Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich has now cofounded four venture-backed startups. He’s been an angel investor, and a partner at a venture capital firm. Now he’s going at it again with a company that provides the best development tools for creating the next generation of software. His startup, Weights & Biases, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like NVIDIA, Insight Partners, Felicis Ventures, and Coatue.
In this episode, you will learn:
- What Weights & Biases does
- What investors look for in great startup investments
- Yanda Elrich’s top advice for other entrepreneurs
- Optimizing for regret
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About Yanda Erlich:
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich works as a Angel Investor at MasterClass, which is a Broadcasting company with an estimated 480 employees; and founded in 2015. They are part of the Finance team within the Finance Department and their management level is Non-Manager. Yanda is currently based in San Francisco, United States.
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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: All righty hello everyone and welcome to the deal makers show. So today. We have a very exciting guest because we’re going to be talking about going from being an operator to an investor from an investor now to an operator again. He’s done it multiple times you know the whole thing of building scaling financing. We’re going to be talking about successes. We’re gonna be talking about failures but I don’t talk about failures I mean I talk about lessons learned you know more than anything the more you fail them or that you succeed at the end of the day but without further ado let’s welcome our guest today Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich welcome to the show. So originally from.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Thanks for having me.
Alejandro Cremades: Paris from France you know, eventually you came here to the Us but give us a walkth throughugh memory lane. How was life growing up. So.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Ah, life was great. You know I’m ah I’m fortunate to have a ah still today. A very good relationship with both my parents and my younger brother which I guess ah you know I count myself lucky. But yeah born in ah in Paris France. Ah. I’ll date myself I guess ah a little over forty five years ago at this point. Um, and yeah, first nine years kind of you know idyllic experience like good friends went to the same school younger brother was born about three years three years later and you know had a blast and then ah right around age 9 ah. Big move where I moved from from Paris to to Austin Texas.
Alejandro Cremades: I mean that’s a massive move because I mean at 9 is everything you knew that was Paris it was France and I know that french are very french so you know obviously being taking out of your own circle your comfort zone and then all of a sudden you come to the other side of the atlantic I mean.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: That’s right.
Alejandro Cremades: Wow, that’s quite the move. How was that for you and I’m sure that that shaped you who you are today and also the way that you deal with uncertainty. So.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Ah, yeah, 100% I mean I would say in the moment it was ah it was a pretty ah you know terrifying experience right? I I moved to a country where I didn’t speak the language. Well I taken a little bit of english classes in in France but you know it doesn’t prepare you for for the us and certainly not for Texas. Um. But I think in retrospect you know, probably 1 of the the best formative experiences in my life learn how to see the world from an outsider’s perspective see the world from different perspectives learn how to make new friends rebuild a life even as ah as a you know, relatively young kid etc. So all of the ah. This you know this is to tell you right? like all the trials and tribulation as you’re living them turn out to be ah to be gifts after the after the facts. So.
Alejandro Cremades: So what about computers. How do you get into into computers. How do you develop that? love.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Yeah, totally so so my ah, my dad fortunately has been um in computers his whole career. He’s he’s now retired but he actually started out as a software engineer at an oil and gas company called slomberget and and rose through the ranks over. Ah, almost fifty year career to be the the chief information officer of the company before retiring in the in the twenty ten s um but he ah gifted me and I’m trying to remember I think when I was 10 years old my my first computer. Um, it was like at an 8086 I’m going. Ah I’m going to date myself again, but ah, you know I started out by ah, playing games as as I guess kids do but pretty quickly. Um, he taught me a little bit of programming I think first in logo then in basic then in c and I was hooked. Ah I’ve never been. Very crafty with my hands right? I’m not I’m not that kind of guy who like makes sculptures or like makes old machines, etc. But computers afforded me the ability to create things from scratch basically with my mind and you know tapping my fingers on the keyboard. Um, and ah. It turns out I was creative just in ah in a different way than than than other kids and and you know I went down that rabbit hole and i’ve’ve I’ve been down at my my whole career I’ve never looked back. So.
