Ashish Joshi of goDeskless: “What separates successful startups is their ability to execute on an idea”
What separates successful startups is their ability to execute on an idea. I wished if someone had asked me the question — “Ok, I understand you can design and develop the product. But can you sell it?” I’ve developed products as a product management professional all my life. But you always are supported by various factions in terms of strategy, development, market analysis, etc. when you are at a big company. Your job becomes easy in the sense that you’re only focusing on your core area of strength. When you are a founder member of a startup — you start with an idea, and transform it from your mind, to the paper, to whiteboard, to design, and development. Normally — this is the journey.
As a part of our series about cutting edge technological breakthroughs, I had the pleasure of interviewing Ashish Joshi.
Ashish is the Co-Founder and CEO of goDeskless — a company committed to simplifying and modernizing the customer engagement experience for the enterprise deskless workforce. Ashish has 22+ years of Product Management experience in the CRM Enterprise Applications industry focusing on customer experience. Prior to starting his entrepreneurial venture, Ashish was a product leader at Siebel/Oracle where he managed the Service and Engagement Cloud products — a $160m run-rate business. The experience-driven market today has brought the consumers ever closer to the service providers. Today’s CX and CRM tools fall short when it comes to delivering that “last mile” customer experience which connects the consumers directly with the providers. Ashish thus decided to create a self-engaging service delivery model for traditional, asset-driven industries, and deliver the CRM experience in the hands of consumers as well as the service providers — just like the shared economy service products do. Ashish has an MBA from University of California — Berkeley’s Haas School of Business with a focus on Entrepreneurship, Strategy, and Mergers & Acquisitions. He holds a Masters in Science from Louisiana Tech University majoring in Applied Mathematics. Ashish completed his Bachelors in Engineering from University of Pune and was awarded the University Gold Medal for achieving the top rank. Ashish is an avid amateur astrophotographer, and is a member of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I spent about 20+ years in the CRM space working for big companies where I saw what was happening. The user and expectations were changing but the software hadn’t evolved for 15 years or more.
For example, people moved from desktops to mobile — there was a major shift — demographic and technology were moving. Everything moved from email to a 3-point system of capture, comment and share for communications. I kept thinking that if the consumer side was changing, why wasn’t the enterprise evolving as well? Most of these tools and technologies tied to the customer experience are for people who are sitting at their desks. Nothing is created for the customer directly.
I saw the new generation of on demand services via Uber, AirBnB, Doordash and many others. All of this inspired me to create a similar solution that was built for the enterprise.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
My first customer — Tata Motors. I had just started goDeskless, 6 months into 2016, we were still designing and architecting.
I met their CIO over breakfast, got to talking about how he was shifting sales operations away from paper and towards digital. He said he had to go to Brazil because a lot of their customers were based there. Our sales guy took the information, lost his notebook during travel to Brazil, and lost the data he had captured that was meant for CRM for the sales cycle.
I see this situation everyday, 85% of the sales driving machine was still using pen and paper. I just spontaneously asked why the Tata team hadn’t shifted to tablets, since pen-and-paper obviously wasn’t working.
6 months later, they became our first customer.
Can you tell us about the Cutting edge technological breakthroughs that you are working on? How do you think that will help people?
goDeskless is a cloud subscription software that allows deskless field workers to engage with customers remotely and securely. It allows people on the field to engage with their customers remotely and securely — especially important in the pandemic. We allow companies to help their customers without being onsite, something that is tremendous when it comes to cost reduction.
How do you think this might change the world?
goDeskless is set to change the way companies communicate with their customers in ways like never before. This will allow companies to empower their remote workforce to maintain quality in customer service from a distance.
Keeping “Black Mirror” in mind can you see any potential drawbacks about this technology that people should think more deeply about?
The only potential drawback that I can think of is the new age where everything is a click away may create more of a sedentary lifestyle.
Was there a “tipping point” that led you to this breakthrough? Can you tell us that story?
My inspiration was the story around a sales executive losing the paper with very pertinent information. The old school pen and paper mentality is not sustainable and can have many drawbacks.
What do you need to lead this technology to widespread adoption?
