Jeevan Kalanithi scaled and sold his first tech business before raising over $80M to fund and scale his latest startup venture, OpenSpace. His venture has acquired funding from top-tier investors like Alkeon Capital, JLL Spark, Zigg Capital, and Menlo Ventures.
In this episode you will learn:
- Great books for entrepreneurs
- How to test your business idea
- How to take on the pain of entrepreneurship
- Jeevan’s top advice when starting a company
- The real role of a founding CEO
For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) that I recently covered. Thiel was the first angel investor in Facebook with a $500K check that turned into more than $1 billion in cash.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Moreover, I also provided a commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400 million (see it here).
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
About Jeevan Kalanithi:
Jeevan Kalanithi currently serves OpenSpace as CEO. Prior to this, Jeevan more than three years at 3DR, Beddr, Elroy Air, Tempo Automation as an advisor and board member.
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Connect with Jeevan Kalanithi:
Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro: Hello everyone, and welcome to the DealMakers show. Today we have a very interesting founder, to say the least; a two-times founder,and we’re going to be learning a lot. He’s raised quite a bit of money. Also, he’s done the full cycle: build, scale, finance, exit, and you name it, so today’s interview is going to be very, very interesting and inspiring. So without further ado, let’s welcome our guest today. Jeevan Kalanithi, welcome to the show.
Jeevan Kalanithi: I’m happy to be here. Thanks for having me.
Alejandro: Originally, you were born in New York, but I’m sure that you got that drive, as well, from your parents that came from India. So tell us about your upbringing growing up.
Jeevan Kalanithi: My parents are amazing people, and I learned a lot from them. For what they did at the time, it’s totally wild. Like, my parents did not have an arranged marriage, which was a big deal in India. They had different religions. My dad was Christian, and my mom was Hindu. That was totally not cool. One of the reasons they moved to the United States was because the family was not happy with what they had done. Now, everything’s great. My family in India is awesome, and everybody loves each other. But, at the time, it was pretty controversial. My dad showed up in the Bronx with, as he likes to say, less than $20 in his pocket, and then my mom came later. He had gotten a medical degree, so he got a residency in the Bronx and just kind of scraped it out. I owe a lot to them, for sure.
Alejandro: How was it, the switch, going from such a big city like New York to, all of a sudden, being in Arizona in the middle of nowhere there is a small town?
Jeevan Kalanithi: It was weird. Yeah, we moved when I was eight years old. This was really a good career opportunity for my dad to try and start his own practice, which is harder to do, as you can imagine, in a bigger city where everything is a little more established. You know, I was old enough to remember getting on the plane. My dad had driven out six months earlier, and I do remember we came in at night, so we came over the highway, and I saw this huge city with all these lights. Wow! Big city. And then we drive to our house, and then I wake up, and it is daylight, and there’s nothing. It’s just a desert. It was almost like an optical illusion. So it couldn’t have been more different, but I really loved growing up in Cameron. It was an awesome place to grow up in a rural environment, smaller community, and I learned a lot. You’ve just got to be independent in a place like that. My parents still live there, and we like to go back every now and then.
Alejandro: How is that switch going from a place like that to all of a sudden going to Stanford, one of the best universities out there, and at least in entrepreneurship. I know that in India, too, there’s a lot of pressure for education and for getting big-time degrees from big-time universities, so I’m sure that you made your parents very proud.
