Milind Mehere is the cofounder and CEO of Yieldstreet which is an investment platform that is changing how wealth is created by connecting investors to asset-based alternative investments. The company has raised $85 million from investors such as Greycroft, FJ Labs, Edison Partners, Greenspring Associates, and Expansion Venture Capital to name a few. Prior to this is, Milind Mehere cofounded Yodle which he sold for $342 million.
In this episode you will learn:
- Building marketplace businesses
- What makes it easier for second-time entrepreneurs to raise money
- Milind’s top advice for launching your own startup
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
Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
About Milind Mehere:
Milind Mehere is an award-winning entrepreneur with a track record of building large scalable businesses and creating new product categories. He is the founder and CEO of YieldStreet, a digital wealth management platform changing the way financial products are delivered and how wealth is created. Previously, Milind co-founded and scaled Yodlee (an ad-tech platform for SMBs) to $200M+ in revenue and 1,400 employees – the company was acquired by Web.com for $342M in 2016.
YieldStreet is striving to become the world’s largest digital wealth management platform to change the way wealth is created. YieldStreet is accomplishing this by transforming the investing landscape, opening up access to investments for individual investors across a range of asset classes such as Real Estate, Marine Finance, Art Finance, Legal Finance and Commercial loans. Headquartered in New York City with offices in Brazil, Argentina and Greece, the company is backed with $178M in equity and debt funding from firms including Edison Partners, Greycroft and Raine Ventures. Join the movement at www.yieldstreet.com.
Connect with Milind Mehere:
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FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW:
Alejandro: Alrighty. Hello everyone, and welcome to the DealMakers show. Today we have an entrepreneur that has done it, and this is definitely another rodeo that he’s going to be telling us about. He’s done it from creation to financing to scaling to exiting. I think that we’re really going to learn quite a bit here. So, without further ado, Millind Mehere, welcome to the show.
Milind Mehere: Alejandro, thank you for having me. I’m very excited.
Alejandro: So born and raised in Bombay. How was life growing up there?
Milind Mehere: Life was amazing, Alejandro, growing up in Bombay. This was in the late ‘80s and ‘90s, and India was full of optimism. People wanted to do new things, and the government had just opened the economy, so it was a great time to be growing up because people wanted to create new technology and new innovation. As you know, there was this big dot-com boom and Y2K, so there was a lot of IT innovation happening in India. It was a great time to be in India to experience that optimism.
Alejandro: Was there anyone in your family that was also into entrepreneurship, or how did you develop that? Would that come later?
Milind Mehere: I come from a family of entrepreneurs that ran their own variety of small businesses, including my dad, actually, who was a public prosecutor and lawyer, but then later in his career, he set up his own law practice and became very successful. I also come from a family of doctors that ran their own hospitals and things like that. So, I was around entrepreneurs growing up.
Alejandro: What is happening in India. It seems that when you’re born, you’re born with a computer or with something that has to do with engineering. Everyone is an engineer. Why is this?
Milind Mehere: That’s a great question. Obviously, India is a very large country, and education can be a big differentiator. Access to education is obviously there, and many families, especially middle-class families, emphasize that you need to be very well educated. Generally, the option that has been given to you by your family is either you became a doctor or an engineer. That was no different in my case, and I didn’t like biology very much, and loved math, and loved tinkering. So I decided to take up engineering, and I became a mechanical engineer.
Alejandro: And, obviously, business is all about solving problems, and engineering is all about addressing problems. So would you say having that engineering mentality gives you an edge as an entrepreneur?
Milind Mehere: Absolutely. I, further, after mechanical engineering, studied industrial engineering, and I think you’re absolutely right. It gives you a way not only to solve problems but to be very quantitative and measure in your approach: what can you do better? How can you do it better, and how can you do it faster? That has been one of the trades that I feel that I learned because of my educational background, and it has stayed with me even now.
