May 30, 2023

Episode 282: Tushar Makhija, Founder of TeamOhana

Tushar Makhija has over 10 years of experience spanning revenue & growth leadership, product, and customer success. He was the founding Sales leader at two SaaS companies, Helpshift and Airbase, and helped them grow ARR to eight figures, respectively. In 2021, he co-founded TeamOhana with a vision to empower growing companies to unify around their most important and expensive asset: people. TeamOhana brings collaboration, visibility, and control of headcount to all key stakeholders in a single integrated platform, ensuring that you build a team in the best way possible: as a team.

Julian:Hey everyone. Thank you so much for joining the Behind Company Lines podcast.Today we have Tushar Makhija, founder of TeamOhana. TeamOhana empowersfast-changing businesses to execute their strategic hiring plans on time andwithin budget by unifying data people and processes in a collaborative platformso they can achieve their business goals faster.

Tahar, it's soexciting to have you on the podcast, not only because of your, your wealth ofexperience as an entrepreneur, but really this exciting time about kind thispeople management and, and kind of team management. It's not really talkedabout a lot, but I feel like we've seen the pains of scaling go the wrong wayand a lot of that is just disorganization or, or not knowing where theresources are flowing or over over hiring in certain directions.

So it's exciting tosee how companies are doing so with more intent behind their hiring or, orscaling their businesses or resources. So I'm excited to dive into that. Butbefore we get into that, What were you doing before TeamOhana?  

Tushar:Well, professionally, yeah. I was doing a lot of things, but trust thank youfor having me on your podcast.

It's great to behere and come and share what we are building, a little bit about my backgroundand answer any of the interesting questions that you're gonna pose at me in thenext 40, 45 minutes. But yeah. So, I am, as I like to say I am an engineer bytraining. I started my career at VMware.

I was an earlyengineer there. I joined their pre I p o. I think that's the bedrock ofeverything I learned about technology and caught on the early bug to dosomething of my own. And so the, the story is that I recruited two of my bestfriends who mm-hmm. We went to school together into VMware so that we could alllive together.

As housemates andthen come up with an idea, and they didn't even know about this till theyjoined VMware and said, why, why did you bring us here? I'm like, oh, well weshould do a startup. So this was 2008. And we were, we were we were all immigrants,so we didn't really have a, we were on a work visa, so we used to moonlight andstarted building a product.

The first companydidn't do as well. But there were tremendous learnings and I think The onefounder went, co-founder, went joined Nest, then, the, then went on to bejoined by Google. So he, he's doing really well. The, the other founder movedback to India and he's he's very high up there at flip Cart.

And then I decidedto continue on my path of startups and yeah, that's how I came up with my firstnon-engineering role. It was at a company called Helpshift back in 2012. Yeah,so the founders of Helpshift, I got to meet them when I was doing my ownstartup and they told me, Hey you're a smart guy.

This is not a greatidea that you are working on. Why don't you come join our idea? In hindsight,it made sense. So I was there for five years. I was their first business hire.Took the company to 20 million a r. This was my first real SaaS sales role aswell. Very exciting time. Just learning. This is like, think if you go back2010, 2012, people started talking about, Like, I remember going to a SA eventwith Jason Lemkin where there are only 50 people in the room.

That's how that'show those were old, exciting times. So, learn through selling, learn throughbuilding teams right there. And at one time I had like 50 people reporting intome across the revenue organization, sales, customer success, customer supportmarketing sales development and all the good things.

From there, I wentto a company called Airbase, which is also a very exciting story. When I leftHelpshift, I, I recorded a video on LinkedIn where I talked for 15 minutesabout all the things that I've learned and all the things that I'm excitedabout, and I said, I'm taking some time off. And c e o of, of Airbase Airbaseis a spend management system.

Yeah. And he wasstarting up. And he had just closed or was about to close his first round offunding. And he said, Toshar, I've heard about what you've done at Helpshift.Are you crazy enough to do it again? And I'm like, sure thing, let's go. Sothat was a much faster pace of operation two years from seed to series B.

Yeah. And sellinga, a newer category to finance and hr. Who were focused on, managing thecompany's expenses. And fast forward to 2022, where I came up with the idea ofTeamOhana, where we said as I was talking to leaders at. Selling airbase. Theytold me that, Hey, airbase is managing all our expenses, which is, or, ornon-pay spend is a technical word that CFOs use.

And he said, theysaid, Tisha, non-pay spend is less than 10% of our operating expense. I'm like,okay, what is the, what is 90%? It's like, okay, then there's cloud cost, butthen there's people expenses, and I'm like, okay, you've got Workday, you'vegot. All these HR systems and you've got these payroll systems, why don't theyhelp you there?

