Rameet Chawla, Founder of Fueled
Fashion, Feedback, and Fueled: Rameet Chawla on Building Killer Apps and Embracing Creativity
Founder of Fueled Rameet Chawla explains what it takes to build the finest mobile apps, defines the Viral Coefficient, and reveals how his need to be creative led him to leave corporate finance and launch his dream company.
At first glance, you may think that this style maverick is more at home in the Garment District than a tech incubator. But as Rameet Chawla will tell you, his fashion-forward look is really just an extension of the creativity that manifests throughout his work.
He recalls feeling drawn to individual creativity early in life; before graduating high school he began using his personal style as an outlet for creative expression. As the years went on, Chawla graduated from New York University Stern School of Business with a triple major in information systems, finance, and international business, and quickly found himself traveling up the corporate ladder at a large financial institution.
However, he would often imagine what life would look like if he did not have to conform to the culture and norms of the corporate world. These small seeds of thought coupled with an inherent desire for creative expression soon lead Chawla to quit his finance job and strike out on his own to create his dream company, Fueled.
Looking back, he says his former, corporate self would probably be scared of the long-haired, full-bearded guy he has become, but also notes that he has never felt as comfortable in his own skin as he does now. The look is a byproduct of the innovation and creativity that weaves throughout his professional life.
Fueled for Success
Fueled is a consultancy firm that focuses on technology development and refuses the “mobile” label. Chawla asserts that technology is changing at such a rapid pace that to limit the breadth of your business to a specific platform is very risky. Several years ago, applications were built specifically for desktop computers; we are now in a mobile boom dominated by smartphones and tablets, but as hardware constraints are lifted, the form factors that govern the current mobile space will change. To eliminate the risk of obsolescence, Fueled remains focused on building a brand and business philosophy centered on utilizing emerging technology.
Fueled relies on a reputation of providing clients with unparalleled support and technology development products to bring in new clients. There is no sales team; instead, prospective clients are routed straight to product development. This ensures that the consultancy can begin evaluating the project and providing value from the first interaction.
Based out of New York with offices in London and Chicago, Fueled’s most recent projects include building one of the first alternate reality apps—a feat that won the firm several awards—and creating the extremely successful New York-focused dining and entertainment app UrbanDaddy. In addition, the team has found triumphs in translating mobile apps from iOS to Android, including QuizUp and Afterlight, each of which hit #1 in the Google Play store within 48 hours of release.
The Fueled Collective
In addition to leading a cutting edge technology development consultancy, Chawla finds time to spur on new startups from the posh offices of the Fueled Collective. The incubator currently houses a popcorn maker, decadent ice cream and coffee bars, a “dope chillout couch” and 35 startups. The space is located in the SoHo district of New York City and brings together classical English aesthetic with leading technology tools.
The Collective started as a side project but is now quickly outgrowing its current space as more startup founders vie to enrich their ventures through the unique edge that operating in the space provides.
How to Create an Epic App
More important than defining what a killer app with crazy staying power starts with, is defining what it does not start with—an unwavering notion of what the product will be and how it will operate.
It is common for businesses to come to Fueled with an idea for an app that has either already been attempted and failed, or that cannot be built successfully because of technology limitations. The product development team is honest and transparent regarding these situations, clearly telling potential clients when they believe an idea cannot work.
Brutal honesty is a hallmark of the company that refuses to placate clients by agreeing to develop products they see as unviable. Instead, the product team offers to solve the problem through a new and often different method. This approach is a departure from tactics used by many of Fueled’s competitors, Chawla says, who focus on telling clients what they want to hear instead of solving problems. Only one out of the more than 100 leads that come through the product team is considered viable, meaning that the idea is novel and possible with current technology tools.
Creating epic apps revolves around two simple rules: minimum viable product (MVP) and feedback. However, the secret is in knowing precisely how to implement these two powerful concepts.
