November 29, 2022

The Pulkit Agrawal Hypothesis: Customer-Centric Teams Are Attached to Problems and Not Solutions

In the Product Science Podcast episode with Pulkit Agrawal, we cover how practicing product can be different outside of the western world, how Pulkit validates solutions with customers, and the lessons he’s learned while growing Chameleon.

The Pulkit Agrawal Hypothesis: Customer-Centric Teams Are Attached to Problems and Not Solutions

Pulkit Agrawal read Engineering at Cambridge and worked in non-profits, consulting, and startups before founding Chameleon because he was frustrated at the energy that both companies and users were wasting when trying to explain/learn a product. He enjoys talking and writing about user onboarding, product-led growth, SaaS, self-serve, and UX, and he’s an angel investor of product-led startups.

In this episode of the Product Science Podcast, we cover how practicing product can be different outside of the western world, how Pulkit validates solutions with customers, and the lessons he’s learned while growing Chameleon.

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Questions We Explore in This Episode

How is practicing product different in Indian culture than it is in the western world?

  • There isn’t as much of a lean and customer-centric approach.
  • Risk tolerance is different in many parts of the culture there, unless you grow up in a family with a strong business history.

How does Pulkit validate solutions with the customer?

  • First, Pulkit makes sure that they are solving the right problem for the customer.
  • Then, they found a customer that would let them build the solution they envisioned for them and got them using the solution.
  • As they build the solution, they get on a call and share the prototype with customers, looking to see if they can use it.
  • They also run a beta program to get early feedback once the software is working.

What lessons did Pulkit learn while building Chameleon?

  • At first they built it for folks like themselves who didn’t like talking to sales, but they later realized that the buyers who were from bigger companies and were comfortable talking to sales were a good fit for their product.
  • Sales is problem-solving in a way the customer appreciates and deserves respect.
  • It’s helpful to have a structured employee onboarding process that exposes employees to the customer's point of view.

Quotes from Pulkit Agrawal

I think that's what customer-centricity is about, it's being attached to the problem and not to the solution.
One of the things we coach our customers on is to be customer-centric or UX focused around this and think about from a user perspective, they're not here to learn your product, they don't care about learning every aspect of your product. They have a job to accomplish and so in that job, there are some friction and understand what that friction is.
Don’t be too attached to what you're building. It's really easy to get attached to it. But if you do that, then it's very hard to let that go, and then that will take you away from this customer-centricity because you need to be attached to the problem that you're solving.
That’s the first stage is to validate the problem and test and really understand the motivation and the need behind the problem.

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Holly: This week on the Product Science podcast, I'm excited to share a conversation with Pulkit Agrawal. Pulkit read engineering at Cambridge and worked in nonprofits, consulting in startups before founding Chameleon because he was frustrated at the energy that both companies and users were wasting when trying to explain or learn a product. He enjoys talking and writing about user onboarding, product-led growth, SaaS, self-serve, and UX, and he's an angel investor of product-led startups. Welcome, Pulkit.

Pulkit Agrawal: Hi, great to be here.

Holly: I'm excited to have you. As my loyal listeners know, I'm a big fan of customer-centricity and being really focused on the users, and so I'm excited to hear more about your journey and how you got to where you're at. Why don't we start with a little bit of a background? So I have to ask, you studied engineering, so did I, what kind of engineering did you study?

Pulkit Agrawal: Oh yeah, that's something I only have to tell people when they ask, because if you didn't study software engineering then you're not really an engineer in the startup world, but I studied chemical engineering.

Holly: Ah, yes, me too. Me too.

Pulkit Agrawal: Oh, nice. Yeah, So you weren't attracted with living in the middle of the sea, working on refineries, you don't want to go down that-?

Holly: You are so on the nose. That's exactly the problem. I thought it was really fun to study and then the actual jobs were all in the middle of nowhere and I didn't want to do that.

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, that's the same thing. I enjoyed it. It's a great mix of physics and chemistry and processes. I don't know, I feel like learning engineering is really breaking down problems and I feel like I do that in my job. So there's some stuff I think I can justify going to study engineering and working.

Holly: Yeah, yeah, totally. I agree. So how did you go from that to working in tech?