And that was thegenesis of the idea that people touches across systems and across groups ofpeople and different teams and every team is working in their own silo. Financeis budgeting in one system. They call it the FPNA software. HR is managingemployees in the H R I S. The talent team is hiring new people in an ats.

So if you have toask this question like, okay, what is my current headcount? What is my futureheadcount? Where am I today? Where am I going? They, we like to brand it aswhat is your company's effective headcount right now, and what is youreffective headcount forecast in the future? To answer this fundamentalquestion, you have to go data angle across three different systems.

So that was thelight bulb moment we founded the company. And now we are 22 people around theworld and it's, it's a lot of fun. So, yeah. Yeah, that's what I'm.  

Julian:Yeah. No, I love it. And thank you so much for walking through experience. It'sso exciting to, to hear. Obviously I want to get into, TeamOhana cuz I, there'ssome such interesting, I think about the technology and how it maybe integrateswith, with others as well.

Obviously I wannadive into that. But thinking about the phases of growth, as the previouscompanies thinking about Airbase, Helpshift, how, how, when you're creating, akind of a new category within preexisting ones like airbase in particular. Howdo you communicate that?

Like value? Are youcomparing it to things people know? Are you trying to create a story behind,the genesis of new idea? Cuz it's hard when, founders really kind of conceivethis idea, see the opportunity, but, but the communication bit is challengingcuz you almost wanna really associate it to things people already know.

How did you tacklethat problem?  

Tushar:I, I would say that it is a lot of I think if you go in with this mindset thatif you fundamentally believe that you have created a solution that has valueand it is rooted in some feedback and some real world hypotheses coming fromexist, from real world customers, then I think taking and building on that ideabecomes easier.

Not easy, buteasier. So I think I've been. I would say lucky that both the companiesHelpshift our pitch. I still remember very clearly when I went to a firstmeetup and people say, so what is Helpshift? And I said, Hey do you know whatZendesk does? And people say, yeah, it's customer service software.

I'm like, great. Weare Zendesk for mobile, and then everybody was like, what do you mean by that?It's, tell me more. Yeah, yeah. Right. So, yeah. Yeah. It was enoughassociation to tell the brain that what we are is we are customer supportsoftware, but we are optimized for mobile. We are mobile first, so, Clearlypeople are like, oh, what do you do?

How do you do it?Why is it different? And that channels into this early market and earlyadopters, which are all the top mobile apps in the world, within the first twoyears of of Helpshift, were on using the Helpshift DK Flipboard. Yeah. And thenSuper Sell games. Glue games. Those were the mobile app companies, right?

Yeah. They had themobile users. So, before I left Helpshift, my final deal was with the EpicGames. Yes. The makers of what is that game called for? Fortnite. For Fortnite.Fortnite, right? Yeah. Yeah. So it was like ev if you were the number onemobile operator or a mobile games developer, you were using Helpshift and itall started from that one thing.

Coming also toAirbase. The idea was, hey it was all about corporate card spend. That was thevery early part of this. Like, Hey, what is your corporate card provider today?And mostly it's Amex and then it is chase, bank of America. And I'm like, okay,you've got all of these transactions as a finance leader.

Do you know who isspending your money? Do you have real time inside? Mm-hmm. So they're like, no,we're saying, so we just said, If two things, imagine that before anybody hasto swipe, they have to take a pre-approval from you. Finance team is like, great.Of course nobody should spend money before they tell us, right?

So we gave themthat power and that control. And the second thing we said, as soon as someonehas spent the money, you will have the receipt and the transaction in yourdashboard and you can click a button and send it to your. The QuickBooks orNetSuite, which is your company's general ledger. And that was the whole thing.

It's like we weretalking about corporate cards, but we were showing them just this, the wholenew world of what corporate cards can be. And it was about realtime visibility,realtime control. It was about pre-approvals. Yeah. So you have to find thissmall box and I think that is the most important thing.

Julian:Yeah. And just, yes, go ahead. Yeah, no, it just, it's so fascinating. Not onlywhen you find that box, how do you communicate, but also, thinking about,defining your customer. Because I think we have a preexisting notion. Maybe wedo a bunch of customer interviews before I'm doing some right now for, for a newproduct I'm launching.

And so, I, we getmore of a degree of, of focus. Through those conversations, but my gut feelingis that there's gonna be someone out there that I don't know we can servebefore I even know it. And how do you kind of go about targeting, who youthink, could be, could take the most value out of your, your, your product andand also be open to other opportunities without spreading yourself too thin?

Tushar:Yeah, I think so. It starts with some frameworks that have helped me in thepast. So. No one is going to no large organization or is going to buy yoursoftware till they see, real examples of real companies. They may be like halfthe size of the bigger, larger organization, or one fourth the size, but youare out there in the market.