We need to let our potential customers know that this product exists — amplify our message on a global scale. We have customers across numerous countries, and it’s clear that the U.S. is a few years behind in adopting cutting edge technology. I’m confident that companies will recognize sooner than later, as a result of the pandemic, that they need to shift with the times as well.
What have you been doing to publicize this idea? Have you been using any innovative marketing strategies?
We’ve brought on talent to help us expand our communications strategy. We want to ignite conversations and really tap into what people are saying.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
Developing a product is not an easy task. My family played a huge role in my success. I was out on the road for ⅔ of my time and my family was patient. I am also very grateful for my team, we are very close friends. We’ve worked together for years and they’ve become respected partners.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
We are eliminating the boundaries and friction for people to communicate and engage with each other amidst this age of convenience.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Started” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
There are several anecdotal stories and the “firsts” I have learnt along this journey, but the ones below stand out the most:
1. What separates successful startups is their ability to execute on an idea
I wished if someone had asked me the question — “Ok, I understand you can design and develop the product. But can you sell it?” I’ve developed products as a product management professional all my life. But you always are supported by various factions in terms of strategy, development, market analysis, etc. when you are at a big company. Your job becomes easy in the sense that you’re only focusing on your core area of strength. When you are a founder member of a startup — you start with an idea, and transform it from your mind, to the paper, to whiteboard, to design, and development. Normally — this is the journey.
2. If you fail, fail fast (oh, and you will fail)
For a start-up, the most important aspect is the execution — which is a product of three key variables : skills, time, and money! You are always juggling on these three parameters. So if you have to reset on your plans (be it the product design, or a market message, or anything for that matter such as finding a replacement engineer) — you have to act fast. What you cannot do is to take time and wait for things to “pan out” or solve themselves. That is a killer for a startup.
The key to success is — knowing early on that you’re on a wrong track.
3.Have a big stomach to face any and every possibility
Get ready for surprises. You are the face of the company, and you are the last man standing when everything else falters. There will be times when everything will work smoothly. Then there will be days when everything feels like a battle.You’ll have to be able to weather through.
4. Capital cures a lot of ailments
There are many theories on “how much money should be raised” for a startup to take off and be settled in the operations for a long haul. I have always believed that the extra capital at hand always helps you in your critical decision making moments.
One of my customers expected the product configured in a certain way, and had a “time to market” goal set for the team. In the final moments of the product go-live, we had to pull in extra resources in a short period of time to meet the goal. Such last minute / stop-gap arrangements can put a lot of operational and financial stress on the company. Fortunately, we were able to deliver on time. The “extra capital” case is also important if your business model is cyclical with lumpy revenues. You can accommodate the operational changes without having to worry about the payment timelines.
5. Can you identify “distractions” along the way?
There will be customers early on who would want you to develop the product in a certain (read: their) way. There will be VCs, third-parties trying to lure you in to the acquisition dream. There will be partners that may pull an “overhang” on you and delay you while they get their product out. These are all distractions along the way. There will be those “too good to be true” offers. The key is to be able to identify which ones are the “distractions” — that would stall you.
One of my ISV partnerships pulled the overhang strategy (where you keep the competition busy by acting like a partner, and dangle the sales-partnership carrot to buy the time while they announce a product of their own). I did several co-demos with this partner (a big, multi-billion dollar brand) and became suspicious after my fourth prospect demo with them. Low and behold — I found out that their sales team was showing my product, and was promising their own as a replacement under the table. Fortunately, we did not have any product sharing agreements.
Scenarios like these are a red flag and one must identify these along the way as they can hurt you in a long way.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Never say you’ve failed, it’s an opportunity to learn. Look ahead and move forward.”
Some very well known VCs read this column. If you had 60 seconds to make a pitch to a VC, what would you say? He or she might just see this if we tag them :-)
We are disrupting the way field personnel engage with customers. We are eliminating the experience friction introduced by traditional enterprise software which controls and tethers the field customer engagement. We are untethering that by elevating the engagement experience outside, in a cloud layer and making it direct, proactive, and intelligent — just the way uber allows you to schedule a ride at your fingertips. We believe that you should never need to call / engage with a person behind the desk in order to avail your services. If Uber can provide this deskless experience, so why can’t we provide the same experience to the enterprise customers?
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Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.