fbpx

Building More Inclusive Business Systems with Hana Mohan, Magic Bell

August 3, 2022

Creating fair, just, inclusive business systems are Hana Mohan’s ultimate goal, but she is as pragmatic as she is idealistic. In today’s episode, Hana speaks openly about how her transgender identity has shaped her journey as an entrepreneur, why she doesn’t believe in a product-led approach and the importance of focus and continuous learning.

 She also shares her thoughts on bootstrapping versus capital raising approaches (both of which she has done herself). As Hana knows from personal and business experience, growth can be very painful in the moment but it is worth it in the long term.

About Hana Mohan:

Hana Mohan is the CEO & Co-founder of MagicBell, a plug-and-play notifications inbox aimed at app developers. Prior to this, she founded two other startups: SupportBee and Muziboo. Hana was the first openly transgender woman to go through Y Combinator and she has written extensively on transgender issues and entrepreneurship, covering topics like cis-passinggender dysphoria, and HRT (hormone replacement therapy)

Episode highlights:

  • Don’t just assume that if you have a good product, you will do well. Success comes through focus, so focus on what is important to you and what will take your business forward. (4:04)
  • Experience can make people cynical. That’s why there is so much value in maintaining a “beginner’s mind.” Read, listen to podcasts, and spend time with people who you can constantly learn from. (05:14)
  • Raising money (as opposed to bootstrapping, which also has its benefits) allows entrepreneurs to expand their horizons. Through the capital raising process, you can gain a better understanding of money, and the more money you have, the more you can achieve. Sell your vision! (11:30)
  • There is so much money and so little churn up-market which means it is important to have a dedicated sales team and focus on up-market sales, rather than adopting a product-led approach. (19:56)
  • You can’t fight every battle. Dream big but also be pragmatic about what it takes to be successful. (26:40)

Hana’s best advice for entrepreneurs:

“You achieve what you focus on.” (04:04) Don’t assume that just because you have a good product or service, people will buy it. Success comes through being intentional about what you do with your time and energy.

Connect with Hana:

Follow Beyond 8 Figures:

Transcript

[00:01:29] A.J. Lawrence: Hana will talk in this episode a little bit about how she has moved through the three levels and not at first, but over time she developed this process of where she wanted to go from sustainability ramen level, I maybe geeked out a little bit and we got really excited talking about Ramen. But at that time, just going from sustainability to then her next business, moving into financial freedom. Not F You money as she’ll say, but into that financial freedom that gave her the flexibility to travel and do more of the things she wanted to do. We’ll talk about that and kinda its importance, and then now to what she’s doing with Magic Bell, which is really interesting, why she’s gone through Y Combinator, she’s got a lot of great backing for this. So really looking to scale and swing for the fences with this new one and what that will mean.

[00:02:23] And one of the things that I found so interesting is many of us ad hocly kind of approach it. And sometimes we start and then realize there’s more as we go, but I like how she wanted to sustain her life. She wanted to take care of things. And then as she was able to successfully do that, not living amazing but still be able to do it, she realized there was more and started building the plans to kind of go to this next level and then to the next and next.

[00:02:54] What I find then when she talks about the thing that really is important that she learned from that journey was how it became not easier, but more important, to clearly define the goals that she had for the company and for herself. Both for what she wanted to do, but then also what she needed to do for the company. And that’s a really cool thing because I still, 20+ years into this effort of trying to be an entrepreneur, I still have difficulty in making the madness in my head into clear translatable communication around what I’m trying to do, to communicate to my teams and the people I’m working with. And her discussion around that really kind of resonated with me because it is so important and it does get somewhat easier, but I think it is more that it becomes more clearly important cause you recognize that the repetition and that communication effort to clearly define this add that extra layer of bringing things further, faster, more.

[00:04:05] And then how that breaks down more clearly to what your team needs to be doing and what you need to be doing. Also, I think you’ll find it really interesting how she’ll talk about how different areas of the world where she’s lived and where she has kind of looked, you know, build her businesses in different areas, how those different cultures have led to different styles of not just her own business, but what it means for her personally and living the type of life as she’s the first transwoman to go through Y Combinator and how living in Columbia to Barcelona, both connected with her personally, but then also for her business efforts and the types of businesses she has been able to develop.