So I think thefirst framework to believe, think about is that, Solve a small enough problem,but solve it so well, and then take it out to as many people who, who you canbring as early adopters, right? Yeah. And then keeping the next logical step isyou will never, you, you, you cannot change multi-dimensions.

So the dimensionsare the type of person in a, like you choose a department. Then the dimensionis that, okay, in that department, who is the right person to talk to? Is thisfor the accounting person? Is this for the FPNA person? Is this directly to theCFO who will see the maximum value for what problem you have solved.

And then the thirddimension is the size of company. Yeah. And I think you start, startups startby selling to startups and then you keep building on top of that. So we, takingan example out of the Moana, our first customer was hundred employees, secondcustomer was 300 employees.

Ford customers, 500employees, and now we are selling to a 3000 person company. Right? Yeah. It'sthe same product. It's just we now we can show value, we can show realinsights, we can have real customer quotes. It just makes us more informed. SoI think you don't build software if, if a large company comes and tells youthat, Hey, if you build this software, we will buy.

That is not a goodcustomer. Yeah. If they're so convinced they would buy and say, let's buildthis together. That's the customer.  

Julian:Yeah. Yeah.  

Tushar:And I think that is one scar issue that I learned, and we follow this verydiligently. We won't build a software, we won't build a new feature till fivecustomers have asked for it.

And then we alsosay, okay, what are, what can you do today in the platform so that you can goand see the value downstream when we go and ship that? And you have to be true.And if you commit something, you go and build it. But don't start by building afeature, hoping someone is gonna use it in the future.

That never happens.Never. Never happens.  

Julian:Yeah. Yeah, you echo a lot of practices that so many founders will learn alongthe way, but those who do kind of learn that lesson really kind of createproducts that are really, they're lean, they're agile, they're, they're veryimpressive, super sophisticated but very simple.

And, and I thinkthat is a remark, a really mature product, which is amazing to see. And it'sshifting towards, team ohana. And, and I would love for you to give theaudience a little bit of context on what exactly the problem you're solvingand. What in particular wasn't being solved by the other incumbents prior toTeamOhana?

Tushar:Yeah, so I think tradit, so if I, we are in this category of workforcemanagement, which has two clear components. You are, you are analyzing yourworkforce and then you are planning to either expand your workflows or shrinkyour workforce. So there is analysis and then there is planning. And the thirdpart is execution Traditional.

FP n a softwareshave workforce planning as a module, but I think it, what we were hearing fromcompanies is that it puts you in a very rigid box. So I think it is built fromthe manufacturing era. If you look at, there are certain fp n a software thatwere built for manufacturing companies that have to do supply demand,throughput output, which is great if you have to track machines.

And then you haveto take that machine output and split it into shifts and then decide, okay, ina shift, how many people can we have? Right? Uh right. And if you look atsupply chains, like if you get a big order, you wanna make sure that you'regonna hit the order, you're gonna fund and staff the entire organization basedon that.

Modern startupsdon't, or modern companies themselves actually have very different problems.They have to be very agile to understand, hey, How are we growing fast enough?Where should we grow? Yeah. What type of people we wanna bring in? What, whereare we missing in skillset? Which teams, if we hire these people, which teamswould we put them in?

So there is, what,who is the right manager? For example, if tomorrow I want to build an AIfeature, I'm not gonna go find. Engineers in South America, if I want to go andbuild a Ruby on Rails app or a Python app, I can go and find engineers outsideof the us. But right now the epicenter of.

AI development ishappening right here in San Francisco, right? Mm-hmm. Maybe you are in NewYork, so I won't piss you off. So maybe sometimes a little bit in New York too,right?  

Julian:We'll take, we'll take crypto.

Tushar:See, if I have to build, if I have to build a crypto feature, I'm going andfinding people in New York, right? So these are the decisions that are agiledecisions, and today's systems don't allow you to make those decisions. Becausethey don't have access to real time data. So I think before we started thiscompany, we first realized is that what are we really building is an employeedata platform.

Mm-hmm. What is anemployee data platform that is sucking in employee data from a financialsystem, which is what is my employee budget? Then an HR system has, what are myemployee attributes? Male, female age, education, qualification, location,salary. Right? So, or maybe you have a compensation. As a third pillar ofsucking in compensation data, then you have information about your applicanttracking system.

Like how quickly doyou hire people? How long does it take to hire people? How many recruiters doyou need? You also have to analyze attrition. What type of people leave thecompany when they leave? How long does it take you to backfill those people? Doyou backfill them at the same price or you have to pay 20% more?