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, it was funny. I think by the time I was graduating, Facebook had just come out and I was on it. I was an early adopter Facebook in the UK, which was obviously a little bit after the US. My friends would, in a joking way, say, "Yeah, oh, you should go work for Facebook because you're on it so much," and it would just be a joke and they'd laugh it off. And little did I know that I probably should have gone into tech at that time, but I went into consulting and then I was thinking about the future of business and realized it's really in software and in tech. And so I wanted to get more exposure and came out to the Bay Area in 2013. And the journey for Chameleon was we identified in the past product that my co-founder I worked on, we saw the long term impact, retention improvements from improving user onboarding. We were working on a mobile app and initially we were all worried about acquisition and we were trying to figure out why retention wasn't great, but we made some improvements to onboarding, and it had a big impact. So that was the first kind of moment, aha moment for us. I was like, "Oh wow." And then as we were exploring product and ideas, we realized that it was really difficult for a user when they're learning a new product to go and figure things out. I remember I was trying to learn how to use Asana back in 2015, 2016, and it was a lot of switching between their amazing help center, which had documentation videos and their actual application. So I'd be like on two tabs or two monitors and I'd read something, then go to the app and try it out and watch the video, then go to the app and try it out. And it felt like high effort and we wondered whether everyone else was doing the same thing or whether they were getting drop off. And so we started asking people, "Hey, what do you think about your user onboarding? Do you like it?" And a lot of people came back with similar perspective, which is like, "No, it's not good. It sucks. We need to improve it, but it's also a big effort to do it. We don't really have time right now, we're going to do it at some point." Or, "Hey, we just did a round of improving our onboarding and now we're going to park it for the next nine months because it was such a big effort." People weren't applying that kind of lean, iterative approach to it that we thought it should be, and it wasn't very in context. So that's kind of what kicked off our journey into finding a solution for that and building Chameleon.

Holly: Awesome. I definitely am going to want to dive into more about Chameleon, but before I do, tell me a little more about some of the things you did in between the consulting and founding Chameleon. Did you work at some startups?

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, so I did. There's a couple things that I've done. One thing I did was I went to India for a year and work on improving... The mandate was to try and reduce youth unemployment in this rural area. There's a lot of people who had studied, went to college but weren't really in jobs. And so between the other folks at the NGO and I, we ran different schemes. One of them was some vocational training. The thing that I ended up coming up with and trying to work on was teaching business in a way or encouraging people who were thinking about business to apply better principles. And that's where some of this interest came about. But the things we taught them was around building things people want. And it's kind of an obvious thing now for anyone involved in a startup world, but it was pretty eyeopening to see folks being so passionately attached to their idea and their solution that they miss the problem and the need in the market. And I think that it will tie into customer-centricity really well because I think that's what customer-centricity is about, it's being attached to the problem and not to the solution. And so in that time in India, we basically developed a training course, very practical and activity oriented training course for people to do little activities that help them change their framing of like, "Well, what do I want to start a business around?" To, "Can I test if this business is something that people need? What are the little ways, experiments I can run to assess is there a demand for this or what is there a demand for?" And so that was pretty fascinating, working in a completely different environment in rural India.

Holly: Yes.

Pulkit Agrawal: And then, yeah, I did some other things too.

Holly: Yeah. I want to hear a little more about working in rural India because I had a conversation recently with another guest on the podcast about how western centric so much of the product world is, and I'm curious if there's anything that you noticed when you were working in rural India, if there's principles that were different there? I guess the question is, did the iterative process, does the lean startup type of process function as well there?

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, it's a really good question. I think there's so much to unpack in here. I also spent about 10 months working in a very different setting in India as a consultant. I was working for a consultancy in the UK and we had a project in Mumbai, working for an Indian conglomerate that was a family business. And that was a really great insight to how a big corporation that's pretty successful runs and changes. So there's a lot to unpack here. I think some things that are culturally different that have to be incorporated is that it's really important in those cultures to have the influencers on board. It's a slightly more hierarchical society, and in that way, people follow other people that are of note in some way. And so for example, we're seeing some of those trends in growth and sales and marketing in the western world where we're leveraging influencers more and there's more people to people buying. It's less about buying from a brand now as much as it is buying from an individual and what their personality is about. And so I think there's a lot of that in traditional rural India. I think there are probably in some ways a cycle behind in the more urban centers where the brands are the ones with prestige and so the brand and the professionalism is still valued, and I'm sure that will cycle through as well. So that's one thing that might be different, but I think probably in many places that there isn't that lean approach or customer-centric approach, and I think that's present there as well. I mean, sometimes for example, you see street hawkers pushing these goods to you without really a strong understanding of, "Hey, what is it that you want?" In some cases, there's also what we noticed is that there's communities of people who are business savvy, and it's those communities, the kids grow up in a business environment and they are taught business from a young age, and they're actually pretty successful. And there's all these stories of great Indian businesses that have been started by these families and continued in generations. There's just a culture of business there. And then in other cases, communities that haven't traditionally been business oriented have been farming or labor oriented, that isn't kind of there or inculcated in the children and those business principles are being passed through families rather than more traditional educational institutions, which is I think also kind of interesting.

