e35 Karthik Suresh

35: How did Karthik Suresh’s startup Ignition raise $5 million and find their first customers?

Karthik Suresh, ex Facebook product manager, is now the co-founder/CTO of Ignition, the world’s first go-to-market ops platform. They raised $5 million in VC funds, including lead investor Altman capital (Sam Altman of Open AI fame and his brothers). He’s a go-to-market expert so his insights are perfect for the show. He delivers a ton of value here. Listen & learn.

Show Links

Watch/Listen to episode 35 on all major podcasting platforms + YouTube.

More about Karthik Suresh:

  • Karthik’s company: Ignition is the first Go-to-Market Ops Platform which ensures every product launch or feature release drives revenue impact, via tighter alignment with GTM teams. Built by experts from Rippling and Facebook, it unifies competitive intel, customer research, roadmapping, and measurement in a single hub to reduce tool fragmentation and cost — and uses AI-powered workflows and analysis tools to extract actionable insight, drive a repeatable planning process, and automate internal comms.
    • Get 25% off of all Ignition plans using the code: FIRSTCUSTOMERS25
  • Karthik on LinkedIn
  • Karthik’s Recommended Book: Build: An unorthodox guide to making things by Tonya Fadell

Show Transcript

Paris Vega (00:01.002)
Welcome to the first customers podcast. I’m your host, Parish Vega. And today with me is Karthik Suresh. He’s a former product manager at Facebook. And now he’s a co-founder of ignition, the world’s first go-to-market ops platform that raised $5 million in VC funds, including lean and lead investor Altman capital. And that is the Altman as in Sam Altman and his brothers of open AI fame.

Paris Vega (00:30.162)
Karthik, thank you for being here today.

Karthik (00:32.981)
Thanks a lot for having me on the show.

Paris Vega (00:35.638)
Let’s get right into it. How’d you get those first customers?

Karthik (00:40.117)
Yeah, so I’d like to talk about a few different companies I’ve worked with, including my current company and the process was very different from company to company and also the stage of the company. I wanna start with this company called Kraft. The website is kraft.co. They are an enterprise intelligence startup. It’s a B2B company. I was a second employee there.

Karthik (01:06.465)
and built up their product and operations team. This was like before Facebook. And it was like really interesting how we got our first customers. And so the first, so basically what the company does is basically it pulls up all the data on any given company, like employee numbers, website traffic, funding rounds. So it’s almost company intelligence, all the various data points on a given company. They kind of like crunch base or pitch book.

Paris Vega (01:30.286)
Is it kind of like, kind of like tech crunch, that kind of thing? Crunch bass. That yeah. Okay.

Karthik (01:36.065)
but way more in-depth data. So that was craft business. And so the way we got our first customers was through SEO. Because the way we did it there was we put out all the company profiles online. And so that got SEO by Google. And we started getting a lot of incoming traffic. It took a few months to get all the SEO optimization done. And the very first customer.

Karthik (02:04.597)
we got was from a hedge fund. And that was through inbound to the website, because hedge funds are interested in pulling all this company data to mine this data to see if there are any signals where they can trade off of it. So, and then that was the first customer. And we got a lot of customers in the financial world and also in the sales world. But the interesting part is like, they then happened to be not good fit. So, we kind of had to even pivot the business model.

Karthik (02:35.225)
because like a lot of, for example, hedge funds, they, it was easy to sell to them, but they’re very demanding and they’re also churn a lot. So even though that’s how we got the first customer, that was not to be the first customer from a product market fit purpose perspective. And then we targeted sales intelligence because salespeople, you know, they need to prospect different companies. It’s like if some, if a company hired a CDO and you’re selling to CTOs, you’re like, that’s a great lead. You want to go talk to the CTO.

Paris Vega (02:51.146)
Interesting.

Karthik (03:04.825)
So we started selling to them and we found that they’re not ready to pay a lot of money. So it’s never going to be a big business. It’s never going to be a venture-backed business. And then luckily enough, we got one of the large defense companies inbounding through the website. And we then pivoted to being a supply chain intelligence companies. So all these suppliers and all these like large manufacturing defense companies, when they have to onboard suppliers.