Jeevan Kalanithi: Yeah, you know, it’s funny. I don’t remember feeling pressure from them. I don’t know if they just installed some weird code in all of their children’s heads. [Laughter] I didn’t feel under a lot of pressure in high school. I just had this feeling that I had some opportunity or chance of getting into these types of universities. I’m the youngest of three, and my brothers paved the way. They both got into Stanford, so I felt like it was a possibility for me to do the right things and get the right grades in high school to make that seem feasible and credible for me to do it. I was lucky enough to get admitted. It was funny. You definitely went into college with just the right healthy dose of overconfidence. I think that was good. I felt confident that I could do well and definitely got my butt kicked a few times, but overall, it felt good. It felt like I was a part of the community and an opportunity to learn from intensely smart people. I do remember feeling like, “Man, I’m very good at math and all of these things from high school.” And then being around people and college for the first time, who were truly good at math, like, people that were going to make contributions to mathematics. I was like, “This guy’s actually good at math.” So that was funny. I remember that experience my freshman year. Overall, I loved my undergrad experience. I feel so lucky to have found a chance to go to a place like that and try to experiment with a lot of different things and learn about a lot of different topics.
Alejandro: In your degree, also, you had artificial intelligence. That was a time when not a lot of people were talking about artificial intelligence. Nowadays, you have artificial intelligence even in your soup.
Jeevan Kalanithi: Yeah.
Alejandro: Everyone talks about it in the venture world.
Jeevan Kalanithi: AI was not cool at the time, that is true. But I was very intellectually interested in a couple of things, like, what makes smart things smart? What are the underpinnings of that? And in particular, as human beings, we’re pretty smart animals. We build these technologies that make us even smarter, so I was very interested in that relationship. So starting artificial intelligence was a way to do that. And you’re right. At that time, it was not a cool, hot topic. But a lot has changed since then, just technical advances that have made it cooler, but it’s something I’ve been interested in for a long time.
Alejandro: So after you got done with your degree, you moved to Brooklyn, and you had a very short-lived job. Obviously, you experienced that dot-com bubble and the dot-com bust. So what was that like, experiencing that, companies folding left and right. I’m sure that you learned quite a bit even though your involvement there was not a lot and your experience, but at least you saw the damage of a bubble like that popping.
Jeevan Kalanithi: Certainly. I was pretty clueless at the time. It just kind of happened to me, but it might have been one of the better things that happened in my life because if it weren’t for that, I probably would have continued on as a software developer, maybe climbing the ranks of the company or not, as the case may be. But having a quick stint as a Java developer in one of these companies, and then suddenly having a lot of time on my hands, like, what do I actually want to do? It was great because, with the rest of my family in New York, I had the opportunity to pursue a wide variety of different things and scratch together enough money to keep going. Yeah, it’s funny. I look back at that experience, but as an entrepreneur, I don’t think that kind of part of me really got activated until later in life. I certainly wasn’t thinking of myself at that time as a member of an entrepreneur ecosystem. I was like, “I like writing software. It’s fun. I should get a job doing that. Then, oops! It’s over. What else should I do?
Alejandro: You did a few things from movie TV sets to TV commercials—very interesting stuff. I think something that changed the course of everything was being at a French party and talking about what he was thinking about the media lab that he was involved with, and that changed the path for you.
Jeevan Kalanithi: Oh, certainly. When I was living in New York, I was kind of doing two very separate things—somewhat schizophrenically, to be honest. On the one hand, I was involved in some pretty technical work. I was working in a neuroscience lab doing computational modeling. Then on the other hand, I was working on movies, painting sets, and then I did documentaries, and then I got into some other more artistic projects that were a little bit technical in nature. So doing these two things, and I started to be like, “I should figure out what I want to do when I grow up, a little bit. Then a friend of mine, who was a roommate of mine at Stanford undergrad—we were in the same major. We were in a [9:46] together. He went to MIT pretty much right after he finished his undergraduate degree. We were at a friend’s birthday party. He came down from Cambridge, and he was showing me what he was working on as a grad school student at this place called a Media Lab at MIT. It was super interesting. It was very much a combination of trying to build systems for real end-users. It was not just pure technology for technology’s sake, but he was using technology as his medium to try to create these experiences. Of course, this was at the grad student level, so definitely not company building, more like doing projects that would get at this. I thought it was super cool. It was like, “Man, this is what I think I want to do is bring these two things together.” He was like, “Yeah, you should try to get into the Media Lab.” So I said, “Okay.” I was able to get admitted, and that was a ton of work, and it started me in the world of technology startups there because the projects we were working on at the Media Lab turned into my first company.