Chawla’s approach is clear: “Build whatever you want, but do it as cheaply and as quickly as possible.” Create the smallest possible version of your product. The goal is to get something in front of users so that the real development work can begin. Too often, Chawla has seen business owners expend all of their resources (time and money) on the first version of a product. Then, by the time they get feedback from actual users, it is too late. Building an entire app without ever putting it in front of a user is a huge risk—it is the equivalent of a tightrope walker working without a net, even the slightest movement to the left or right can spell disaster.
User feedback is critical to the success of a product, and the only way to get useful feedback is to get the product into the hands of the user. Without a product, it is impossible for users or developers to begin to consider what is possible in terms of features.
The Fueled team uses this prototype philosophy to flesh out the combination of features that will resonate with the widest audience. Operating in a cycle of build-release-play-repeat, the team follows carefully constructed philosophies to obtain and implement the feedback that will provide the most benefit to the product.
The Viral Coefficient
Chawla firmly believes that a great product is the best growth hack. Instead of counting users, Fueled focuses on bringing in an initial pool of users and then letting the value of the product do the rest of the work. Through iterative design, the application continues to grow in value towards the much-coveted status of market fit.
Viral Coefficient /ˈvīrəl kōəˈfiSHənt/ noun Gaining more than one user for each existing user. For example, if 500 users are able to bring in 505 users, the product pool of users will continue to grow. Anything less than a viral coefficient of one and the product is losing ground.
Achieving a viral coefficient of greater than one is a simple concept, but the complexity is in the implementation and maintenance, which requires constant growth. After reaching the saturation point, the app must be evaluated to determine how it can solve a new problem or reach a new audience. The work is never over; it just takes on new forms.
Reacting to the subtle changes in user adoption requires constant monitoring. However, Chawla stresses the need to collect the right data over the use of any one specific tool. The significance is in determining the right triggers and answering the right questions—the ones that clue you in to how the app is performing in the mind of the user and allow you to adopt changes to maintain sustainable growth.
MVM – Most Valuable Metric
So what does this tech mogul with a solid finance background track? Churn. There is nothing more important than knowing how many users stay and how long they stay. Cracking that code unleashes the Holy Grail of success—the lifetime value of a user only increases the longer they stay engaged.
Finally, looking to the future, Chawla quickly dismisses the idea of his own success. At this stage in the game he is only at a midpoint, not a finish line. He is still “knee deep in the company” and sees a lot more on the horizon. There are still many more risks to take.
Rameet Chawla’s Guide to Phenomenal Feedback
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses” – Henry Ford
- Watch how users interact with the app. Literally look over their shoulder while they use the app; this allows you to get personal with the user and gauge their reactions to certain aspects of the experience.
- Learn how to frame questions. Do not ask what the user wants, what he or she would add or what should be changed. Listening to user feedback on features is dangerous. Instead, just ask the user to talk out loud about what they are experiencing as they use app.
- Sample Size. The ideal number is generally around 500. Depending on the application, this number may grow or the composition of the sample may be molded to fit a specific demographic.
- Find the psychological trigger. There is no explicitly defined way of finding this; it requires the developer to understand the user’s thought process while using the app and then incorporate those lessons into the next iteration. The secret sauce is in solving the problem in a way that clicks with the user.
- What goes into making and developing the right MVP
- The secrets to getting the best kind of user feedback, when to listen, and when not to listen
- How to develop the right technological triggers needed to click with users
- The right and wrong way to network and build professional relationships
- The analytics tools and metrics that Ramee relies on to track the success of his apps
Full Transcript of the Podcast with Rameet Chawla
Nathan: Good morning, good evening, good afternoon, and good night. My name is Nathan Chan. I am your host coming to you live from Melbourne, Australia, and this is the “Foundr Podcast.” Got another exciting episode in store for you guys with the one and only Rameet Chawla.