[00:04:50] And as she looks to continue scaling the type of thoughts that go in between staying in Barcelona to looking at larger, more tech-focused cities. So it’s an interesting conversation that I’ve had also with a lot of other entrepreneurs. We can create businesses anywhere and be anywhere to do this, but at a certain point, there is certain areas that have either easier networking or better access to finance and other things. It’s all possible everywhere but as you go through your levels of your company, there’s just some areas where it just feels easier, some locations. So it’s a really interesting to kinda discuss it with someone who is going through this and is building such a great company. So look, let’s get into this with Hana Mohan, CEO and Co-founder of Magic Bell.

[00:05:45] Hello Hana. Thank you so much for joining us today on the show. I’m really excited to have you here today.

[00:05:51] Hana Mohan: Yeah, likewise A.J., thanks for inviting me. I’m excited too.

[00:05:54] A.J. Lawrence: Well since I’m a little jealous that you’re in one of my favorite cities in the world right now, up in Barcelona (inaudible) . I’ve been going through your experiences with Magic Bell and what you’re doing and I’m really, really impressed with everything. Where do you see yourself as an entrepreneur now?

[00:06:13] Hana Mohan: I’ve been an entrepreneur for about 15 years now, and I would say I’ve had like three distinct phases. First was just, I was excited to build products and I just didn’t wanna be at a job. And I wanted to be self-sufficient and my ambition was pretty low. I just wanted to make like sustenance, literally my goal was to make Ramen money. It wasn’t the stop on the journey, it was actually the goal. And so I achieved that. And then I realized actually Ramen money isn’t sustainable. So then I moved on to the second venture, which is SupportBee, a SaaS startup.

[00:06:45] And I ended up actually achieving a decent bit of financial independence, not a few money, but just like good financial independence and was able to travel the world, you know, understand myself and learn a lot. And I’d say now I’m in my third phase as an entrepreneur which is, I really wanna have like massive scale.

[00:07:05] I think I’ve also learned what it takes to build software businesses. It takes a lot, and I have the opportunity to swing for the fence this time. So it’s very much about swinging for the fence, having a massive outcome for myself, for my team. And in some ways I’ve told myself that, especially if I achieve any kind of success this time, I’d probably not do another startup. I would do something else later, which also helps me kind of give this everything I’ve got instead of sort of holding anything back and thinking I can always do this again.

[00:07:35] A.J. Lawrence: I like that. As someone who used to bulk buy Ramen in pallet levels back there in one of my first startups, I do remember that day very, very much.

[00:07:48] I like that. And I like how you’re pouring, you’re focusing by putting everything in to kinda not hold back. But how do you think your approach to being an entrepreneur now that you’ve gone from Ramen money to general- you know you’ve had that success with one of your company but now you have this greater opportunity, obviously a higher level of complexity, water range, et cetera, how has your approach to being entrepreneur changed?

[00:08:19] Hana Mohan: I’d say the biggest difference is that I’m a lot more focused on the goal and the goal being actually growth and sustainable growth. What I mean by sustainable growth is not like a spur of growth here and there, but actually getting onto a trajectory where you’re making millions of dollars and then able to double or triple each year.

[00:08:35] And I used to always think that that’s just a side effect of building a good product or being in a good market, and maybe some of that is true. Personally for me, what I realized is that you achieve what you focus on. So I would say the biggest difference is now I focus on that growth, on that number a lot more than I were used to. I don’t just assume that if I build a good product, it will happen. If I just do X, this will follow. So the goal is much more clearly different this time.

[00:09:04] A.J. Lawrence: And I think a lot of that comes from your experience, like you’ve seen how things happen. I like how you reference you’re not just gonna expect it to happen, you’re gonna put the processes in place. I always laugh because when you talk to entrepreneurs, you can always tell very quickly like where they have achieved, because it’s like, _oh yeah, I’m doing this. And then we’re gonna try this_. And I’m like, OK, so you’re so early. When someone starts referencing the process stuff I’d be like, oh, you’ve been beaten up already. You know? You know how this experience gets.

[00:09:40] Hana Mohan: Absolutely. I think it’s a double-edged sword because obviously, as you get more experience, you also get more cynicism. You have like more so, you know, you wanna keep a bigness mind. So it’s a fine balance, I think.

[00:09:54] A.J. Lawrence: What do you do to kind of keep that beginner’s mind in this process?