Karthik (03:32.609)
they have to do a lot of due diligence, right? And they didn’t have any solutions to do that, other than just verifying some online records or incorporation documents or something like that. And that happened to be a huge business. And now today, Kraft is like a $150 million company. Although, once we got the first customer, the way to get the second and the third customer was not purely through SEO, it was to stand up.

Karthik (04:00.393)
like, and like, and the most like outbound sales team and, you know, kind of identify the, first of all, define your persona, define your ideal customer profile, which is the kind of company you target. So it was like manufacturing, defense, all of these companies who are very heavy in supply chain, like thousand plus employees. So really defining that then creating a, you know, like a sales SDR team or a BDR team to actually go after very similar leads in that space, you know.

Karthik (04:29.133)
through email automation, through, or just LinkedIn inbounds and all these conferences. And we had to stand that up to actually build up our customer base.

Paris Vega (04:34.027)
Okay.

Paris Vega (04:40.514)
how long it takes to build that outbound team and process.

Karthik (04:43.973)
I mean, outbound team, it actually took a while because first of all, going through, you can imagine like, I was already like from the day one since the company was started to like, the day we found product market fit is already two years because we had to go through like hedge funds and say, okay, they’re not a good fit and go to maybe sales Intel and say they’re not a good fit. And then finally supply chain Intel. And then we have to build a product for that because we need to customize a product to kind of appeal to that kind of segment.

Karthik (05:12.309)
So, and then there’s very clear that there’s a product market fit there because we could easily see that they were expanding and the more clients like them were closing fast. And that’s when we started building out the sales team. And so it’s probably took at least another year before we had a full-fledged sales team in place.

Karthik (05:34.705)
So, mm-hmm.

Paris Vega (05:37.118)
Yeah, I was going to say go ahead and what was the next company or any other lessons learned from that first experience?

Karthik (05:41.248)
Yeah.

Karthik (05:44.073)
Yeah, so then the next company, I’ll come back to the lessons. So the next company I’ve talked about, I mean, obviously like Facebook, everyone knows the story. They targeted like the universities and that’s how they got it. And so for us, Ignition, we got our customers to referrals through our investors and angels and basically in our network. So that’s how we got our first customers. So, you know, being here in the Valley for almost 10 plus years.

Karthik (06:12.977)
Same with my co-founder who used to run product marketing for Dippling. We had a pretty good network of product managers and product marketers who are at the core target audience for our product ignition. So a lot of our initial customers were through referrals and word of mouth. And in fact, the very first customer who said yes, was actually an investor. Like we are basically, we also like targeted our potential customers.

Karthik (06:40.993)
to actually put in some money so they have skin in the game so that when we have a product built out and go out to the market, then they will be the first ones to try it and give us feedback because now they have like vested interest. So that’s how Ignition got its first customers, yeah.

Paris Vega (06:43.81)
Ha ha ha.

Paris Vega (06:53.426)
How did you? Okay. So how did you get your first investors then? Was it kind of the same time?

Karthik (07:00.265)
Yeah, so the first investors we got, so when we were starting Ignition, we had a prototype. It was not a fully functional product. We had an MVP, like most like a prototype with a lot of designs and a vision and a text. And then we wanted to raise some early angel and pre-seed money so then we can build out the product. And that’s when we started approaching angel networks, our own friends who were high network individuals, also accelerators.

Karthik (07:30.001)
in the valley to try and raise funds from them. And during that process is how we got our first investors. And also we strategically targeted like CMOs and head of product marketing or head of product in various companies. Sometimes even my own boss at Facebook and his friends and basically my co-founders, co-workers.

Karthik (07:55.937)
they all ended up putting like, you know, 5K, 10K checks, depending on, you know, how much they wanted to invest. A lot of them actually happened to be our first customers because they were exactly the persona we were targeting. So.

Paris Vega (08:08.906)
Man, so they’re paying for the service and investing in the service.

Karthik (08:13.953)
It’s almost like they’re building, they’re increasing the value of their own equity by using a product and giving us feedback. Ha ha ha.