And for any of you that has ever thought about creating an app or just want to know what it takes to create a business that goes viral, that spreads like wildfire, you know, Rameet’s the best person that I’ve spoken to on this topic. His company, Fueled, these guys are so popular. They actually reject people to make apps for. They actually choose now who they want to work with, which is insane. They’re built apps for American Express, Coca-Cola, Chicago Bulls, Wendy’s; a whole ton of other people, a whole ton of amazing companies. And Rameet’s just an absolute master at mobile apps, and really, really understanding the marketing behind them, and the components of what makes a successful app. So this is a really interesting interview, and I’m really, really excited to bring this one to you guys.
Before we jump into this one, I just want to mention something really interesting, and that is before I jumped on this interview when I was interviewing Rameet, I actually remember that I called him up, and he didn’t even know this interview was happening. And it was really because he just finished, you know, a party or something, and it was, like, 10:00 p.m. And I was like, “Look, do you want me to call you back?” And he said…because he just finished up with a party that he was at, and he was gonna…just walking back to the office. I said, “Do you want me to call you back when you get back to the office?” And he said, “No, actually, to be honest, I would prefer if we continue with this interview, because I won’t be able to do anything, except I’ve got my phone with me while I back to the office and it’s about a 20-minute walk.”
So I found that really interesting because it just shows, you know, Rameet’s a super successful entrepreneur, he runs a co-working space, a very, very successful agency, and I just found that really, really interesting that he manages his time like that. And something to think about, guys. You know, when you’re in transit, there’s all sorts of things you could be doing instead of, you know, texting people or whatever. So something to think about. Anyways, enough from me. Hope you enjoy this episode. Now, let’s jump into the show.
Well, look, firstly, thank you for taking the time to speak with me. Are you able to give me a run-through on how you got your job in a quick, roundabout way?
Rameet: It’s an interesting question. So I created my job more than I got it, and I kind of created my dream company while doing that. And I guess the easiest way to phrase how I did it is I kind of just did it…went all out and did it. It was a risky move. I had a professional career in the finance industry before. And I decided to quit and start my own business.
Nathan: I have to say, like, when I looked you up, man, you seemed like one of the coolest tech founders I had ever seen. I really like your style and fashion. Have you always been into fashion and your appearance?
Rameet: Yeah, it kind of goes back as far as I can remember. It was, like, kind of ninth grade or tenth grade in high school is kind of where I can trace back me looking significantly different or dressing different to my peers. And I guess when I say “different,” I just mean a little bit more attention paid to it.
And I think just over the years, it just matured. I kind of naturally got more comfortable in my own skin. Didn’t feel the need to impress people or fit into any mold, especially after I left the finance industry. It’s kind of funny, I always viewed finance and myself working in that industry as a way of containing myself and my appearance. I was like, “You know, it’d be crazy if I didn’t work in this job because who knows what I would end up looking like?” For sure, I would be scared of myself if you showed my old self a picture of what I look like now. It’s like, “Oh, if you quit finance, this is what you’re gonna end up looking like.” Like, this long-haired, bearded crazy guy.
But yeah, so I ended up quitting finance. And now, you know, I guess picking my true look or whatever you want to call it, being myself.
Nathan: And I’m curious, do you think that that creativity you have with, you know, the way you dress and the way you look, do you think that filters through to your work? It’s something that’s always been you, but you kind of…you express your creativity also through your work; it’s kind of been a byproduct?
Rameet: I think the byproduct is actually how I look and how I dress. So it’s kind of the opposite of what you said. My real creativity comes out in my work, and then the byproduct of that is what I look like and how I dress. And it obviously comes out in how I dress and how I look, but that’s the most apparent thing for people.
But the real creativity is actually…yeah, it’s actually in my work. So it’s interesting for you to ask it in kind of the reverse manner. It’s just because it’s the most obvious to you because you can actually see how I dress. So you can…it’s easy for you pick up…you know, I have an Instagram account and people look at that, sometimes.
Nathan: Can we share with the audience some of your accomplishments with your work and Fueled, and your co-working space? Just so that they can get a little bit of a rundown of the caliber of apps that you’ve created and the kind of big range of clients you’ve worked with?
