Co-founder & CEO, EvaBot, Inc.
Rabi Gupta is the Co-founder and CEO of EVaBot, Inc. , a company that creates a smart virtual assistant that automates 'Customer Delight' for your organization.
Watch the interview
Read the interview
Rohit Mittal: Hi, I’m Rohit, I’m the cofounder and CEO of Stilt, and today we have with us Rabi, and Rabi is a serial entrepreneur. He started his first company was Icouch, was based in India, and which was a mobile app for TV channels and had more than 2 million monthly active users. That was back in 2013?
Rabi Gupta: Yes.
Rohit: 2013. And it was eventually then acquired by this company called Vidooly, a couple of years later and then he started his second company called Eva, which is an air powered chatbot, that helps you thank, reward and incentivise using personalized gifts.Eva has raised money from top tier VCs like Bloomberg Beta, Precursor Ventures and Boost VC. And you have been doing it for the past 2 years now. Cool, welcome.
Rabi: Yes, thank you for having me.
Rohit: And I look forward to the conversation today, I think it is going to be an interesting one.
Rohit: Let's start with your initial background in India. You started this company in 2013. Not a lot of people were starting companies back then. How did the idea for starting a company came about and how did you start Icouch?
Rabi: Yes, I actually started my first company, Icouch was reading from [03:05 inaudible].
Rabi: So, that was in 2012 when we started this company. Actually 2011, 2012 when we were looking for ideas. Before that I was working for a company, but I had this idea that I want to start an internet company. We were looking for multiple products, and especially in the US and what we could build in India. And we realized that the TV space in India, there was no innovation at such a level. During 2012, 2013 we were still watching the regular cable TV, not even like dish TV, or satellite TV.
Rohit: Forget about Youtube.
Rabi: Yes, forget about Youtube. So, it was really hard to kind of discover your favorite shows. So, I first build a recommendation engine which will recommend you or alert you about your favorite TV shows whenever they were coming on different channels. So, like TiVo, but we were using SMS and intelligent kind of TV guide to do that.
Rohit: Got it.
Rabi: But than we pivoted to more of a social platform, which was like Twitter but only for TV. It was like, we used to work with TV channels like Z coffee, Z TV and other channels, we used to run live chat rooms during life programs. So, if there is say reality TV show, which is coming up, than people who are just logging to that app and start chatting with other people watching the same show. And, than some of the top chats were picked up by the TV channel showed on screen. So, it everyone is very popular, and that's how we got a lot of users in a small time frame, and then we started working with almost all TV channels in India. And we also started powering part of these TV apps with more of a social angle. So, all of these TV channels were using our platform to kind of build that social angle into their apps.
Rohit: So you started in 2011,2012, and in 2013 became Icouch. So, the final social network angle was added at that time. What about the internet, the internet speed was not that fast in 2013, did you sort of envision that the internet was going to get faster or that younger people are going to do this at home? What were your thoughts around that?
Rabi: That is a very good question. So, during that time, people had good wifi at home, but of course the mobile phone, there was no 4g, or even 3g. As far as I remember, it was 2g and some of the networks had 3G at that time. And that's where this idea that people when they are at home they will have wifi. And of course we couldn't, there were a lot of challenges with streaming at that time. So, we were not streaming anything on the app, it was like you watch on TV and than you chat like Twitter but on the phone. Which was still easier to do than actually streaming TV shows, at that point, nobody was thinking about streaming shows on the app.
Rohit: And the primary platform was Android?
Rabi: Primary it was Android. We ran on IOS, but primary was Android.
Rohit: And you were sort of thinking about at that time about scaling and customer acquisition. I am just fascinated by acquiring customers for a TV app in 2013 in India. People watching [06:55 inaudible], I don't know if it was on[inaudible], whatever channels they are watching or whatever shows they are watching, how would you go about acquiring those people. Were the TV channels marketing you, were you going on Facebook or what did you actually do?
Rabi: We did a lot of hacks, of course because during those days there were no platforms where you could just put money and get a lot of users. Facebook was not great at kind of acquiring users for you. So, what we did, we actually did a lot of small things for example when we launched [07:30 inaudible], which was more about getting alerts around your favorite TV shows. During that we also launched a lot of things like IBill. For example, during Ibill you can subscribe to alerts like whenever Sachin comes to [07:45 inaudible] sent me an alert.