Paris Vega (08:18.378)
I guess so. Man, that’s new. Okay, I haven’t heard that situation before. That’s really cool. All right, can you-

Karthik (08:28.765)
Yeah, I think that’s the best way to go about it. If you can do it is actually get your first customers, give them enough skin in the game that they are with you in the journey. Because the first customer is never going to be the perfect one with the first product. The first version of the product is never going to be the perfect one. It’s going to have some big bugs. If it’s a software product or so many like, it’s not going to solve all the issues. So you need somebody to be with you, like a design partner. We call them in the first five customers.

Karthik (08:57.557)
design partners, you take them along with you in the journey, you give them a huge discount, call them beta customers, and then you treat them well. And then once your product is launched, then they get heavy discounts on multi-year contracts. But they are with you throughout the journey, spending all their valuable time and giving you feedback and sitting through all these user research sessions. And they are willing to do it because they have skin in the game, so they’re kind of best of interest.

Paris Vega (09:00.616)
Okay.

Paris Vega (09:23.294)
Right. So talk a little bit more about the specific tactics you used with Ignition to reach out and get those customers. You said a lot of it was through your personal network. So kind of get into the tactics of what that looked like.

Karthik (09:39.989)
Yeah, so I think just from a previous company, Kraft, there it was purely like focused on inbound. Like, and then how do we build out the inbound? Is to content. You know, you put a bunch of content out there, the content get SEO, and you then distribute the content to various social media channels. You try to get as many backlinks to your website as possible, make sure it’s, you know, especially now with the whole GPT and all the AI content generation.

Paris Vega (09:44.877)
Mm-hmm.

Karthik (10:08.993)
the whole content is going to explode online. So it’s like the bar is like way lower and just seeding that content about company data and the company intelligence. And it took about six months before the machine started working. And that was perfect. It was almost like organic. We didn’t have to pay any money and the leads just keep coming through Google and other places. But then we didn’t have anybody in the first few months. So that was a big issue.

Paris Vega (10:11.394)
Right.

Karthik (10:39.033)
In Ignition, it was exactly the opposite approach where we had customers even before we had a product because we had pitched the vision and they had invested in the company and we had kind of showed them the deck. So we already had the first few customers who were ready to use a product as soon as the product was launched. I mean, we took almost a year and a half to actually build the product because it takes a while to trade through that, but they were always there for us.

Karthik (11:08.605)
First, figure out what problem we are solving, right? And make sure we hone in on the exact pain point, because it’s just being a vitamin. And the problem we are solving is all about product launches and then getting the product out in the market. There’s so many tools which will help you build a product, like there’s so many project management tools, there’s product road mapping tools, there’s so many tools to help you build a product, but there are not a lot of tools to help you launch the products. When you think about go to market, you need to think about who your persona is.

Karthik (11:37.705)
what the market is like, who the competitors are, how do you position it so that you stand out in this crowded market, and how do you message it so that your persona actually gets why this product is useful, and then what’s the channel mix you’re gonna use to actually reach that persona with that messaging. The whole thing is basically the product launch process to go to market planning. And then the first thing we did is like, we first had like 50 interviews with our target persona, just more like like,

Paris Vega (11:43.991)
Yeah.

Paris Vega (11:58.094)
Okay.

Karthik (12:07.297)
to validate the problem. We didn’t even talk about ignition. We didn’t talk about the solution. It’s just like, hey, you know, we are interested in trying to know more about this problem and can you jump on a 15 minute call? And 15 minute call is like almost nobody says no. It’s very, very few people say no or just don’t get back. But at least if anybody in your network, you ask for 15 minutes and say, I just want to understand like, you know, do you have this problem? If so, how are you solving it? Can you please talk to me? And I think most people are up for it.

Karthik (12:34.801)
So we first sent us, sent those messages out to LinkedIn, and then got on a customer research call, and then we validated the problem. We never talked about ignition, we never talked about the solution. We first validated the problem and just made a note of how they are solving it today, like what tools they are using today. It’s a combination of Google Docs and Spreadsheet and Dropbox, whatever they’re using today, or Asana.

Paris Vega (12:35.574)
Yeah.