Rameet: Sure thing. I mean, it’s kind of an even…almost an even split. Maybe a little bit more on the startup side. My clients…the majority of my clients are U.S.-based, although we do have some in Europe. Let’s see. One of the big that we initially got is we built one of the first augmented reality apps, and it won a bunch of awards in Ad Age and a couple other technology and innovation awards. And that was kind of the first push that we got.
We worked on another product called Urban Daddy. And that also probably won the single most amount of awards that we’ve gotten. Kind of one app. And that bolstered the company as well.
And since then, you know, we’ve done applications for Starbucks, for car companies, for Ducati, for Porsche. We’ve done…just a range of larger brands products. We did all the stuff for Barney’s mobile as well, which is a fashion retailer. We’ve done stuff for UNIQLO, which is another fashion retailer.
And then if you look at the other end of the spectrum, which is with the startups, we have worked with most recently QuizUp, which is a popular app. I think they’re above 20 million active users right now. And then we did Afterlight as well, which is another product that we built fairly recently in the startup space. So like, it’s just kind of a range.
We also have an incubator in New York which houses over 35 startups, around 20,000 square feet in SoHo. And so, that’s another thing that we have as just kind of like a side project. And of course, our main business is the consultancy that builds mobile applications, both on Android and iOS. And our largest office is in New York, and our second largest is in London, followed by Chicago. And we have two other external offices.
Nathan: Wow. I’m curious, I’m all about trying to find out, from extremely successful founders, you know, what our audience can learn from you. So I’m curious, from an app standpoint, what are some of the best pieces of advice you could give for anyone looking to create an app? Looking to create something that people want?
Rameet: Yeah, so in the app market, it’s really tricky. A lot of people have ideas for specific types of products, and they come to us and say, “Hey, Fueled, we want to built this and it’s gonna do X, Y, and Z.” Often, some of those products have already been built in the past, eventually, it failed. And so, we kind of shine a little light on that. Sometimes, there’s technology limitations on what can be done, and there’s reasons why a product would fail should they go down that route.
And then there’s, of course, the ones that haven’t been built yet, and there’s often a reason why they haven’t been built. Occasionally, you get an idea where it’s just like, “Okay, cool. We can test it out. We don’t actually know, no one’s done it before. But it’s possible to do. Let’s go down the route of building it and see what happens.”
And so, the general advice for people that are about to get in the industry is to attempt to build whatever they want, whenever that happens that they’re dreaming about. Build the first version as cheap and as quickly as possible. And what that means is do the smallest version…in the industry, we call it an MVP, a minimal viable product. And that term gets thrown around a lot. But there is a lot of credit to it. There’s a lot of benefit to building out a prototype, and then do the protoype a little bit more feature-rich. And then design the prototype a little bit better. And then it kind of hazes…it’s kind of hazy between “Is it a prototype or is it a beta release?” And you know, “Is it a beta release or is it the first version?”
And you kind of just keep on building on the initial framework and slowly kind of just invite more people and just see how users interact with your app. As opposed to spending several months designing and architecting a gorgeous app, and then building the entire thing out and releasing it without ever really having anyone use it besides the team working on it. That’s just a very dangerous thing.
The thing with this industry is you never really know what people are looking for. If you have an idea, then normally, that idea will change and twist itself, if you’re building it right, into something viable. But the only way you’re giving the product a chance to do that is if you build and release something, and then play with it, and get people to play with it, and then test something else out and test something else out, and slowly tweak it until you see that there’s one kind of set of features that just resonate with people. And then you say, “Okay, cool. I think I figured it out. And I’m gonna kind of flesh out that combination of features so that it’s scalable.”
And then you just use growth techniques to get more people to download it. And if your metrics are right, then you can kind of sit back and just watch it grow. Yeah. It takes a lot of work to get there. But once you’re there, you can see that there’s 101 things you have to do while the app is growing to continue to let it grow.
But yeah, I mean, the hardest part is the beginning. And a lot of time, what we see is founders end up spending a lot of money on their first version, and they’re only testing out one concept, when they need to test out several.