Rabi: So, actually during the match, you can get the alert and just switch on your TV and start watching. So we did a lot of things like that, and during those events we acquired a lot of customers. So we already have more than 50,000 customers by the time we moved from [08:04 inaudible] to Icouch, And when we moved to Icouch, people idea was, we will start with working with TV channels, so if they want their audience on our platform they had to promote it. And because they were also showing it on screen, they had to say that, here download Icouch app with your fellow TV viewers and watch this show along with them. And that gave us huge boost.
Rohit: Got it. And how many people were you by the time you sold?
Rabi: We were 20 people.
Rohit: You sold at 20 people, I am curious about not going back to when you started. What did you parents say? I completely forgot about that back in 2011, what is my son doing, he has left his job and he has become basically, he is no good to the society now.
Rabi: Yes, fortunately my dad was very supportive.Of course, that is you know leaving the job to start this. Well, it was kind of alien, because especially in old times, where they came from, really poor backgrounds, and they just did one job in their lives. So they are like, if you get a job, your life should be set, that's it. So, it took a lot of convincing, especially, he was convinced at a point where, there were a lot of investors interested in our company. Although there were not many investors in India at that time, but there were some called [09:45 Sarab] accelerators, and my dad actually spoke with some of them. And that is a lot to do, and convinced you are doing something which is, which I would allow you to do. So, all those things took some convincing, but it was not very hard for me, it took like 6 or 7 months.
Rohit: And you were working full time. Did you start looking for ideas after you quit your job? Or you were looking for ideas when you were.
Rabi: No, so I started looking for ideas when I was in college.
Rohit: Oh ok.
Rabi: In college, I and Satwick, my other cofounder, we were discussing a lot of ideas. But interestingly, we both went into jobs and then I quit my job first inside this company where we were still working. And then I started the second company, he decided to quit his job, after like 7 years to join my company.
Rohit: Got it. Interesting. And how was that convincing? How did you convince Satwick to actually quit his job after 7 years?
Rabi: I just told him we build this company from the US.
Rohit: Was he married back then?
Rabi: Yes, for him it was difficult because he was married, and he was going to have a quick kid very soon. But he knew all of that, and despite that he decided to leave the job and than join us.
Rohit: So this is the second company, but in the first one you convince your parents, you starting that company. You actually built it and then sold it, which is a very low probability event. Given that it is also India, people don't know startups. So, that is something very unique for that time which is 3 or 4 years ago. And when you even after you sold the company, you did not work for too long for that company or did go work at A VC, and than a startup, you started another company, so how did that come about?
Rabi: When we were actually exploring what to do with that previous company, it was doing well, but then the challenge was after learning the hard way, we realised that the market is not huge and especially given the companies in the US in the TV industry space, they all got killed, mostly because it is very hard. I mean the TV industry they control the content, they control other things. So they would just say one comment on Google, and Google ban your app in the Playstore. So, there are a lot of restrictions on what you can’t and you can do. So, we realised that after working with them for like 2 years at that point I was looking at other, what to do with the companies, so I came here explored a bit, and then I realized, that there are other companies similar to us in India here that are not doing well. So, that’s why I went back and decided to shut down the company, but than we thought other possible companies that could acquire us. Vidooly was interested because we had a lot of relationships with each other and our product had a lot of users. And they were kind of looking kind of into this whole space where apps, TV channels are working with a lot of app makers. So they got excited and than we decided to kind of just sell them. And the other thing was, we wanted to do something that and we were very clear about from the start, so we just decided to sell the company and start working on a new area.
Rohit: So the new company you started was Eva.
Rohit: And when did you, did you actually start Eva when you were in India, or did you move to the US and then started the company.
Rabi: So we had the idea that we will start something, because we were working a lot of in video space, so we had the school video app which we built in India and then I came here to kind of see if that had an operation. So when I first came to the US that was the app which I had, and then I stayed in a lot of AirBNB and I was just writing to people.
Rohit: And that was in the bay area?
Rabi: Yes, and I was living in Foster city.
Rabi: So, there was this big AirBNB, I used to get 8 to 10 calls every week. So, I got a hold of talking to a lot of people and assure them what am I trying to do.
