Sramana Mitra: You were doing this in Delhi?
Adit Jain: Yes, we spent some time trying to figure out which of our customer segments are using and paying us the most.
Sramana Mitra: There were a few customers that were paying you.
Adit Jain: Very few. We were billing on the number of chats that happened. We started looking at them closely and figured that there are these large companies with more than a thousand employees who are trying intelligent HR and IT chatbots. We had no idea about HR and IT. We spent a good six months figuring that out.
We realized that there is a huge problem with access to information in large companies. As companies grow, access to information becomes a huge issue. There are so many people, departments, and applications. We thought of solving this by building a Siri for the enterprise. That’s where the journey of Leena AI began. We verticalized and focused on HR. That’s where we got our first customers.
Sramana Mitra: Did the pool of customers that you had for the chatbot platform include some HR customers?
Adit Jain: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: So you brought those customers into Leena?
Adit Jain: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: What scale of customers were you able to close for this particular product? What kind of deals did you structure with them?
Adit Jain: We just built everything and then decided to sell it. It was a bad idea.
Sramana Mitra: In 1Mby1M, our philosophy is not to write a line of code until you’ve validated the premise and talked to customers.
Adit Jain: 100%. We’ve learned a lot.
Sramana Mitra: How did you productize and how did you leverage those customers that were engaging with you?
Adit Jain: In early 2018, we decided to do this HR-focused solution, and we realized that we’re not going to build anything until we sell it to 10 more. We decided to do all outbound. We decided to use what we had. That’s what we do today. If you want to launch a new product, the rule is that you have to have five new customers signed up. We can, of course, have mockups, but nothing is to be coded.
Sramana Mitra: Talk to me about the deal structure. What were they willing to pay you?
Adit Jain: That time, we were selling to the Indian market. One great thing was that we were able to get in touch with senior folks with large brands that you know.
Sramana Mitra: How?
Adit Jain: Through LinkedIn.
Sramana Mitra: LinkedIn is fantastic. It’s a life changer for us.
Adit Jain: In those meetings, we’ll say, “We’ll do a pilot.” We take money for the pilot. The initial customers was a thousand to $5,000.
Sramana Mitra: When you were structuring these proof-of-concept deals at very low price points, did you have the discussion of what the ultimate deal would look like if the pilot is successful?
Adit Jain: In a few cases, we did. In the early ones, we didn’t.
Sramana Mitra: What was that?
Adit Jain: It was probably 20x cheaper than today. The first three contracts were around $10,000 per customer.
Sramana Mitra: Was it just the three of you at that time?
Adit Jain: We had one person join us.
Sramana Mitra: The four of you got it to the first few paying enterprise customers with a product that was working. How long was that process?
Adit Jain: January 2018 to around May. We applied to YC as well. We then went to YC in June. We got a lot of learning in the Valley. Two global markets were opened up by the trip to the Valley.