Alejandro Cremades: Problem solving I mean that’s definitely has been ah a driver for you I mean you went to riyce university you ended up starting studying computer science and then you went into the corporate world right? I mean you did a Microsoft I mean you’ve worked at a company like Google as well.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: For indeed.
Alejandro Cremades: But it sounds like at a point in timing between those 2 you felt that it was necessary to to really you know, develop more of the business side of things. So why was that the case.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Yeah, you know Um, so I think the first thing right? like ah as um, France in the in the 70 s and 80 s probably now the hotbed of entrepreneurship and so I you know I I studied computer science because I loved computers and that got me to Microsoft where I think I you know I got the opportunity to train. On what it’s like to be a ah competent corporate computer scientist. Um, but at some point in that time I um I discovered that I enjoyed working with people who worked with computers more than directly working with the computers and so I I switch into into product management. And that got me down this kind of business rabbit hole where you know eventually I was managing people or trying to influence her behavior and I realized that like doing all this stuff through gut feel I’m I’m not really sure I’m doing it right? Maybe I should go. Ah, get some schooling to to learn how to how to do this stuff and that’s what took me to to stand for business school to get my Mba and um, you know the beauty there is I think a lot of my peers had been in economics etc and and they were kind of like getting a. A refresh on their existing skills. But for me I all my time prior to business goal had been spent. You know, coding on computers and so all of this like economics and marketing and organizational behavior and and and all that stuff was was completely new to me and I loved it. I felt like my learning curve was back to like being vertical.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Ah, and I like learning and problem solving as you as you said so it it ah it really drew me in and and then from there getting to apply those skills to to Google and then and then on to startups.
Alejandro Cremades: But I mean if you’re there in the land of opportunity. You know you’re doing your Nba in Stamford you know some of the best founders have come out of that school. Why not going at it right away. Why why did you go back to corporate first.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Um, now.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Yeah, you know I didn’t have a good idea I thought I wanted to start a company out of Stanford but it turns out you know in order to be an entrepreneur you need to have a good idea and a good co-founder and graduating from from Gsb I I didn’t and and actually you know I was fortunate enough that Eric Schmidt who was at the time. Ah the the Ceo of Google was. Was one of the professors in one of my classes and he was like hey listen like you should come over to Google and and ah help build some software there and you know in 2000 me think 2005 Google was still quite small I mean it. It was ah a decent size company and a couple thousand people I think but. Still a ton of opportunity and still a ton of growth and so um I took Eric up on his ah on his offer and and spent the next year and a half um you know getting to see a corporate but but much earlier in its in its life and then eventually did find that cofounder in that idea and then ah. Went off on the ah on the entrepreneurial journey as I ah as I had hoped that would happen to me. So.
Alejandro Cremades: And those are 4 companies. So um, you know obviously you got the successes and obviously you know the ones that they they didn’t unfold the way that they that you would want it right? But I guess you know just so that they so that for for the listeners. You know, especially on the ones that.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Um, yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: Had you know the the good outcome there. You know, let’s say let’s just talk about them. You know and and and most importantly, the lesson that you got out of each one of them. So let’s talk about the first company. So what were you guys doing there and obviously you know ended up having a really nice outcome. So how did that the acquisition come about as well.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Yeah, for sure. So we we built technology this is you know the the early days of like the the chat world and we ah we built technology that it essentially enabled people to build chat on top of existing communities. The the product was called social I am um when we built. Interestingly we built chat on top of Facebook before Facebook had had its own chat and so again I’ll date myself a little bit and in this and saw as a result you know pretty significant growth in in the product. Um, but eventually Facebook built their own chat and started competing with us on their own platform which which makes it tough but. In the in the course of this we built some really nice fundamental technology that enabled people to basically you know, grab an existing community and add synchronous communications to it and that technology became attractive to a company called Icecoot which was ah part of a software division of of Qualcomm. And so the the first um, you know the first acquisition was really for me a technology acquisition. The the company was quite small. Um at the time that we sold it but we had built this kind of cool fundamental tech that was um, getting value in the market from just like ah you know, ah a pure play um almost technology innovation and that is. Different than my my second acquisition which was um, you know more acquired on on product and and market etc so it was fun to you know experience both because they’re because they’re obviously they’re they’re quite different and the level of.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Ah conversation and and strategic impact that you can have from from both of those is is is is different. So.