Alejandro: And obviously, TikTok was what transformed and what led the way into your first company Sifteo, so tell us about that transition and how Sifteo really came about and came to life.
Jeevan Kalanithi: Dave and I were working on a project as graduate students called Siftables. It was a user experience concept. We were really interested in trying to build user experiences that were not mediated just by screens. So we built these little blocks that were able to tell how they’re getting arranged with respect to each other with little displays. We caught the attention of the organizers of the TED Conference, who wanted us to do a talk at that main TED Conference. To be honest, when we first got there, I was like, “Dave, we are not ready. This thing is not ready to do that.” But on the other hand, kind of mellow. “Let’s just do it.” Although that was not a phrase at the time; we were basically embodying that. “We had a certain number of months to get our act together to do an awesome talk,” and Dave deserves so much credit for doing such an excellent job with that. It went really well, like the vision that we articulated was quite compelling to a lot of people and had a lot of views, and then we were faced with the decision: should we keep this project as a research project, or do we think there’s something there, and do we think there could be a business that could scale that we’re building something here that could turn into a company? That was not an easy decision, but ultimately, we had this test. It was like: what would we regret not doing?” And then do that. It was a good test, in general. We were trying to decide whether to go in direct A or B. If you can sense what you would regret not doing something, that’s probably the thing you should do. So we said, “Yeah. Let’s go for it.” We started a company and had a lot of support; True Ventures wrote our first check, and they’re absolutely an awesome fund. That’s a funny story in and of itself because we were a seed-stage company trying to get this technology to work, and it’s a hardware company, so it’s quite complex. We were on this email list where we were asking for some help, some manufacturing expertise, and it just so happened that one of the True Ventures guys was on this list. He is an awesome guy. A couple of times, he was like, “Guys, if you’re serious about this, we should really talk. You need to raise money.” And we did. So that launched Sifteo, which was basically consumer hardware play. It was an absolutely great experience. We learned a lot.
Alejandro: What was the business model there, Jeevan. How were you guys making money?
Jeevan Kalanithi: It was very simple consumer hardware play, like a hardware plus digital sales type thing. We would sell these products in retail using intelligent blocks. Our target customers were children and families. Then we would follow it up with digital sales of game content on the system. You can think about it as a similar model to a game console like how Nintendo’s business model works or Sony or Microsoft for those business divisions.
Alejandro: How much capital did you guys end up raising for Sifteo?
Jeevan Kalanithi: I think about $13 million.
Alejandro: So when you were doing your Series C, it was a bit bumpier than you had expected, so what happened there?
Jeevan Kalanithi: Yeah, totally. As I like to say, “I’ve been pretty fortunate in fundraising. I’m like six or seven or something. It’s the time that didn’t work that is maybe the most instructive. We had raised our Series B in Sifteo. We had lost our second generation of our product, and our users really loved it, so we had some good product/market fit lifts there, but the amount of revenue we were driving was just not enough, to be honest, and there’s a variety of reasons for that. We went out to raise our Series C to fund further development of the business, and I would give ourselves a lot of credit for being extremely methodical about that fundraise. We said, “We have this much cash and this much runway. At the current burn rate, it will last until month x. If we don’t raise fundraising by this date, then our runway will be too short for us to continue running the business until something more sustainable. We will run our fundraising process to this date. If we don’t succeed, then we have these, like, kibbit strategies that we’ll execute on, which will then extend the runway of the company to keep operating.” That’s exactly what we did, and that’s the company for success where we ultimately got acquired. But in that fundraising process, it was pretty clear that we just had not driven the type of repeatable revenue results that the fundraising community was looking for companies at that time. We decided to take that on the chin and move on. The business that we were driving was quite capital-intensive. So we had to get over a hump for the economics to seem super attractive, and we just hadn’t gotten there. And we kind of deemed that we wouldn’t be able to get there without a big infusion of cash where we had to shift the business. One other thing I will say about that, I give mega credit to the leadership of Sifteo at that time because we were very clear-eyed about the situation. We were like, “All right, guys. Here’s our timeline. If we’re able to put more cash in the tank, we’ll have to shift. Let’s all figure out what the great opportunities for the company would be. We got together in a room and ironed those out. A lot of those pivot strategies would mean that particular person and their team would no longer be part of the company. I give major credit. No one was being overly protective of themselves or their own careers. They were definitely thinking about what’s best for the company over themselves or their people. I remember feeling that it was a huge learning moment of somehow, we built a culture where our team was very loyal and emotionally bought into what the company was trying to do without putting themselves above the company’s needs. So there were a variety of lessons at Sifteo that I can unpack and relate to that. So that’s what happened, and we were fortunate that it all worked out in the end.
