The Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
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The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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try to get something out as quickly as possible and even if you if you don't focus on getting the right pricing right out of the box right out of the the release that's fine it's just what you want with an idea is you want to understand like are people okay to pay for it and are you solving a real problem and it's very hard for people to just project themselves in just something that you say so try to give them something tangible always like whether it's a mock-up whether it's an experience i would say it's just get it out as quickly as possible [Music] hey everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups in the seven and eight figure businesses as well as a founder and ceo of miller ip law where he helps start up some small businesses with their patents and trademark do you ever need help with tears just go to strategymeeting.com and we're always here to help now today we've got another great guest on the podcast uh michael and uh michael is from france um and had always wanted to start a uh do a startup or started on the company or business um after college went or came to the us went to work on a few different projects with some different companies and didn't get a visa so i had to return to the q franc and then started up a data business in france uh with her started at a startup with a data data business in france i'm doing some financial products and financial data did another company didn't like it then returned to the us work for another startup like that um then did a few projects along the way from there went to a couple other businesses and then about a year and a half ago or so decided to leave the job took six months off to explore different businesses formed a business with a co-founder did a few pivots for uh and then worked to build it and that brings a little bit to where that today and he'll give a little bit more insight so with that much is an introduction welcome on the podcast michael thanks david what what a very very uh short introduction that's right so i gave kind of the the quick 30-second view to a much longer journey so kind of with that um maybe take us back a bit in time to kind of the beginning of your journey when you were uh in france and uh start coming out of school and uh starting to work in the us and kind of how things got going for there yeah of course so i've i i've came i i graduated in 2007 and did an internship uh at a company called siemens in princeton so it was in the us i stayed there for a year and a year and a half and i was working on medical imaging like doing brain segmentation and everything but really what i was also doing was all the data management of all the uh like scan and like body images to fit into algorithm so that was i would say my first initiation to data management uh and like how you build some type of process around it i was still an intern but still that was my first experience and then yes as you mentioned uh i couldn't get my visa at the time uh and i had to go back to france and that's where i really went into the the process the how do you process data and how do you uh compile this data before you get too deep into that one question i had so you were in the so you graduated from school and reminded me what was your was your degree in uh it was a computer science degree a master uh i did it in paris cool so you get a computer science degree come to the us do some internships great experience don't renew that or they you know can't get the visa renewed so out of you know not necessarily don't have a lot of choice um so you can go back to france and not necessarily a bad thing either but as you come back into france coming kind of off of hey don't or can't get my visa renewed what do i do now how did you how did you land that first job or kind of what was that experience of okay coming back to france after doing an instrument in the u.s what how did you first uh land that initial job yeah so the way landed it is i i arrived in paris and i was looking in finance so what i did is i talked to friends around me and actually had a friend from college who was working at that company at the time started uh three months before i asked him and say oh yeah this is great the team is great the product is really interesting and if you like data there are a lot of very interesting challenge so having the ability to learn on a process and a project that already works and like trying to understand like how do you build a successful data business was uh was something that at that point interested me and i had a very good contact with the team when i interviewed over there and started working there um and yeah it was really about how do you manufacture a data business like how do you pull data from so many different sources how do you compile it how do you establish so basically building a data business is a manufacturing process where you have raw input whether it's like analysts reports or like xml reports or like all kind of pc or like websites reports or anything like that and how do you bring it and then you have your treadmill and you need to figure out what each step this data needs to go through so that at the end you have a properly packaged good that you can sell to other companies in that case that was amazing and traders but that was my first exposure to it and i i stayed there for like two years uh that was really very strong experience was both around like the manufacturing but also the distribution of that data and then yeah as you said i moved to another company in finance and this one laptop what made you decide after the couple of years with the initial you know initial company started with what made you decide to go to the other company um that was i think i wanted to be to to experiment also like what it is to consume that data and this company was more on the operational side more than the data side and it was really like how do traders and uh and like people who are actually leveraging that data using it like what kind of decision do they make out of it and that was basically seeing both sides of the of this of the data story at that point and i was there and i mean i stayed there for a year but what i did during that year was yes i built all the products and everything but i also went back to my initial goal which was i want to go work in the us and i want to be uh like part of the the startup life in the us because you know there are startups everywhere but in the end what you find in the in the in the bay area or in san francisco around startup is very it's a very different uh uh ecosystem and i wanted to be at the heart of it so yeah i took the