[00:09:58] Hana Mohan: I’d say one, I read a lot now, which I didn’t back in the day. I listen to a lot of podcast, which is obviously the rage right now, but I try to be a little bit more selective about what I’m listening to. A lot of podcasts can be pretty repetitive in terms of the knowledge they’re giving, but also I try to angel invest a little bit and talk to other startups. So sometimes I’d be having this conversation and be giving someone some advice. And then I would realize that actually, I should be listening to this advice myself. Or like they would bring me some insight, which kind of goes counter to what I know and then I would learn from that.

[00:10:30] I’d say most of my angel investing is actually directed towards learning right now. I’m like pretty much, I don’t have any grand thesis. I do have a little bit of a thesis, but mostly just learning from people that I’m interested, I think they’re smart. And so that’s probably the biggest way to do it.

[00:10:47] I think the YC community has been pretty instrumental in that. There’s always people who are doing it better, faster, cheaper, in a more distinct way, so you’re constantly being challenged like that. And I think, at least for me, I don’t know if it’s for everybody but one thing that isn’t talked about a lot is like, we talk a lot about growth, right? And that you should always be growing. But I think one thing that isn’t often talked about is that for a lot of people, myself for sure, growth in the moment can be quite painful. It would be just so much easier if like our assumptions kind of work. So I think it’s a painful process, but it’s enjoyable in the long term, I would say. But in the moment it can a bit painful, to be honest.

[00:11:27] A.J. Lawrence: Yes, I fully agree. I mean, both sides, it’s growth and the level of shrinkage, I don’t know what the term would be. But yeah, I won a business. It is that period where you go through and then afterwards you’re like, wow, that is actually kinda cool. Well when you reach out, I’m gonna kinda play because as an angel investor also, I love being in situations where I can bring skills to bear in the companies that I’m investing and help them grow. But I like that you have that extra filter on this where you’re trying to bring a beginner’s mind and learn because, I know for myself I’m always like, oh yeah, I can tell someone 1, 2, 3, the 15 things in their market is, you know my background, that they’re doing wrong.

[00:12:20] When I look at my own stuff, it’s like, oh, where do I start? It’s easier to tell someone else than do it yourself. Do you have a filter you use or process you use to make sure you’re learning from this experience? Since this has such an impact on you?

[00:12:40] Hana Mohan: I would say I definitely read all the updates these companies send, and most of the learning happens through updates and conversations on the updates. So I definitely make it a point to read through all these updates. I also make it a point to, and this is not about learning, but just sending a note back to all the investments I’ve made whenever they send me an update, telling them what I think is going great, offering any suggestions. As an entrepreneur myself, it’s always really nice when my angels reply to my emails.

[00:13:07] So most of that learning, I would say center around their updates. Recently, I invested in a company that started doing some enterprise sales and I learned a lot from them in terms of like, okay, how are they approaching it? How are they pricing it? And to be honest, I had actually never done any enterprise sales and then we were able to navigate some of our own enterprise deals that way.

[00:13:26] So I don’t think there’s any bigger process yet. Again, like I wish I was a little bit more diligent about it where I wrote a notion summary of like a thesis of why invested and what I’m learning. And I planned to do that at some point, but I just haven’t been able to get to it yet.

[00:13:43] A.J. Lawrence: I know, it’s like every time I read those things, like always do like an investment analysis and I’m like, yeah, I kind of, depends on the mood. Where my crypto funds are at this moment. Building that practice I think is very important. And that’s a cool, you know, since you do focus on the beginner’s minds so much, is there something that you feel has helped you so much in this? You know, in the new part of this journey with Magic Bell, is there something that’s helped your ability to be this entrepreneur? I know you’re talking with people, but what do you think has helped the most?

[00:14:26] Hana Mohan: Let me think about that for a second, because I wanna think about what is it apart from just the caliber of people that now I have access to through Y Combinator. And I have to say that’s probably 90% of it. It’s just the caliber of people that you hang out with, that challenged you, that you talk to on a daily basis. Apart from that, I would say, this is the first startup I’ve raised any money for. And that helps a lot to be honest, because I think I had put, I had a lot of good ideas before too, but I was very, very bottle lagged on what I could try. And surely like, as a bootstrapped entrepreneur, you can have constraints and then you can make the constraints work as guardrails. And I buy into all of that, but sometimes it can be very constraining. Whereas your goal as a startup founder is not to make the most efficient startup, it is probably to make the biggest startup you can. So just the fact that this time I can trade off some of that efficiency and bring in more people into the team and have them run different experiments and learn from them, it just like an environment where I’m challenged to expand my horizons more. And that in turns to, I think it’s good for the business. I don’t know if that answers your question, but yeah.