Alejandro Cremades: And I believe the first one was called Mogat and then the second one was called choice vendor correct.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: That is correct. Yeah, so the the company was on the on the first one. The company was called Mogadd. The product was called social I am and that’s the thing that really took us away. We went when we named the company. We just needed a name and so it was like the weirdest thing that we could find a domain for but the ah the product that that. Ah. Made the company and and created the opportunity for the acquisition with social I am and then the the second company that’s right is was called choice vendor both the company and the product and that’s the one that we ended up selling tilington in we think Twenty ten thereabouts so
Alejandro Cremades: So what is the difference from let’s say selling a business more for like you were saying the technology versus more like the product and you know perhaps the other the other areas that you had you know how does it differ from one transaction to the other one in terms of process.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Yeah, for sure I mean I would say the you know the product and market one is ah it tends to be a more successful outcome right? The the technology tends to be a piece of how a successful company is built. But obviously if you can if you can build a business that makes an impact in the market and and ah creates. Ah, a reason for an acquirer to buy it. Um, you know to have access to a customer base and a product line etc. That’s obviously the the better outcome. So I feel like I guess in that regards. Got a little bit smarter from from the first company to to the second but it turns out these paths are are are nonlinear because the third one was worse than the than the first 2 but um, but yeah I think in in that regard. You know we had quite senior strategic level conversations at Linkedin I remember spending a lot of time at the. Ah, the time with the vp product and the and the Ceo and um this was you know Linkedin’s I think first maybe second or first acquisition that that they’d ever made it was done pre ipo when Linkedin was still defining itself. Um, and so you know quite ah quite a significant. Ah, endeavor for for both parties versus social I am to to ice scoot. You know, not nearly as much right? It was still a a nice outcome for us. But but a much smaller accurate like I don’t think I don’t think the Ceo of Qualcomm ever knew that we existed right and in in that regard. So.
Alejandro Cremades: So so then the third one you know they didn’t have the outcome that you had desire and I’m sure that from the previous ones you didn’t learn as much as you did on the third one and because when you fall you know it say when it hurts and when you really get to reflect. So so what happened there? Why why it didn’t work out.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Yeah. Hundred percent that’s right yeah you know I think too early right? So we yeah, we started a business. The the idea was to build an intelligent Ai assistant. Um, and so you know. I’ve I’ve loved ai since I was a little kid I’ve I’ve loved ai since I was like 13 years old. Yeah, my my father was a computer scientist as I as I mentioned said you know like ah you should go into computer science yanna but but don’t do ai because it’s you know it’s always 5 years away it’s never it never quite quite fulfills. its its promise um and I I think he he’s now eventually wrong, but we’ll get back to that. But I think in in 2011 he was right? So we we started this Ai assistant it meant to kind of schedule and reschedule meetings. Um, and it just the tech wasn’t there. It didn’t work right? We we got early customers who were excited by the promise of it and then the tech would fail them and. You know as you know if you if you have an important business meeting and your ea schedules it wrong. You know you don’t trust that ea again right? And and in this case that e was our product and so we would.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Fail for our early customers and and then those early customer you know that we we would break that trust and it was just really really difficult to to regain and so we we tried a bunch of stuff and we tried a bunch of advances at the time to try to improve the technology but you know frankly the state of the art for for machine learning in in 2011 was just not. Good enough to build ah a product that ah that could work and so we we spent you know, almost two years trying a bunch of different approaches at it. Um, you know we’d raise we’d raise a seed round because we thought oh we’d raise a seed round. We’ll get some customers and we’ll raise a big round. We ended up never raising that big around. We just kind of slowly bled through the ah the capital that we raised and eventually we got to a point where we had to shut the the business down and um, you know it was it was a sad time I think mostly because like the ah the angel investors who would invest in in the in the business were my friends and people I looked up to and. You know I hate losing money and and probably most of all hate losing my my friends and and mentors’ money. Um, but at the same time it was ah it was an incredible learning experience. You know some of the folks who who went on to to build that company with me have now gone on to very senior roles at. A number of of very big companies. My my designer ran ah a very large org of design at at ah at Facebook afterwards and so we I built this like core group of people we were like 7 or 8 people at the at the peak of the business. Um.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: The the Ceo there went off to to start afterwards. Ah a business that I invested in that sold the Apple that was fabulously successful. So like the alumni network was really ah was really powerful and and obviously um, you know it’s tough. It’s tough to kind of beat your head against a wall and and not succeed. But. Startups are really hard I think it it also created a ton of empathy for me with other entrepreneurs. Um, my friends folks that I ended up investing in after the fact when I when I became an investor. Um. Um, yeah, so lot lot. Lots of lessons learned from from that experience despite the despite the tough times so that’s right, that’s right.
