Although Gaurav Bhattacharya has yet to see his 30th birthday, this CEO and Co-founder US immigrant from Delhi, has already experienced a broad swath of rollercoaster founder experiences since he started Involve.AI in 2017 at age 23. When he chatted with the GetLakta team, he opened up about his company was within 2 weeks of closing when he pivoted to an entirely different product. He then closed a company-saving contract and secured two rounds of funding, all while battling imposter syndrome. Six years later, with growing confidence, he’s sitting on $10m in the bank with a modest burn and $2.2m ARR. Also, he goes by G and is a huge fan of Latka’s podcast.
- Team of 12, with 9 engineers, 3 sales and marketing
- $185,000 MRR
- $16m Series A at $48m pre-, $64m post-money in 2022
- 70 mid-market customers at $40-50,000 ACV
- $185,000 MRR paid by 70 mid-market customers for AI-driven customer insights
After a sluggish 4-year run starting in 2017, Bhattacharya explained how Involve.AI had an aha moment in 2021 that helped the company pivot to using AI to help customers understand which of their customers are most likely to expand, stay flat, contract, or churn. This breakthrough proved to be the turning point that set them on a path of closing 70 customers in the last 2 years, with a value of $185,000 in MRR.
Inspired by tragedy
Growing up in Delhi, Bhattacharya revealed that he lost his father to cancer at an early age, which inspired him to build a patient experience platform for doctors. The success of that platform enabled him to move to the US and, in his words, “Dive into AI.” He and his Co-founder followed their passion for volunteerism to build Involve.AI in 2017 as a B2C application.
$1.5m Seed Round in 2017
With a $1.5m Seed round in 2017 in exchange for 25% equity, the two Co-founders created a B2C platform that ended up serving millions of users. It connected people with community and volunteering events around the world. After 4 years, however, the company only generated $250,000 ARR. “We could never figure out how to monetize this. And we realized we could not make a sustainable business,” the CEO revealed.
2 weeks of runway, 9 people, $16,000 in the bank
Then it happened. “I was writing a goodbye email to all our users,” the CEO continued, “my Co-founder came to me and said we have all this user data we’ve been collecting, like Salesforce, Snowflake, and AWS. He said let’s analyze to see why we failed. When we looked at all this data, we discovered we have 40,000 users from Verizon using us for free.”
Verizon delivers $1.45m upfront in 2021
“We reached out to the HR leaders at Verizon who begged us not to shut down the platform,” recalled Bhattacharya. The Verizon team told the CEO, “We rely on the platform. We use it to find and do all these community events. We complete our corporate social responsibility through this.” That led to Verizon allotting their 2021 budget of $1.45m to Involve.AI to keep the platform running. “That gave us enough money to survive,” noted Bhattacharya, adding, “Then we pivoted.”
2022 revenue for Involve.AI hit $1.5m ARR
With the new aha, the team got to work to build AI-powered products that deliver custom insights on customers. “We are a prediction platform—an early warning system for customer health and churn. We plug into their data. We look at usage patterns, usage trends, and sales in Salesforce.” He further explained, “We focus on applying AI to data, which customers, and which sales to focus on. So, we look at 100,000 customers to see which 20,000 are at risk of churn. which 30,000 customers have upsell opportunities and why, and can we craft meaningful automated sequences that someone can edit and tweak per customer and send it off.” This new approach immediately drove $1.5m in ARR in the first year.
2023 revenue hits $2.2m ARR mid-year, expected to reach $5m by yearend
So far in 2023, the Co-founder shared that their revenue has already hit $2.2m ARR. “We are launching a new product later this year, so I think we will hit $5m ARR,” revealed the affable Bhattacharya. While his mid-market customers expands from 70, the company also launched a free Chrome extension called R2D2 10 days before the interview. “We already have 500 users and several reviews,” shared the excited CEO. When Latka asked how they gathered reviews, Bhattacharya replied that they asked longtime users to try and review the product, and many eagerly complied.
Team of 12 delivers good revenue per employee
Involve.AI’s team of 12 is comprised of 9 engineers and 3 sales and marketing people. When Latka commented that $185,000 MRR is solid revenue per employee, Bhattacharya shared his prediction about how AI will influence the future, “I’m a big believer that with AI, people will be able to do so much more. Everything that does not require deep human connection, like us talking and sharing ideas, can be done better, faster, and cheaper with AI. I feel like times will be back to the early days when Instagram was sold for a billion dollars with just 13 people, and when WhatsApp was $20B with just 40 people.”
$10m still in bank from 2022 Series A round of $16m at $64m post-money, 20% dilution
Bhattacharya, who shares 50% equity with his Co-founder, revealed that they are still sitting on $10m of the $16m received from Sapphire Ventures in Series A funding in 2022. When asked if he thought the valuation was fair, the CEO responded, “I think we did the right thing. Many CEOs I listen to say high valuations in early days make it hard to live up to, especially in this market.” He added, “From now on, we don’t see capital as a big lever, especially with AI. Capital will not be a massive lever. It’s going to be a lever without dilution. I feel like the fund you are offering will be the new way of doing it.”
Growing Involve.AI organically with Net Burn of $90,000 per month
“For us right now, we are so focused on creating product and growing customers organically that we don’t think we will need to raise another round. We can get to $10 to $20m ARR without raising any more capital,” declared Bhattacharya. He confirmed that their Net Burn is a mere $90,000 per month.
Favorite Book: CEO and Co-founder Gaurav Bhattacharya, who goes by G, chose the classic How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie as his favorite book. “As an engineer, I love this classic book. I love to go back to it,” G gushed.
CEO he’s following: Bhattacharya chose Elon Musk, quipping, “He’s polarizing but brilliant.”
Favorite online tool: Bhattacharya couldn’t say enough positive things about GitHub and everything it does for his team.
Balance: The 29-year-old says he tries to average 6 hours of sleep. “I’m a hard worker and feel guilty if I sleep more than that,” Bhattacharya shared. He is single, saying his company is his baby. He admits to having two “fur babies” in the form of dogs at home.
What does he wish he had known at 20? “Believe in yourself. I always doubted myself a lot, especially as an immigrant founder coming to the US. I had difficulty believing I was enough, that I could be a good founder, CEO, engineer, salesperson. I have imposter syndrome. I wish I could go back and say believe in yourself; believe in your gut intuition. I wish I had done that earlier.”