[00:15:37] A.J. Lawrence: No, it does. I mean, it is that what’s that lovely line with great constraints come great (inaudible) . It’s this idea that you have tension in your structure, there can be too much, but you seem to be in that thing that it’s helping you extend what you’re capable of. That’s why, that’s pretty cool.

[00:15:58] Hana Mohan: Yeah, I would say I bootstrapped for so long that that is kind of my soul anyway now. Like I think a lot about efficiency and ex high burn rate and things like that. But it is nice not to be bootstrapping. It’s good to have that mindset, but actually have raised some money.

[00:16:19] A.J. Lawrence: Maybe just a quick side note then. You were talking about, from your other things, from going from Ramen to sort of early success to now wanting to have this scalable opportunity, what went through your head in taking money in this thing? Was it like deliberately the whole point, given your bootstrapping background, or was this something that just sort of occurred because of the success you were having?

[00:16:42] Hana Mohan: I’d say a few things. One is that I’d already built a SaaS startup for about 10 years on and off. So I also understood the dynamics of SaaS startups, where they are pretty front loaded in terms of investments. And then once you have this like flywheel running and that’s why they call it a flywheel because it is very heavy and big to get started, but once it runs, it has its own momentum and it keeps spinning. You realize that you make a lot more money, like five years down the road or 10 years down the road. And so it actually does make sense to raise investment up front and pick up that velocity. So one was just that.

[00:17:16] Second, I also realized it is very expensive to build software companies. When you are starting out, you are just thinking of how much you’re gonna see with a few engineers. What you don’t realize is there’s a cost to running the business, customer service, 100+ in up time without burning out your team. I think you just get a lot more pragmatic about what it really takes. And there are always businesses that pick up that kind of revenue velocity within the first year or second year. They are quite unusual to be honest, like it actually does like, especially when you’re solving a complex problem, you have to build a very strong foundation before you can start building revenue on top of it. It just makes sense to raise money from that perspective too.

[00:17:57] And then finally, I would certainly love to have a large outcome, both in terms of generating wealth for myself or my team as well as also generating wealth for the company so we can take on more interesting problems. I wanna work on something for the next 10, 20, 25 years.

[00:18:14] For example, I was thinking over this weekend that Amazon has been running for 27 years, and now they’re doing some really big things or in the last five years or so. And people forget just like how long it really takes to achieve that kind of momentum.

[00:18:28] A.J. Lawrence: No, I fully agree. So often the really cool companies start with something small and it’s literally, it is not that that’s the expanse of their goal and then it changes. It’s just that it takes a long time to build things that actually work efficiently. So you can start to expand on your dream here.

[00:18:52] Hana Mohan: Absolutely. And when you think of that and you think about the future value of the business, then selling a small piece of it now to get working capital to get started actually makes a lot of financial sense. I would say, the sort of religion of bootstrapping as I’ll call it, the sort of very dogmatic like capital is evil and bootstrapping is a better way of life, I don’t know if that’s really rooted in solid financial calculations. I think it works for a lot of people, but I also know a lot of bootstrapped entrepreneurs that are working very hard and had they raised a few million dollars or something, they would be making a lot more progress now.

[00:19:31] And I mean, I was certainly one of them and I have some friends who are like that. I was reading, I’m not sure which book, but even Jason Fried said that, if I get a really good offer, I would probably sell the business. Or it was a podcast I think, with 20 VC. So everybody thinks about it like that. I think it’s good to just not think of it as a religion where it’s more like a tool that you pick for a certain period of your life, and then you can drop it and pick another one.

[00:19:58] A.J. Lawrence: At the end of the day, it is about the ability to develop your own capabilities. You’ve had this very impressive entrepreneurial journey here. So, this is just when I was younger, someone at once said, oh, you’re a lower case E entrepreneur if you’ve never raised money. And it’s always kind of stuck on me. I disagreed, and yet at the same time, I do recognize that is that kind of like the big leagues to a certain degree. At the end of the day, it’s what your journey takes you. But you know, to be able to prove to others at such an early stage that you have what it takes to steward their money is pretty impressive. And that takes work.