Rohit: Were you in San Francisco the whole time or were you?
Rabi: Yes, that was I was going to our limits. But I also realized that there were so many video apps including Snapchat, which was not operating in India. So I did know there are very cool video apps which are so popular. So, when I saw that a lot of the feedback was that this part is cool but than you know video is going to get killed by either Snapchat or Facebook. And then at that time there was Meerkat and Periscope. So there were a lot of new apps.
Rohit: This is in 2015?
Rabi: Yes, 2015 when we were just exploring particular next. So, the challenge was we realized you know this item I cannot work. So, we started exploring more ideas. But while I was doing that, I realized that for me the biggest challenge was not the product, because we had a good team, we had built products before, so we can probably try it and ideas. That is a challenge, but the challenge is, number one, how are you going to sustain our like [15:48 inaudible] ourself for the next 6 to 8 months, while we try all of these ideas. And number 2, if I have to build something here, I have to build a network.
Rabi: And knowing no one here was like a big challenge. And there are so many startups that it is so competitive. And yes you can still reach out to all the investors and potential people who want to hire. It is partly easier, it is not that hard, because there is still less competition. Here there are so many people from different countries, so it was very hard for us to figure that out.
Rohit: Let me dig deeper on that. So you moved in 2015, you are trying to figure out what you should do with the app and during that time you are going to a lot of networking events and trying to connect with people and also investors.
Rabi: Yes, I was meeting investors during the events, and also trying to meet investors in India for my video app. And through them some investors here. But then the biggest relation was that this idea is not worth exploring, there might, this is like a very competitive space. So, yes, than I went back to India, and then we were discussing what to do next, but before coming to the US again in 2016, we decided that, let's start exploring more ideas and the biggest challenge that I faced here was networking. So, it was in mind that we will do something related to networking, but what we didn't know.
Rabi: So, I just came here in 2016 just like that.
Rohit: And what type of visa were you using at that time
Rabi: Business visa.
Rohit: So you came to the US, you know you want to do something in the startup space. Not video, because that is going to be killed by Facebook or Snapchat or Snap. And, so you decided you wanted to do something in networking because that is a challenge you face when you came in 2015. How did you navigate that initial feel in 2016 when you were looking for an Idea.
Rabi: So, 2016, I actually came in March 2016. The thing is, the good thing that happened between this was, when I came to the US in 2015, I stayed here for 6 months, but then I wrote my whole experience about the differences in the ecosystem between India and Silicon Valley. And how we kind of try to navigate the whole situation and also build a product. And got feedback on it. So, I wrote on Medium and it got picked up by a lot of the blog posts in India. A lot of people liked that, and I got something interest from Indian Investors here in Silicon Valley. So, when I went back to India I knew that there are people here who want to invest just because of who I am and the story, not any idea. So, when I came here the first thing I did was try a small round of funding. It was very less, like 70k, it was pretty good for us because we were coming from India.
Rohit: What year? Was it March 2016 or a few months later?
Rabi: Yes, I came here March 2016, and then we were able to build around in April.
Rohit: And where was the company registered?
Rabi: We started the company in the US. We had a lot of good advice while doing all of this. That you should race to the company first before moving. So whenever someone would check if you have a company and all of those things are in place.
Rohit: And then you also got a company bank account?
Rohit: To deposit the checks. Sometimes people just like to get checks and they don't have a company bank account.
Rabi: Fortunately we had a company before this so we knew, and especially to come from India, you know that all these things take time and we come here and things don't take much time. You suddenly have everything within 2 weeks.
Rohit: Ok, so you came here in 2015, than you wrote about that experience and that got you some press and investors got interested. So, when they wrote you 70k checks, when they were writing those checks what did you tell them, what are you going to work on, did you tell them any idea?
Rabi: Yes, showed them the video app. And most of them were like, we like you, and the spark of story is interesting. So, I am investing in you.
Rohit: Ok, so they invested 70k in the video app initially?
Rohit: Ok. And, so when you took that 70 and sort of sold or shut down the video app?
Rabi: They actually invested in our new video idea.
Rohit: Ok, so this was the new video app.
Rabi: Video sharing, social sharing.
Rohit: How long did that last for?