Alejandro: That engineering got you here to the U.S. over 20 years ago, and that was for grad school. After grad school is when you did your first job as a company, i2 Technologies, where you were able to see the full cycle of the life of a corporation, so tell us about this experience.
Milind Mehere: i2 Technologies was during the dot-com boom of 2000. It was a company that actually, in some ways, coined the word “supply chain” in the mid-‘90s. They created software for scheduling your factories or for distribution centers or for moving good, strong manufacturers to the retailers – a bunch of different, very complex areas. The company was extremely successful, and I was there for six or seven years, where we went from a few hundred employees to a few thousand employees and to a market cap of about 60 billion dollars. That was an amazing run because when the company is killing that fast, opportunities open up. In my early to mid-20s, I was managing a group of 50 to 80 people, which was incredible. Then post-dot-com, there was, obviously, a lot of stress on the company, and there were a lot of layoffs and things like that. How you manage through that crisis was something that I got exposed to very soon in my career. So, not only was I learning the business facets process, but I was also learning the human facets and the personal facets. That was really fascinating for me what I was able to learn in such a short period of time.
Alejandro: Talking about managing crisis, launching a company from the ground up, and you’ve done it multiple times now. It’s all about how you manage crisis. How do you go about managing a crisis?
Milind Mehere: I think it all depends on the magnitude of the crisis. When you are an entrepreneur and when you’re running a tech company, there is crisis almost every day. So it depends on you having the understanding of how big the crisis is and whether it’s really a crisis because sometimes what happens is, startups are all about chaos. So what you need to do as a leader is figure out how do you cut down that chaos and how do you guide your team towards that true north. I have many times observed that what entrepreneurs do is, because they want to solve so many problems, they’re so passionate, and they love new ideas, many times, they end up hurting themselves. What I mean by that is, they’ll constantly change product roadmaps. They will constantly change their priorities. The team, then, doesn’t know which direction or they constantly going from one project to another. I think it’s very important to understand the correlation between, “What’s your true north? How do you go about doing that? What type of crisis are you trying to solve?” Crisis of the magnitude of 2008 or COVID is a completely different ballgame. There, I think what you have to do is be very clinical and understand what your strengths are as a company. You need to be fast. It’s important to be fast in decision-making even if the decision may be wrong and to take the problem head-on, understand what the gaps are, and then have a plan that you can execute on. Rely on your team and motivate your team so that you can get through the crisis.
Alejandro: Very profound, Milind. Here, after you were alluding to it, after about six years, you decided to make a jump, and you joined an MIT startup that was funded by Greylock, so why did you make that change?
Milind Mehere: What really drove me is that, as I said, I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, so even before the startup, when I was at i2, I used to live in the Boston area at the time. Alejandro, MIT had one of the first startup competitions called the 50K. I think it was 2001 or 2002. That was always on the top of my mind, and so when my friend or colleague from i2 started this company called Old Systems, which was in a hot new space called RFID, Radio Frequency, which if you think of IoT and big data, this company was doing this at that time, and these words didn’t exist. The idea was, can you use these small chips to create an MIR supply chain or attract a moment of goods. So I thought the problem was fascinating to solve, and the team was solid. The VCs were great. That’s why I decided to take the plunge. I was bitten by the potential for innovation.
Alejandro: It’s interesting that you did this because when people that are interested in entrepreneurship, especially in hyper-growth stuff around startups that are able to create a repeatable and scalable business model, I always tell them that it’s a good idea to first get some exposure before you actually take the leap of faith, whether that is going and working for a VC firm, or perhaps working for another startup so that you can see the ins and outs of it. In your case, because this was the immediate step for you to actually go and launch your own thing, how do you think it helped you to gain more visibility into the whole entrepreneurial thing?