during that year i started to interview in the us for four companies then again a friend of mine who was working at a startup manufacturing data in san francisco uh got me into the the interview process was a very very uh very interesting moment at that time where i i i traveled when it was still possible to travel i traveled over there over the weekend did my interview two days went back to france uh continued my my job and a few weeks later they told me that uh uh i was uh i was a pass and i i was sorry i was good to go and yeah after that i just started to uh to prepare my my uh my coming uh yeah and that was so this startup actually was really like how i matured in what it is to build better product and data infrastructure because we're dealing with massive scale of data like petabytes of information and we had to build and maintain and scale all the different connectors that are bringing data to companies called librarian like to bring data into live ramp process it and then deliver it across all the marketing and ad tech ecosystem so very intense data company and i actually stayed there for for six years i was a director of engineering and and head of integration and i really that was really like a defining experience in how i'm thinking about one starting a company but because it was a very early stage startup at the time and also being able to see the signal that you can get on building a hyper growth startup now it's a it's a public company so went through that very very fast train of a successful company and yeah and after that went to another startup continue to do data integration and pulling data everywhere until to a point where i thought okay every single company is solving exactly the same program every time they are selling the same type of infrastructure and it's just becoming harder and harder get so many data centers everywhere let's build an open source solution that can actually help companies bootstrap that without to invest so much time in building all these different pipes to bring data so that they can leverage it and that's how uh in gener january 1st 2020 at midnight we studied airbite so now you say we started here by so that you know i think that when we chatted a bit before one of the things you started with is you had yourself and some other um people that you've worked with in the former company so you know how did you how did you get everybody on board you know was it your idea whether their idea was a collaboration of multiple ideas but kind of how did you decide you know let's get this company going let's do it differently and how did how did that kind of all form and come together yeah so i i left the this this like the the startup is called rideros i left in july uh on july 1st like during just before the the enterprise day and at that point i took a month off uh i went to france to visit family and then when i came back i really dove into okay i know what is a problem space that i want to address which is i want i'm my expertise is in data and data is a very very open space there are ton of issues none of them are actually fully resolved and at that point i had a very uh good friend of mine uh i've met him in 2012 in san francisco and we've been coaching each other along the the year uh him during while he was starting his startup and me was i was going through this hyper growth experiment with a few side projects together and here what we started doing is experiment with we know a problem space what a good product that we can build to solve very specific issues and we came up with this uh framework for evaluating ideas and sometimes we're just going a little bit adjacent to data sometimes it's not data at all but you know every single idea the first time you get it you feel like you're gonna change the world with this idea and after two days your ass okay that was not a good idea how did i ever consider this idea before you just you go through this process of having ideas and try to discard them as quickly as possible because if you start a company you want to be going on an idea that is going to get you to somewhere you don't want to be putting years of your life in a in an idea that is going nowhere and after you've thought about it and brand some with people you'd start exposing this idea to the outside wall like talking to people uh so here first you start with former colleagues you start with families or you can actually go on linkedin find people and try to get on the call with them to expose what you have in mind and yeah sometimes that works sometimes that doesn't work sometimes that gives you other ideas so it's just like you got you go into this mind of idea creation and you're constantly looking for like all these little lights that tell you maybe you should work on that maybe you should work on that and yeah and that's what we did with john for like uh three four months and then we uh we figured out what we wanted to do and no yeah early january we started uh yc uh y combinator and from there that's how we we started the adventure no i think that sounds like a fun and a great adventure to go on so now that you've been going along that venture you see you got your founders you got yourself you got the idea you've gone through the accelerator and then now give people an idea of kind of where you at in the launching process if you launched it your cash flow positive have clients revenue you're still pre-beta and you're still working out the kings you're you know still having the idea of face kind of where i think that for uh for you in the in the company yeah so after oc we did actually something we actually the heart pivot which is we're working on a product that ended up not working and i think kovid at that point hit us hard for that product but it also made us realize that we are building a good to half product instead of something that people actually need and if you build a company i think you want to be building something that people actually need and they will depend on and we went back to the drawing board with everything we had learned from before and end of july we started to go heads on to airbite as people know it today and what airbyte is it's really pulling data from any sources whether it's a file a database an api any place where you have data that is being cited and bringing it and centralizing it into a data warehouse or a data lake and what we did is end of july we decided okay let's build airbytes we have enough signal we talked to 50 different companies that were using paid solution that we are not fulfilling hundred percent of their needs and we just delve into this idea and end of september we released an mvp and at that point we started to see people using the mvp it was very unstable but we saw that suddenly the community is picking it up without us doing so much like