Alejandro Cremades: Now after this, you started your next company and basically your next company. You know it’ saying actually still going. It’s called perciable and they they’ve raised like over 130,000,000 or something like that so you were there. Ah the they found the co-founder the Ceo as well in then. You know what? what happened there because you know eventually you decide to you know turn over the reins. You know I mean you guys got started in 2013 and then in 20 about 2017 you know is when you decided to turn over you know the reigns of the Ceo role to.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich4: Yeah, yeah, totally totally there. Ah, there’s a great story. So ah I’ll go a little little nerdy at at first. So you know we we started the business. It builds a workflow and collaboration software for for industrial workers.
Alejandro Cremades: Someone else. So what were you guys doing at parable and why did you turn the reins over to someone else first.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Um, and the the story there is a little bit like the you know the history of my life kind of rewound back. So as I as I mentioned my father worked in oil and gas. Um I had a conversation with him in in 2013 just kind of curious like hey what do your colleagues use to to do their work and. And ah, you know he had mentioned you know in the it sector like we’re all using computers etc. But most of the manufacturing workers at these very large oil and gas and mining and manufacturing companies are still walking around with ah checklists and and walkietalkies and I was like wait that we’re in the 2010 s like how is that still happening. And so that led my my cofounders and I down this kind of exploratory path and and interestingly one of my cofounders his father had worked in mining the other cofounder his father had also worked in oil gas so we had this kind of one foot in like high-tech you know Silicon Valley and then the other foot and like the family foot from like.
Alejandro Cremades: Um.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: You know, having exposure to these ah to these broad industrials that you know maybe had not benefited from all the latest technologies in the world. Um, and so we went down this exploratory path and we eventually ended up building this product. Um, that basically helped blue-collar workers industrial workers across a broad base of industries. Um, navigate. Um and do their best work using using digital tools to replace these checklists and and walkietaies. Um, and that was super fun I think the the first few years of that business like figuring out the product market fit and figuring out what product worked for those. Um. Ah, for those sectors and how people would use it and was it byo and what the user interface should be for this type of software in a very loud environment etc. all all of that stuff um was was quite exciting and in the course of this about in 16 we hired this like very um. Ah, talented in competeent head of sales this a competent Cro um, and I remember you know in in in early 2017 um, the the kind of the the product evolution had hit this. You know we continued evolving the product afterwards but it hit this peak where like the max of the learning curve had kind of plateaued right? we. We had figured out the product to sell and it became broadly a sales and marketing execution game at that point to to win the business and I remember being actually the the thing that I that that I that I remember is being at a customer dinner in Houston Texas with a number of customers and and Lawrence the the gentleman who ended up.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Promoting to to Ceo at the time and he was ah he was having a blast right? He had this product. It was like ready to sell and he was just excited to have these sales conversations and I just wanted to talk about the product like ask questions about like where do I evolve it etc because I’m nerd at at at at heart right um. And none of the people at this dinner wanted to talk about the product. They just wanted to talk about like how they should buy it implement it etc and so I remember at the at the time like looking at Lawrence I was like man this guy’s having way more fun and he’s a much better like leader for for this business at at at this point. Um, and so you know. That realization it first dawned in my head and then we had conversation to the board. It’s all it’s like it’s a bittersweet conversation because you know from 1 perspective you kind of wish that you’re the Ceo that like starts the company and takes it all the way and I had this realization that like ah maybe I’m not the right guy this but like you know. I’ve I’ve taken this thing from kindergarten to middle school. But like now it needs like a high school coach or ah or a college professor or something like that and I’m I’m not the same person like you know, most kindergarten teachers are not also college professors and so you you have this point where you have to like hand the baton of your of your baby over to to somebody else and. Um, you know it’s it’s still ah it’s still ah an event I I think about but I also I don’t regret it I feel like I made the right choice ah to to transition the Ceo role transition on to the board and then it obviously created a ton of other opportunities for me.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: After the fact and in in investing and and here weights and biases. Um, that wouldn’t have been the case if I were still running parcable and I get the benefit of ah being a major shareholder and still being involved in it. Ah but getting to do ah to do some other stuff as well.