Rabi: It was just like 3 or 4 months.
Rohit: So you were here on a business event, and Eva is even after that.
Rohit: Few months in like July 2016.
Rabi: So during like, May, June, during this time we were just exploring what to do, we had some cash, not a lot but we had something.
Rohit: So, Satwick is not with you at this time?
Rabi: Satwick came after we got the money.
Rohit: Only after you got the money.
Rabi: It was hard for 2 people to come to Silicon Valley and survive.
Rohit: Right, so he came here in April, I came here in March and than we were exploring a lot of ideas and we were like, we want to build something related to interpersonal relationships. And then gifting is a pretty good Visa fit, but than gifting, the whole space hasn't been disrupted. So we kind of became opposite with the idea of gifting. And then when we talked to people about disrupting video space versus disrupting gifting space. This was more exciting, because the video was already disrupted by so many people, by so many companies.
Rabi: And also requires a large distribution, so Facebook, excuse me, already has that distribution. So you decided that you are going to do something in the gifting spaces. And I think there had been other companies like Gift that was like online gift card, you can send someone a gift card. So how did you navigate to Eva version of the project?
Rohit: Our story is very different, because we were looking, so the pain point that we faced was, for example, I met you at an event and after that event I want to build a relationship with you right. So, after that event I want to send you a tiny gift. Now my challenge is I cannot send you a gift card, a gift card is too personal, right. And I did want to give you something that. So, we came up with the idea that hey you know many people have many different tastes.
Rabi: Very different tastes.
Rohit: Very different tastes. In India there is just one coffee.
Rabi: Coffee is coffee.
Rohit: So, I was like if I want to give you coffee as a gift, I first have to understand what type of coffee you like. Whether Starbucks, Bluewater or Pills or something, and then how do you like your coffee, with milk, without milk, with sugar.
Rohit: And also in the US, the coffee culture is bigger than in India, it's like bands, and people love their local bands and they know all the music from those local bands. In India holywood music is most popular, and people just know there is nothing very local about it. In US people have very specific taste and certainly especially in Silicon Valley people are actually obsessed with some of their products, coffee being one of them.
Rabi: And so, the whole idea was, I know that anyone who would either drink coffee, beer or wine. Everyone is going to drink either one of these things. So, let's just start with gifting people nice coffees, beers and wines to people I am meeting with. So, the idea was simple, I used to meet people and the next day, we actually bought a new mobile number and I used to text people with that mobile number saying that I am Rabi gifting assistant. And not gifting assistant, but just assistant. And I used to text, saying, hey you just met Rabi yesterday and he wishes to thank you for the advice you gave and also wants to give you a coffee as a gift. And what type of coffee you prefer? And I was not expecting any reply. But the trick that I was not asking as Rabi, but as assistant of Rabi was very different, because in that scenario most of the people thought that I am not a real assistant, that I am a bot.
Rohit: It’s funny, it usually happens the other way. There is actual person behind, in your case it was the opposite.
Rabi: The opposite, even part that they thought that maybe there is some person behind it, they thought that I am giving a service, I’m not personally chatting. So part that this person will not have an assistant, he is using a service to do this, so that he gets replied. So, all these people reply, and then they start giving us all the answers, I like this coffee, that coffee, this is my address, I am free tomorrow between 10 and 11. And than I used to go buy that coffee and than went to the person and give it to the person, and they were surprised, they were like, oh, it's you coming with the coffee and what made you answer all the questions. And they said I didn't know that it was you I thought it was a bot. And this whole idea that came around that time, we as humans are more comfortable sharing our desires with machines or robots than with other humans. And especially in scenarios like these, when there is so much awkward conversations. So the idea that I was able to give someone something personal was without knowing the person, using a machine or a bot was very exciting. So we did this with like 100 people from June to 6th September. We did this with a lot of people, I actually gifted to Adam Draper from Boost VC and than he was like, hey, you know, why don't you join our next batch. And then of course there were a lot of people who got gifts from us, we are like, if you are starting this company, we also want a deal with your product. And that is how we got some initial customers and we started testing the product.
Rohit: Cool. So, you got your first money from Adam, and it is an incubator program, how were the first few meetings with Adam. How did the project end up in his hands and how did the meeting go with him when he invited you?