Milind Mehere: That’s such great advice, Alejandro, and such a good point. You’re absolutely right. I think what happens is that people romanticize entrepreneurship. As we all know, who have gone through the process, yes, you can see the success of an Uber or an Airbnb. But there is so much patience and resilience that you need, and as I was saying, there’s crisis every single day. So what I think I learned in this experience are many different facets: fundraising, what’s important, where do you focus on skill? We have a very strong team, and because we have a very strong team, we had one tenured professor at MIT, who was the CTO and the co-founder, and he was actually on sabbatical for two years, and he could pretty much open any door for us for the Fortune 500 companies’ CTO office or to the head of supply chain. That was so helpful. So, understanding what your processes should be, how should you create that product/market fit, and to get that up close and personal at a startup that was also killing fast and creating innovative work was fascinating for me, and I think I learned so many different aspects of dos and don’ts that were valuable as I embarked on my journey.
Alejandro: And your journey, one pivotal moment was in Philadelphia, having a beer. So what happened there?
Milind Mehere: I co-founded a company called Yodle, which was a platform for helping small businesses advertise online, and this was in 2006. One of the founders of Yodle was pitching me this idea of how everything is moving online. Alejandro, mind you, this is 2006, so there is not Yelp; there is no Facebook; there is no iPhone. Meaning Yelp and Facebook are there, but they’re irrelevant and small. We were still using MapQuest, and AOL was a massive company, and Yahoo was a massive company. Google had just gone public and was a small company with a 10-billion or 15-billion market cap in 2006. It was a different world, but the world was all moving online. The premise was, my co-founder came from a small-business family, and he wanted to advertise his family’s business online and do it cost-effectively and do it in an automated manner. How do you create that site? How do you drive traffic? How do you convert that traffic? What does traffic conversion even mean, and how do you show that visibility? If you advertised in the Yellow Pages, for a hundred years, we’ve known that 50% of your marketing works, we just don’t know which 50%. So we wanted to give that visibility to the small business to say, “Hey, if you spend $1,000, here are the 400 clicks that you got.” We could actually point out which clicks worked and how. I found the idea fascinating, and as we all know, we’re all mesmerized with small businesses, but it’s also very hard to penetrate small businesses. So he wanted to build a salesforce that is around the country and this and that. I said, “Listen, man. I have no exposure to small businesses. This sounds really fascinating, but I don’t think this is for me.” He said, “No, let’s keep talking. I want to show you the demo of the prototype I’ve built.” I said, “Listen. If you buy our drinks tonight, I will come see the demo.” I am so glad and fortunate that he agreed, and the rest, as they say, is history. I really loved his ideas. There were four of us and a very complementary skill set. It was a hard problem to solve, but it was a really fascinating start through this journey of opening up and bringing small business into the digital world. As you know, Alejandro, since then, there have been so many successes, most notably, Shopify that was founded in 2010, and obviously has become one of the biggest success stories in the small business ecosystem.
Alejandro: Very nice. Tell us a little bit more about Yodle because Yodle ended up being a pretty big success story with a really good outcome. Your first business, having a really incredible exit too. For the people that are listening, how were you guys making money at Yodle?
Milind Mehere: It was essentially a subscription model where small businesses would subscribe to our advertising packages, and we would keep a portion of the revenue, and we would help them build a website, create content, acquire customers. All the next ten-year period, Yodle scaled to 1,400 employees across four offices in the U.S., and we had almost 300 people here in New York. We ultimately did over 200 million in revenue, and we were acquired by Web.com in 2016 about four-and-a-half years ago for 342 million dollars.
Alejandro: Wow. That’s a lot of zeros, Millind. What a good outcome. Tell us about the acquisition process because, for you, I’m sure that this was quite a nerve-wracking moment. I’m sure there were a couple of nights there that you couldn’t sleep.
Milind Mehere: Yeah. It was actually very exciting. By the time the acquisition happened, I had already left the company, but still in close contact with the CEO, and the CEO was a very good friend and advisor and a mentor to me, and an angel investor in YieldStreet. It was a very exciting process because 1½ years before that, we had filed an S1 to go public in late 2014. It was a fascinating time at that time to go through the IPO process, the roadshow, and understanding what the bankers would bring to the table. For a variety of reasons, we decided to hold back the IPO, and then this acquisition offer came about. So it was exciting because it was an all-cash offer, and we thought that Web.com was a very big name. They had access to a lot of small businesses, and we thought that the combination would help Yodle scale and go to the next level. It was super exciting.
