliver because if you break trust very early on it will get difficult to raise money down the road right. So that’s number 1 don’t over promise you know promise things that you can deliver and be very objective and very transparent about your business. You know, ah by doing so you know not only it will help you build a credibility and raise money in the down the road but it will also make your relationship with your investors better. Right? Because if you overhype or investors overhyve you know you get into a relationship with a lot of expectations if you open up the book and get into relationship in a very transparent transparent fashion and and consistently be. You know, um, the objective about your business.

Imran Khan: What’s doing well and what’s not doing well I think investors will give you also a lot of leeway. You know your relationship with your board going to be really really good I think that’s really really helpful. Um, and then the third thing is you know? Ah I think what’s most important thing is you know when you negotiate the funding. If. You don’t understand a terms or if it’s too complicated. You know take a pause you know and then I would you know Ah and I really bought into this evans philosophy that if somebody tells you that something standard. Don’t. You know standard is never sign of something because quote unquoted standard. You know it’s standard care. It’s not right? So so really understand these things you know and ah and and and be mindful of and then the last thing is don’t over focus on optimizing valuation. But focus on terms right? because I can make up the valuation I can tell your business is worth $1000000000 by putting four x preference liquidation preference or or adding coupons and things like that you know I think you’re better off having a lower valuation but a simple cap structure that would star you.

Alejandro Cremades: So imagine you were to go to sleep tonight Imran and you wake up in a world where the vision of very shop is fully realized what does that world look like.

Imran Khan: Better down the road.

Imran Khan: What the vision of ver fully realized is that you know alejandros wants to start a business can come to worshiphop and version of solve. Ah you know caverhop can brings your vision to the life from supply chain to ah customer acquisition to telling your story. Your packaging everything you want to do workshop is your 1 stuff shop.

Alejandro Cremades: So I Guess that here we’re looking at the future but let’s look at the past with um, you know, lens over fraction if you if you were to go to um back in time. Let’s hit to a time machine And. You’re able to go back in time you know maybe to a point where Imaran is is you know a little bit younger and you’re able to tell your younger self one piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given why you know now.

Imran Khan: And yeah, listen I think you know one of the most interesting thing is that ah I have a lot of experience but you know when it comes about building a company as a I’m a first time founder you know so I think in many ways. Ah I know a lot of things about the world. Ah, but. I’m by no means I’m an expert quote unquote founder you know and it set’s a new journey. So I learned a lot in last four years and it was a very humbling experience. Um I think one of the biggest lessons I learned as ah in terms of well we’re in the topic of fundraising. Don’t raise too much money. You know one thing that I regret that I raise too much money I raise one hundred and forty million dollars you know I had a lot of credibility and people gave me money and I took the money you know and if I have to rewind back five years ago I would not do that and um and the reason behind it. I think constrained drive innovation primarily and it’s true for every level having a lot of people doesn’t solve your problem you know and because that means you have more people means more hr more more meetings more internal. You know, politics you know and. Ah, so I think you know building a business you know, ah with constraint is is really drive innovation and drive productivity and ah so I think looking back one of the biggest mistake I made is ah raise a lot of money as a result we try to do.

Imran Khan: Lot of things and you know I wish I just focused on 3 or 4 things and you know I’m just not raise that kind of capital and so that’s 1 thing you know? Ah I think when you’re building a business you know I think your biggest strength is your constraint and your nimbleness so when you raise a lot of money that.

Alejandro Cremades: And I hear you that now you’re also the Chairman of the aliff group I mean why is the yeah, what? what? what? What does? you know, an effective Chairman you know that role look like and also what are you guys doing at the lli group.

Imran Khan: It goes away that.

Imran Khan: So Ali is a fascinating company. It’s founded by a gentleman named Guston Tarautta he’s an argentinian guy start the company with $5000 in his pocket and in 2005 and really what they do is they represent Facebook Google snapchat pinterest in the emerging market. So Nigeria if you’re buying ad from Facebook Facebook they had the Facebook exclusive partner or if you’re in Bangladesh, you’re buying ad from Google you’re partnering with them. You know and ah the job as a chairman i’mm I’m ah, really a governance guy. You know I’m the chairman of the board and I’m not day-to-day operations. So my job is really. You know, help advice you know, give you know my experience as an you know as a senior exec of a large organization. You know af has become a pretty big business over the last you know um you know last 10 years and ah so really, you know advice the founder you know how to you know. His thought partner and.

Alejandro Cremades: Got it now for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.

Imran Khan: Ah, you can email me imran@vershopverish o p imran is I am RAN imran at bearshop.com

Alejandro Cremades: Amazing! Well hey imaran thank you? So so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.

Imran Khan: Thank you for having me it was it was honored to be on your show. Thank you.

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