Alejandro: And you ended up getting this acquisition from 3D Robotics. So you were with 3D Robotics for quite a bit, and then after this, you went to Lux Capital, where you were doing the entrepreneurial residency program. What I’d like to ask you here is, what is the VC mindset? What are they looking for, and what do they care about? After having been on the operator’s role on that other side of the table doing the capital raise, to now being on the other side of the table where you are looking at how that capital is being deployed on these other individuals that are coming and are right across the table now, where you used to be. What were some of those things that you were like, “Wow! I didn’t know this. This makes sense.”
Jeevan Kalanithi: It’s like, “I think I have experienced this at a fund like Lux,” which is an awesome fund, and they’re kicking butt. I’m very grateful to be part of their portfolio. It was a very interesting experience. In many ways, what it did is it confirmed some of the beliefs that I had about the VC mindset as an entrepreneur, but put them in higher resolution, but with a bit more empathy for that position. You know, entrepreneurs complain about VCs a lot, and I think some of the roots of their complaints have a kernel of truth to them, but they’re counterproductive complaints, and they don’t help you build your company. Let me give you a couple of examples. Like [19:09]. They like to follow the latest thing, and they’ll never want to take a risk. Yeah, but if you’re a VC, you have to make decisions on allocating capital in a long-term way in a high-risk manner. How do you do that? How do you make those decisions? The truth is, it’s a competitive environment. You don’t have the time to do all of this analysis to really make sure it makes sense and get in deep. You have to find really compact vast signals for whether a company is going to be a good opportunity or not. Do you know what a good compact signal is? It’s what other people think. That is a very compact signal of whether a company is good or not. It could be subject to bad effects like herd mentality, but if you are truly relying on deep analysis, you will never write a check. You’ll miss out on every single opportunity, and then you’ll make no money for your limited partners. It is a competitive environment. It’s not easy, so that’s how it works. From my experience, specifically at Lux, I remember the partnership would ask me, “What’s your opinion about Company X?” I’d say, “This or that.” What I realized was, I was basically sealing the fates of those companies with regard to the partnership in these five-minute conversations. It’s just the only—it’s not the only, but it is an important way for VCs to make decisions. Of course, the good ones are thesis-driven, so they put a lot of time into thinking about where the big opportunities are, but then a lot of the actual allocation of capital, just like with certain companies, comes through talking with people. Our VC sheet, I guess you could say that, but it’s not like a stupid or maladaptive strategy. Another thing is that they’re human beings with lives, pressures, and concerns. So, yeah, I know it can be frustrating to be in that meeting where you think the partner, maybe she or he is really not paying attention to what you’re saying, and they’re checking their phones. That’s bad behavior. Definitely, for a VC, that is part of the professional duty to pay attention when they’re talking to an entrepreneur. Sometimes, they sense that they promised to pick up their kid after school, and they forgot. Then their partner is blowing up their phone. That happens. I think that is sometimes an explanation or not that they don’t care about you, or that they’re mean, but they’re just dealing with something in their lives. Then, I think the last thing is your idea is not original. I think that’s something everyone knows about a VC. Well, I wasn’t really a VC. That’s an overstatement. That’s what I learned from spending time at a firm. You kind of know that intellectually, as an entrepreneur that you’re working on something that probably a competitor is or whatnot. The idea is kind of good, you are not the only one working on it, and you’ll win based on your execution more than anything else. I had these experiences where I would be on the pitch meetings when some company was coming in. They would be back-to-back meetings. I would sit there because the partners were, “What’s your opinion on these companies?” I’ll tell you; it was crazy. It was like the same company came in three times. It was crazy. They said the exact same things. By the way, these were very specific companies