Paris Vega (12:55.863)
Right.

Karthik (12:57.517)
And then once we had some kind of an MVP, some kind of a solution built out, then we went back to the same set of people who we had interviewed before and say, hey, we have come up with this innovative solution, which actually combines all of these different tools you’re using in one place, and it can be a system of record for product launches. What do you think? Can you give us feedback? And they were more than willing to jump onto a call. And at the end of the call, we were like, by the way, we are raising some money. If you’re interested, let us know.

Karthik (13:26.257)
or if you want to be an early design partner, let us know, we’ll give you a huge discount. And I think, you know, at least like one out of five said yes. So that’s how we got our, like the first five customers slash investors almost in this process.

Paris Vega (13:33.954)
Wow.

Paris Vega (13:39.778)
Did you offer anything? Did you say, did you offer some kind of incentive for that initial 15 minute call to kind of discover their problems?

Karthik (13:48.201)
Yeah, so not for the initial 15 minutes, and that’s an advantage we had because we had a lot of these product managers and product marketers in our network. But let’s say I’m selling to CMOs or COOs, and they are not in my network, then I probably, I mean, COOs probably harder, but let’s say ops operations people, then I probably have to offer some kind of Amazon gift card or some incentive, like a $25 gift card or some way to like incentivize them to get on a call.

Paris Vega (13:57.826)
Gotcha.

Karthik (14:18.425)
I feel like Amazon gift card almost always works. I have taken calls myself, that also reached out to me, saying, hey, it’s a $50 gift card. Are you willing to do a 15, 20 minute call with me? I’m like, sure, yeah. So yeah, I think you need to, yeah. If they’re not in your network, then you need to figure out a way to incentivize it.

Paris Vega (14:23.374)
Thank you.

Paris Vega (14:35.5)
Yeah.

Paris Vega (14:38.858)
So with ignition, it sounds like, tell me if I’m wrong here, but you’re kind of helping solve the first customer problem.

Karthik (14:50.665)
Yeah, that’s a great way of putting it. That’s one of the problems we solve for sure. And the first customer, I like to define the first customer because from a craft perspective, the first customer was not the ideal customer, right? So the first customer was actually this defense manufacturing company who then even kind of let us know that this is whole market and we should pivot and we should build this amazing product for that industry. So they are the first customer.

Paris Vega (14:55.726)
Okay.

Paris Vega (15:04.769)
Right.

Karthik (15:20.797)
So basically it’s the first customer who actually helps you figure out there’s a sustainable business model here, that there’s a product market fit here and you can acquire more such customers and you can charge them and you can retain them. And a process of doing that is actually a whole research, it’s not about the first person who just like use your product. I mean, there’s one startup I am advising, they have a lot of, it is an education place, they have a lot of people trying to use a product.

Karthik (15:49.865)
Nobody wants to pay for it. You know, they’re not a customer. I’m just like, if they’re not paying for it, they’re not your customer, right? So it’s just like, how do you actually help figure out like who’s your ideal customer profile? What’s your target persona? Define your persona, you know, age, demographics, gender, industry, their jobs to be done, their frustrations, their goals, very clearly defining what the persona is. And then trying to like find, okay, where these people live, you know, they live online, they’re Reddit, Facebook, how do you target them?

Karthik (16:19.713)
how do you like message it to them so they get it the whole part? That’s where ignition helps. That’s what ignition.

Paris Vega (16:24.822)
Okay, that’s what I was about to ask. Well, how do you figure that, you know, all those little details out if you kind of have a vague idea or you’re just trying to discover who your first customer, your ideal market is, is that what ignition can help with?

Karthik (16:37.117)
Yeah, so I mean, the first, even before you come to Ignition, you need to have some idea of who your customer is. And we can help you really fine tune and then really tightly define what the persona is. And then once you figure out your product, you can figure out who your competitors are and then figure out how each one is positioned. So you can position yourself differently. Positioning itself is a big challenge because especially these days, the

Paris Vega (16:43.536)
Okay.

