Neil Patel

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Ravi Parikh is now on his second startup venture. After having built a very successful first company, he is now working to streamline development for other businesses, so they can move faster, and focus on what matters most. The company, Airplane, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Andrew Ofstad, Jaren Glover, Thrive Capital, and Guillermo Rauch.

In this episode, you will learn:

  • How Airplane is helping companies and engineers be more productive
  • Building a remote-first company and how it helps secure top talent and boost productivity


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.

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Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

About Ravi Parikh:

Ravi Parikh is the founder and CEO of Airplane. Airplane is a developer tool for turning one-off scripts into internal mini-apps that can be used by technical and non-technical users across the company.

Ravi started his journey as a programmer, and got into computers at a young age, taking a brief detour to become a professional musician. He then started his first software company, Heap Analytics, with his friend Matin Movassate.

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Connect with Ravi Parikh:

Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:

Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show today. We have an amazing founder. We’re gonna be talking about building and scaling the good stuff that we like to hear he’s done it a few times and they you know also raised quite a bit of money for both companies and also hired a lot of people. So again. Product market fit. Raising money scaling I mean everything that you can think of I think that the episode today we’re going to find it quite inspiring so without far ado let’s welcome our guest today Robby Parrick welcome to the show.

Ravi Parikh: Thank you so much for having me on.

Alejandro Cremades: So originally born and raised there in Indiana so how was life growing up and.

Ravi Parikh: It was nice. Yeah I grew up here in Indiana in in the midwest um, for for the first eighteen years of my life pretty sort of normal american childhood kind of. Ah, definitely pretty different than you know, being in Silicon Valley and building tech startups and things like that. Not something that I was exposed to as a kid or that I imagine many people were exposed to back in the 90 s but yeah I was born and raised here. Both my parents are doctors both my parents inigated here from India and and had a great childhood growing up. Um.

Ravi Parikh: Yeah I was I was lucky enough that I was growing up in the 90 s when the internet was taking off and and all that kind of stuff and got a little bit of exposure to it and spent some time learning to write code and all that kind of stuff when I was a kid which is what eventually got me into engineering and and and into the to the startup scene and all that kind of stuff eventually. But um. Was was not aware that That’s what it where it would take me when I was when I was a kid.

Alejandro Cremades: And computers and music. You know they definitely played a ah big role. So at what point do you come across Computers and then also music.

Ravi Parikh: yeah so um yeah I mean we were. We were lucky enough to have a personal computer in in our house. Um, when I was five years old my dad was always um, a really big um, sort of like he he was into buying like gadgets and and and like tech. Tech products and things like that. So we always had like a mac computer in our house starting in the early 90 s when I was pretty young. Um, and so I always just sort of like played on that as a kid um less like playing video games and things like that and more just like. Getting into early online forums and stuff and eventually learning to code a little bit on my own learning how to write some basic html and and Javascript and things like that and making basic websites and stuff back in the 90 s and and so that’s kind of what how I got in this sort of computers and then in parallel as you kind of mentioned I was I was also a musician that’s something I’ve done kind of my whole life as well. Um, and you know took piano lessons and stuff like that as a kid but when I was in high school. You know, started in in bands with with my friends and started writing songs and things like that as well. So um, ended up getting some exposure to that as well. So those are the 2 things in that I’ve kind of defined my professional career and what I spent a lot of time doing as a kid as well.

Alejandro Cremades: So then landing in Stanford you know quite a different environment than you know Indiana you know, definitely the innovation. There is is happening so how was that experience in the network that you build and and and all of the above when it comes to innovation.

Ravi Parikh: Yeah.

Ravi Parikh: Yeah, it was. It was really different I mean I think when I visited Stanford for admitted students weekend back in 2006 or whenever it was that was the first time I’d been to California I think um and I remember I still remember it pretty well because in my head I had only ever seen like California and movies and you see. southern californian movies and it’s always very warm and sunny and then I went and the first day I was there was April and was raining and I thought oh well maybe that’s a fluke or something but then it turns out Northern California is actually kind of cold most of the year so but Stanford was great I was there for four years two thousand and seven to 2011 um I started computer science. Um. Honestly, that was a huge opportunity for me. It was something I was very lucky to be able to go there and just be surrounded by so many other really really smart. People. The person who eventually became my cofounder at heap the company I founded in 2013 was a classmate of mine at Stanford. So really that network. That I built there in that specific person Ma Teen who I met there um was kind of very pivotal to to the future of my life. But even despite even even besides meeting my eventual cofounder there met many of my lifelong friends there a lot of the people who were in class with me or the year above me or the year below me went on to do really great things. Um. Think the the folks who founded snapchat or 1 year below me at at Stanford Tons of other tech startups of course came out of um, ah that crop of people I went to school with so that was very cool to see. Um it was 2007 through 2011 so it was just when the current kind of tech boom was taking off like there had been the dot com.