Holly: Yeah, interesting. So there seems to be, I almost want to call it a community aspect of, "Do they grow up in a community where business is more central to the lives of the people there? Or are they growing up in a community where it's more about farming or labor or service?"

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah. And I see that in my own personal journey. My parents are professionals and it changes the risk tolerance that we have and growing up, it's about being on a steady path and saving and being successful within a box or accomplishing things that are set out for you as a structure to be successful within. Whereas I think if you grow up in an environment which is more risk taking, and that can often be with a family that's running a business or a small business or whatever, I think that changes your risk tolerance and appetite and could lead to you taking better decisions when you're trying to start a company.

Holly: Yeah, interesting. Okay, so after the time in India, what other startups did you work with?

Pulkit Agrawal: I came to the Bay Area to work with a startup called Shoto. It was a photo sharing app. And that's kind of funny because it's like, "Oh, there's lots of photo sharing apps," but it was a pretty smart idea. It was actually more around photo aggregation and how can you collect groups of photos from your friends without having to pester them to send their photos. So it basically used a combination of phone book matching and a location fencing to decide if you and your friends were at the same event. And if you were, it also created an album for you and your friends from that event with the pictures automatically added to that album. And so that was pretty fascinating. I learned a lot about startups and the Silicon Valley style of things. I also volunteered at an organization, and this was pretty interesting. This was an organization in London that is called The Big Issue, and it is a way to help homeless folks sell magazines to the public and that way generate income. And so the organization itself produces the magazine every, I think, week or something, and then they have distribution to the homeless folks who come and buy these for a small amount and then use those to earn a livelihood. It's great because it's providing a way for folks who are less privileged to find their own path. And a lot of the reason that people I learned were homeless was that they had negative impressions of home and negative impressions of themselves. And so this was a way to uplift them and make them feel like there is a purpose and they're successful and the work they're doing is meaningful. So that was fascinating, but it was in this industry where publishing and magazines, they're dying. So it was a hard challenge, but I was working with them as well to try and think about how to improve processes and to help the vendors be more successful.

Holly: Yeah. I'm super curious what did customer-centricity look like in that environment?

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, one of the things that we noticed there was that vendors were often successful in selling these magazines to repeat customers, people who had they built relationships with and who wanted to buy the magazine because they associated with the mission as much as the magazine itself was compelling or valuable. And so in that environment, when you're kind of hand to hand, street selling, it's about building a relationship and how can you build a relationship on the street and maybe it's a conversation that you have to start and it's about more than just a product, it's all the stuff around the product. And we see that in the SaaS world today as well, which is like, "Okay, well the product is one thing, but how do you supplement that with the right experience of the service for it to be successful?" And I think that the folks that were most successful were the ones that were very affable, people you could like and you could talk to and you could have a conversation while you stood in queue for a sandwich at a shop, or you could stop by for a couple of minutes and chat to. So yeah, that's one of the things that we saw that I think is about being customer-centric.

Holly: Okay. So then when you got to founding Chameleon, did that start from a place of discovering the problem? Or did you know wanted to find a company and then go look to find the problem that you wanted to solve?