Rabi: So, interestingly,we were getting a lot of new connections to our product itself, so when we started doing this, at that time chat bots were very popular. So there were a lot of communities around chatbots.
Rohit: It’s actually true, because you were in YC 2016 and I think big part about it is a lot of chatbots.
Rabi: Yes, exactly, so everyone wants to think that chatbots is the next big thing, whether it happens or not, nobody knows. What it worked really well for us, at that time at least everyone had that concept, there is a chatbot and can do chatbot for multiple use cases and people really loved use cases, in our case chatbot is not the product, chatbot is a big service and the biggest challenge is to understand what the other person likes or prefers and actually automating that process to make it scalable.
Rabi: So when we did that, we some match list we used to run chatbots magazine, he got a gift from someone and he loved the experience and he sent a gift to Brayton at Boost VC. And he loved the experience, and then he was like, oh, just start a new batch and like to recommend me to Adam and than I send a gift to Adam, and he was like, oh that is amazing. And I think I gave a wine to Adam. So the next time we met he was like, you are in the program, we love the concept and the product, and whenever the next program starts, you guys can join.
Rohit: So just to clarify. So, you sent a gift to Adam and he accepted it and went through the whole flow, and actually got himself a wine from you. You meet him soon after and he says your are in the program. Entirely any other meeting to ask you about the team or anything else?
Rabi: Yes, so when we first met, we talked for like 30, 40 minutes, and during that discussion, he asked about what we have been doing, and he loved the story.
Rohit: And how many people were there in the team at that time?
Rabi: So, we were 4, we were 4 co founders.
Rohit: So you are now in the Boost VC program. Give us a sense of how long it lasts, what did you actually do there, how did it help you?
Rabi: So Boost was actually really helpful, we could not have done this without their help, because not just, I mean there is certain program, they had this huge space. One where we can learn, the other where we can live. So you will see they provide you stay for 3 to 4 months for free. So that was a good money saving, so also when we started working our post VC, during holiday in 2016, when we really launched a product, we needed a lot of space. And the good thing was the incubator was empty, and we had the whole space to us. And we were able to shift a lot of gift from both VC office because of that. And then later I also became an EIR at Boost VC. So, I got my stay extended for 6 more months. So, I actually got 1 year of stay at university for free.
Rohit: Founder of many savings hacks.
Rabi: And I think Boost was really helpful. They also helped us understand our initial market, also figure out the business model for our market, all those things.
Rohit: And this was in like maybe late 2016.
Rabi: This was, yes end of 2016, correct.
Rohit: And by the time you graduated from Boost VC, were you still full of people or have you grown the team?
Rabi: We were still 4 people, but the biggest change we did was we had some contractors who we used to call them happiness agents. So when we started it was still the same model, which was [35:35 inaudible] of coffees, beers and wines. But by December of 2016 we realised that the company could scale, and with holiday gifting coming up, we wanted to switch to a shipping model. So we got rid of all these contactors, but than we had to kind of work around the model. What would the model be? How to make the gift more delightful and surprised. So, we came with the idea of more like reverse sponge box. Where we started working with all these cool product companies, where we are looking to reach out to the target audience. So, all these cool brands are given like IndieGoGo startup project, all these new products are always looking for new customers, and we became a good channel, to kind of than channel their product to the right person. So someone who prefers coffee and is tech savvy, we know what gift to give and we would go to partners who want their product to go in the big box. So we came up with this model where it works for both of us.
Rohit: Interesting, I actually didn't know that the initial martin was a person handing off the gift. I always saw the photo and video of a gift being shipped. So that is interesting. And how did you work on the AI or machine learning aspect of it, of building a chat box, over these months, who took care of that, how did you actually ended up developing it.
Rabi: Yes, so when each interview started, we knew that we don't have the data to build realistic models of machine learning. So, we were just relying on basic facts that we need to start collecting this data, and then we will use some feedback and some insights from the gift image we are doing to understand what is the right gift.So initially it was just about collecting data, versus using the data to do anything else. So the chatbot was actually able to collect all the data around a wholesome space and than when we used a ship that take feedback and than from the feedback we get to know whether the person likes this gift or not. And then we feed this whole data into our system, which than starts to recommend better products.