Ravi Parikh: Bubble back in 2000 of course. But then that kind of crashed the year I declared to be a computer science major 2007 I think I looked at this data at 1 point or I saw it somewhere that was a local minimum for computer science major declarations I think there were something like 70 in my year. Um I think now it’s like hundreds like several hundred people in every year I think it’s the most popular major at the school but it certainly wasn’t popular when I was a freshman and it was starting to pick up I remember um you know it was Facebook was like the really huge company that was like growing super fast and. They had ah they relocated their their headquarters from Boston to Palo Alto and they were recruiting really heavily out of out of Stanford and and and so I knew people who were going there and stuff like that palantir was becoming really big as a company they were recruiting a lot of people out of my graduating class and sort of the classes around me so it was just getting that point where. You could graduate as a new grad studying computer science in 2010 or 2011 and get a starting salary of $80000 which was an an absolutely enormous amount of money. Um compared to you know what? most of us expected at the time so it was it was pretty. Crazy to see that kind of like early beginnings of the current um tech boom that’s sort of been happening for the past Decade and a half was kind of just getting short when I was at staford it something totally different than than what I thought I was going to be getting into growing up so it was really great I’m I’m very thankful for it.

Alejandro Cremades: And in in in this case I mean rather than you know going with a whole you know, getting a job or starting a company you decide to go at it and tour as a musician. So so that’s quite a unique you know path. So so tell us about that. Yeah.

Ravi Parikh: Um, yeah.

Ravi Parikh: Yeah, it was. It was pretty different. So yeah when when 2011 my my senior year of college. Everyone was sort of applying for jobs and there were career fairs and all that kind of stuff and I did a little bit of that but I actually have made music my whole life and in college I made. Um. Electronic music and I would put on the internet on Soundcloud and Youtube and and and things like that and and around like 14011 a lot of my music shard getting a little bit popular on the internet various you know music blogs and stuff started of picking it up and and ah you know writing articles about it and then people would contact me and say hey do you do you do shows do tour. And I was like yeah sure so people started paying me to do shows and then I was getting paid to do shows a little bit around like a little bit before I graduated and so I was like well instead of getting a job. Maybe I should just keep doing this for a while. So I did that for almost two years after that. So 15012 um I spent most of that time. Um, you know touring 2 3 days a week playing shows um in various sort of clubs and vennies and things like that around America and that was a lot of fun. It was not what I had planned on even even growing up making music my whole life. There was never any point at which I thought I would do it professionally. Um, and even when I was doing it professionally and I really thought it was gonna be my my long term thing and it turned out not to be my long term thing I think around 2012 after about a year year and a half of doing it I wasn’t really all that excited about it. Um I enjoy making music I don’t really enjoy touring. Um.

Ravi Parikh: It is. It can be lucrative but you have to get really really big before you you start making a lot of money doing it so it wasn’t necessarily something where I thought this was like a great long-term career unless I got really lucky or something like that and I didn’t necessarily want to do that. So um I started hacking around on startup ideas. You know when you’re playing 2 or 3 shows a week. You actually have a lot of free time. And in that free time I think most people would have been making more songs or something like that which I did a little bit of but I spent actually a lot of that time just you know working on side projects and things like that with with friends of mine. Um, and ah Maine the person I ended up cofounding keep with he was someone I spent some time in 2012 like hacking on various unrelated side projects with. And then when he eventually started keep as a company and then approached me to work on it with him that sort of made natural sense and then that’s kind of when I decided to say okay this is maybe a more interesting opportunity than continue to make music full time so transitioned into into starting the company. Yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: So tell us that moment where you receive the phone call what happened on that phone call.