Pulkit Agrawal: I think it was a bit of both, but not necessarily that we wanted to find a company, but I wanted to work with my co-founder, Brian, on something. So I was like, "Brian, let's work on something. What do you think could be a fun project as a side project to work on?" And so we spent a few months working on side projects and we said we'd pick something that we both thought was interesting and then we'd go explore it and see if we could find resonance in the folks that would be our customers and research it. So it was like a part-time thing. Some other ideas we had was back in 2015 or so, ideas around storing and getting things delivered to your home, like storage, which has become companies. We had ideas around renting tooling and equipment for home development or things that an individual might not purchase but want to rent for. We had ideas around making it software to make it easier for people to work on home projects. I guess there's a theme here, but one of the things that then we found was that based on this aha moment around using Asana, we said, "Hey, well is there a problem here? Can we solve this problem?" And that's when we fell into it because the more we spoke to people, the more it was clear that this was a pressing problem. And so then we said okay. Once we had validated the problem as something that needed to be solved, we came up with an idea of how we could solve that, which is "Okay, well, we could use JavaScript as a way to show in-product experiences and provide a WYSIWYG builder, a bit like a website builder, a builder to create these in-product experiences without having to write code. And so we wanted to validate that as a potential solution. So we found some other startups that were willing to let us build this for them. And this is before we had incorporated a company or anything like that. We were like, "Okay, let us build this for you," and they were like, "Okay." And we were like, "Great, we've found some folks that are going to let us build something on their platforms for their end users." So we kind of piggybacked on that. And then as we built, we found it to be more and more compelling, more and more people wanted it. So that's how we stumbled into it. I think it was the first time we had to receive payment and needed a bank account. We're like, "Oh, okay, we need a bank account. How do we do this?" And so that's when company officially was founded.

Holly: So what role did customer-centricity play in getting the company started?

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, I think our story were very much building something back from what the customer needed. So we first went to validate the idea, which I think is the first step, "Is this a problem that you face?" So it's less about a solution, but first agreeing and identifying the problem. And then once you have a problem and then you can think of a solution, it's about going and validating that solution. "Does this make sense for you? And is this something that you can work with?" And I think that's the cycle. It's like, "Hey, can you identify problems from customers by knowing them well?" And then I think it's your job to come up with solutions. I don't think it's the customer's job to come up with solutions, but then you can validate those solutions from the customer. And I think that's the cycle that we're hoping to keep continuing. We think we're doing it now, but I think that's something that was there at the beginning.

Holly: Yeah. Tell me more about how you validate solutions with the customer. What are some of the techniques that you use?

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, so we'll take the lens of software and SaaS because that's kind of where we are at. And so I think the first thing is making sure that the problems you're working on are the most important problems to work on. And so for example, if a customer gives us feedback, and this happened recently, they're like, "Oh, this thing is really difficult to use and you should build this other thing." And that feedback came to us and we're like, "Really? That's quite a heavy lift and is this really the biggest problem they're facing?" And so some pushback to them, it's like, "Well, why don't you do it this other way?" Or what's really driving their need? So I think there is some layer of pushback to not in a way of, hey, denying the feedback, but in the way of uncovering the deeper motivation and the need behind the feedback. And that led us to a much simpler solution that would solve the customer's pain. Like, "We did this, would it solve it?" And they were like, "Yes." And so then it changed the solution quite dramatically from what they think we had to do. So I think that's the first stage is to validate the problem and test and really understand the motivation and the need behind the problem. And then I think other ways that we try to validate things is once we have something in design, we think we've validated this general concept of the solution. We have something in design, we might create a prototype and then share that with some customers and get their opinions on the prototype. And then we often have a beta program where we'll run something for some customers and then, as part of that, have to get them to get on a customer call and we ask them questions. So I think it's a variety of things. Another thing that we're starting to do more recently is micro surveys because it can be a bit of a heavy lift to set up calls or have this one-to-one communication with customers around things. So micro surveys help enable that at scale, where we can ask a single question in the product in the right place and be like, "Hey, is this valuable? Or how valuable is this? Or how would you change this?" So I think another aspect of customer-centricity is just opening up the channels for feedback and that's easy. Sometimes if you don't, then you get the feedback at really intense points where they're frustrated by something or there's a support ticket, but how do we open up channels for feedback throughout the journey of the user in a really simple or easy way? So for example, having a very quick, "Give feedback about this page," or, "Give feedback about this product," button in the software where they can give feedback. There's a company Stripe that does that pretty well. There's always an option and every page that gives them feedback about it. And I'm sure that brings a lot of insight. So I think that's one of the ways is to open up the channels for feedback and continue to align yourself to that feedback over time.

Holly: Yeah, I think you're right. Having the channels open for feedback and making it really easy for people to share their thoughts is so important for developing that customer-centricity. So tell me about a time when you did one of these micros surveys and how it impacted your product decisions?