Alejandro Cremades: Well let’s talk about doing some other stuff as well because I mean one of the things that they that you definitely took on was investing you know after after this experience you know you took some time.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Food.
Alejandro Cremades: And then you know I mean you you were already an an angel investor you were doing some angel investments. You know I mean incredible companies that you invested in like thumbtack a master class. So really great angel investments. Ah now how does the whole Vc you know idea you know.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Thank you.
Alejandro Cremades: Ah, becoming a general partner. How does that come together.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Yeah, you know luck like most things it turns out. Um, so yeah, so I’d I’d been angel investing since about 2008? Um, mostly in friends and I’m I’m fortunate enough to have you know, very smart friends like Jonathan Marco thumbtack and and David and masterclass and naval at Angellist and. And so it afforded me an opportunity to to build a a nice angel track record. Um, and so you know I I’d been entrepreneuring for for about 10 years and when I when I ah left parcable ah on in an operating role. My um, my wife at at the time when we we’d been dating basically for for. I’d been entrepreneuring for all the time that we’d been dating. We’d been recently married and she was like you know, please like a break from startups like you’re working Twenty Twenty hours a day and never see you ah and and so I said sure and then I was like well what? what else do I know how to do you know this fine and. And investing in startups and helping and advising startups was the only other thing right? and so my original idea was actually to like continue to angel invest maybe raise a small fund and and do that as ah as the next step but I got a call from a very good friend who. Ah, we’d code investsted a few years back and we we had stayed close and he had recently joined this multiacset manager called kotu to help them launch ah a venture fund and so he had lived in l a but he moved to San Francisco he calls me out of the blue one day and he’s like hey you know we should do this together. Um.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: And you know one thing that led led led to the led to the next and and in ah, mid 2018 joined kotu and and partnered up with Matt and he and I and obviously the the kotu folks Thomas and Philippe and and the whole crook kou. Um. Ah, launched kotus’s first venture fund and we we raised that fund and in December of of 2018. It was a $700,000,000 first fund which I think probably among the largest first funds in in terms of fund vintage. Ah, and. I got the opportunity to to run the enterprise software investing practice for that fund and lead a bunch of aiml investments myself but also manage ah a team of folks that invested across the stack from infrastructure all the way to all the way to apps and yeah, it was ah it was an amazing experience.