Ravi Parikh: Yeah I remember pretty well so Mateen um, had been working on heap so heap is basically an analytics tool that it’s like a client side Web Analytics Mobile Analytics tool that sort tracks user behavior so you can sort of get a sense of what are people doing on your website. What are they doing on your app and the key thing heap does a little bit differently is it sort of. Automatically tracks data that in other tools you have to put a lot of manual work into into tracking and so matten had that idea in sort of late 2012 he started working on it. He actually asked me to work on it with him once and then I said no that sounds like a lot of work. Um I’m doing this music thing and so I didn’t really I wanted to work on fun side projects I didn’t really want to work on anything. Super like intensive at the time at least and so he’s started working on it a little bit himself I think he worked with with ah mutual friends of March from college actually for a few months on it for at first. But um, he kept sort of like pestering me to say like hey you know this is really interesting. You should you should consider taking a look at it and I really did find the idea very interesting. Um, one of the few internships I had done in college I went and worked at some startup that went defunct later. Um, as an intern and at that startup what I did for like half the summer was write analytics tracking code in a tool called amature which is now called Adobe Analytics um and so I spent and I remember thinking. Maine’s idea for for a heap I was like that would have automated Basically what I spent half my summer doing and I was like that seems pretty valuable if you can automate like half a summer of ah ah you know a few months of work of engineering work and sort of abstract that away so you can concentrate on more interesting higher level stuff that sounds like it could be pretty valuable. So.

Ravi Parikh: The idea made sense to me Ma teamen kept pitching me on it. At some point I thought you know this this made. Maybe this makes sense. Maybe I should do it full-time and so I joined Ma team and sha working on it together with him. Um, we did y combinator which is like startup accelerator and then going through that is where we got a lot of our initial customers and all that kind of stuff. And that really set us up well to eventually raise some money get some traction all that kind of stuff so it wasn’t like there was one moment where I said this is something I definitely need to do. It was more just like a couple months of being convinced that this was the right sort of opportunity and I’m really glad I I did eventually say yes to Ma Teen and and work on it with him.

Alejandro Cremades: So finding product Market fit. How was that a moment where you guys are Wow I think that we’re we’re into something here. Okay.

Ravi Parikh: Yeah.

Ravi Parikh: Yeah, ah, interestingly it took a while I would say like the core idea of heap never changed. It was the same core idea on day one as it is today. Um, you go to the heap website today you sign up for it ten years later um it’s the same. Core product that it was on day one yet it still took us a good year year and a half of work to really find product market fit because even though the idea was very resonant with people the actual execution of it and making it actually work for people took a long time and what I mean by that is so the way heap works is you install a javascript snippet on your website or a library into your mobile app. And will automatically track user behavior. So every time they click on something on a website or every page they visit or something like that we’re we’re capturing that user behavior so you can analyze it later on as as a person who is sort of developed the website and so that was the core idea from day one but it took us a while to to figure out that you can’t just capture all this. Raw data and present it to someone say here you go you have to actually present it in a way that’s accessible for that person and so what I mean by that is if I tell you someone clicked on this button a hundred times. Um, then the button you know the way we’ve identified it in our tracking code is. Ah, in sort of the tracked data is like someone clicked on a element on the page called a button which has a certain css selector a hundred times and that’s not that useful to you what you really want is semantic information someone clicked on the signup button or something like that so we had to give them a system to take the raw data that that heap was tracking.

Ravi Parikh: And correlrelated with the actual semantic. You know business relevant names they might have or the actions someone takes and that system for correlating this sort of raw data with like those names. Um that was a fairly complicated thing to do in heap and so while the product theoretically sounded really good people would use it and find it really complicated and hard to use. And so we didn’t really have great customer attention. People would sign up for it. Try it out and then churn pretty much immediately and then so we eventually built this sort of visual tagging system where you don’t even to think about what the raw data is underneath what you can do is you can just go to the go to your website load heap onto it. Um, and then like basically we have this thing called like a ah. A visual definition system where you can basically click on the things yourself that your users would click on on your website or in your mobile app and then label them yourself in line and sort of tell he hey this is my signup button. This is my homepage. This is my shopping cart button or whatever. Um, and and through that the data then you then you have then you see in heap becomes a lot more semantically meaningful. You can start to build interesting charts and graphs and stuff out of it. Um, it took us about a year and a half to get that insight that that was what we needed to have in the product and then we finally built it and then we shipped that that feature that sort of visual tagging layer. Um. Didn’t exist until about February Two Thousand and fourteen and we started the company or my team started in late twenty twelve I started worked on in January Twenty Thirteen so it was almost a year a year and a half after the company started that we actually built that feature that in retrospect, we were just built on day one if we had known. Um.