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, good question. And I'll also add that when you collect the feedback, the other really important part of that is making sure that that feedback goes to all the right people on the team. And so sometimes feedback can also be siloed in the terms of where it goes and maybe it's just a UX team that's focused on it. So how do you make it easy by default for people to collect that feedback? So one example is we have our micro surveys hooked into Slack, and so there's a rolling feed of feedback coming into Slack channels. And so it's much easier for somebody who's maybe not in the direct product world and maybe it's a salesperson or a CSM or somebody else to be part of that channel and to passively learn from customers. It's kind of similar in terms of opening up the channel. Also, we should make it easy for everyone to passively learn from the feedback we're getting. And another thing that we do is every week we have this Market Insights call, which is that it's all the customer facing teams and the product team are on a call where the customer facing teams share just things they've learned in the past week from their customers. And it could be about, "Well, the customer resonated with this feature," "This use case was special or different," or, "They compared us in this way to a competitor," or anything like that. But it's a bit of an open forum and I think it helps bring everyone's base level of understanding of the customer up. And I think when you have a much higher base level of understanding, you're able to make decisions more quickly because you can rely on your intuition versus having to go and test everything directly and be like, "Okay, I need to get an answer for this question because I have no idea how a customer would perceive it." Because you've got to know the customer well, you can be like, "I think I'm pretty confident this makes sense." That customer-centricity really speeds up your decision making as an organization so I thought to share those couple things that we do today.

Holly: Yeah, I love the Market Insights call. I'm big fan of any time that there's a regular cadence for sharing learnings. I think that that's not done enough. We need to be, "Oh, here's a thing I learned last week. Here's a thing I learned in sharing that with each other." That's a great practice.

Pulkit Agrawal: One of the way that we're doing that, which is kind of new and exciting is that because there's so many calls that are on Zoom or video conferencing and many can be recorded pretty comfortably, there's now tooling that helps you to replay and clip and highlight pieces from those calls. And so if someone has a 30 minute call but there's like a really pertinent 30 second paragraph or snippet, it's much easier to share that because we have that whole thing recorded, there's a transcript and you can clip a highlight and just share that in Slack channel. And that's way easier to digest for somebody than having to sit through a 30 minute recording even if you are at 2X speed. So it's another tip. Hopefully, folks who are employing this tooling to help highlight creation from recordings.

Holly: Yeah, I agree. There's been some great tooling that's come out recently to make that easier and it makes a big difference. I did want to get back to that question though of was there a time when you used a micro survey and it really impacted a product decision?

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, good question. There's a couple examples that come to mind. One example is a micro survey. As part of Chameleon, you can install it in different ways. There's different channels or different technologies you can use to install Chameleon. And as we're thinking about building additional technologies, it kind of felt like, "Oh, there's a new technology, we should use it. We should use that to build it." But what we did instead is that we added an option in the interface, which was Other or Something Else, and folks can click on that and then it opens up a micro survey to collect what technology they care about and what technology we should have. And so we added that and based on that, we get some feedback about different things people are thinking about. And what that taught us is actually there isn't as much urgency to build additional integrations as we thought there was. And so that's valuable because it's almost like the lack of feedback has been insightful because we thought this was more of a burning need. And because of that we're able to deprioritize some of that and focus on other initiatives.

Holly: Oh yeah.

Pulkit Agrawal: So that was an example of it actually being valuable because otherwise we would've built the thing and then had it, people may not have used it as much as we thought they would've used it.

Holly: That's a great example. I love to tell people that part of the value of discovery is all the things you learn that you don't need to build.

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah. And I think you can do that when you are confident that you've given people a chance to express themselves at the right time. And I think by having it very much in place in context where they would've made this decision of how to install, then we felt confident that if people did have a need for something else, they would share that with us. And that way we weren't blindsided by it.

Holly: Yeah, absolutely. Cool. Well, I'm curious to hear a little bit about Chameleon's journey. How long ago did you found it?

Pulkit Agrawal: I think the official founding date was 2015. We went to market in 2016 and we've learned many lessons along the way. Things are going well now, we're on the up, but we definitely had phases of being lost in the woods a little bit, so I'm happy to tell you more about that or any-

Holly: Oh, please. Yeah. So what were some of those phases like?