Nathan: So would you see one of the common denominators between the successful apps that you’ve worked on is you guys are always facilitating and, you know, getting user feedback constantly?
Rameet: Yeah, I mean it’s definitely one of the things…there’s kind of…there’s a little bit of contention with how to get user feedback. I think there’s a right way of doing it and a wrong way of doing it. I think a lot of times…and we’ve heard this before, we’ve shared this a lot with Steve Jobs and Apple, that users don’t know what they want. The same thing with Henry Ford’s quote on “If I listen to my customers, I’d be…” you know, “I’d have a carriage with just more horses.” And you know, “Would have never invented the car,” for example.
But I think there’s validity to that. There’s also validity to seeing how users interact with an app. So you just have to frame your questions appropriately. So you can’t ask a user what they’re looking for. You have to build something and see if they like that thing. Like, does that provide value to them? Typically, users don’t know they want something until they have it front of them and they use it and they like it.
So you have to be pretty careful with the feedback. You can’t say, “Oh, you know, what will you change?” Stuff like that. That’s really that often will be misguided feedback. Or “Which feature would you add?” That often would be misguided. Because, again, “Which feature would you add?” It would be “Let’s add more horses to the carriage” instead of “I want an automobile.”
So you can’t rely on users for innovation. You have to do the innovation yourself and just see how many users react to it. That’s the big difference. And so, a lot of people sometimes listen to user feedback, but in listening to users telling them what, you know, what features to add, that’s really dangerous. A lot of the products that you’ve seen succeed in the technology space have kind of adhered to almost specifically not listening to what users tell them to do. Instead of just looking at to tell users to behave once you give them something that you think they want.
Nathan: This is really good. I’d like to delve a little bit deeper on this. And would you be able to give an insight on how many users for a specific app like an MVP that you launch, you would get feedback from and see how they play with it? Like, what’s your sample size?
Rameet: Yeah, I mean, the normal size, like, the average is just 500. Like, 500 is large enough for you to see how users are using it. You can go larger, and you can get users from, you know, any specific targeted demographic that you want to go after. You can kind of just buy those users in a way. Meaning just buy kind of display ads, get people in the app, and then see what happens.
You can see what happens from analytical tools, or some people actually just look over new user shoulders to see how they actually play with it. So it’s on a very kind of personal one-on-one level where people will watch someone use an app and just see them and kind of infer their thinking process, or just have them talk out loud while they use an app.
And the goal is to see how people react to something as opposed to asking them what they want. That’s a big difference. And so, if you can get someone to use a new app, or you get, you know, 30 or 40 people to use a new app and they use it in front of you, and you’re looking over their shoulder, and they’re just constantly telling you what they think…again, not giving advice. Just, like, seeing what their thought process is while using it so you don’t have to guess. You’re kind of just like kind of peering into their mind while they use the app.
A lot of the apps are successful. They have, like, the correct psychological triggers. So it isn’t so much as to solve a problem. It’s to solve a problem in a way that clicks with users. That’s like kind of the secret sauce. And there’s no defined way of figuring that out. So that’s why you have to test and iterate. And in order to get to a place where you potentially try to figure that out. And then when you see how users react and in the way that you had hoped, yeah, then you might have got it.
Nathan: This is great. I’m curious, how do you know when you found that fit, that product market fit?
Rameet: Yeah. I mean, you kind of…there’s a couple things. A lot of people use the term, like, “viral loop.” There’s like, technically, a viral coefficient that’s kind of defined. And it depends on the goals of your app. Each one’s a little bit different. But if your goal is just a ton of users and for people to share, and by sharing, that’s a success, that means that they find value in it. If you can get a coefficient greater than 1, then you have automatic virality of your app. So it’s kind of a…it’s a super simple concept, but it’s a little bit complex to actually make it work.