Ravi Parikh: And it was it wasn’t just that feature. There was a few other things that we had to get right? There was a lot of like polish in the product that we had to do over time. We also had to sort of it’s an analytics product and so we would have this problem for a long time where once you hit a certain level of scale. It would become very slow so we had to make the infrastructure better. But once we kind of had all those pieces in place in like. You know, early to mid 2014 that’s the point at which people didn’t just try it out. They would try it out. Find value in it and stick around as long-term customers and and that’s when he first started getting recurring revenue that actually stuck around That’s when we started getting our first sort of annual contracts or first sort of enterprise customers. All that happened over the next year after some of those features were in place but it took us a while to really iterate towards that.

Alejandro Cremades: And and how was the process too of of raising money because obviously this was your first company and I’m sure that it was not an easy process. You.

Ravi Parikh: Yeah, yeah, it was it was ah it was difficult. Um I think like we we’ve gotten. We got pretty lucky with fundraising at heap and I think 1 thing that we did really well was um after our seed round at least we were. We never put ourselves in a position where we had to raise money. So we always had the option of not raising money being cash flow positive things like that if we really needed to be so um, our first I mean heap did y combinator so you know why commenter gives you at the time I think it was $100000 I think now to give you more that was that was a good amount of initial capital for at least me and Maine. Um, to be able to like you know, do some basic you know, buy some servers or buy a little bit of a bs ah pay for database a little bit pay for some software all that kind of stuff we couldn’t really hire anyone on $100000 in total funding so we had to raise a seed round what we ended up doing is after y combinator was over after demo day. We ended up. You know, raising a $2000000 seed round. It took us a while it took us about I think something like 80 different meetings with Vcs and angels to put together that seed round. But um, it was relatively straightforward. It was it was about five six weeks of of meetings with people meeting with people constantly to sort of put that round together. Um, you know 50 k one hundred k at a time. Um, but overall I think it was considered a pretty good seed round at the time even today $2000000 is a pretty good seed round so that that round was not that difficult to do I think the future rounds were much more difficult so our series a round was almost three years later in 2016 early 2016 that was $11000000 but led by ne a but.

Ravi Parikh: It took us a long time to put together that round we probably spent almost six months fundraising um and we got no from almost and everyone we spoke to. We only got 1 term sheet which was from nea um, and everyone else that we talked to turned us down or or wasn’t interested. Um, this is despite the fact that we had about two million and arr at the time. We were growing pretty quickly. Um, we grew 2 to 6000000 and then in a year after that so we had pretty strong growth for a saas company and we were closely. We were basically cash flow positive so we didn’t necessarily um, we were really efficient as a company and so 2 millionaire are cash flow positive with strong growth today that would be kind of a slam dunk. Round with like ah ah it would be that that wouldn’t be a terribly difficult round to do at the time it was difficult but we did get it done. We got done to $40,000,000 valuation. Um, and and really I think the reason we eventually did get it done is because because by virtue of being cash flow positive. We didn’t need the round to get done. We could sort of. Um, we had the luxury of being able to say no until like the time was right? and so the fact that everyone was not interested in the company was not existential for the company and I think like what a lot of founders do is they assume that if they hit a certain milestone. Oh if I get to a million an error r or 2000000 error r I’m definitely going to be able to raise an next round and a lot of people think it’s guarantee. Um, maybe it was for eighteen months in 202021 when capital was was ah everywhere. But for the most part there’s no guarantees in fundraising um the sort of best advice I think is to just always run the company as if you’ll never be able to raise again.

Ravi Parikh: And that way if you do if you do decide to go Fundraise. You never need to fundraise. You can just sort of um, allow like the market to work itself out and if you get good terms then great. You can take them and if you don’t get the terms you like then you can just say no and and keep sort of operating as a business and so that’s more or less what we did with our seriesries a as we do Roce Seriesries b. sure you see in every round they were all difficult rounds but none of them were rounds that were like necessary the survival of the business and that allowed us to sort of survive despite maybe not having the rounds come together as fast or as cleanly as we’d like them to so that’s that’s kind of how the series a went. Um, but. Yeah, that was kind of like roughly what fundraising looked like at at heap.

Alejandro Cremades: And now the company. You know we see now you’re you’ve started your own and and we’ll talk about that in just a little but the company you know has done incredible I mean has raised over two hundred million hundreds of employees I mean with a company that was succeeding like that like literally literally like a rocket ship. Why why were you exploring other options. Why do you decide? You know it’s time to turn page and and do another company.