If you go back 10years, we didn't have that price duration as much on here. Salaries arechanging every six months now. How do you, yeah. How do you plan the future ofyour organization and how do you manage people spend, which is 80% of yourcompanies spend. If you don't have real-time information, so after you, webuilt this edp, which is the employee data platform, and now we have thisunified employee object on top of that.

Then we built ananalytics engine to tell our customers, Hey, this is your current workforce.This is the workforce throughput, this is the cost of the workforce, and. Allcompanies are very good at planning their future in sense that they know howmuch revenue they want to generate, how many features they need to build.

That problem issolved. If you have a good VP of engineering, a good VP of finance, they'lltell you all this information. A good VP of sales will tell you how manysalespeople you would need, but bringing us all together in one collaborativeplatform and then allowing you to make changes to the plan as you go aboutexecuting, and that was the, I think that is the most appealing part.

Yeah. Instead ofthinking about financial planning and analysis, we have to now think aboutpeople planning and analysis. We have to do it in real time, and it has to becollaborative. You cannot live in a siloed system, so we are not replacing anats, we are not replacing an H R I S, we are not replacing your budgeting tool.

We are just suckingall of that data and creating this single source of truth and this unifiedplatform where you first analyze data, make. Make inferences, then makedecisions, and then finally execute on those decisions. And what is that lastmile of execution is that we wanna, how many people would you need to hire soyou can basically model your and create your company's headcount plan in oursystem?


Julian:yeah. It's so fascinating thinking about, the, the different variables thatincorporate in the expensive human capital. And I think, we can think aboutsome things like, salary and benefits and, but things get a little muddybecause there's not, maybe everybody has a different healthcare plan.

People have different,say stock options within the company. How are you able to aggregate all thatdata? What was like the first build? Was it building an API that just scrapedall the information like, How did you start building the data and, and reallygetting, and categorizing the, those things that are actually important tocompanies.

Because I feel likethat's the huge, you probably live and die on how well that gets categorizedand, and how good that data.  

Tushar:Yes. You, you, you are spot on in that observation. One of the reasons, and Ihad this in my pitch deck when we were raising our seed round in back inOctober, was that the reason we were, I said, the reason I'm building thiscompany now is because there are companies out there that are giving us a unifiedAPI connection into all of these other systems.

Yeah. So, every,like the iPhone came about and that's why you have Uber and DoorDash, right,for example. But, Because of this unified API companies being available, wedon't, we now focus on how do we normalize that data and create a data platformrather than building these pipes of pulling Yeah.

Data reliably. So,and especially now when security is such, security and privacy is so important.If I'm my partner, It's a SaaS provider and their sole job is to build, manage,maintain unified public APIs for integration. Right. And they, so I gotintroduced to that company, they're called Merge Dev.

They're based inNew York. Amazing founders. And I was really impressed and I, I sure I sharedmy vision with their cto and that CTO was like, yeah, this is exactly what weare building. And I said, okay. So I actually signed a contract with them. Theywere kind enough to give me deferred payment terms even before I raised aroundthe funding.

And I said, we'regonna build on top of you from the very beginning. And I walk into everymeeting today, and even I, I tell all the VCs that the reason I built thiscompany is because this, I don't wanna spend time building pipelines of data.Yeah. I wanna analyze their data. I wanna make. I want to run operations onthat data.

I want to drawinferences out of that data. I wanna make that data actionable and operatablerather than just building connection pipes. Right.  

Julian:How, how often does that happen, with, with. It's not happen in my company, buthow often does it happen where you partner with, say, the service company Iforgot what their name was but merge, merge.

Thank you. Whereyou partner with them and not, not necessarily your building pipeline, butyou're relying on their ability, but also extracting knowledge off of whatthey're doing. How, how sensitive or sophisticated is that relationship beingthat. I guys, as you both grow, both benefit, right.

But yeah, I'venever heard of that type of relationship before.  

Tushar:So I think, so this is not like a, this is not an equity partnership orsomething. Their whole business, they, I'm buying a SaaS subscription. So theyare a SaaS provider of API connectors in a way. Right. And they have done agreat job in. I don't have to go in, do a separate integrating with Providerone and a separate integration with provider two.

They haveintegrated with all of them and created a unified data model that I can accessand if I need to do any additional data, I can write wrappers on top of theirdata to go and connect and get new data that they are probably not storing inthe unified model. But I think this is, I think this is what the future isgoing to like.

With, we now livein this API First world, right? Yeah. So we have to think about what is thevalue that T Ohana brings to the customer, and what are we charging for? Are wecharging for data integration? No. We are charging for data analysis and dataworkflows, right? So that is how I say where should all the engineers beworking on data analysis, data workflows.