So the concept of a viral loop is for every person…for every new person that uses the app, that you get any number higher than 1 additional using the app. And any number under 1, if your coefficient is under 1, eventually, you’ll die out. So it doesn’t matter how many users you buy…say you bought 500 users, you know, that 500 would then bring in…if it’s under 1, not more than 500. It would bring in something less than 500, say, you brought in 400 users, which is what, 80%. And then, that 400 users would bring in 80% of that which is, what, 320 users. And then, those new 320 users would just bring 80% of that. But eventually, it would die down, right? You can kind of see it going down.
But if you can bring 505 users in, then you start off with that initial 500 that you bought. And if your viral coefficient is greater than 1, then the next round, it’s like 505 come in. And then the next round, it’s like 510 come in. So what you end up seeing is it ends up just constantly growing instead of dwindling.
And I could dive more deep into why when you hit it, it doesn’t ultimately continue to grow infinitely. Your coefficients change over time. After you’ve saturated the market, it’ll reduce to 1 and then below 1. At which case, you’ll…it’ll kind of die out. And then you might have to tweak the product, or you might have to go out for a different demographic to then change the coefficient. There’s a lot there to ultimately make something successful. Which is why, really, you have to be dedicated to a product, because you have to constantly look at these numbers and think about how you want to accomplish and solve the problems when there’s no guidebook, per se. But yeah. That’s it in a nutshell.
Nathan: I’m curious, when it comes to tools and analytics, what tools are working for you guys that you like to use?
Rameet: Yeah. That’s a great question. We’ve gone through so many in the years that I’m blanking right now on which ones we use actively. But any type…I mean, we have used and leveraged Google Analytics in the past for data consumption and analyzing things. But any tools that allow you to track users inside of your app are gonna add value. And it’s often less about the tool and more about if you’re searching for the right data, and if you’re tracking for the right things.
There’s a handful of popular tools, and you can use any one of the popular ones; I’m just blanking on the names right now. They’ll give you. And the real question is, are you setting up the right triggers? Are you tracking the right things? Are you answering the right questions when you’re tracking them? So that’s what’s more important, what you do with the data. There’s several tools that you can use to collect the data.
Nathan: What are the core metrics that you should be concerned with? Active users, revenue, monthly, and to make sure it’s increasing or stickiness? What are the main metrics that you guys are looking for?
Rameet: One of the biggest things is churn, right?
Rameet: Yeah, I mean, revenue is important, but it’s gonna change and it’s gonna correlate based on the number of users you have. And the number of users you have is really just how much you bought compared to what your churn is. So churn is just how many people stay around, or how long people stay around for.
And that’s really where everything is. Because if you can have a low churn, you can acquire a user, and they stay around and stick around for a really long time, the lifetime value of the user goes up. So if it’s a revenue-generating product, it’s less about what you’ve generated this month. But if you were able to retain everyone from this month to the next month, that’s an amazing stat. Because then, you know all you really have to figure out is how to get users in, because once you get them in, you’re gonna retain them.
So churn is super important. So if you can analyze and optimize for really low churn, that’s great. Especially in the mobile app space. I mean, people will open the app sometimes…a lot of times, will take a look at what is, say, “Cool,” close it, and never open it again.
Nathan: Yeah. That’s so common. I do it all the time. I’ve got hundreds of apps on my phone.
Rameet: Yeah. Exactly.
Nathan: We’re getting really technical, and this is good, because we’re getting a lot of good stuff. The next segue would be around, let’s say, you do have some good traction. How do you get more? What’s, like, two really good growth hacks or, you know, customer acquisition strategies that you would recommend…that you’ve seen a lot of progress with amonst all your clients’ apps?
Rameet: Yeah, I mean, I’m not sure if I truly believe in growth hacks. I think that’s something that’s been trending for a while, is how to get a bunch of users in on something. I think it’s great; I think it’s fun for people to, like, see their number of users go up. But ultimately, like, after your hacks die off and you have no more hacks left, it kind of just comes right back down to what it would have come to had you not started all this hacking.
