Swapnil Shinde and his twin brother are now on their third startup venture. Their first two companies were both successfully acquired. Including one by AMEX.
On the Dealmakers Show, Swapnil shared with our audience their journey to becoming entrepreneurs, their M&A experience, how they came up with their startup ideas, and the advantages of being a twin. Plus, how to close a round of funding in 10 days, even without a website or product. As well as why you should raise, even when you don’t need the money, and the top three things to look for when hiring a team.
The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks
Swapnil and his identical twin brother Snehal have done everything together. Everything from enjoying the same creative pastimes as kids to building three companies together.
Swapnil says being twins has proven to be an advantage. Firstly, because they naturally gain attention.
When it comes to being cofounders he says they are very interchangeable. If one is taking care of something, the other knows it is taken care of, and vice versa. In turn, he says that has helped them run faster.
Having twin daughters myself, I can’t wait to see what they can achieve together in business.
They both picked up a talent for art from their mother, as well computer science. Their mom could program in 20 languages, and ran her own computer academy. By the time they were in 6th grade they wrote their first program, a game to keep themselves entertained.
Their journey started when they were born in Pune, India. Where they also ended up returning to study computer science at the well respected Govt. College of Engineering Pune, COEP. It was a highly desirable recruiting ground for big companies. Swapnil was one of ten graduates to be recruited by IBM Software Labs. Which in turn would be his segue to moving to the United States.
After studying at the University of Southern California, he and his brother both ended up at Symantec, and then Yahoo.
Yahoo was big on employees working on side projects. There they also saw what scale really looked like. What tools and products looked like when rolling them out to 100M users. As well as how to personalize products and drive engagement at scale.
See How I Can Help You With Your Fundraising Efforts
See How I Can Help You With Your Fundraising Efforts
Where Great Startup Business Ideas Come From
All three of the Shinde brothers’ startups have come out of a desire to solve a problem they were personally challenged by. Products that they would be customers of themselves.
The first was Dhingana, which was like Spotify for Indian music. Living in California they had no streaming services with the Bollywood music they liked to listen to. So, they created their own.
They started by hosting it on a server at home, and then moved to working on licensing. They pretty quickly hit 1M users. Then hit 10M, in 100 countries, completely organically.
After raising $8.2M in funding through a Series B round they ended up being acquired by Rdio. A company started by Skype’s founders. Rdio had its IP and some of its team acquired by Pandora.
The Shinde brothers spent the next year and a half working with Rdio on scaling globally.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Swapnil Shinde was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.
Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.
Selling Your Company To Amex For $150M
The idea for their second startup, Mezi came from trying to plan travel and order things amidst their busy lives. They thought a personal concierge could be a huge help.
They got started and watched the data closely. They found that customers who bought travel through them would on average come back more frequently, and would spend a lot more. They found the business segment meant monthly recurring users, and doubled down on that. Then they built the AI to support it.
They partnered with American Express to serve their card members with AI chat experiences. It was so successful that just two years after launching, Amex decided they wanted to buy them. Today, if you click the chat icon inside the flagship Amex app, you are using Mezi’s technology.
Amex saw the ability to scale it across their enormous amount of customers and to save millions of dollars each month.
At the same time, Swapnil says they had built relationships with the executives there, and trusted they would have the freedom to grow Mezi under their umbrella, and take it to 1,000x of where they were.
It just made sense for both sides. The deal was reported to be worth $150M, all cash.
The Shinde brothers’ most recent startup is Zeni.
Walking on the beach, and contemplating the challenges faced in their previous ventures Swapnil says he struck on two main things. One was legal, and the other was finance.
When you start a business, traditionally, you very quickly end up needing a lot of different people to manage all your finance functions. You need a CPA, bookkeepers, payroll admin, temp CFO and more. Everything is incredibly fragmented and human intensive. It’s inefficient. Worse, bookkeeping doesn’t even start until the month ends, so the founders are flying blind when it comes to seeing their finance data.
So, they decided to replicate their success in building an AI platform, but for finances.
For one monthly fee Zeni offers a plan that pulls much of this together for your startup. Their vision is that 90% of this work will be completed by AI and digital clones of finance experts. You may just need a human finance pro to help with strategy and more complex tasks
So far Zeni has built a team of 70 people, and have raised around $48M in capital.
Listen in to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- Making fundraising simple
- Why to raise outside capital when you don’t need the money
- Swapnil’s top three tips for building a team and who to hire
- Top-down versus bottom-up hiring