[00:20:41] Hana Mohan: Yeah, I would say raising money’s not easy, certainly not as a woman, certainly not as a minority founder. It’s like selling your vision, very similar to actually how you sell your vision to early customers, telling them to bet on your company when you’re only like two people and like such a critical piece of their infrastructure outsourced to your company. I’d say it’s actually, it’s the same, right? Like if you raised money, it’s basically like selling a dream of the future. It’s not like borrowing money from somebody, it’s getting people to buy into your vision. And it is a very interesting exercise in learning how the world kind of works, how the world of money works. And I think it helps as an entrepreneur just to have that perspective.

[00:21:28] A.J. Lawrence: Given, you know, you’ve talked about these successes and the things you’re putting into it, what’s something you feel that you either regret or you feel that’s a mistake on your part that other entrepreneurs can kind of learn or adapt from and incorporate into their own journey?

[00:21:47] Hana Mohan: I’d say very similar to the sort of like the bootstrapping religion is another religion that I see, which is the inbound and self-service, and we don’t have any sales people, we don’t do any sales religion. And I’d say I definitely suffered from that a lot. I bought a lot into the base camp philosophy, if you just do good work, they will find you. Just talk about it, they will come.

[00:22:12] Yeah. Product-led growth and and this whole- ironically, even this whole inbound marketing by HubSpot, they have like hundreds of people out there selling. GitHub has an inside sales team. Once you start digging in Atlassian, they call them like some other expos. They don’t call them sales people because it’s not cool to have sales people. But I’d say this again, this kind of dogmatic insistence on not doing upmarket sales, not going through security reviews, I know of some friends who don’t do it, I certainly didn’t do it. I don’t know if it’s a large trend now or not, but it certainly used to be and I suspect it still is. And unfortunately, there just is so much money upmarket. There’s such little churn upmarket that you better have a very strong reason for why you are not doing it. It simply can’t be because it’s inconvenient or it’s out of your comfort zone.

[00:23:00] A.J. Lawrence: In looking at the various efforts you’ve put, and now that you’re defining this as this big thing. How do you though- and I know this is a difficult thing as you said before we started the show. It’s like, well anyone who is not defining around their businesses probably more just positioning themselves, I’m paraphrasing here. Now that you’ve set these big goals for yourself and for your efforts here, are you looking at what you as an entrepreneur could be what success is gonna look like for that? Not just the success of the business on this big exit, this potentially big exit they will move in towards. How are you going about looking at what success will be?

[00:23:46] Hana Mohan: Again like we talked before, my identity and my success is very tied to the identity and the success of the business. I don’t say that the business is me, but I am definitely, you know, a big part of my life is the business. So I don’t claim that magic bell is Hana or anything like that. What I claim is that a large part of Hana is definitely Magic Bell and I’m quite okay with that right now.

[00:24:12] I would say the financial success of the business and the impact on customers is definitely the number one way I would measure my success. But in order to achieve that, I mean that’s like kind of a lagging indicator in businesses, right.

[00:24:27] The leading indicator in that is definitely the kind of quality of team I can build. And if I can keep up with that team and help them grow. And one thing that I read recently is that people like you and me who have been successful in our lives as entrepreneurs, we are rewarded for having a lot of the answers. Whereas once you are building a business like Magic Bell, and you are growing the kind of team that we have, you’re actually rewarded for just bringing good questions to your team and encouraging them to find their own answers. It’s a huge paradigm shift for me right now. And also as a CEO of a funded company that is trying to grow, trying to raise money, make the impossible kind of happen in a way, every six months or so you are at a new job that you suck at and then you get better at it and then you hand it off to somebody else.

[00:25:13] So it’s almost like you have to become this person who can constantly learn, do new things, be okay not being good at something forever. So I would say like my growth as a person who can keep up with that kind of lifestyle is certainly one way I measure my success.

[00:25:32] Startups are definitely a great reason for me to stay fit, mentally and physically. So I have some of those personal goals as well that, you know, can I just drop drinking and keep my mind clear? So some of those smaller goals as well. As a human being, I would love for us to achieve a certain level of success and then be a more friendly workplace for minorities, trans people, I’m myself transgender, and so I wanna create an environment for trans people, offer the same kind of support that is offered for having kids or adopting them to trans people, doing gender transitions or other people who are struggling with other things.