Alejandro Cremades: So how many how? how? Um, how much a does go to have in assets under management. Do you know.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Total I want to say like 40,000,000,000 or something like that. But ah, you know it’s broadly. They invest in kind of 3 categories right? The the the public investment fund which has like a hedge fund and a long only fund etc. That’s the. The the namesake of the fund the fund that that Philippe started back in the the late 90 s and then I want to say in like the 2013 or 2014 or so they launched a growth equity fund um, and. At the time that I joined it was on its third fund I think now it’s either on its fifth or sixth fund and it you know this vintage of kind of very large growth funds investing in series bc all the way up to to pre ipo. Ah, and then in 2018 we launched the the early stage product the venture product that invested in seed precede series a early series b um, and yeah I ah I raised that first fund or we raised that first fund. I was there for the second fund as well helping raise that one and then I think they’ve raised a third fund since since I left to to go join wait some biases. Yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: So then let’s let’s talk about the investment side of things because I mean you were there for over three years you know deploying money I guess what? how did it feel like you know like obviously you were an operator before an entrepreneur and now being on the other side of the table and on the other side of the table. What. How that it feel I mean what were you looking for? How did you? Perhaps how do you think that has impacted your worldview and also the way that you were thinking about investing in startups and what did you find that was surprising to you of wow I can’t believe that this is what a successful company looks like.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Yeah, for sure so I would say I think that the thing that I started out with is I had this northse star of wanting to be the investor that would be my own dream investor as an entrepreneur right? and I’ve and I’ve been fortunate actually by the way in in all of these businesses to have like very. Lovely investors that I have very good longitudinal relationships with and I was just like okay if I can Frank and shine all the best parts of all of these people and like kind of become my own dream investor. What would that look like someone who’s like. Always willing to jump on a call always helpful willing to talk strategy but also tactics make introductions but also like play with a product like all of that stuff right? And so I I launched into it from from that perspective and I think actually having um the operator experience and. And they’re honestly the the good as well as the bad, the the successes as well as the failures both provided me this um ability to relate to entrepreneurs that were going through their journey and also really empathize with them as they were going through that journey because entrepreneurship is really hard. And the founder Ceo is the is the protagonist in the story right? like in the investors are are help our helpers right? or like we’re we’re there to make the journey hopefully more successful but but really not taking the spotlight away from the from the protagonist. Um.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: But then I also learned a ton and I am you know I’m fortunate enough to have learned from from Thomas and Philippe and the folks at Kuu on like really how do evaluate massive trends because ultimately I think you know there’s a big belief here. You know it’s like ah if you have a great market and an okay team you you tend to build a a. Pretty meaningful business and if you have a great team in a bad market. You know those businesses don’t don’t go. Don’t do as well. Unfortunately, right? No no matter how great the team is and so I sharpened my skills on how to evaluate massive trends and and massive potential for businesses. But then I also got um. You know my my cred as an entrepreneur allowed me to win some deals against ah you know, better known better branded venture funds. Ah, where maybe the ah the the person there couldn’t forge as much of ah, an empathetic relationship with the with the founder on the on on the counterpoint. And so I think it was really the benefit of like a ton of lessons from the cotu experience and the folks and the folks around and then also getting to ah parlay all of the. Ah, the skills and the scars that I’d built up over over the years into into a winning combination to to get to and invest in some in some pretty exciting companies particularly in in aiml which you know at the time was early and now clearly has has ah has arrived. Yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: Oh yeah, everyone is talking about a yeah knowadays and and now its everyone you you were right? You were right now now for you. You know here you are in a position of a general partner. You know, seven hundred million bucks you know they’re blowing left and right I mean.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Um.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Yeah.
Alejandro Cremades: It sounds crazy to kind of like leave all of that behind and to join you know, perhaps you know like ah 1 of the portfolio companies.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: yeah yeah I mean maybe it was I don’t know I live my life through the regret minimization framework you know there’s this great quote. Um I think it’s attributed to good to. But I’m not sure I think it’s probably fakely attributed which is like. You know, regret for the things you’ve done can be tempered with time It’s the regret for the things you haven’t done. That’s unconsolable and that that quote is really stuck with me throughout my life I heard it I think in business school first. But it’s it’s really like it’s embedded itself in my decision framework and so ultimately you know i. Great job at co to great mentors and and a great team. But as I mentioned I’ve I’ve loved aiml since I was in my teens and you know my dad told me in my teens like don’t do aiml. It’s always 5 years away and guess what he was right for 30 years right and it finally arrived and it’s finally happening and I had invested and had been on the board and had forged this 20 year relationship with the founder Ceo of the hottest aiml tools company. Um, and I had an opportunity to to come join as a senior executive and help build and. You know, watch the the evolution of this space from from inside the space instead of you know, joining the team of protagonists right in some sense and in in helping build this stuff and I just thought you know fast forward 30 years from now or 40 years from now talking to my grandkids you know which thing would I regret.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: More not doing and and I I just um I would have regretted not seeing the the world from this vantage point and so I gave up this. You know, fancy job with you know, lucrative pay and and and and and exciting data to job to to go do this work and um. You know I I don’t regret it. It’s it’s such an ah incredible time to be building in in aiml and and I feel. Um, you know, grateful and honored to to get to spend it with Lucas and the and the rest of the crew Atwait some biases.