Ravi Parikh: That’s a really good question. Yeah so I left heap in 2020 in July of of that year um and started a new company called airplane which is what I’m working on now and heap has done phenomenally since then it was ah it was a good company and it was about 200 people when I left it’s about 400 and something people today. I think the revenue has much more than doubled. So it’s not only increased headcount but it’s also continued to grow really fast as a company itself. Um, the the reason I decided to leave was was honestly I like building things from the ground up. Um, you know when we were starting heap ah, neither Maine nor I really knew anything about running or starting a company. We knew nothing about finding product market fit about hiring people about any of these things. Um, and so that process of learning was just constant. You know every month every quarter every year there was some new challenge to deal with and so it was just a constant process of solving new problems and um. Really just learning so much from that process and then also that early first few years of figuring out. Okay, we have this cool idea. But how does that idea need to manifest in a way that people can actually adopt how does that idea manifest in a way that’s differentiated from what our competitors are doing How do we solve various product challenges. Who is this product even for is it for product managers for marketers is for engineers so all these like really tough questions were what we spent the first several years of heap grappling with but at some point the company got to the stage where it was very clear what our product market fit was it was very clear what we were selling and who we were selling it to. We had a product roadmap but it was very clear how to execute against that product roadmap.

Ravi Parikh: And the challenges of the company transition from being the sort of like figured out 0 to 1 type challenges to being more um, scaling challenges challenges where um, we have a huge organization and we have to keep everyone on the same page we have to make sure sales and marketing and product and customer success. All. Marching in the same direction and are all understanding of the same mission and vision of the company we have to make sure that um the handoffs between various teams are are working really smoothly. We have to make sure that our recruiting processes work really well so these are exciting challenges. They’re just not challenges that I personally found as exciting as the challenges of. Figuring out the product market fit of the company. The go-to-market model the company all that foundational stuff and so around 2019 a year before I left that’s kind of when I was feeling like you know I’m running sales and marketing and customer success and all this stuff I have 100 plus people reporting to me directly or indirectly this. Feels like um, you know I’m a first -time founder. My previous job was touring musician I don’t really know what I’m doing there are people out there who are much much better at scaling than I am and so we decided to go hire a co o we brought in a co o named ken fine um who joined the company in mid twenty nineteen um and immediately once he joined maybe two to three months after he joined the company the sort of go-to-market team operating cadence the maturity the rigor the predictability of it just went up because he was he had just seen this before and he had so much more precision in terms of like how that go-to-market team should run at scale.

Ravi Parikh: Um, and so having seen him operate so effectively led me to realize like what I was really good at was that like early building and all that kind of stuff and so I thought you know I’ll spend a few months making sure kennes fully transitioned in and that he’s doing a great job. Um, and that’s what I did and then once. You know once I felt like he was operating on all cylinders and I wasn’t needed anymore I decided to leave um I stayed a little bit longer. Um because around the time I was planning to leave covid ended up um hitting and that sort of pandemic led to a big shutdown and at first it wasn’t clear what that was going to mean for tech companies and so. Remember q 2 Twenty Twenty was was a really tough quarter for obviously everyone in every industry but um, our sales pipeline basic dred up overnight. So I did stick around for another two quarters after that. Um just to make sure there weren’t any ill effects on the company. Um, what actually ended up happening was there was a huge covid pull forward and saas companies like he actually ended up having like record. Ah, profits and things like that later in the year and and the next year um but so once once it was kind of clear that the the the business was going to survive is going to be stable and and all that kind of stuff I decided to just finally leave in July 2020 so that’s when I finally loved heap. Um. And I’m I’m pretty happy with that decision because what I did next was was work on airplane which is a company I’m working on now I’m very happy to be back in this sort of early stage building from the ground up making something new. So yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: And why why airplane? why was the problem meaningful enough for you to to leave such an incredible you know, chapter you know for for this new one.

Ravi Parikh: Yeah, it’s a really good question. Yeah, so basically what what airplane is is. We’re a developer platform for building internal tools and so what I mean by that is um, you know, let’s say you’re an engineer at a company like Netflix to use an example that’s not 1 of our customers. But I think it’s just a brand everybody knows it’s a good example. Um, you know part of what you end up doing on the engineering team at Netflix is you build the app that everybody logs into on their phone on their browser on their Tv whatever to watch movies and whatnot but a lot of what you have to do is build internal tools as well. So for example, you know. There’s ah, a team of people who do things like content moderation. There’s different shows and movies and all that upload every every 5 minutes and Netflix and someone needs to build a repository internally to sort of like how’s all that content and let people sort of like annotate it and and things like that and so there’s a ah huge team of people internally. who who do all that stuff and they need tools like they interfaces uis and stuff to read and write against that data and do what they need to There’s probably another team internally needs to do billing. You know, let’s say you get overcharged for your Netflix subscription one month or need to cancel your subscription or something like that. So you call up Netflix customer support and say I’d like to report an issue with my billing. Someone on the other end of that line has to be able to look at your account. They have to be able to see your billing status. You know issue a refund if they need to you know, upgrade your account to a different tier if they need to There’s all these kinds of internal tools and need to be built to sort of like read and write against customer data against billing data against content data. All that kind of stuff and every company has this I mentioned Netflix but.