Alejandro: Very nice. The next thing that happened here for you is YieldStreet because once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur. So what happened with YieldStreet? How did you come about this idea? How did you bring it to life? Tell us about this.
Milind Mehere: Yes, Alejandro. Actually, the idea and the process for YieldStreet was fairly straightforward. It came out of a personal pain point for me actually many years before I actually started YieldStreet. I’m sure some of your listeners were around in 2008 when Lehman went down on September 15, 2008, which is exactly 12 years ago. I saw my portfolio. It was down 50%. Think about it. As I explained to you and to your viewers in this podcast, I was a prudent consumer. My wife and I have good saving habits. We had a 401K 529 and doing all the right things. Then, when I saw my portfolio, I had two reactions. One was anger toward Wall Street because I was a prudent consumer. I thought I had done everything right. Suddenly, I saw my portfolio down 50%. So, that was one reaction. The other reaction, as you said, was much more of an entrepreneurial reaction, which is I realized two things. I don’t have access to any products outside the stock market that are not volatile. So, when the market goes down, all of my products are down. And I don’t have access to products that generate income on the side for me like a passive income, like the top 1% of the population does. That idea stuck in my mind, and so what would I do next? Obviously, I went to my financial advisor, like any prudent consumer, and I said, “Can I get access to products that are not related to the stock market? What about private equity firms and all of these funds and hedge funds. You’ve been in New York, Alejandro, as you know, we get exposed to so many of our friends working in hedge funds and private equity firms. My financial advisor started laughing, and he said, “Ha! Ha! At your account size, no, you can’t get access to those products because you usually need to put 7-figure money down, at least a million dollars down. Then you have to commit to seven to ten years, which is a very long time to lock up your money. I was very disappointed, so that idea stuck in my mind. Then, obviously, this was the time when in 2009, 2010, Yodle was still scaling and doing really well, but this idea was in my mind. Fast-forward a few years; fintech took off. What happened is the Jobs Act passed in 2011, 2012, and that changed who could access these types of investments because they expanded the definition of who could access these investments. There was a lot of momentum in the FinTech investing space. So think about SoFi or AngelList or LendingClub. They’re all these clusters of companies trying to bring products to the market, and obviously, this idea was stuck in my mind. I wanted to do something about this to solve my own investing problem, but I had one big problem, which was I did not come from financial services or the investing world. So, obviously, I was a prudent consumer. I had done investments on the side, building my time as I kind of got successful in my career, including angel investments, etc. But I had never done investments for a living. That’s where I was very fortunate. I met my co-founder, Michael Weisz, who had come from the credit world, who had come from the hedge fund world, and was a really strong investment manager, great background in compliance and risk. He, being a Millennial, was also frustrated that the types of investments that he – you really have to be a high network and diligent family office to invest in those types of investments. He said technology and data should be able to bring these investments more broadly to the mainstream. I really clicked with him. We met 6 ½ years ago, and we have complementary skill sets where I knew marketing, operations, tech, and how to build a brand. He knew investments, alternatives, risk management and compliance. So we have complementary skill sets. Alejandro, this is the longer version of how we thought YieldStreet should come to market. That’s when we decided to start the company in 2015. The other undertone to all of this, Alejandro, is that even this year, and especially post-pandemic, there is always – and even before the pandemic, to be honest with you, there is big chatter about inequality. Most innovation in fintech has focused on digital payments, as you know, like big digital payments, newer banks, consumer credit cards, and things like that. Inequality, the undertone there is that how can you give access to people with interest in investment products that generally institutions have or investors that have a lot of high-network individuals who have a lot of money to invest, and how do you equalize some of that. That was also a motivating factor for us is to bring alternative investments, make them more accessible, and do it in a manner that more and more people can participate in such investments.