Alejandro Cremades: Wow, That’s incredible I mean and and they’re very lucky to have you now in this case, you know, just for the people listening weights and biases. What do you guys? do? what’s the business model there. How do you guys make money.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Yeah, absolutely so. We are a developer tools platform for machine learning practitioners. So basically if you have ah people building ml models. Ah, inside your company. We are the dev tools for them. So think like github or new relic or whatever for people building ml models and we’re we’re fortunate enough to count over 800 enterprises as our customers including companies that tend not to ah, buy software from startups. So you know. Meta and Samsung and Nvidia and openai are are all customers and actually notably openai was one of our earliest customers and they’d been training models on top of weights and biases platform from. Even before the the gp days and certainly all of the gd models have been have been trained using our using our software. So we’re basically we’re the with a kind of premiere dev tooling for um for the folks building the the next generation of software.
Alejandro Cremades: So I Guess a you know we see the company now you know it’s a a rocket ship. You know it has raised over 200,000,000 I mean you guys are like growing by by an incredible amount to the amount of Employees. You know that you’re adding I Guess if you could go back in time. And give you your younger self one piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be and why given what you know now.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Oh man I mean I think it’s hard to know without being able to see the future when you’re there right? I think I think the the tips I would give my younger self are honestly the tips I tried to follow so work with friends. Ah, like work with really smart people you trust in a space that really matters to you where you really care about the customer because ultimately um, you know in in the entrepreneur’s journey. You’re going to face dark times where it doesn’t look like people want to buy your product or There’s some headwinds in the market or et cetera and I think that the thing that keeps you going in those situations one is the people that you work with right? The the you know brothers and sisters in arms right? The fact that you’re going through this shared journey and then I think the other thing is really caring about the problem that you’re solving and the. And the people who who who live that problem I think part of the reason that weights and biases is such an exciting company and will tell you like when I met it in 2019 they were building tools for ml practitioners and there were maybe 10000 ml practitioners at the time. Like I remember the conversations at Cotu where some people were like is this a niche business like should we be investing in this as a $ 700000000 fund and I remember telling them like listen Lucas feels like he’s been put on this earth to build tools for machine learning practitioners.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: He believes this is going to be an ascendant role inside of organizations and he’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met like I’m tempted to believe him here and the funny thing is you know we look now five years later and there’s almost 1000000 of these Ml practitioners around the world with like fast growth. It’s like the most popular. You know, major in colleges and universities to go pursue but that was not obvious at the time in in the the business. The thing that powered the business through this journey is this deep desire to want to make the life of those practitioners better and I think. That is generally applicable across startups like if you find a customer who you love who has a problem that you think you can help solve and there’s enough of those people over time eventually. That’s the key to ah to a great business and then you know go build that thing with like the smartest people you can You can you know collect. Ah, because that makes the day to day. Really fun.
Alejandro Cremades: I Love it So agenda for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: Ah, you know I’m I’m Yonda a yonda ah, um, a personal email and then I’m on Twitter at yonda. Ah, it’s it’s pretty It’s pretty easy to find me yonda.com on the web. Ah yeah, it’s a. I’ve I’ve tried I’ve tried to capture that brand wherever I can so I’m I’m generally pretty easy to find.
Alejandro Cremades: They say now. Well hey, andda. Thank you so much for being on the deal maker show. It has been an honor to have you with us. So.
Yan-David (Yanda) Erlich: It’s been a great pleasure. Thanks again for having me.
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