working on these really specific technology problems. Not like the general consumer. Like, “We are solving this problem, which has to do with the way 3D models are generated by these programs.” These companies would come in and say the same thing. It’s like, “Wow! You are definitely not the only one.” Which is good to know. The way the partnership would make the decisions had a lot to do with their perception of the founders and their interpersonal dynamics. You’d have a meeting with Company A. They would say, “We have Idea X.” Then Company B has Idea X. And with Company A, the founders seem a little standoffish, and maybe they’re contradicting each other a little bit. They didn’t pick up any signals, and Company B doesn’t do that, then Company B wins. Company A will not get a check written for them.
Alejandro: It’s incredible, the patterns. It’s placing a bet in people at the end of the day. That’s remarkable that you were able to experience that. But in your case, really going through the entrepreneur residence program, there was the segue for you starting OpenSpace. So tell us what that process was of really coming across the idea and bringing it to market?
Jeevan Kalanithi: OpenSpace, without going through exactly what we do, we are a computer vision company. That’s a vertical SaaS company. We are targeting builders, general contractors, real estate developers, and we’re trying to make their lives easier by producing visual records of what is going on in their projects. Some people can see what’s going on without literally needing to be there. Our approach to that market had a few key ingredients. First of all, this may be true mostly for folks that are working on enterprise solutions or vertical solutions. What worked well for us is having past experience. At 3D Robotics, we were building for these folks. It can be quite challenging to build products for these types of markets without a little bit of information ahead of time, enough to be dangerous, which is what we had. That was one component. With OpenSpace, to be super clear, my co-founders, Mike and Phillip, were also friends of mine from grad school. Both had their Ph.D.’s. They were at MIT. And kind of a basket of topics, graphics, computer vision, and AI. They were featured in the Top Ten, which is absolutely amazing. That started Mike’s first company. Mike built the Media Analytics company that Twitter acquired. What happened was Mike called me one day. He was finishing up his tour of duty at Twitter, and he and Phillip started to work on new ideas. He told me about it, and I had just been in this world of construction and real estate development, so I was able to connect the dots and say, “This idea would be really valuable for this gigantic market. Like, I’m pretty sure.” We had that insight based on past experience. I think it’s hard to have those types of players if you don’t have some kind of exposure to that customer. The approach we took was, again, pretty methodical. My background ended up being very product-oriented, so I said, “Okay. Guys, we can do a lot of different stuff with our lives. We don’t have to start a company. Let’s just test and see if this company concept can be good.” I’m a big fan of using this book, Four Steps to the Epiphany by Steve Blank, a Lean Startup approach and being pretty methodical for the objective, and pretty relentless and brutal with the process. Like, knowing what is true, whether it’s painful or not, it’s absolutely critical to running a business, and this process helps you do that. We had a bunch of folks we knew from the industry from past experience, so we weren’t speculating. We started building prototypes, and hanging on job sites all day, and trying them out. We were fortunate to have those existing relationships. We were fortunate enough to have enough time and resources to devote to testing this idea out. Certainly, I’m happy to talk a bit about the actual aha moment we had. We literally had aha moments. Once we had it, we had the aha moment, the pain we were solving for our customers; we had the key for them based on my past experience with manufacturing. I really get the pain and suffering of building stuff with a focus on reality. And we had, coming from the Lux Capital point of view from my time there, a very objective, cold-blooded analysis of what are the ingredients of a hypo technology company? With those insights in hand, I was like, “Okay. This is a good idea.” I was able to go back to Lux and say, “All right. I think we have something that could really work.” They were like, “Sounds good.” So we raised a little money in the fall of 2017, and we’ve been off-running ever since.