[00:26:12] It’s a lofty ambition, but one we can definitely achieve the most scale we achieve. You know, ironically, I don’t know if you know, but a lot of trans people will go and start working at Starbucks because the Starbucks insurance is very inclusive.

[00:26:26] A.J. Lawrence: Yes, I fully agree on those work that I remember back in the day in the US, before they changed, if someone had a partner not even extending all the way to trans, right. But like if someone had a legal partner, but not married, the insurance was taxed differently. And it sounds really minor, but for a lot of people that just that minor, extra expense was a difficulty. And just trying to figure it out, and then extending this and extending it, creating environments. Because employees wanna feel the same as the other employees, they don’t wanna feel, people don’t wanna feel like, oh, because of this, I have different. That’s very important.

[00:27:12] Hana Mohan: Absolutely, and I think we are also very fortunate to be working with these industries with huge cross margins that you can actually afford to take care of people and you can afford to set a precedent for other companies to follow.

[00:27:26] So one thing I like to tell people is, it’s not that since I’m trans myself, we would never make any mistake when it comes to treating other minorities or trans people, it’s just that I have a more vested interest in the kind of diverse team I’m building around myself as a more vested interest in fixing those problems in setting a good example.

[00:27:46] But again, I’m very clear that as a startup, you have to be very pragmatic about the battles you pick. And the world is quite unfair and it would be very silly of me to assume that our seed state startup can create a very fair, very just system right now, and pick those battles and fight them. But again, as we achieve some scale, that’s why I’m so focused on it, I’m very confident that we’d be able to do some pretty amazing things.

[00:28:11] A.J. Lawrence: Now, just out of curiosity is sort of your being in Barcelona, is that because of the- Barcelona to me is sort of like, whenever I go there, the great startup community, wonderful quality of life. It’s a very open city, it’s very vibrant kind of Lisbon. Is to a certain degree Barcelona because of its openness or why did you choose Europe per se in Barcelona specifically?

[00:28:52] Hana Mohan: So I was in Columbia before I moved to Barcelona. I was a bit of a restless soul before I started transitioning and realized that I’m trans. I keep mentioning this because it has had a huge influence on how I perceive life or where life has taken me. So I was in Columbia and I started my transition. And Columbia was amazing, it was just the reason I think I even discovered that I’m trans and I started transitioning there because at least in managing counter to all the perceptions people have about the city and the crime. It was a very friendly place, a very accepting and encouraging place for expressing femininity.

[00:29:30] But at some point felt that now that I know what I want in life, I feel like more connected to my life. I would just love to have a wider horizon and I’m from India. I don’t really have that many options to be honest, and Spain was one of the visas I could achieve. I was already speaking Spanish. And the funny thing is I’d actually never been to Europe before even moving here. So it was very much like this leap of faith and it worked out quite well.

[00:29:56] I wasn’t very ambitious at that point in my life. I almost thought that my ambition was maybe overcompensation so the new me doesn’t really care. It’s only after two or three years of coming here that I started Magic Bell and got in touch with my ambition. But like you said, it’s a great city to live in. It’s got amazing quality of life. It’s got amazing access to Europe. Like a lot of people go through Barcelona, you can meet up with them. If I moved, let’s say I would move to maybe like London or New York or San Francisco. But again, I don’t think I would find a city that’s overall better. It would be probably better in some respects and then definitely worse in some respects. So I no longer feel that I need to move. I think it would actually be very difficult to move from here, if I had to.

[00:30:41] A.J. Lawrence: You know it’s funny because as a location independent, you know, coming, I moved to Spain because its visas for entrepreneurs are relatively easy enough to get. But, yeah, it is that balance where if Magic Bell continues to grow, you may find other opportunities slightly better. But then again, COVID has messed it up in London or New York, and then obviously, Silicon Valley. But then, you know, it’s like the cost structure and then the flow.

[00:31:15] The culture that I remember from the early 90s in all three, cause I lived in all three of those in the Silicon and New York and London, is much different now because there’s not as much young people, you know, or there is young people but there’s less opportunity to actually just not do. You have to be working, cuz they’re so expensive I guess is what I’m trying to say.