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, and I think there's an example of us probably not being super in touch with customers actually in that journey, we had not bought enterprise software or expensive software before. We were the kinds of folks, individuals that maybe put a credit card down for software and pay a few hundred bucks a month for it, not the kinds of folks that would sign a contract for $50K per year or something. And so when we went to building Chameleon, we kind of built it for folks like us and we said, "Okay, we want to be completely self-service. We want to make it super easy for anyone just to do it. Put a credit card down. You don't need to talk to sales. We don't like talking to sales. No one needs to talk to sales. "And so we did that as the first kind of few years in our life. And I think then we realized that actually it's a new product in the space, there is a lot of trading and coaching that customers find valuable and we learned this over time and therefore actually adding a little bit of friction in the process and getting people onboarded well with a human assist is actually really valuable. And actually the buyers that are most successful were not the ones that looked like us actually. They were the folks that were in slightly larger organizations, let's say, a hundred employees to a thousand employees that were very, very deep in this space and were comfortable buying software in the tens of thousands of year range, and were comfortable talking to sales folks. And so that's, I think, a miss that we made is that we built it for ourselves and assumed other folks were like that. But over time we learned that. And in the last couple years, while we still have a fully no touch self-service model where people can buy Chameleon on the website, just put a credit card in, install it, don't have to talk to anyone, we do now offer the option for you to get a more customized trial process and for us to talk through to the questions that you have and also provide best practices for your use case, what have we seen from others and how can you be successful and your learning curve be quick. And people appreciate that a lot. So that's kind of resonated and it's been going well. So that's interesting kind of learning, slightly embarrassing, but it's good to know about it and learn from it for sure.

Holly: Yeah. How did you make that discovery?

Pulkit Agrawal: We made the discovery, what do they say is constraints are the mother of innovation or something. We basically were running out of money as a startup and we're like, "Oh, we need to charge more or we need to find a better ways to drive revenue." And we looked at what were the kinds of customers that were able to pay us more and what were the kinds of customers and were successful or not. And so I think in that process of being forced to make a change because things could not go on as is, that's when we kind of undertook some of that research. And I personally oriented myself a lot more around sales and less about just building product and that was really helpful.

Holly: That's interesting. That sparks for me a curiosity as well. I think there are lots of different kinds of founders, but certainly it's not uncommon to find founders who love to build the product but don't love sales. So what has that journey been like for you, learning to adopt more sales into your work?

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, I think it's been really eyeopening because I had a negative perception of sales and I have utmost respect for sales now because it's basically problem solving and it's problem solving in a way that the customer or a prospect appreciates. And it's about bringing together so many different threads and figuring out what thread is important. So our sales process is very consultative. Somebody's considering an in-product experiences tool, it's very intimate because it's going to be shown to their end users and so the user experience needs to be great. They have all these hopes and dreams of improving onboarding or activation or retention, and yet probably not that much experience in buying or using. And so our sales folks are really consultants to help you think about, "Hey, have you thought about all of these different aspects? Do you have the right data going into your platform to be able to allow you to personalize or segment your users so you don't show experiences to people who don't care about them?" Or, "Is your design team involved enough such that you can make sure everything is on brand and looks good and people aren't going to notice that it's a different third party product?" And so it's been pretty fascinating on that and delightful to be able to be consultants to folks as they're going through the buying journey. And it's very different to my previous impression of sales, which is someone hard selling me into something that I don't want. Sales is only relevant when there's interest and it supports their evaluation and buying decision into something that hopefully is a good outcome for them or something that they appreciate. And that is what we see because our sales folks have really good relationships with our customers and they're in touch with them over their life cycle. It's not just about closing a sale. So I think I was educated about what sales really is, and it's not just whatever I've seen before and now I'm really proud and enjoy working on this stuff. And I hope sales generally becomes more consultative and product-led. And so yeah, I enjoy it now.

Holly: Yeah. Oh, that's an interesting journey. So you just mentioned product-led and that's sort of a buzzword these days. What does product-led mean to you?

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, there's a lot of buzz around it. I mean, I think there's a couple things. Some of it is actually very old and it's been repackaged, which is like it's self-service, it's like how do you let people figure things out by themselves? I think some of it, depending on if it's like product-led sales versus sales-led sales or sales-led growth, then I think it's more about how do you initiate revenue from product as a channel. So whether that's upsells or gates or making it easy for someone to understand the value from inside of the product rather than having to speak to sales. But I think all of it is really about how do we make it, the whole journey and experience, more self-service and more centered around, "Does the product solve the pain?" And less about calling and humans touchpoints and less about relationships and building relationships person to person. It's about building that relationship between product and buyer rather than salesperson and buyer. And so for me, product-led is about using the product as a channel to solve problems and making that clear to a user rather than relying on other channels as much to drive engagement and growth.

Holly: So would you say that Chameleon is product-led?