communication about it was just very discreet launch we said okay we have something on github you can download it and you can play with it and people starting to do it and yeah and after that like the the within a month we we had like over five between 300 and 500 deployment of of their bytes of people taking the mvp version running it into their infrastructure and starting to use it so it's open source so yes people are gonna use it for free and at that point what we did is we did a a sid round with with axel where we raised 5.2 million and during that time period between the closing of of uh yeah like the usage continued to grow and the community continued to grow i think today we have like 1500 people on the community for airbus so our goal today is about commoditizing data integration so when looking at building the community so that we can crowdsource like the creation and the maintenance of these connectors because they are very very hard to maintain and that's what we're focusing on today revenue is obviously important but our focus is the community today because you have an inherent network effect when you build a community where if you have a larger community it kind of keeps getting bigger and bigger and bigger so that's what we've been bootstrapping over the past year and yeah today we have a few uh paid pilots but our real focus is really on the community today to make sure that we are building a product that people want and will start paying for at uh when we release the cloud version awesome well sounds like a lot of good progress and you had you answered all my questions before you even asked because i'm gonna ask where things are heading kind of how things are at and i've already gone over so that's perfect sounds like a fun entry and a fun journey that you're you're on so i'm kind of with that now we'll switch gears a bit and jump to the two questions i always ask at the end of each podcast so the first question i always ask is along your journey what was the worst business statistic you ever made and what did you learn from it yeah and by the way we also raised a 25 a 26 million round last week we announced it but yeah the what we i would say like the the error that we made was probably while we were at yc is to focus on to focus on something that was maybe a little bit too specific to an area where we were not experts in so we were misinterpreting some signal but in the end i have no regret that we made that mistake because i don't think we would have even considered the idea of open source for solving data integration without having made that problem having made that mistake just talking to people you and trying to sell an initial version of a product that doesn't work you learn about additional issues that they have and that just informs them that something you keep stirring in your brain um these are problems that exist and the day we realized this product doesn't work we did we just had like all these signals of people that were telling us where we keep building these connectors internally keep doing it and then that's what prompted this idea so it was a mistake but you know we wouldn't be where we are today without these mistakes so i consider them success successful mistakes that's right i like i like that successful mistake that's a good good way to put it so and i think that it sounds like it was a good a good learning experience or something definitely uh or something learned from so now we're gonna jump to the second question which is if you're talking to someone that's just getting into a startup or a small business what be the one piece of advice you give them yeah i i would say try to get something out as quickly as possible and even if you if you don't focus on getting the right pricing right out of the box right out of the the release that's fine it's just what you want with an idea is you want to understand like are people okay to pay for it and are you solving a real problem and it's very hard for people to just project themselves in just something that you say so try to give them something tangible always like whether it's a mock-up whether it's an experience i would say it's just get it out as quickly as possible because just you at your desk in front of your screen or in your laboratory or wherever you're building your product this is not enough you're not building for yourself you're building for others so you need to get them involved into the manufacturing or the building process as quickly as possible no and i think that's great and i think that there's a lot of wisdom in that because a lot of times no matter you know how well you know your customer maybe you are your customer you know it and everything else there's always going to be things that you haven't anticipated you haven't been aware of you didn't think of that or those are features they should have been incorporating and you know you have to be careful there's a balance of you don't want to get it out so quickly that it's you know not a non-functional product or it doesn't work or it's so non-representative the people aren't even given a chance but on the other hand you wait for so long and you can also miss that valuable feedback and you're also going to build a product that nobody is willing to purchase so i think that getting it out there and getting that feedback and understanding that is definitely worthwhile well people want to reach out do they want to be a customer they want to be a client they want to be an investor they want to be an employee they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out contact with you and find out more yeah so of course you can go on airbite.io you can contact me michelle m-i-c-h-e-l at airbite dot io or you can also go on our slack we have a public slack for the community slack s-l-a-c-k dot airby dot io and you can join and you will you will be welcomed by someone from the team awesome well i definitely encourage everybody to connect up to reach out find out more and support you guys as you continue to grow and you continue to dominate the market so well as we wrap up thank you again for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell and like to be a guest on the podcast feel free to go to inventiveguest.com and apply to be on the show two more things as a listener one make sure to click subscribe to your podcast players so you know what all of our awesome episodes come out and two leave us a review so everybody else can find out about all of our awesome episodes and last but not least if you ever need help with patent trademark or anything else just go to strategymeeting.com grab some time with us a chat and we're always happy to help thank you again michael for coming on the podcast and uh we are good or with the next live your journey even better than the last thank you devin thank you so much you