And we have onlyone integration engineer that manages all our integrations because Merge doessuch a great job in building out all of these different connectors, right? Andmaintaining them. API changes at the source. I don't have to worry about it,they will change it because they, they know that their whole business relies onit.


Julian:Yeah. How, how, how much, if you were to, if you were to reflect, how muchfaster do you think based on the advancements technology and other companiescoming about, like merge, how, how much faster are you able to kind of go tomarket with your product nowadays as a founder in general? From, from when youfirst started out, or even, yeah, even along the way.

Tushar:Yeah. So, We raised a round of funding in October, and it was just the twofounders, right? October, 2021, right? Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. It was just the twofounders, and we raised on a deck on an idea. We had no engineers, we had no prototype.We had done nothing. We had just tested out, merge, like, Hey, this works,right?

Yeah. From thattime to building a team and hiring five engineers, Two, launching our product.Our first iteration Alpha product was live February of 2022. By July of 2022,we had 10 customers. So that is the speed of execution. Right. And I would notsay it's, I think,  

Julian:is that 2022 or 20?  


Julian:Got it. Yeah.

2020. You, youraise in October.  

Tushar:October of 21. Got it. Okay. Sorry. Raised in October, 2021. February of 2022.We had, I was talking to one of our seed investors and he said, so how's itgoing? And I'm like, yeah, we, we've hired this steam, we have already shippedversion one of the product, and we are onboarding our first customer February,2022.

And they were like,going away. Either you're, you're massively bullshitting me, or this is, thisis insanely good. So I was like, let, let's, let's go with the decently good.But but again, as I said at very beginning of our conversation, right? Yousolve a, you solve a small enough problem, you solve it well, and you go tomarket fast.

So between Februaryof 2022 and October of 2022, when we officially launched the product, ourwebsite, we did a press announcement. And, we came out of stealth. The, wealready had real customers, real a r r. Real feedback, real quotes. We hadquantified the value, so then now we were ready to say, okay, now I'm ready tohire a marketing person.

And I also, youknow how I think about go to market operation and I know you have morequestions on that, but I'll just preload this, is that I think you shouldalways start by thinking about distribution. Before you think about anythingelse, that's why we hired a marketing person before we hired anybody in sales,because what we needed to do was come up with new pages in the website, landingpages.

Go figure out ifyou can find a customer. They would, what is the first thing they're gonna do?They're gonna search your damn name on Google, right? Yeah. And if, if garbageshows up, that's it. You've lost your, there is the brand value just falls. Sowe spent the first three months and then we hired our first salesperson inFebruary.

We hired our secondperson in March. And now we know that we have enough five, six months ofmarketing work that has been done pre-work that has been done to help. Thesales team to execute because sales should not be sitting there twiddling theirthumbs. Right. Right. So distribution before hiring for sales people.

Julian:Yeah. Yeah, and, and I mean, I think a lot of founders learn that later on, butI, it's really the assets, the, the, people talk about SEO and sometimes it'spopularized, sometimes it's not. But that's so important, even as a founder,you don't have to have an expert in it, but just structuring your company theright way on your website, the content that you're distributing, having thingsregularly consistent, having, it's so important.

It's all the stuffthat's. Challenging to do in the beginning, it takes a little bit more manualwork, but once you build enough or repository it, it's substantial. Right. And,and, and then you're a little bit better associated with, with your product.  

Tushar:Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was also talking to someone another founder who said,should I hire two salespeople?

Should I, whatshould I do? And they, they have, they are just cd, almost CD now. So I waslike, I would hire a leader first. Yeah. Because, and they're like, oh, that'scounterintuitive. Everybody says hire AEs post. I'm like, who's gonna tell theAE what to do? Mm-hmm. Hmm. Who's gonna come up with a strategy? You, you canbarely make time for products or marketing or engineering.

You're the ceo. Soif you can find, that's what Air c e o did really well, right? If you found me,he was very clear that first three, four months, you are the only one selling.I need you to learn the demo. I need you to write the pitch. I need you towrite the cold call script. I need you to write the cold emails.

Everything you doand I did it once you do that, I have, I have built enough product knowledgeand muscle to go and hire the next person and tell them, look, I am the guy.This is not founder selling. I sold these deals. Yeah. And if I can sell it, Ican teach you how to sell it. And probably you'll do it better because I'm thesales manager or the VP of sales.

I'm still sittingin many useless meaning, but you are only focused on selling, right? And I canhelp you get on a call. I can answer questions. That builds confidence in yourfuture sales hires as well. Is that Yeah. My VP can sell. Yeah. And not justspreadsheet people. Right. So, well, I think that insight,  

Julian:yeah. One thing I take away from that story in particular is how important theexpectation is during the onboarding process of what you should be doing. Whatyou should be accomplishing and, and what you should be. Yeah. You know what,what you should have at the end of this time period to be able to go onto thenext phase.