Alejandro: In this model, how do you guys make money?
Milind Mehere: Actually, it’s pretty straightforward. What happens is when we put investments up on the platform, when you’re earning interest – let’s say the investment is generating 10% interest, we pay investors 9%, and then maybe we keep 1% management fee. That’s one of the ways our revenue model works.
Alejandro: Okay. Understood. Obviously, you’ve raised a bit of money for this. Is that right?
Milind Mehere: That’s correct.
Alejandro: How much have you guys raised to date?
Milind Mehere: We have raised over 85 million dollars in equity capital, and then we have access to a variety of different warehouse and facilities, about 200-million-dollars of warehouse facilities.
Alejandro: I know that right at the time of the Series A, there was a little scare of shutting down. So what happened there?
Milind Mehere: Yeah. That was actually, as I was saying, entrepreneurship is always about those highs and lows. Even for Yodle, I remember back in 2006, we had a revenue target, and we were having a hard time raising capital. We had a revenue target, and we said, “If we don’t hit this revenue target, we will probably need to fold because we have no way to fund the business.” Luckily, we were able to hit the revenue target. Then, a few months later, Bessemer invested in our Series A. Those types of things always happen. Fortunately, for YieldStreet, we always had focus on revenue right from day one. We’re a B2B entrepreneur with a strong team. We didn’t have fundraising scares and were able to attract capital right from our seed round with some very, very good investors. We feel very fortunate and lucky.
Alejandro: Was it easy to raise money the second time around?
Milind Mehere: Yeah. I think it was easy for a couple of reasons. One is, obviously, we had a track record. Two is, as I said, I think there is a big gap in the market, which still exists today, and I think there is a huge unfortunate thing to make investing ubiquitous and get people, all types of investing ubiquitous. I think there was a strong business case. The TAM is massive when it comes to the investing ecosystem. It was a combination of what’s happening in regards to your actual problem that you’re trying to solve. But also, broadly speaking, the market was adopting to fintech, and fintech, in some ways, is still in its early days. But as you can see in the last few years, it’s really taking off, and especially this year if you see what’s happening with RobinHood and Chime and a bunch of big newer banks and investing platforms, there’s a lot of momentum in terms of the future of fintech.
Alejandro: Very nice. There’s a really interesting story talking about the craziness that happens on fundraising. What happened when you were in Dubai, and the car broke down?
Milind Mehere: Yeah, we were actually on a business trip to Dubai, and we were meeting [27:02], which is an investment firm, and we had a meeting there. We were driving from Dubai to Abu Dhabi, which is where they are based. The idea was to discuss collaboration and [27:15], but also, they do a lot of deals in energy, the energy sector to see how we could partner. A funny story was that we were going for the meeting, and our car broke down. For us, the Dubai highways are very, very fast, and it was 110-degree weather, sweltering, and we are in our suits and coats. There we are trying to hitchhike. Fortunately, for us, there was a car that stopped, and we were able to get to the meeting only ten minutes late. So, those are all the kind of fun things of entrepreneurship where you have to think and act fast.
Alejandro: There you go. Just like what you did in February 2017 when the website crashed. Is that right?