Ravi Parikh: Bank has this your uber has this your saas companies and things like that they have this. They just have a plethora of internal software that needs to get written and all this internal software is specific to the business. Um, every business has its own flavor of things that it’s doing but there’s very common patterns across all of them. So the internal tools at Netflix. Building versus the internal tools that uber is building versus the internal tools that Facebook is building um all have in common a variety of features that they need to be permissioned audit logged all that kind of stuff and so the edm of an airplane is we give you a framework to basically build those kinds of tools a lot more quickly. It’s about you know 30 to 50% of all engineering work goes into internal tooling. We try to accelerate that as much as possible. So that engineering teams can focus on the core and the reason why this problem in specific resonated with me is because it was a huge problem at heap so you know heap is a saas company. We sell enterprise software to businesses and and as a part of doing that. There’s always times where. Customers would have needs that were not addressed by the product directly but we still needed to support. Um and we need to build internal tools for those needs. So for example, a customer might be migrating over to heap from another analytics system and they might want to bring in their historical data and import that into heap or they might want to. Um, you know, split up their heap data into 2 different accounts or something like that or maybe they need to um promote someone on their team to an admin role and they not sure how to do that in the product and in all these instances our support engineering or our solutions engineering team would get these requests and get these queries and usually they’d have to escalate them to the engineering team and then our engineering team and get involved.

Ravi Parikh: And they’d have to like run some script or run some query against the production database to fix this issue for the customer on a one-off basis and over time as we scaled these kind of 1 ne-off customer requests ended up became ah ended up becoming a huge bottleneck for our engineering team and so our engineering team was spending a lot of time. Solving 1 ne-off customer problems instead of building product features which was a huge drain on the ngt productivity. Um, and we also spent time like building internal tools to sort of address these things in a more systematic way. But that was time that could have been spent advancing our product roadmap and so I kind of just saw this over and over and over again at heap. Um, and then when I left he in charge for brainstorming new ideas I thought you know there’s probably a lot of things on the internal tooling side that we could build a framework for that would sort of automate a lot of that boilerplate and a lot of that repetitive work. Um, and then I was kind of brainstorming that. Was talking to a friend of mine named Josh who was previously cto of a company called benchling which is a co life sciences saas company. That’s also done quite well. Um and he was saying that benchling are the same set of problems over there and so benchling is also an enterprise software company. They also have tons of customers make 1 ne-off requests and they also have tons of scripts and queries and things like that internally that people sort of have built to address those problems and so Josh and I were kind of brainstorming we thought hey we could sort of provide a framework that takes care of the ui the permissioning notifications. All these kinds of like aspects of these internal tools that are kind of common across companies and.

Ravi Parikh: Probably he probably benchling would get a lot of value out of it and we spent some time in sort of late twenty Twenty interviewing friends of ours who work at other companies and just developed a sense that this wasn’t a problem just unique to heap and unique to benchling. It was a problem that was existed in almost every company. Um, and so that kind of gave us conviction that we could sort of. Build something quite valuable in this space. Um, and so I was excited to kind of tackle it as a result we ended up starting to build a prototype and write code and build an Mvp of the product in December of Twenty Twenty or so um, raised an initial round of funding a little bit after that. Um, and have kind of been working on it ever since.