How often do youthink companies don't set that up or leaders aren't maybe mature enough intheir career to set that up? What in particular? Because I see this a lot wherethey hire a rockstar or an individual that they think is gonna be a strong fit,but there's a disconnect in the onboarding process or expectations or,something very small.

It's not theability, it's typically, something a little bit more, in the de, in the weeds.Why do you think that happens?

Tushar: Ithink I. Different ways to think about why it happens, right? I think ithappens primarily because inexperience, right? You don't know what you haven'tlived and you are so focused on your mission that you forget that not everyonehas that. They may have founder mindset, but they are not founders.

They don't own asmuch equity. They're not in invested. It's not the only thing in their life. Soyou cannot expect that these, the people that you bring in, you have to bringthem for specialized functions and you gotta give them specialized goals to gohit. You cannot think about just hiring too many generalists.

You are ageneralist, right? You can also sell, you can write code, right? You can be acsm, you can be a customer support rep. You can do all, cause you're thefounder. You're the founding team. Yeah. So I think that that is one, it's justinexperience. And there's, there's no real playbook out there that is tell youdos and don'ts.

I can't Google andsay dos and don't starting company. Right. I mean, so much material that wetalk about. Engineering architecture and product principles and frameworks, butnobody talks about go to market as much. Yeah. Like what have you heard aboutgo to market is all tactics. How do you write an email?

What salesmethodology you have to do, but you know, but what is the first founder salesto first few story? And so it's good that if you bring in someone that you cantrust that is true. I think also some parts, some VCs are to blame. If you cuta check and you call the next morning and say, Have you scaled already?

What is the foundergonna do? You're gonna do heter skelter, right? Yeah. So I tell people thatdon't raise a round of funding to go figure out what you're gonna do next. Itcan take you, if it takes you longer to go figure out what you need to do,that's fine, but go to the VC and say, when I raise around of funding, theseare the things I'm going to do.

These are thethings I think I need help with. These are the things where, this is how muchmoney it would cost me. If you do this groundwork first. Especially, seed stagecompanies trying to raise a cd a yeah. You can't, in this environment, youshould not be talking about, okay, I'll go figure it out.

Once I raise roundof funding. You have to say, no, I have figured this out and if you give thefunding, I scale faster. That's why I need it. Right?  

Julian:Yeah. Yeah. It's exciting. It's really exciting to see the maturity, obviously,it's tough times. We, we don't like to see companies who go down, but it reallyis exciting for the, the, those founders who are, finding not only.

A way to run theircompanies more efficiently and effectively and operate at a, higher clip with,with less resources, but also how better their products are and how much more valuethey add because they live and die by it. And so you're seeing better businessmodels, you're seeing better pricing models, more creativity and marketingcampaigns.

You really see alot of boom in that sense for those who are, clawing to obviously stay abovewater, but also to, accelerate their growth and find a way, forward andthinking about TeamOhana, tell us about what's been exciting about the, thegrowth up to this point and what's on the next horizon, what's the nextmilestone for the company?

Tushar:Yeah. I think it's really been fun bringing. Together, the right group ofequally passionate, motivated people, who have this desire to do, to build acompany, right? I think the initial phase is all about team building. If again,the counterintuitive right? We are not thinking features, we are not thinkingproducts.

We are, we are onlythinking. About two people. One is what is the team that we need so that we canbest serve these type of customers? Right? I think that has been the, our happyjourney so far. And I think organically

we didn't, even inOctober, 2022, I think we got in before the, the negative sentiment crept intothe world of the VC world, but. We were, we were reasonable in the valuationthat we were seeking. That allows you to set the tone with the VC that I'mgonna set reasonable, achievable targets. There is no magic wand.

It always takeslonger than you think it would take. Yeah. So just prepare for it. Right. Yeah,so I think that has been the fun part of one of the things I wanted to do withthis company was, I had ideas. I had things and but not all my ideas and myprocesses were implemented because I was not the CEO in the last threecompanies that I was with.

I was early hires,I were respected, but I was not the ceo. So I think I wanted to see if myframeworks and my ideas work and can I actually stand true to them when I'mactually in the hot seat myself? So, I would not say that I am a hundredpercent following, but I'm doing fairly okay. 70, 75% and I'm happy with that.


Julian:Good. Yeah. Yeah, I love that. I love your self profession and, and it's alwaysnice to kind of measure where you are and, and, and always kind of look forwardto, to the progress ahead. And but thinking in terms of the company, whether it'sexternal or internal, what are some of the biggest risks that you think thecompany faces today?