Karthik (17:07.385)
I’m talking about software products, the barrier to build products is getting lower and lower. I mean, I’ve seen people just building websites from chat GPT. So there’s going to be an explosion of products out there. So how do you differentiate these products? It’s by go to market. It’s having a solid go to market strategy, having a solid differentiation where people understand like what’s different, why I should use you, what problem you’re solving, and all of that actually leads to positioning.

Paris Vega (17:16.417)
Yep.

Karthik (17:37.045)
Like a story I can think about positioning is like, I heard this from a friend, is when Obama was running for president, apparently Obama’s campaign did a word cloud of all the other candidates, their campaigns and their messaging. And then there’s like nobody in like hope or change and they positioned Obama in that, and then rest is history, right? That’s how much of a difference you can make with the success or failure of your product, so.

Paris Vega (18:06.338)
That’s really cool. All right. So do you have any kind of affiliate program so that I can refer people to ignition who have this problem of first customers, since that’s one of the main that theme topic.

Karthik (18:21.399)
Yeah, we do have various affiliate programs. We partner with various marketing agencies and other programs where we give discount referrals, all kinds of programs we run. That’s actually one of the major channels for us.

Paris Vega (18:26.716)
Okay, cool.

Paris Vega (18:36.03)
Awesome. Yeah, it sounds like I could definitely use your service directly for a couple of projects I’m involved with because we’re going through the process now of trying to figure out, all right, we need to narrow down the target customer, really define that because that seems to be that winning combination of narrow down your niche as tight as possible and then talk to people in that niche to get those customers or to grow your customer base.

Karthik (19:01.397)
Exactly. And the other thing I would add to that is like, is you’re not just doing it for yourself, but the entire company, like the sales team needs to know, the customer success needs to know, the marketing teams know, all of them needs to be talking with the same message. Like they all have to be posting the same message, targeting the same persona, and you need to have one place where this persona is very clearly defined. And, you know, it just like streamlines the whole company operations. I’ve seen that in a lot of companies.

Paris Vega (19:25.922)
We’re going through this exact problem. We’re going through this exact problem right now. Like that exact issue of trying to say, Hey, yeah, like we’ve got, uh, for the agency that I’m a part of, we’ve talked about this, how messaging like can be different on each platform, depending on who’s posting content or whatever. And we really need to get things in sync and consistent and actually go in the same direction. So I’m guessing that’s a, that’s a common problem.

Karthik (19:32.417)
Great, yeah. Seems like I caught you at a good time.

Paris Vega (19:55.318)
companies. Okay, I’m gonna have to poke around your tool here and get into the get into the weeds with it. Can you talk about a little more about what the service can help with?

Karthik (20:08.233)
Yeah, sure. So the website is haveignition.com. It’s like H-A-V-E-I-G-N-I-T-I-O-N.com. And so basically, you go into the tool, and you give us some information about what product you’re building, what’s your budget, and we will generate a dynamic launch template for you, including your persona, your channel mix, your copy and assets for those channels. We’d also come up with a project management plan for you, like a launch checklist, all the things you need to do before the launch.

Karthik (20:38.253)
You can have your own custom templates, if you already have one, or we will generate that for you. And also there’s different tiers. Tier one launch is huge, like the Apple Vision Pro launch, and tier three is just a feature launch. So it really depends on different types of, what the different frequency and amount of budget involved, the number of people involved, so we can generate different launch plans for you. And then now we’re actually adding the AI layer.

Paris Vega (21:05.395)
Oh, wow.

Karthik (21:05.501)
with GBD, so we will actually help you generate like your persona strengths and weaknesses or your competitor strengths. We can actually even help generate talking points as to how to sell against your competitor. Soon, I think by next week, you will have the same module available for messaging, positioning. And then in a week, in a couple of weeks from now, we’re going to have something called Chat GTM, which is going to be a chatbot, which is going to sit on top of all your

Karthik (21:35.389)
So anybody in the company can come in and say, hey, how do I talk about this product to this persona? Or how do I sell against this competitor? And we will help them guide. And it is going to be in line with what’s already in the platform. So it’s just one place. And it’s going to be very consistent from various teams and stakeholders inside the company.