Alejandro Cremades: And in terms of um, you know location here because a lot of founders. You know they’re always you know wondering where should they start their business heap. You did it in the bay area. So the um, the h queue is in San Francisco but

Ravi Parikh: Right? yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: With the airplane you guys took a different route and you’re in New York so why

Ravi Parikh: Yeah, it’s a good question so airplanes actually distributed. We don’t have any sort of single location where everybody’s located I live in New York as you mentioned my cofounder Josh Liz in San Francisco um we have employees in both cities and then we also have employees in a number of other cities across the globe and so part of the reason we did that is because we started the company in December Twenty Twenty it was still the peak of the pandemic. Um, no one was vaccinated yet because the vaccines weren’t really rolled out yet and so just by necessity we were fully remote from day 1 um, and because we kind of develop those norms around being fully remote from day one back when it became possible to go back into the office. We didn’t necessitate that anyone has to go back into the office. Um, and so we have a collection of people in San Francisco New York so we do have 2 small offices in both cities but they’re not requirements to have to go in. And we have remote employees too in in a variety of other studies across the world and so it it was more of a you know day 1 we did discuss that a little bit Josh and I discussed you know hey if we um, you know when it’s possible to go back into the office. Do we want to enforce something like that and I think we debated a little bit but ultimately we felt that. We were quite productive being fully remote. Both of us are sort of experienced um ah second-time founders and and had sort of like experienced managing teams and setting goals and and and and things like that and so I am a believer that like you know if you do an effective job of setting goals and setting requirements and.

Ravi Parikh: Um, saying this is what’s expected of of someone as an employee they don’t have to be in the office to be productive. There are a few things that sort of are done better in person. You know there are certain types of collaboration or discussions that are higher fidelity when they’re done in person. Um, but you can sort of solve that by getting the team together for like a company off-site or something like that on a periodic basis. Um, a lot of work is individual. You know if you’re writing code you can sort of do that in your own home. You can do that in office with other people I don’t think it makes a huge difference if you’re on a call with a customer and you’re doing sales calls whether you’re doing that from your own home or whether you’re doing that in a meeting room at an office I also don’t think makes a huge difference. So. You know I do think seventy eighty ninety percent of the time you spend on a day-to-day basis is doing things that don’t necessarily need to be done in person. Um, and so for that reason we want to be flexible and be able to tap into a global talent pool of people and be able to hire from anywhere. Um, so I was kind of the decision making there. Also heap my previous company it was based in the Bay Area we did have an office and we had a culture where we went in to the office most days. But even there we had ah a fair amount of people who were remote so our engineering team at heap even before the pandemic about one third of that team was remote. We had people in. Europe in in India and in Japan and Australia and a number of countries and and and all that across the globe and we had done that from early on just because it had always been hard to hire. It was always a very competitive hiring market and heap was not some you know, super famous company.

Ravi Parikh: Um, but that had an easy time hiring people and so we would just hire if we found someone qualified and talented. We would hire them regardless of whether they were located and so I had ah I had had a lot of experience kind of working on a partially remote team already before at heap given that. But a third of the team was distributed across the globe. Um, and so that experience led me to to sort of say with with airplane. Let’s let’s go even further in that direction and embrace this sort of remote um distributed team thing even more.

Alejandro Cremades: And now you know it’s it’s incredible because you guys got starting 2021 and literally in 2021 you raise your series a I mean typically you would do more like nowadays people are doing like precede seed than you know a series a but in your guys’s case you did a series a.

Ravi Parikh: Yeah, yeah.

Alejandro Cremades: In 2021 in December and then you did a serious b in 2022 in September and literally you guys have been able to raise money from like the who is who I mean you have their thrive capital and then also a bunch of other people like benchmark or silicon valley angel and the who is who when it comes to.

Ravi Parikh: Um, yeah, ah.

Alejandro Cremades: Angel investors so how would would you say that perhaps you know it. It got a little bit easier as second time founders to to to raise money.

Ravi Parikh: Definitely I think you know we were. We’ve been very fortunate with our a round and our b round from from benchmark and thrive um respectively to be able to raise from like really high quality vcs and really high quality firms at at great valuations and things like that I think a lot of that is. Due to as you mentioned we’re second time founders I think people give you a little bit more credit. There. They know that you have some experience scaling companies and finding product market fit and hiring great people and all that. So I think you definitely get a bit more credit as a second time founder and I wouldn’t necessarily say that what we’ve been able to do with with airplane is going to be something that every founder can replicate. Um. That being said I think um, you know some of the reasons that we were able to raise so much was because we’re second on founders other reasons were just because of that the traction of the product early and things like that you know when when thrive um led the round. Um, they not only you know thought it was great that were’re second time founders. But. Um, they also talked to a lot of our early customers. They got a little all of those proof points about the kind of value that we were adding to a lot of these companies and so um things like the just general nps of the product. The net retention of the product. The value. The the differentiated value. It’s been adding to our customers I think was a driver as well in sort of being able to. Um, raise at good valuations and and good rounds and things like that.