Tushar: Ithink what has happened in the last, so this is, I tell this, thatorganizational growth has to come before revenue growth. Yeah. If you're anycompany that has a plan for next year to grow, you have to hire, right? Youhave to grow your team. You have to augment your current resources andworkforce. The, even though this is very practical, I think a lot of business,like the companies that we want to sell to, In a wait and see kind of mode.

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. AndI think my, the biggest challenge is that when will we snap out of this? Idon't, like we talk, you keep talking about a recession, but you know, we, it'shard to find one. Yeah. Things are lurking. So everybody is like, is it gonnahappen tomorrow? What is the next shoot drop? So I would say the next sixmonths are really crucial.

If we can snap outthen. Then good companies, good products, you, you need that luck as well. Youcan have the best product, but in the shittiest market, you will shut down.Right? Yeah. Because you are burning capital every day. And if you're notgrowing as fast as you're burning, so you can, but you can't also not burn inthis early stage.

Right. I mean, I cannot,it's, we have 20 people in the company, but we need those 20 people. They'reall doing two people's, yeah. Job, right. So I think that's the risk. Can wesnap out of this of this environment and can we do it? How soon can we do itright? Yeah. Yeah. And I think, yeah, if, depending if, q3 Q q3, Q4 of thisyear is going to really tell us, where, what the world is gonna look like.

So I think that'sthe, yeah, I think we feel that is one thing and then. All the other thingsthat we spoke about, right? Don't build features. So customers already wannabuy it. Focus, do less in this environment, do less, do it better, go deep,rather than going too broad, right? Mm-hmm. Rippling can do hr, it and all ofthese things in one platform because they've earned the right as rippling.

You should not betrying to become a platform. You have to be good at one or two things firstbefore you. That's where you focus. Do less hyper prioritize, say no, and then,yeah, let luck play. Its part that, six months down the line, we snap out ofthis wait and watch and start focusing on building each of our businesses aspeople start spending money on building their businesses, all the otherbusinesses thrive.

Yeah. Very natural.Yeah. Yeah.  

Julian:Yeah, well said. I like the next section. I'm gonna hit you with a few founderFAQs that I like to call, and we'll see. We'll see where we get. So first firstquestion I would like to open up is what's particularly hard about your job dayto day?

Tushar:Because you, you are, the buck stops with you. So the hardest part isconstantly evaluating your decision making processes and frameworks so that youmake good decisions. Because if you have good people, they will run with yourdecisions, right? They will be, they'll be breaking down walls. You just wannamake sure you point them into the right wall, right?

That's the hardestpart.  

Julian:Yeah, thinking about, when you want to grow headcount and figuring out the waysto do so, if, if you do have a platform like TMO Honda, what would you advisefounders on? Obviously you talked about distribution being one kind of prioritywhen you're thinking about your company in particular, but you know, when I'mstarting to scale, I've got product market fit, maybe my MVP would launch, I'mworking my version one.

Where do I reallykind of invest my next set of resources? Obviously, depends on my technology,but. Where do you, where do most founders, I'd say kind of fall, fall under thepitfalls of, of, bad decisions or, or bad headcount. But where do you, where doyou focus on, on growing your team?

Tushar:If you are, if you are in a SaaS business and you believe you have earlysemblance of product market fit, then you have to think about distribution.That is, that is the, that is the final frontier. And I think that's where mostcompanies underinvest. Yeah. You cannot find one person who is good at demandgen and brand and content just doesn't work.

Yeah. Go. It'sokay. Then I'm, I'm actually promoting hire three people. Yeah. But if, andthen sequence them. Do you need the demand gen first? Hire them first. Do youneed the content before the demand gen? Hire them first and then sequence themcorrectly. And that's where the platform will tell you when you should behiring people in that role.

So, but invest indistribution. Yeah. And don't hire AEs before you have enough pipeline.  

Julian:Thinking about just, thinking about companies and, and as they seek outheadcount now, and I, I'm curious how, how much do you think your product willaffect how companies will. Re kind of distribute their headcounts and, and theresources, the people that they have on the teams, not only seeing that, their,their skill beyond their job function, but being able to allocate them duringtimes where they need to be more agile.

Do you think your,your, your, your platform will have an effect on larger companies being moreagile? That's just one thing. I was like, it'd be such a positive way to impacta larger organization, be able to shift resources around more quickly than,than, than previously. That's what do you think about?  

Tushar: Ido. And there is a specialty feature in the product that we call the dynamicorg chart that allows most companies look at their teams in a, in an Excelsheet, in a data sheet view, which is very single dimension, right? Yeah. Butthere's multi-dimensions, like, okay whereas I have this team, where are all ofthem based?