Milind Mehere: Yeah. That’s another story that is really super interesting. Alejandro, as you know, two-sided marketplaces are always tough and hard to crack, whether it’s eBay, Uber, Airbnb, where you need both sides, like the supply and demand side. In our business, YieldStreet is a platform where on one side, your investors are looking for investments of [28:37], and on the other side, there are investments of [28:40] themselves that we have to present to the investors. As I said earlier, my co-founder, Michael, and I come from two different backgrounds. When we started the company, we had a bet. Michael said, “You will never be able to acquire consumers online and get them to come to the platform and invest into alternatives. I said the opposite, which is, “We will not be able to find enough investments that we can put up on the platform.” For the first couple of years, obviously, when you’re a new investment platform, it takes time to build that trust and credibility and the brand as a startup. If you’re expecting people to come, we had a completely self-sell platform. We don’t have salespeople that call investors and sell them and things like that. You have to come to the platform, learn about our investment products, read the material, get educated, and then you make a choice to invest in the investments that are available to you. Obviously, it’s a tall order. So we had this bet. How’s the supply and demand going to play out? For the first couple of years, our investment used to remain open for weeks and months because nobody had heard of our platform, and it was still a new company. There was a special day, February 20, 2017, about three years ago, when we launched a new investment, and there were so many investors. The way our launch process works, Alejandro, is that we send an email out to our community that an investment is going to launch, and then at whatever specific period of time, let’s say, Thursday at 6:00 pm, and then everybody comes to the platform. When we announce the investment, all of the materials are available for people to look at and study them, and if they have questions, they can call us. Many times, we’ll have webinars of supporting documentation, etc. Then Thursday at 6:00, they come in and choose how much money they want to invest, and the deal is open until it’s fully subscribed. As I was saying, on this day in February, when we opened the offering, there were so many people that showed up on the website that the website completely crashed. Obviously, we were a startup at that time, running in four AWS boxes, and that was an important milestone in our company’s evolution because that’s when we really started to see investor demand mushroom and really grow. It was one of the pivotal moments because, after that, we saw a lot of strong investor interest, and a lot of our investments when we launch get subscribed extremely fast. So, it was a very, very exciting day for us.
Alejandro: Talking about things that led to breakthroughs, and there’s one question that comes to mind, and that is, basically, if you were to go to sleep tonight, and you wake up in a world five years later, and that vision that you had for YieldStreet is completely realized, what does that world look like?
Milind Mehere: I use this term called self-driving money. What that means is that can money automatically work for you? What happens is, all of us are focused. We have a certain skill set, and our skill set is to go to work and earn money. But then what does the money do? Most of us actually sit on cash. We don’t invest most of our money. Why? Because we’re always afraid of, “I’m going to need the money. Do I have enough money; not have money?” We’re always saving for something. That is the reason why today, there’s 5 trillion dollars of cash sitting in people’s checking and savings accounts, earning, as you know, zero interest. In Europe and some countries, there’s negative interest. My real vision is that how can we take that money and make it work for you, even when you’re sleeping? That’s what happens when you are a high network out of a family office. What I mean by that is, based on money, you have your 401K, all of your savings accounts, etc. Money should come into a platform, and then it should be deployed depending upon your time horizon. Let’s say you have $100. You want $10 in the next 30 days. You want $40 in the next two years, and then you want to keep the $50 for your retirement. How do you take that pie and automatically, completely distribute that out in a variety of different products based on your risk tolerance, your age, your preference? Do you need cash flow today or not? Do you need cash flow in the future? Our platform does that for you automatically. Then, what you can do is focus on two things that are the most valuable for you. One is to be focused on what you love doing, which is your work, whatever that may be. The second is to enjoy your spare time with your friends or family and chasing your hobby. That, for me, is the self-driving money concept. It’s very powerful, and today, because of technology, digitization, and access to data, I think some of these things are possible. An inspiration that comes to mind is Ant Financial, which is a company out of Alibaba. What Ant Financials is trying to do is take that vast data that Alibaba has on his user base and create financial products that are automated. That’s the dream for me. I feel that YieldStreet’s mission is if by 2025 we can help 10 million people generate at least 10 billion dollars outside the stock market in earnings, that would be a massive accomplishment because that would be a real value-add that we would help create in people’s lives if we can be able to help them create wealth outside the stock market. That would be my dream.
Alejandro: Very cool. How big are you guys today? How big is YieldStreet for the people that are listening to get an idea?
Milind Mehere: YieldStreet has a little over 225,000 investor signups on the platform. We have done a little over 1.4 billion dollars in investments funded on the platform. We have funded close to 290 investments, and we have 120 investments that are fully matured and paid off. We have returned 650 million dollars back to our investors in distributions in principle and interest payments. That’s really where we are. We have about 100 people headquartered in New York City, and we have offices in Brazil, and Greece, and Malta. That is YieldStreet for you.