[00:31:39] Hana Mohan: Yeah. And also just to add to that kind of location independence point, this is something I keep thinking about, and I don’t really have an answer yet and if any of your listeners want to find me on Twitter and reply to that I would love to hear from you is, are we truly in a location-independent world or does location still matter once you get into thinner and thinner air off like bigger funding rounds and like larger burn rates and access to bigger transactions and things like that. I have a feeling that it does matter still.

[00:32:12] A.J. Lawrence: Kinda going off, but yes. I do think some of it is your access and your ability to develop connections within different networks in places. I know people who have left those places and seem to be able to connect to those points. But then yes, if you’re coming into those, or if you built somewhere else, it still is slightly difficult. Now the nice thing is I think that friction is reduced though not disappeared.

[00:32:47] You know, I do think hearing more and more, what was it? I was looking at some of the investment, this is early stage investments, but Silicon Valley’s percentage decreased last year for the first time a while. So while it’s still generating huge amounts, other cities, and then from an American point given that I am, international investments really had a really big increase, but true. The ease of doing those transactions, kind of help being in those places at least to have a base.

[00:33:23] Hana Mohan: Yeah. I think one thing that I’ve learned in my entrepreneurial journey is that you have to also have a very good sense of your baseline. So do you consider yourself like an insider founder? If you’ve already like been in the industry for 20 years, you have worked at like big name companies. Your friends have actually moved on from those companies to venture firms like friends or acquaintances whatever, let’s say you have an in, your life is and your perspective is very different. It’s good to be realistic if you’re a, you know, I don’t wanna generalize, but let’s say if you’re a woman, if you are a black woman, your access to those networks remotely might be more restricted.

[00:33:58] So it’s just good to not listen to this kind of generic advice from anybody and assess for your own self. I definitely think I have an outsider going into the inside, I would say. I don’t quite consider myself an outsider anymore. I did before YC, but now I think I have some in, but not as much in as had I already spent 10 years in the bay area or something.

[00:34:22] A.J. Lawrence: Yeah. That’s without a doubt, true. I mean the one factor I do think is the amount of investments. There’s some great funds on, but there are some funds that are really focused on non-traditional because of the alpha that’s available. And the funny thing is if all the traditional money is going off the same typical type of startup, then you have to, if you wanna have any type of investment success, you have to find non-traditional. So that is helping expand it, but not as effective as it could be yet, even as you say. So do you spend time going to London, to New York, to try and do develop those networks for yourself too?

[00:35:10] Hana Mohan: I’m starting to now, I would say. Yeah, especially London and then a little bit, I’m gonna go to SF later this year. I’m personally more interested in London. It’s something I wish, right. I hope it’s true that London now is almost as good now because it’s so much easier to get there. I would, if I ever move full time, I’ll be closer to my family. You know, that’s the thing about being a little bit older in your life. You can’t be like single tracked. I wish I could be, but I have to think about my family and my parents and all that. So I’m really hoping that London works out that way.

[00:35:45] A.J. Lawrence: From Barcelona, it’s like a?

[00:35:48] Hana Mohan: Two hours, yeah.

[00:35:49] A.J. Lawrence: I have a friend here on the coast who pre-COVID would at least once a week just go take the super early morning and be on the late flight back. So once a week we’d be like, oh my god you’re commuting.

[00:36:07] Living in New York is I don’t know compared to India, and then well as a digital nomad all my life. Compared to America where it’s like, yeah, I can get from one city to the other, it’s like that concept is just getting from one country to another, you have to change your thought process on travelling.

[00:36:26] Well one of the things I do because I, you know we’ve gone on some really cool things and thank you so much for sharing your experiences. I was very impressed with Magic Bell so before we kinda wrap up, given that we have so many business owners, so many entrepreneurs with businesses that could use something like Magic Bell, could you kinda maybe talk about what’s the best way of looking at something like Magic Bell? Or when should a customer start thinking about something like Magic Bell cause I really think a lot of the audience would really like to check it out for themselves.

[00:37:00] Hana Mohan: Absolutely. And thanks for the opportunity to talk about it. I’d say the default that has existed so far for businesses is that wherever a business wants to communicate with the user about any step in the product or any kind of announcement, the default is to send an email and we are trying to change that. We’re saying instead of just sending an email, you should send an in-app notification. If it’s not seen by your user, then you can send an email or a slack. But what you should default to is a multichannel notification. And even sending email is so easy now because of companies like Sendgrid or Mailgun.