Alejandro: And how much capital have you guys raised to date for this?
Jeevan Kalanithi: We’ve raised about $84 million.
Alejandro: Let’s say you went to sleep tonight, and you wake up in a world five years later—a tremendous snooze, and you wake up in a world where the vision of OpenSpace is fully realized. What does that world look like?
Jeevan Kalanithi: I think there are two things. I’ll describe a little bit of what we do. Otherwise, this mission statement won’t make any sense, and then tell you about it. What we do is we make it really easy to have a full visual record of having space indoors and out. For people who have used Google Streets, it looks similar to that. We’ve created this experience for enterprises. What we figured out is we cracked the code on ease of use. We made it very easy for builders too, almost as a byproduct for them walking around a job site. We have a camera that’s riding along, and then we take a bunch of computer vision techniques. We take that video file and turn it into this experience. The benefit of that as a project manager or builder, you don’t have to rely on your memory to know what was there or rely on someone else’s memory or some written report. You have this experience of having a time machine. You can go look and directly experience what’s going on, on Floor 6, Unit 603, two weeks ago when the drywall was put in, and you have an objective record of what’s there. We created a system of record for the real physical world of people whose jobs [29:25]. We’re managing real physical reality, and it’s going pretty well so far. So my vision for the future is this. I think that experience of being able to look and see what is happening in a physical space, either on your phone or computer, no matter where you are, will just be normal. It will be ubiquitous. It will be taken for granted in the near future. My analogy is that we take Google for granted. If you want some information, you just search for it. If you took it away, and they said, “Actually, Alejandro, you can’t use Google. You have to go to the library to look up a piece of information.” You would be like, “That’s crazy.” I’m confident that the experience we provide will be like that for our market. When we started the company, that was a hope and a dream, but about increasing conviction about it just based on our customer experience, you can tell me about it. The culture for our customers has changed rapidly. I used to say that the experience of being able to see something without literally being there will become table stakes for our customers, and in five years, they’ll become totally dependent on it in a good way. They’ll just make our lives easier. I think that five years has been fast-forwarded to basically now, and the pandemic for us was a huge accelerator where people simply could not physically be in the spaces that they needed to be in, or where they thought they needed to be in to get their work done. So I had to figure out a way around that, and we had the right idea, at the right time, with the right execution. So our revenue growth and the amount of data that we’ve processed started skyrocketing at that time. It was a classic company that enabled the ability to be productive without physically being collected in the space. And we are a part of that crop of companies that we started experiencing in hypergrowth. Zoom, of course, is that for office ware first. There’s an article written about us, OpenSpace with Zoom for the Building Industry, which is a nice, flattering, accurate-enough headline, so obviously, the needs of people that work out real physical reality are people that [31:39]. We try to help solve their problem.
Alejandro: Let me ask you a question because something really comes to mind here that I’d like to ask you because you’ve been at it. This is your second company since 2017. As you were saying, you’ve raised quite a bit of money, $84 million. In the last company, you also raised money. You did an exit. So imagine if I put you into a time machine and I bring you back in time to that point to where you were thinking of starting a company, which eventually became Sifteo, your first company. But imagine you have the opportunity of going back in time and having a chat with your younger self and being able to give that young Jeevan one piece of business advice before launching a company. What would that be and why, given what you know now.