Maybe, yeah, like after…maybe you would retain a bunch of users as a result of all the hacks you do. But it’s not gonna result in, like, what we had talked about before, like, changing your viral coefficient. You can use hacks to get a bunch of initial people instead of, you know, buying advertising. But if you have a good product, you should only have to do, like, an initial push. And then if the ball should start rolling, you should be able to just virally pick up users. And/or you’ve built a sustainable sales team.
So it’s not just, you know, automatic. Some products, you know, there’s just…there’s viral…a core part of the app is something viral, and so, it’s able to acquire those users. But sometimes, you just have to…you have to do it yourself. You have to build a system of acquisition. And that system of acquisition could be, you know, a BD or a sales team, depending on what the app is and what the business is.
But that’s sustainable. It’s not a hack. It’s a sales team. It’s a very traditional model or department at a company is having a sales team that goes out, researches, targets, and converts leads into clients. And in this case, it might be users.
Yeah, I’m not really big on growth hacks, per se. I think if you can build a product that delivers a lot of value and that people really want, you don’t have to hack your way into their life. There should be a normal way of.
Nathan: That’s an interesting answer. I appreciate your honesty. Let’s switch gears and talk about…I guess you, as a founder, I’m curious, out of all your success that you’ve had, what do you value the most?
Rameet: Yeah, so it’s hard. So I guess when you’re in…from the outside in, you’ve hit a point where you’ve had success. But from my perspective, I’m still building. I’ve built a decent amount and I think it’s only comparatively I have success, like, maybe compared to the average. But from my perspective, I haven’t become successful, because I haven’t hit my goals yet. Not that I’m not hitting my milestones. You know, I have a good trajectory. But I’m you know, midstream on my company.a
I don’t feel I’ve kind of made it. Although other people would conclude that I have. So it’s hard to, like, pick what I value post-being successful, because I consider myself still knee-deep in a company building…I, you know, want to do a lot more stuff in Europe that I haven’t had a chance to do. I want to do a lot of stuff in New York. Our next move is to kind of take over this building in NoLIta; it’s a five-story complex. I want to make a big center for startups over there, and, you know, potentially signing something in the next couple weeks to get that building. After I get it, I have to build the entire thing out. I have to get sponsors lined up. I have so much ahead of me, and there’s so many risks involved, even just in this one building venture that I’m talking about, I’m gonna be risking a ton of capital. And who knows if it’s gonna work out? It might totally blow up in my face. Or it might be great and you guys will hear about it and interview me about that. Who knows?
But I’m so focused on, like, several projects that I’m on. The projects that I’m also doing for clients, the apps that I’m building for them, and all the stuff that I want to do for Fueled that I don’t necessarily consider or even have time to sit down or ponder about my past successes.
Nathan: Okay. Interesting. Look, we have to work towards wrapping up. A couple more questions. One, to build the agency that you’ve done in the time that you’ve done it, you must have some really key people skills. You know, getting clients, acquiring clients, making friends, networking. What’s your number one tip for getting ahead, you know, networking as an entrepreneur, building core relationships, bringing on clients?
Rameet: Yeah. So I guess my number one tip is on being brutally honest. I think a lot of times when we’re picturing clients, a people that we compete against will attempt to tell a client what they want to hear. We don’t adhere to that. We just tell the client the brutal truth. And I say “the brutal truth” because you can tell the client the truth and it’s, in some ways, sugarcoating it. Or you can just tell them, like, what’s really happening, and what you think of them. And in some context, people might take that as an insult. But we’ve seen success from it.
A lot of times, you know, we’ll talk to a client, say they have some existing technology, and a competitor might say, “Oh, yeah, we’ll be able to work with that.” Whereas we would typically say, “Hey, it’s probably really shit. So we’re probably not gonna touch any of it. And we’re not even going to entertain the idea of working with data technology.” Whereas someone else might try to court them a little bit more and say, “Hey, like, you know, maybe that’s something we can do.”