Rohit: Got it, and I am sure you are still building that and as you get more data it is going to get better. When did you in all of this process of building the product, when did you raise your first round?
Rabi: We raised our first. After Boost VC we did raise some more institutional funding, but not from like a proper receipt, but more like micro receipts, so there is about like 300,400k. So, between 2016 and 2017. So December 2017, we raised our first round from Drupal Beta and Precursor Ventures.
Rohit: So, that was the first seed round. Ok, so as you were sort of building the product from December 2016 to December 2017. What were the milestones and what were the things that you were trying to prove so you can actually raise a big, big from an institutional receipt.
Rabi: For mostly product market fit. So, we knew that the pain is large, because everyone was facing the same, we all face the same challenges when we want to get somewhere. Initially the whole team was figuring out should we do consumer, should we do presumer, should we do enterprise. Because everyone does gifting, and everybody is in competition. There are so many ways to do gifting. Including gift cards. In business gifting, there are large fees. So I think the first year was mostly about, ok the product works well and people like the product, and they like it so much that they share and they also sign up. So there was a validity in the product from day one. And because of that validity we were getting some customers automatically. But we had not like kind of refined our audience, who is the right audience to go after in phase one and kind of dominate the market and than go to a different market. So, that is where we took a lot of time doing first year to understand. And than by end of 2017 we almost decided to go after real estate agents, and mortgage companies, loan companies, because they were naturally using our product and they had a very good repeat behaviour. So, we started working with them. So, by the time we raised from institutional VCs, we had a very good idea about the product market within a certain industry, and for certain use cases.
Rohit: So in December 2017, you raised your first run, and back than how many people were you?
Rabi: So, we have always been a very small team, still like 7 full time people. At that time, we were 5 people full time.
Rohit: Got it. And of team based in India and the US? But eventually we were moved, half of the team right now is in the US, half of the team is in Calgary, Canada. How did you decide of all the possible places Calgary, Canada?
Rabi: So we had to move because we were facing a lot of timezone issues. Of Course we could have always been [41:40 inaudible] yet, but because we were a very small team, and there was just 2 people, my CPO and [inaudible]. We realized that it is very hard once you get customer feedback, whether it is a problem, a support needs to be extent, the support cannot happen after [inaudible]. So, we eventually decided, because it is still a small team, you guys should move, so when we start building a bigger team it starts from different locations. So why did we decided to go to Calgary is because 2 of the other co founders. One of the cofounders he had some relatives in Calgary and he said I am [42:22 inaudible] and also Calgary has similar kind, closer to Silicon Valley dense [inaudible] Toronto is on the east coast 3 hours ahead, Calgary is closer to the west coast.
Rohit: And Toronto is very expensive.
Rabi: And some team members knew people already in Calgary so it worked out well. Also, the canadian immigration is much easier than US immigration.
Rohit: Got it, so start a company there.
Rabi: This is subsidiary in canada.
Rohit: Ok, how was that process? That is the first one I have heard.
Rabi: The main company, but than we have subsidiaries in India and Calgary, and these people have now transferred from Indian subsidiary to the Canadian subsidiary. So we cannot really shut down the indian subsidiary.
Rohit: Ok, that is a very new way I have seen. Usually people have employees in India and the US and some of the countries in the US.
Rabi: Yes, just wanted to do all the hard things. In addition to doing a startup.
Rohit: What most people don't realize is as you sort of move in between countries you have to figure out Visas and other additional challenges. Now the whole team is in the same time zone, but it is still [inaudible 43:58]?
Rohit: Do you guys do anything special to make sure everyone is on the same page and things are going well, there is good communication, like how do you manage even when you are in the same time zone?
Rabi: I think it is because we all knew each other, we have known each other for a long time. So, at least between co founders there is no miscommunication, but then there is a theme in Calgary and there is a team here. So, we do regular calls to discuss projects. Because we are still mostly a product company, and we need to keep building products. So, there is a lot of internal discussion in terms of what makes to the very end. And then we manage timelines with Asana and do a lot of video calls.
Rohit: Got it using zoom?
Rabi: Zoom or Hangouts.
Rohit: Cool, so now things are going well, I hear multiple people using Evabot, I think my cofounder just found out from someone else that they got a gift from your company.