Jeevan Kalanithi: I think just being real with yourself and with reality. Know what is true, and it’s far better to take a punch in the face of reality when you’re early than when you’re waiting and being in a delusional state where you’re—we had a guy that gave us some fantastic advice early on. His name is Harold, and it was the National Science Foundation. They provided a little seed capital for us. It’s an awesome program for entrepreneurs working on technically challenging concepts. The National Science Foundation is cool. They help support you. This guy had a real entrepreneurial mindset, and he really emphasized, “Guys, you’ve got to understand who your customer is. You exist for the sole benefit of your customer, period. Not because you think your project is neato; it’s like it has to be for the benefit of the customers—so valuable that they’re willing to pay you money for it. We took that advice, but only 70% of it where we did all the right things of really immersing ourselves with our customer’s lives and giving tons of interviews and more repeatable things. I think what we did wrong, though, is we understood some of the insights of what they really wanted, but we didn’t hold ourselves accountable for truly delivering that. So the first generation of our product had parts of it that were not going to be acceptable to the end-user. But we were daunted by the engineering challenges of actually solving what the customer was asking for, so we let ourselves off the hook, which didn’t kill the company or anything, but it definitely wasted time, and it was a mistake. That’s one piece of advice, which is, whatever you’re going to do to establish the objective truth-finder, do it, and take it seriously. It can be painful, but the pain you experience—pain experienced early is a lot less painful than pain experience late. That’s one thing. And the second thing I learned at Sifteo is it’s not about you. It’s not about you as a founder in so many ways. It’s not about you because you’re not going to do all the work. That doesn’t scale; it’s impossible, and, at a certain point, it’s not even about your ideas. Ideally, you’re hiring a team that is better than you at basically anything that you could do. I like to think of myself as pretty good at a lot of different things, but I know that the engineers we have would make me look like an idiot within five minutes that we tried to build something. I know our finance people, yeah, I can hang with them, but certainly, I don’t have their depth of knowledge. And that’s a good thing. And learning to rely on your team’s creativity and empowering them is so absolutely critical. There was one moment where this crystallized for me, where Dave and I, in our first company, were thinking about what we needed to do between Generation 1 and Generation 2. As a hardware company, you put products out in generations. We had these three pieces of feedback that we knew we needed to solve. In fact, we knew that from the first generation that after launching the first generation, it was crystal clear that we needed to solve them. We were in a conference room in our office just banging our heads against the wall because we didn’t know how to address them. I said, “What if we just do two out of three?” Still, we couldn’t figure it out, and I literally had my head on the table in my arms, and then, I don’t know if it was Dave or if it was me, we were like, “You know, there are a lot of really smart people outside this room in this office. Why don’t we just ask them for help on how to solve this. It was an extreme no-duh moment, but we realized it was like an exercise to help solve these problems like Dot’s and Pizza. We typed it in a way that was more likely to be productive. Everybody was writing a bunch of ideas furiously on little pieces of paper. They all left, and David and I are in the office at night and looking through these pieces of paper, and we’re like, “Wow! If we take this page and this page, I think we have it. I think this will solve all of our problems. Then I was like, “Okay. Life lesson—entrepreneur lesson: don’t put it all on you. It’s not about you. It’s about your team. Early on at a company, yeah, you do everything. You have all the ideas, and you can never shirk from your duties. But the role of a CEO or founder really has to shift from doing all the work and having all the ideas to something that is more like an editor and chief. You’re not writing the articles. Your team is doing that. You’re there to make sure they are coherent, they’re cutting all the good but not great ideas, and you provide feedback here and there to make things a little bit extra better. If I had that time machine, I think I would bore my younger self with all this advice, which my younger self probably would ignore because we humans seem to only learn from experience. But that’s what I would say.
Alejandro: I love it, Jeevan. So for the people that are listening, what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi?
Jeevan Kalanithi: You can hit me up on LinkedIn. That’s the easiest. If you type Jeevan on OpenSpace, you’ll find me, and I like to respond to everything if I can, so you can hit me up there. That’s a good place to start.
Alejandro: Amazing, Jeevan. Thank you so much for being on the DealMakers show today.
Jeevan Kalanithi: It was totally my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
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