Paris Vega (21:55.806)
Awesome. Okay. So I pulled it up, pulled the website up here. So anybody watching on the video can see the site. Looks great. Yeah, yeah. Give a little preview here. It’s looking awesome, man. Are there any like data like patterns or things that you can see across your customers like maybe any tactics or any kind of insights that you’re seeing that might be useful to

Karthik (22:04.589)
That’s amazing. Thank you for doing that.

Paris Vega (22:25.142)
discuss.

Karthik (22:26.965)
Yeah, I think one of the things which I’ve seen even at Facebook or in other companies is a lot of times when you do a launch, let’s say it lives in a spreadsheet on Google Doc, you just throw it away. And then next launch comes around, you just repeat the same mistake because there’s no systematic process as to how you do this product launch. So I’ve seen the same mistake being repeated again and again and the whole wheel being reinvented again and again because you don’t have like.

Karthik (22:53.933)
one centralized place where you store all your previous launch plans. And then that’s the issue number one. The issue number two is like you do a launch and you go party. Every launch is a party, right? You just go and celebrate and then you onto the next product launch. There’s not a lot of like post-launch activities, like retros and like actually figuring out like in terms of product metrics, in terms of revenue metrics, in terms of leads, like what changed, how did this change and what exactly in those launch actually moved those.

Karthik (23:23.097)
and having that learnings for each launch and then having those documented in one place is also like really important. This obviously seems like very basic stuff but a lot of companies are not doing it and they’re leaving so much money on the table and you know that’s one of the things where Ignition comes in can have be the system of record for all your product launches and also can help with the learnings.

Paris Vega (23:47.286)
So who is your ideal customer right now?

Karthik (23:50.941)
Right now, our ideal customer is someone who runs product marketing in software companies or some brand manager in a CPG company or in other industries. So that’s who we’re targeting. Like consumer product goods. We also have some pharma and fintech companies. But the first touch point happens to be mostly product marketers and sometimes product managers when there’s no product marketing teams in software companies.

Paris Vega (24:02.006)
What’s CPG name? Oh, okay. Yeah.

Karthik (24:19.697)
and then entertainment, CPG and pharma, like it’s more on the innovation slash brand management teams.

Paris Vega (24:26.998)
Okay, cool. Are there any books you’d recommend for entrepreneurs or I guess product managers possibly to kind of get better at this whole process that Ignition helps with?

Karthik (24:39.893)
Yeah, I just recently read this book called Build. It’s like an unorthodox guide to making things worth building, I guess, or worth making by Tony Fadal. And it’s amazing because he talks about various stages of the company, talks about the days when he was an exec at a company, and how he built Nest, and how Nest evolved when he got acquired by Google. So how you need to think about company building at various stages. It’s so different from one stage to another.

Karthik (25:09.501)
And yeah, I really enjoyed reading that. So I’d like the audience to check it out.

Paris Vega (25:13.838)
Okay, cool. We’ll add a link to the show notes there and obviously have a link to Ignition. Awesome. Talk really quick about maybe the Altman Capital. That’s a huge name these days with OpenAI and everything getting just massive media with Chad GPT and everything. And having Sam Altman and his brothers invest in your company. Seems like a nice badge to slap on your website.

Paris Vega (25:43.666)
So talk a little bit about that. How did that come about?

Karthik (25:46.985)
Yeah, we are actually very lucky because Max Hartman, who’s one of the lead investors, is the president of Sam Hartman. He happened to be a co-worker with my co-founder at Rippling. So my co-founder, Derek, he used to run product marketing for Rippling. Rippling is the HR tech company. I think it’s founded by Parker and who also ran Zenefits before.

Karthik (26:11.121)
So he used to be a coworker with Derek. So we really had good relationship. And just like I talked about how we got our first customer slash investor, you know, one of, so his brother was a PM at Rippling and we’re like, hey, we’re building this tool for PMs and PMMs, we’re gonna get your feedback. And that’s how we built a relationship and then it led to investment.

Paris Vega (26:31.894)
And so you said you’re in the Bay Area?

Karthik (26:34.494)
Yeah, I’m best in the Bay Area.