Pulkit Agrawal: There's a sliding scale. I think we are product-led because of our nature. The co-founders are product people. We started off in a self-service, no touch manner. For example, you can sign up for an account for free without anything. You can play around with the product without installing any software. We provide a sandbox environment so you can be comfortable doing that and you can proceed completely without engaging us in any of the channel if you want. We also now provide options to talk to us if you want. So I think by nature we are product-led, but we're not as product-led as we will be at some point in the future because as you get more and more scale, you can do more and more. And I think whether that's a freemium offering or something else we will evolve, I think Chameleon does enable our customers to be product-led. That's part of the core offering. Our tagline is, "Make self-serve more successful," because we do resonate with this trend of self-service and the products that we provide help customers make it easier for their end users to engage with their software without needing to speak to people.

Holly: Yeah. That makes sense. One thing that I have to admit I'm curious about is how you differentiate yourselves from the competitive landscape because there's so many services and tools out there for onboarding and communication with customers.

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, it's a really good question. It's something we've been thinking about more and more, and I think over time we'll see it evolve and grow even more. I think our general sense is that we want to be the best solution for what we do and what we do to be pretty well scoped to be the in product experiences. So there's other solutions that might take a broader approach to it. They might do in-product experiences, they might do analytics or feedback or road mapping or other things like that but we think we want to be very specific and deep. So we want to work with all kinds of applications, whether you have a single page app, whether you have iframes, shadow DOMs, all kinds of technologies that people use in web applications, we want to serve really well. We want to have the best patterns for end users. So for example, letting people snooze an experience or start it later or choose when to begin it. We want to have really great controls around how frequently you show things and limiting that. So I think there's a lot of stuff within our space there's still to be built in. There's more sophistication that can be there. And so we want to do is do that really well and then integrate really well with the other tooling that you might have as part of a product stack, whether it's your data tooling or your analytics tooling, et cetera.

Holly: Yeah.

Pulkit Agrawal: So I think that's the strategic part of it. And I think in terms of the practical, how do we differentiate and how do we show people that we're different? I think that's something we're trying to build in. And some ways that we're trying to build that in is it's more than a tool, it's a partnership. So how do we at every point provide advice, coaching, help to our customers to make sure that they're successful? And hopefully customers will see that. And it begins all the way from our website where we show tips of what's successful through our sales process, where we're coaching, et cetera, and helping to our ability to request reviews of any experiences people build, and our CS team help with reviewing their experiences to our ideas around providing design help. So there's all this stuff. So that's something that we're continuing to work on to help us differentiate because yeah, it's crowded and we're undertaking some rebranding work, which you'll see at some point to make it visually clear that we're differentiated. So there's a lot to go into that, but it's a really fun challenge on how to position and how to differentiate in a crowded space, which I think many SaaS founders, leaders have to go through. There's so many SaaS companies for every problem now. It's easier to start a SAS company than it ever has been before so naturally there's going to be lots of competitors. So I think it's something that many of us are facing.

Holly: Yeah, that makes sense. One of the things that caught my attention in there was the idea of snoozing your onboarding process. What insights led you to wanting to build that?

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, so there's a theoretical and empirical evidence around this. The empirical evidence is we did survey around how many people dismiss the welcome tools as soon as they see the first step. And it was incredibly high. It was over 90% of people that responded said that they dismissed them.

Holly: Wow.

Pulkit Agrawal: Which is crazy, but it really represents what I feel like. I often dismiss those. And then that's where it goes into the theory, which is when I go into a product for the first time, I'm really excited about what I'm going to see and I want to play. It's fun. There's some joy in there. And that joy is really crushed if you handhold me through every excruciatingly detailed element of your product. And so in the first moments, I need to explore, I want to enjoy the exploration. And often what welcome tools are doing is that they are interrupting that moment of joy because they're like, "You're in, but wait, you're not in just yet." It's an unexpected blocker. Like, "Wait, read this manual before you have to go in." And so of course I'm going to dismiss it. So one of the things that we coach our customers on is to be customer-centric or UX focused around this and think about from a user perspective, they're not here to learn your product, they don't care about learning every aspect of your product. They have a job to accomplish and so in that job, there are some friction and understand what that friction is. Is that friction that they don't understand some terminology or they have to make a decision that they're not ready to make, or they feel like the investment cost is too high and they don't see the value? Understand the friction, and then speak directly to that friction when you're building any kind of welcome experience. The friction might be that there's so many things to do and you don't know where to begin and it could sign post where to begin. Or it might be that when I'm completing some kind of setup flow, I actually am stuck on a decision like, "Do I choose X or Y?" And so you could have something that says, "Hey, most people choose Y," or, "Don't worry about making this choice. You can change it later." Something that helps a customer get over that hump of friction and then that allows them to proceed. So reframing the welcome experience or in-product training or onboarding away from, "Hey, let me show you everything because I'm guessing that some of this will be valuable to you," towards very specifically, "This is where there's friction for people. We know that, and therefore we're going to give you some tips at that point to help you succeed."