Alejandro: Very cool. Now, this is your second rodeo, so full of the good, the bad, the ugly. This is what entrepreneurship is all about. It’s not a straight line. If you had the opportunity of having the ear of that younger Milind that was thinking about launching a business, what would be that one piece of business advice that you would give to your younger self, given what you know now, and why?
Milind Mehere: That is always a great question. I think entrepreneurship is very exciting, and it is something that gives you a lot of joy because there’s something that you’re building from the ground up. It’s an incredible journey, but it’s also a very hard journey. If I knew how to do it before, I would give a couple of different pieces of advice. This is something that I tell my companies that I advise and anybody that would ask me that if I knew that earlier in my career, that would be amazing. The first thing is that entrepreneurship is not about you. It’s about your family. It is very important. It’s a joined journey, so whether it’s your significant other, wife, girlfriend, fiancé, they need to be bought into because the ups and downs of entrepreneurship are going to test that, and you’re not just an entrepreneur alone, your family members are also entrepreneurs along with you. So make sure you have that buy-in because that is going to be very helpful when there are times where we still have to pay our bills and make sure that we can provide for our family and things like that. The other thing is, don’t romanticize entrepreneurship because what happens is, people hold onto their ideas for too long, and I’ve seen that being an angel investor, advisor, and things like that. You, as an entrepreneur, always believe that yours is the greatest idea, but the market needs to believe that more than you. You will always believe it. So how do you make that decision and when do you make that decision. That is very, very important to understand the product/market fit, and what is going to be the catalyst to understand the product/market fit? By the way, what I mean by product/market fit, I don’t just mean like raising venture money because you may be able to raise venture money, angel money, or whatever, and keep going. But is it really worth that extra two years of solving that problem where you may not have the product money, which takes me to the next one, which is, you have to be very crystal clear about what is the problem you’re trying to solve? Is the plan big enough, and is the problem significant enough? Once you establish that, then I think you have to understand – I always say, let revenue be your driver because what has happened is in the last 10 to 20 years, there has been so much emphasis on what happens is, you only get to see of the ten success stories, and we all get mesmerized by it, and they are amazing role models to have, whether it’s Airbnb, whether it’s Uber, whether it’s Google, whether it’s Facebook, whether it’s WhatsApp. These are amazing companies. They have changed industries, but for that, they come in the .1% of the population. What about the 99.9% of the companies? For us, mere mortals, we also have to think about if you have the product/market fit, if you have the TAM, is your product something that people are willing to pay for, and you need to test that hypothesis, which brings me to the last thing, which is you have to test that, and time does not scale. You have a finite amount of time, so the way to test that is to make sure you aren’t building the perfect product, not waiting for the extra six months or a year. You’ve got to get the product out to the market and test that product. Alejandro, that’s so important. We launched. We started coding for YieldStreet, January 4, 2015, and we launched it on April 6, 2015, in 90 days. Obviously, as a consumer, you could come and invest; choose an investment and invest on the platform, and it gave you this end-to-end seamless feel, but we knew a lot of the stuff on the backend was all manual, but we wanted to get the product out there so people could see what this website looks like. What is this investment platform all about? And give us that real-time feedback. That’s very important because time is not going to scale, so you need to have a team that can scale with you. Those are the types of things that always come to my mind when people are trying to start a company, and I wish some of these things I knew earlier on in my career, whether it was revenue, whether it was product/market fit, and how do you test for that product/market fit? How do you bring the product to the market quickly? That’s what I would tell all entrepreneurs that are listening.
Alejandro: Wow. I love it, Milind, and for the people that are listening, what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi?
Milind Mehere: They can go to YieldStreet.com and sign up. To get in touch with me: [email protected]
Alejandro: Amazing. Milind, thank you so much for being on the DealMakers show today.
Milind Mehere: Alejandro, thank you so much for having me. It was my pleasure.
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