Paris Vega (26:36.198)
Okay. Talk a little bit about that. Like how much do you think location factors in to finding your customers?

Karthik (26:44.125)
It depends on the product you’re building, of course, like, but if you’re building B2B SaaS, which is what Ignition is about, then it makes a huge difference. You know, I spent, I can even go for a level further. It’s not just about customers, it’s also about capital. So I spent the first seven years in New York and then two years in London. I tried to start a company in London and it was really hard for me to raise money there because it’s just like people were like, hey, what’s your EBITDA? I’m like, what do you mean EBITDA? I don’t have a company. I just have a deck right now.

Karthik (27:13.389)
And you know, people, it’s very different thinking. It’s like you’re a private equity investor. You’re not a VC investor. It’s so hard for me. And then I ended up in Silicon Valley and then obviously got into Kraft, which is an early stage company, and then Facebook. So building those networks, building those brands, having those brands back me up. So when I was finally ready to start a company again, it was so much more easier, not just to get the first set of customers, but obviously also the first set of investors.

Paris Vega (27:15.676)
Yeah.

Karthik (27:40.417)
But having said that, there are other strategies to being doing that. Like if I wasn’t in the Bay Area, I would apply to YC according to YC or Indian Accelerator and help them like add that brand to me. And like so many ways of doing that. But yeah, definitely have to be spot-fortunate for that.

Paris Vega (27:57.414)
And was craft also a VC backed company? Okay.

Karthik (28:01.333)
Yeah, Craft was also a venture-backed company. So right now they are a series B company. So when I joined them, they are pre-seed, like pretty, I was second employee pretty early. So we went through multiple rounds of funding.

Paris Vega (28:09.334)
Gotcha. So it sounds like, I know we’re going back a little bit, but with Kraft, it sounds like you’re building kind of a business directory, which it seems like that’s a packed market already, but we’re still able to get in there and make enough room for yourself. Can you talk to that a little bit about markets that seem saturated, but there’s still opportunity?

Karthik (28:33.345)
that’s where your ICP comes in. That’s where your positioning comes in. It’s all about positioning, right? It’s the same product, it’s the same data. But I know so many companies, there’s this company called Mattermark, which is a pretty hyped up company founded by and backed by A16Z, and it went under, I think. But it’s just a pretty similar product. But they were targeting VCs, and obviously it was not a big market, and I guess they had some data issues. I don’t know exactly the story.

Paris Vega (28:51.306)
Yeah, really.

Karthik (29:02.805)
but they were selling to the wrong customer base. And even Kraft, we got lucky that we found the supply chain intelligence kind of a sector. And now it’s a big company. But if you hadn’t found this customer base, and if you’re still stock on hedge funds or sales or something else, you would have struggled as well. So it’s not just about finding the first customer who’s going to use your product. It’s the first customer who’s going to buy it, refer others.

Karthik (29:32.001)
and then pay money and get retained again and again. And you can find more of such customers, in a more of a like a weekly or a monthly basis, right? So it’s all comes back to your ICP, which is your ideal customer.

Paris Vega (29:48.106)
Speaking of your ICP, your ideal customer profile, let’s wrap up the show by you imagining we have a thousand people who are in your ICP listening right now. What’s that pitch where you sell them on your service, talk about their pain points or whatever it is. I’ll let you take it from there.

Karthik (30:09.609)
Yeah, this is great. So I think that the first issue is like, companies are leaving a ton of money on the table by not investing in go-to-market. Like distribution right now is at least as important as a product, if not more. And with the advent of AI, the cost of creating new products is gonna be so much lower. So the only thing, the only differentiating factor is gonna be your messaging, your positioning, and your own go-to-market strategy.

Karthik (30:38.281)
And Ignition is the world’s first and the only tool who can help you build a solid go-to-market strategy and a go-to-market plan and plan your product launches. So please check out Ignition.

Paris Vega (30:49.166)
Awesome. Well, Karthik, thank you so much for being here today. Everybody go check out haveignition.com and we’ll see everybody on the next episode.

Karthik (30:58.081)
Thanks for having me on the show. Yeah, excited. Yeah.


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