[00:37:33] And what we are trying to do is we are building a very similar API, but it works across all these channels. So if you’re an entrepreneur and you just have email notifications, or if you’re just starting out and you just wanna skip the whole email step and just go multi-channel, Magic Bell can help immensely.

[00:37:50] I’m happy to also see some open source projects and other things come up in the industry as well. I think the trend of starting with in-app and then doing email or other channel is here to stay. It’s going to grow. And it works really well for your users, it works well for you as a business, because you can get better analytics. You can get better engagement, you control these channels. So for me, at this point, I feel it’s very much a no brainer for every entrepreneur to use it. Given the API is extremely simple.

[00:38:20] Some people still think about the build versus buy decision. They feel like one way we pitch it is to say, just focus on your core features. And then what we realized is a lot of customers rightfully so come back and say, but I think notifications are cool to our product. So now I don’t want to say that use it only if you think it’s non-core. I would say build it at yourself if you are ready to commit a team to working on it constantly. Because the number of notification surfaces, the user expectations, the visibility you wanna build for customer support, all of that is so much work that you can certainly build yourself.

[00:38:55] It’s not like AI or machine learning hard, but it’s just a lot of work. If you’re willing to commit a team to it, to work on it at least half the time, you can build it in house, but otherwise you should definitely use something like Magic Bell.

[00:39:07] A.J. Lawrence: It’s funny because just even from, the fact that I have service companies that I won separate from the podcast, we have multiple channels where it is that mix of communication coming from email (inaudible) .

[00:39:23] But like all the different ways of communicating and trying to keep the threads straight. Trying to develop and understand where the best ways to bring them the value from what we can do, that is a very difficult thing. And yes, you can always have a team depending on where you’re, but my thought process in looking at Magic Bell was more around the idea of like, what extra value could we focus our time on by having this capability be more straightforward versus ad hoc, which is, you know, where we are.

[00:40:10] So that’s why I felt it is so interesting about what you’re doing. It’s taking so much energy just trying to figure out how to get it done. That if we knew it could be done, yes it may not be a 100% exactly the way we want, but if it could be done smoother then that same amount of energy of like, oh, what about this, everyone signed up, and is this set up, why is the, argh what is going on with this setting, could be focused on how do we make sure we capture this and how do we make sure that we expand upon what we can offer them in response. That I felt was really interesting, cause it just makes incremental difficulty of running a business even a simple service business is uhh. Okay, I can take away a few percentage points of that incremental difficulty. Ohh, that’s nice.

[00:41:02] Hana Mohan: Exactly, I think you have so many problems as an entrepreneur, challenges to solve. If you can help not solving a few of them, then you should just get that help. And I myself, painfully learned that over the years. The last 10 person in, imagine I thought I dropped the entire service before using it, and then it built. And it’s only over time you realize the bill versus buy cost, it’s never in the moment. It’s always over time. It always is. Takes you by surprise honestly.

[00:41:30] A.J. Lawrence: So we’ll make sure we have your Twitter and we’ll make sure we’ll have Magic Bell in the show notes and in the social and the email we send out. But if someone is interested, should they just go to the site? What should they do?

[00:41:44] Hana Mohan: Yeah. So, we are engineers ourselves so we love products that we can sign up for. And we have a free account for up to hundred monthly active users. I encourage everybody to just sign up, build a quick POC, join a slack community if they wanna learn from other users. You can actually get something up and running in less than an hour and ship it to your customers and then improve it from there. So I’d say sign up and let us know what you think.

[00:42:08] A.J. Lawrence: All right. And we’ll be having our team on there soon. So my team is probably going, what are you saying? Hana, thank you so much. Yeah. I really, really appreciate you coming on the show today. I mean, it’s always fun to talk to another expat living in Spain and we have this lovely world, but thank you for sharing your journey today. This really, really cool.

[00:42:29] Hana Mohan: Happy to do it. This was a very enjoyable conversation, so thank you so much.

[00:42:33] A.J. Lawrence: Oh, wonderful.

[00:42:39] This episode of Beyond 8 Figures is over, but your journey as an entrepreneur continues. So if we can help you with anything, please just let us know. And if you liked this episode, please share it with someone who might learn from it. Until next time, keep growing and find the joy in your journey. This is A.J., and I’ll be talking to you soon. Bye bye.

Search Episode
Find Us On Social Media

Dive Deeper With The Newsletter