And I think the bluntness kind of just gets to a solution faster. Instead of just talking about ways that we can integrate something, it’s like, “Hey, we’re not gonna do that, but this is how we’re gonna solve the problems.” It just kind of cuts all the BS out of the sales cycle.We actually don’t even have any sales guys, because sales guys just use too much BS. Part of our product team is just the ones that take sales calls. And the product team just happens to know all the products that are out there, knows what works, what doesn’t work. Is very comfortable telling the lead, “Hey, we don’t think that app’s valuable. So you know, thanks but no thanks.”
We get around 120, approximately, leads per week. We can only take on one to two. So there’s kind of a natural selection there that happens in terms of if someone has the budget to be able to hire us, than if a team is excited about what they’re working on.
So we’re fortunate, we’re lucky that we have so many people knocking on our door asking us to build things. And then, we can kind of cherry-pick the ones that are appropriate for us to work on.
Nathan: Last question…really loving this conversation. You’ve been at the forefront of this app space. I’d just like to really hear where you see it going. Is it a bubble that’s going to burst? What are your thoughts now that Steve Jobs isn’t around? Like, what’s your take? I’m curious.
Rameet: Yeah, I mean, so it’s really like…you can see the sort of history. Mobile is just one other platform for a technology. Bubbles are interesting. The classic form of a bubble is exuberance. So it’s when you can’t value something and there’s just an exuberance of capital that goes into something that overvalues it. And then once you have exuberance, then there’s a burst.
I don’t think we’re there. I don’t see that happening, you know? I don’t think that there’s a bubble. I think that there’s technology, and right now, a lot of users are using mobile. And so, there’s a lot of investment in mobile. And as usual, with technology investments, you know, there’s gonna be a large failure rate. And there will be a couple that we could see.
As far as where is it going? Right now, I mean, it depends on what term we’re talking about. If we’re talking about kind of in the future, not like “Where is it going this year?” you know, I think mobile is, again, just one platform. And you know, we used to focus on desktop, and now we talk about mobile. And you know, next, we’ll probably be talking about another form factor. I think that the way mobile devices are shaped, they’re not particularly ideal. I thikn they are the way they are just because that’s what we’re able to build right now with, like, hardware limitations. But I think in the future, those limitations are gonna go away. And we won’t have to hold a phone to our ear, and it’ll be a lot more visual.
And so, I think it’ll take new form factors. I don’t think we’re necessarily gonna call it “mobile.” Maybe we’ll come up with a new name for it. Or “mobile” will just stick, but it won’t be, you know, a rectangle that we hold and look at and put up to our face. Again, it depends on which timeline you’re talking about in terms of when you ask the future of mobile. If you’re talking about this year, that’s a totally different answer.
Nathan: Yeah, I guess long term…not so much this year, but like, I guess wearable tech is coming in, this VR stuff is starting to spring up. Like, I was just curious on your thoughts.
Rameet: Yeah, I mean, everything is gonna change in the future, but then everything is also gonna be very similar. There’s gonna be still a ton of innovation. Nothing is really gonna go out of fashion; there’s just gonna be new things that come in that kind of redefine what that fashion is. You know, right now, we call it “apps” and they exist on a phone, and they’re a little square icon; in the future, they’ll be a little different. But they’ll still be apps.
And so, my hope is to be able to associate myself more to kind of innovative technology development rather than just mobile. Because, you know, whenever we do make that extra leap into a new form factor, you know, that’s what our expertise really is in, designing and developing technology products. They just happen to take the shape of mobile apps right now, because that happens to be the shape; when someone thinks of a new business idea, they’re thinking of it in, normally, a mobile context. As opposed to ten years ago, when they thought of a new business idea, it was normally thinking on the context of it living on a website, a desktop website.
So we’ve changed now to mobile, and in another ten years, we’re probably gonna change, and it’s gonna exist in a different form factor. And yeah, hopefully we’ll be there building on those new form factors as well.
Nathan: Look, I just want to say, thank you so much for speaking with me, Rameet.
Rameet: Thanks, buddy. My pleasure.
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