Holly: Yeah, I think that more nuanced experience makes a lot of sense. I certainly can remember plenty of apps that I've opened and just been like, "Oh, this window's in the way. I just want to do this thing."

Pulkit Agrawal: Exactly.

Holly: I think the statement you made about the customer's there to do a job or get a job done is really valuable. One other area that I'm curious about is, so obviously Chameleon helps Chameleon's customers be customer-centric because it's focusing on what do the customers need in their onboarding and communications, but how are you as a company doing UX and research and things to make sure that you're customer-centric yourselves?

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, good question. Yeah, I think going back to what we understand being customer-centric as, which is being really attached to the problem and not to the solution, so can we understand the problem really well and the needs really well, and can we continue to validate the problem and the solutions? So I think there's some ways, I mean, we already talked a little bit about prototype testing, we talked about the Market Insights call, and we have, for example, our product team joined customer syncs regularly. In fact, it's not just the product team, but as part of everyone's onboarding, we have a pretty well structured employee onboarding to the company. So when you're starting as an employee, there is a bunch of calls that we ask you to listen to, and we ask you to join two or three live calls in the first couple weeks, regardless of your role. Obviously if your role is customer-centric or customer facing, then you'll do even more of that, but that's a baseline to get to know the customer. We also recommend you read and subscribe to blogs or newsletters that our customers would subscribe to as an employee because we want you to be able to understand what they're reading and understand the space. And there's a bunch of other resource and materials that we try to provide to help you get into the shoes of the customer. Another thing that we do is ask every new team member to do a friction log of our first time user experience. So they have to go into the product and a friction log is a pretty cool methodology about identifying friction in every little step. We have some content about that. So every new employee undertakes a friction log where they record themselves and talk about the friction. And that helps them, again, put themselves very directly into the shoes of a user or customer and understand where there might be problems. And so there's a bunch of stuff that we do from the beginning, and then we have a sharing as much as we can around customer insights, product insights throughout. So we try to incorporate it into just your lifecycle of the company and lifecycle of the employee. And I think around UX, we have a regular meeting which talks about product design. It's a design update meeting. It's actually a daily meeting, and there's a wide group of product folks that join that meeting. Includes QA, includes product marketing, it includes obviously the product manager, engineering leader, designers, et cetera. And we talk through in detail any kind of design element or decisions that need to be made. And so there's a chance that where everyone gets to discuss details of UX, not just a high level UX, and it hopefully educates folks and hopefully brings us all on the same page about what is good UX and how do we think about UX. So that's an example for UX specific thinking that we try to employ for the whole company.

Holly: Yeah, absolutely. So we're getting close to the end of time. I always like to ask people sort of their advice for someone else who's coming up in their shoes. So since you're a founder, what is your advice for other people who are either already founders or thinking about founding a company?

Pulkit Agrawal: That's a good one. One piece of advice? It's a hard one, but I would say that along the themes of being customer-centric, be comfortable giving up some of the stuff you're building and creating, and don't be too attached to what you're building. It's really easy to get attached to it and feel like you identify with it and your personality and your in-person identifies with the thing that you've built. But if you do that, then it's very hard to let that go, and then that will take you away from this customer-centricity because you need to be attached to the problem that you're solving. So if you can be comfortable letting things go and letting the great product, the beautiful thing you designed, the great way you've solved this problem and you're okay letting that go, then I think you'll be able to find the better global maximum.

Holly: Yeah. Awesome. Where can people learn more if they want to find out more about Chameleon or you?

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, so our website is, And we have a special audit that we're giving away. So if someone wants an audit of their in-product experiences or their user onboarding, I'll happily do that audit. If you go to our website forward slash hqr, so and sign up, hopefully you'll get a chance to do a deep dive audit about how you can improve your onboarding or in-product experiences.

Holly: Awesome. Yeah, I'm excited that you're going to share that with our listeners. I hope they take you up on that in-product audit.

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah.

Holly: Great. Well, it's been a pleasure to talk to you today, Pulkit. Thank you so much for your time.

Pulkit Agrawal: Yeah, it's my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

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