Alejandro Cremades: Now in terms of vision you know because I’m sure that you had to sell those investors on a vision if you were to go to sleep tonight and you wake up in a world where the vision of airplane is fully realized what does that world look like.

Ravi Parikh: Yeah, it’s a really good question. Um, ultimately if I Zoom way out the whole point of the whole point of airplane is to make engineers more productive and so if I think about my time in heap. The reason we built airplane is because this lack of good internal tooling and this like constant time of engineers. Spending time solving one-off customer issues was a huge drag on the overall productivity and engineering team if I could have sort of waved a magic wand and had 99% of the effort of the engineering team go towards advancing a product roadmap rather than doing these one-off things um rather than doing these these? um. Interrupts and stuff like that we probably would have been able to achieve the vision of heap a lot more quickly. Um, and I think that’s true of almost every company there’s there’s studies out there that show 25 thirty fifty percent of engineering time is spent on internal tooling and that ratio grows as a company grows because the surface area for the amount of tooling that’s needed and the complexity grows. Um, faster than the company grows and so as a result you have like really great companies that are just spending all their time fighting these internal fires instead of advancing their own vision and so if I wake up in a world tomorrow where airplane has achieved its vision. It’s a world where engineering teams software teams in general are able to just. Move at the speed of their roadmap. They’re able to move as fast as they want to move on innovating and moving their own vision forward rather than sort of being held back by sort of internal bottlenecks and and things like that. Um, and so if we need an interface internally at a at a company that.

Ravi Parikh: Someone needs to be able to use to read and write against customer data or something like that. It should be possible to build that and solve that problem very very fast so you can get back to the main stuff that you want to do which is sort of like pushing product forward and so that’s kind of the high-level thing that airplane is really trying to solve I do believe that software engineering in general is the main engine of innovation in the world. Um, over the last 10 years. There’s been. You know the the majority of value created in tech has been created by software now with the ai wave. That’s been happening. It’s a very software-d driven wave of innovation. Um I do think it’s the greatest sort of engine for innovation in the world and airplane if it achieves its mission is. The mission is to make that engine of innovation even more productive in a general sense. So that’s really what we’re trying to do if I if I Zoom way way out.

Alejandro Cremades: So Now let’s say let’s let’s assume way way in you know when it comes to um to putting you into a time machine and bring you back in time you know, let’s say we bring you back in time you know to that moment that you were receiving that phone call to really get going with heap and you have the opportunity of sitting your younger self. For a quick chat and on that chat you’re able to give your younger self one piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now.

Ravi Parikh: That’s a really good question. Um, honestly I think the number 1 piece of business advice I’d probably give my my younger self is just spend more time listening to users I think you know when we spoke earlier on this. Ah. And conversation. We talked about finding pot of market fitted heap and it took us about a year year and a half to really get there and there were certain insights that it took us a long time to unlock and those insights would have come a lot faster if we had just spent even more time with our users. We spent a little bit too much time writing code and trying to guess what the market needed rather than just asking people. You know why didn’t you get up and running with heat. What was what fell short about it. We did a little bit of that but we could have done a lot more of that and even as we scaled and grew we still didn’t learn that lesson. We we spent a lot of time and years at the company building things that were not exactly what the market needed. Trying out strategies that were never going to work and we could have validated a lot faster if we had just spent more time talking to our users understanding them better understanding their pain points more specifically and really getting at the core of why they did or didn’t like our product. Um, and so it’s something that honestly was a painful lesson that we had to learn over and over and over again. Um there’s never any substitute for just getting direct feedback from your customers from your users about your product. Um, and honestly heap would probably be you know twice as big 3 times as big today.

Ravi Parikh: And just a lot further along if we could have cut out a lot of that early time that that we sort of spent doing the wrong things and at at at airplane we’ve tried to put that into practice Better. We’ve I’ve tried to spend more time just like getting at the core heart of what it is our product does or doesn’t do for our customers and and really listening to them. But even that’s hard. It’s It’s always easy to get into a room and brainstorm things and whiteboard things and convince yourself certain ideas are good. You know there’s no shortage of good ideas out there. But it’s hard to sort of do that work of then talking to 20 people and saying is this actually a good idea and things like that. So. That’s probably the number one thing I’d say.

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

Ravi Parikh: For sure. Um, you can just send me an email I’m Ravi R A V I at airplane dot dev so yeah, feel free to to reach out anytime if you’d like to chat.

Alejandro Cremades: Amazing! Well rabi. Thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us hi.

Ravi Parikh: Thank you so much. It’s been an honor being on on today.

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