What is theirperformance rating? When was the last raise they got? Are they overpaid? Are theyunderpaid? What is that average tenure? What are the levels? Am I, am Iconcentrated on smaller teams? Am I concentrated on larger teams with allyoung, like inexperienced people, or do I have only staff engineers?

Right? You can't dothis in a Excel sheet because it is so single dimension. You can do this in aplatform because the platform is designed, number one, to give you a bettervisualization of this data, and then the platform has the analytics that helpsyou come to a conclusion faster. And then the third most important thing asoftware does is actually is that watchdog or an eye, that if you're doingsomething wrong, it can detect that anomaly and point you in the rightdirection, right?

So it's all aboutproactive decision making, and that's what the platform is gonna help you, andthat's how you become agile.  

Julian:Brilliant. It, it's absolutely brilliant. Thinking about, I just think abouttaking the lead startup, a ability and, and putting it into a largerorganization with features like that and, and how much more they canaccelerate, into charting new territories or products or features using theresources they have versus.

Seeing with, I, Ithink we see a lot lately where, this big hiring frenzy and then, big firingcycle with, with a lot of the recent events, with larger tech companies. Butyou wonder if there's a better way to redistribute those resources and whatthat looks like. So exciting that, your team is working on, something in, inthat arena and, and tackling that, that problem.

I, I love this nextquestion. I, I, I love how founders extract knowledge out of anything that theyingest. Whether it's books or people, what's impacted or influenced you themost, whether it's early in your career or now?

Tushar: Ithink my mentors have, there are, there is at every junction or like, criticalmoment of my professional life that has always been someone who has shownincredible belief. And confidence in my ability to do something even when Idon't have that ability. And I think those are the people that you should havein your life.

And I'm, I'm one ofthe lucky ones that I have a few of those who have helped guide me and, help meat least try hard enough to achieve my full potential. Yeah. So I attribute alot to these smart people that Yeah. Happenstance came into the life. Yeah. Butwe just. I just plan on to them, let them go.

Julian:Yeah. If any advice or lesson or philosophic philosophy that any of bestowed onyou that you still use today?

Tushar:So I mean it's two things, and, they're very different, but it makes it treatpeople the way you wanna be treated. Oh, there was this very fine gentleman Iused to work for who, who taught me that. Second is give, give, get. Don'tassume that if you have a relationship, someone is, you're gonna get somethingout of it.

So I think that is,some of us are plagued from that transactional side of things. Yeah. Like oneof my best friendship is someone I met the, the first time I moved to the BayArea 17 years ago. We were just, I was with him last night and he is like,everybody asked us, how do you know each other? It's like, we were roommatesfor three months.

When we bothgraduated college and we came to the Bayard for Jobs. Right. And we don't sharea lot of he's not a founder. He is in different industry, but you know, we havethat mutual give, give, get. Yeah. And the third thing, which I believe I wanteverybody to embody is power is never given. Power is taken.

So if you wantsomething, go act on it. Nobody's gonna hand it to you. Everyone's coming.Yeah. Never given it. Always taken.  

Julian: Ilove that. I love that. It's, it's empowering and it's really exciting to see,who's kind of influenced you, your career and, and where you are today. And Iknow we're coming up to, to close the episode.

I've had such agreat conversation, but I always like to ask this question to see if you leftanything on the table. Is there anything I didn't ask you that I should have?Anything that we didn't talk about that you wanted to bring up? Anything at allthat we left on the table today?  

Tushar: Iwould just I, I should say I've been very privileged to have parents that haveenabled me to do better things have provided, and right now, as a founder, I'mvery happy that, and I'm, I feel very blessed that my wife is the primary bedwith breadwinner of the company and she's very accommodating of me working 18hour days so that I can fulfill.

Yeah. First mydream and then our family's dream. But you know, so yeah, I just wanna saythank you, mom and dad, and thank you, my wife. That's it.  

Julian:That's so, that's so beautiful and, and thank you so much for sharing not onlyyour journey, but what the company is doing and really the, the intelligencethat a lot of larger organizations can really start adopting.

And, and with thisability to be agile and also thinking about how founders could be better andintentful about how they hired their headcount, deciding to build smarterorganizations and that you are part of that mission. And thank you so much forbeing on the show today. Last little bit.

Where can we findyou? Give us your plugs, your LinkedIns, your Twitters, where can we be a fanand support what you're doing?  

Tushar:Yeah, you can always reach me, at I'm at I'm at TusharMakhija on LinkedIn and at @tmakhija on Twitter. So yeah, find me and then.Hoping to, having a lot of good conversation with amazing other similar mindedpeople.

Julian:Amazing Tushar. I hope you enjoyed yourself today, and thank you so much forbeing on Behind Company Lines.

Tushar:Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

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