Sramana: Did you have members of your board with you in the US helping you build your team?
Jaspreet Singh: None of my founders of board members were in the US. I was alone and I struggled hiring my first team. In the Bay area getting a team together is a struggle. In India getting your first few people is difficult if you are not a large brand. The same is true in the Bay area. You have to sell yourself hard enough to be attractive. I was lucky enough to hire a few really good people. One of them is the VP of Product and the other is heading our North American market. The rest of the people who joined us came because Sequoia backed us but they were not necessarily the best fit for our culture. There is a lot of hype around the startup culture in the Bay area. People think about food and ping pong tables but they forget about the hard work that goes into startups.
I then discovered someone very interesting, Ty Lim. He had previously founded a marketing company, Cypher Media, before we met. I hired him as the head of marketing. I had to convince the board that I found the right guy for the job. Instincts are what entrepreneur should trust and I was foolish to ignore them the first time I built that team.
Sramana: Did you get pushback from your board on some of these hires?
Jaspreet Singh: I did get some push back. I had to remind that board that three years earlier they had never heard of me. I was an engineer, not a CEO. I could see another young, hungry person who fit the startup mold. Fortunately my board has been very understanding and they have been supportive in tough times. I now have a functioning, 10-person marketing team that is performing phenomenally well.
Sramana: My observation is that people who have raw intellectual horsepower combined with hunger make better startup employees who have done three or four executive jobs.
Jaspreet Singh: I think you nailed it. A lot of the time I got people who had the intellect but not the hunger. I also had some people who had the hunger but they did not have the smarts to match. Getting the two together is the sweet spot for a hire. Each time I hire someone I look for that combo. I am not afraid to hire a young VP. My most experience VP is probably my VP of Finance.
Sramana: The VP of Finance is a much different role. You see a lot of people who have done multiple financials and that is a role where experience really helps, especially if you are looking to grow a multinational. The marketing role is very tricky because great VPs of Marketing become CEOs, especially in the Valley. If somebody is doing that role in multiple companies then you almost have to start wondering why they are still a VP of Marketing and not a CEO.
Jaspreet Singh: I completely echo your thoughts. A lot of companies are founded by techies and you cannot make a sales rep a CEO. The marketing position is a perfect blend of understanding the technology and being able to sell it.
Sramana: A lot of marketing executives have come up in the marketing background but have strong technical acumen. That is absolutely the right combination.
Jaspreet Singh: I completely agree. Everything we are talking about is what I found with the second team that I hired.