Rabi: Yes, we have shipped more than 20,000 gifts.
Rohit: Ok, that's awesome. So, as things are going up, in terms of if you go back to like the initial challenges that you faced and how you navigated the Visa problems, to actually make it happen, because you didn't go to school here. How did you navigate the Visa situation to allow you reach here and raise money from investors?
Rabi: I think when I first came here, I didn't have any plans of staying here or working from here or building a company here. But I just came here and I loved Silicon Valley, it is amazing place, and maybe I always wanted to be here, so when we launched the product and started getting more traction and support from people. And also getting good support from people. So one thing why most companies are able to survive here and become big is because of this whole ecosystem which is very supportive. Of Course it is hard because there is so many companies and so many people, but then you will still find someone who will always support you and you can use that to keep building the company. So, when I first came here it was still like business Visa, I stayed here first for 6 months, which is the limit, and then I came, ok, like in 2016 March I also was on business Visa. I stayed for 6 months, but than I applied for an extension, so I got 2 more months. Between that period I applied for my O1, and then I got my O1 Visa and than I got back to India.
Rohit: So O1 visa is the extraordinary ability visa, that you can get if you have done something extraordinary. And according to the government, you have actually done, you are doing better than your peers at high level. And how was the O1 process for you? How long did it take? And high level costs?
Rabi: Yes, so when I first came here, I didn’t know there were so many different Visa options. I always thought these are just one or two options. When I talked to the lawyers, they said there are other options as well. So in 2016 actually Obama was coming over the campaign, but when Trump came, that policy will also shut down. So I was talking to my daughter, and she said, since you have since you have built a company and you have a lot of press in India, it shouldn't be hard. So the whole process for me, the whole challenging thing is collecting all the evidence and documents. So it took 2 to 3 months, but because of the premium processing it happens pretty fast. In 2 weeks you can get a Visa.
Rohit: Cool and [inaudible 48:18 ] is sponsored by your company and you can work for your company until Evobot exists, which is for for 100 years in the future you have your, you can indefinitely renew it.
Rabi: Yes, and then I also applied for my green card. I got the approval so we just need to wait.
Rohit: Congrats, so pretty soon you will have green card. And you won't have any problems hopefully. Any other important learnings you had moving to the valley from India. And just to add more context to it, where in India did you start your company?
Rabi: From Delhi.
Rohit: So moving from Delhi to Silicon Valley and doing the company here raising money from institutional investors, what are some of the things that you have learned along the way?
Rabi: Yes, there are learnings, the biggest difference of course is the ecosystem and how it helps. And also because of the ecosystem, we are able to integrate much faster and we are able to get feedback much faster, so to improve this idea to work or not. You get very good feedback, very quickly. So, that is one of the biggest advantages of this place. You know there are so many people who can give you feedback, even like someone small, a grandma will give you feedback on a product which is not possible in India. So, I think that accelerates the whole process of learning and building something. Of course it is, we have challenges, because it is also very hard. I mean it is not easy just to come here and build something and get money and than you are done. Because you don't know people, it takes a lot of time to build that trust.
Rohit: One thing I am curious if you are also married, how did you convince your wife to actually move to the US, even when you didn't have enough money.
Rabi: Yes, so Satwik Is a different story, he was married for like 6 or 7 years before he tried to move, and in his case I think it was his impulse, who were more supportive than his own parents.
Rohit: That is very good.
Rabi: Lucky for him. And in my case, I actually got married after starting this company in the US. So, I started the company, but it was during [51:05 inaudible] when I found my wife online. And then we started chatting, and then we aligned toward each other. So we have a lot of discussion and I told her what I was doing. She was in India, she was working. I was telling her, I am doing this startup, we don't have a lot of money, and I am still living at Boost VC, so if you come you might have to live in Boost VC for some time. So, than it all worked out. When first came here, still has one month stash in the bank. After like one more month.
Rohit: When you have one month of funding and suddenly something happens.
Rabi: Something happens.
Rohit: I think this is a pretty good note to end here, thanks for coming over and telling us your story.
Ready to get started?
Achieve your dreams with a loan that fits your needs. Check loan options without hurting your credit score.
Talk to our team
Feel free to reach out with questions about anything from eligibility to loan offer. We are here to help.