Somya Kapoor and Ravi Bulusu, the co-founders of TheLoops, are serial entrepreneurs. Find out why they came together and how they think about product-building and finding the right investors.
12 Jul 2021 · 3 min read
Somya Kapoor and Ravi Bulusu are co-founders of Loops. Both veteran product people and serial entrepreneurs, they saw the challenges faced by customer service and support agents struggling to work through mountains of tickets with little context, and they decided to fix it.
TheLoops is all about collecting data from software interactions, including logs, alerts and errors, to make customer support mechanisms smarter and faster. Insights can then be fed into product development cycles to enhance the customer experience.
It’s not the first time Somya and Ravi have been founders, but it’s the first time they’ve done it together and they make an unstoppable team. We interviewed them about their journey, and if you're a startup greenthumb, they have some excellent advice.
Finding and pitching to VC funders is a “gruesome process” and a “necessary grind” according to Somya. But there’s an upside. It helps you refine your story and more strongly formulate your vision, which is critical to finding the right VC fit. Because not all VCs are the same and many will not be right for you.
Her advice is take as many interviews and meetings as you can to learn about what you need and weed out the VCs who are unsuitable. “It's not about getting the money, it's about finding a partner in your journey of where you want to get to.”
Ravi says he’s seen startups with the wrong VC match and “it's not just the founders that get really messed up in the process, it’s employees too.” You need to have someone aligned to your long-term perspective, is how he puts it, the way Tidal is for TheLoops.
“It's not about getting the money, it's about finding a partner in your journey of where you want to get to.”
- Somya Kapoor, Loops
Tidal came along as TheLoops were looking to raise their second round of funding, which coincided with the beginning of the global COVID outbreak in March 2020. Despite the circumstances, TheLoops had plenty of VC investors knocking on the door. But it was through conversations with investment expert Andrea Kowalski and product leader Wendell Keunemann at Tidal that prompted TheLoops to sign a deal.
“They were super helpful in getting us to think from a founder's angle on why we need the money.” says Somya, “They wanted us to look at it from a place where it would help us grow the company and be beneficial for the customers.” Where other investors look primarily for the potential return, Tidal was looking to how (not just if) TheLoops could succeed. “When you’re building products that customers like, a lot of VCs want to get involved. But Wendell and Andrea were really different.” They offered an insider perspective.
Ravi and Somya at their San Jose headquarters
The best way to prove a point is to not have to make it yourself. But how do you do that? Somya says you should talk to your customers (lots and lots of them) and get them on side, and Ravi says get your team in a room and “whiteboard the #$&* out of it!” By which he means build a great product based on what customers say. When you do both, you end up with mountains of evidence for why VCs should throw money at you.
“Nothing speaks louder [to a VC] than customers validating your product,” says Somya, even louder than “knowing your cap tables”. Ravi advises to look for synchronicity with VCs, to make sure they understand what you do, the market, the ecosystem. To succeed, “you’ll need their network, so be sure they have a good one and the right one for you.” Tidal fills this role, acting as “advisors and mentors, helping us think through the pros and cons of decisions.”
It’s all about perspective with Tidal, says Ravi, and being “product futuristic”. They bring “the right approach and a really different product perspective. Not just about how to build features, but also how to go to market and put them in front of customers.”
The reason Somya and Ravi make an amazing team is their complementary perspectives. Not just complementary skills (Somya is more go to market and Ravi is more product builder), but the way they see things and make decisions from different experiences.
When asked what Tidal brought to the table, they talked about compatibility at first, admiring the product-led growth mindset and understanding of the B2B tech market. What emerged as most important, though, was that Tidal “understood” them and felt trustworthy, showing an openness and friendliness beyond what Somya and Ravi expected. “We thought it was because they’re Australian,” Somya says with a laugh.
Ravi welcomes Tidal’s product perspective and advice, because “they love products” and are a “founder-led VC firm who live their values.”
Somya advises less experienced founders to seek this kind of trust, but also seek the truth. You want to be able to get bad news and constructive criticism too. “You don’t want to think of your founders as bosses,” she says, you need to be able to approach them with problems “without fear it will have a negative impact.”
Her parting advice is this: “Don't wait to build a perfect slide deck or perfect product. Just get out there and start raising.
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