Create a solution. Not only should your app or SaaS be easy to use, but it should also solve a problem or simplify an obstacle your audience faces regularly. This will improve adaptation of your app or software.
As part of my series about the “5 Things You Need To Know To Create a Successful App or SaaS”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Parag Goswami.
Parag Goswami is the Co-Founder and CEO of Clik.ai. He was born and raised in India and has always been interested in technology. Parag attended the Indian Institute of Technology where he studied computer science and engineering and then went on to get his master’s degree in international finance at The University of Amsterdam.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
My professional journey into technology began after my college graduation when I started working for various software and real estate technology startups. This experience prepared me for a career in real estate technology and building systems to bring efficiency to commercial real estate underwriting through artificial intelligence (AI), but Clik.ai was not the first company I built. During my time in India I founded HouseThat.in, the first property listing website that, in combination with Google Maps, generated over 10 million dollars in property sales in just two years. After this, I founded Integrand Analytics, a leading commercial real estate-focused knowledge processing outsourcing firm that supported over 7 billion dollars in loan and investment transactions across the United States between 2013–2018.
What was the “Aha Moment” that led you to think of the idea for your current company? Can you share that story with us?
That moment happened for me when I realized that the commercial real estate industry was not only underserved in India, but in the United States and Canada too.
Clik.ai was started as a direct result of a problem I had encountered personally; the pain of manually underwriting and supporting ~5,000 commercial real estate transactions for my previous real estate consulting business.
I saw a need for a major upgrade in commercial real estate underwriting and considered artificial intelligence to be the solution. It is not until recently that artificial intelligence has grown in popularity and has been incorporated into day-to-day business workflows. The significant lack of AI use was proof that businesses were hesitant to embrace true potential. But I saw this opportunity much sooner. I knew the use of AI was an opportunity to increase productivity and ease daily workload, not to replace staff. I used this idea to provide an efficient opportunity in commercial real estate underwriting through the use of my software, Clik.ai. It is programmed to use AI to read, absorb, and extract information such as loan applications, rent roll details, and personal client information — safely and accurately.
This idea along with my knowledge of start-ups and experiences in computer science, engineering, and real estate technology, paved the path for the successful launch of Clik.ai in 2017.
Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Every entrepreneur has difficulties in their journey to success. I never considered it an option to abandon how far I had already come. Sometimes the most difficult thing to do when launching your business is believing in yourself. YOU are the determining factor between failure and success. It is important to remember that nobody wants this dream more than you do. It is up to you to create and follow through with it.
The most difficult time for Clik.ai was when we hired expensive talent for development while raising debt from friends and family in our first year. There were many times when cash ran out. The core team on bare sustenance, we were in desperate need of cash to carry on and the prospect of shutting down was real. However, while we were locked in a heated closed-door meeting to decide on the path to take, we got a break. One of our current major customers decided to sign up after a lengthy period of trial and evaluation. This success was our proof of concept and this was soon followed by the initial seed funding that we received. Clik.ai had received a lease of life and we have been going strong ever since.
My drive to succeed comes from my passion to show the world how upgraded technology, such as artificial intelligence, can enhance our daily lives. When times were especially difficult, I found peace in talking to others. Anyone who may be experiencing similar circumstances or someone who can just listen really helped me. By sharing my experiences, although not exactly the same as everyone else’s, my loved ones, friends, and colleagues brought me back down to Earth and got me back on track.
Although it is different for each person, it is important to identify the signs of needing a break before it is too late. Passion can drive success, but it can also lead to quick burnout. Find what keeps your peace and rely on it during this hectic time.
So, how are things going today? How did your grit and resilience lead to your eventual success?
We have successfully launched our software, Clik.ai, and it is being utilized by industry leaders like Merchants Capital, Bellwether Enterprise, Northmarq Capital, Lument, and other banking institutions that are interested in underwriting and servicing more loans, staying ahead of competitors, and closing more deals with the use of an AI-powered software. Our software is helping clients monitor and underwrite hundreds of properties as more commercial real estate companies are seeing the powerful results from our solution. In just three years, Clik.ai has helped underwrite over 15 billion dollars in property evaluations and we see even more success ahead in 2021.
Although 2020 was uncertain, we managed to come out of it more resilient and have learned the valuable lesson of anticipating change at any moment. We have plans to continue to service the commercial real estate industry through our newest innovations (to be announced at a later date).
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
There are many stories to choose from. During the start-up stages in a company’s journey, there will always be obstacles and mistakes will be made along the way. The way one recovers from it is what makes the true difference.
One of the biggest lessons I learned while working in this industry is that it is almost impossible to manage a company alone and be efficient. When Clik.ai was in its initial stages, I thought I could take on every single daily task, review, every meeting, R&D, and more on my own. I quickly realized that we were not as productive when I was micromanaging every aspect of the business. I leaned on my team and learned to divide and conquer. Delegating tasks to my team ended up being the correct decision as I then had more time to pursue partnerships with companies such as that of Bellwether Enterprise and more.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Clik.ai stands out because we have figured how to best serve commercial real estate underwriting that nobody realized was outdated. CRE underwriting is a long and drawn-out process. Individuals are left to manually input and analyze large amounts of data for each and every loan. This process can take hours and, sometimes, even days. We are in the midst of entering an almost fully digital world, so why wouldn’t we incorporate digitalization to handle the massive amounts of data?
Additionally, each Clik.ai team member brings unique expertise to the table, such as computer science and software engineering, making it possible for us to expand Clik.ai’s services further with the knowledge we need to do so.
We recently added a non-CRE industry professional to the leadership team in Toronto who was most recently working with a globally well-known oil and gas behemoth. Their expertise in handling large multi-million dollar time crunched projects in addition to the unique perspective they are able to bring in looking at the problems faced by both Clik.ai and our clients have been eye openers for us. We have been able to straighten wrinkles and kinks that we didn’t even think existed.
We look forward to sharing our next creations with the commercial real estate industry and know it will create more efficient solutions we weren’t aware we needed.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
It’s always less stressful to build the early team among a group of friends. Clik.ai’s core team consists of friends who went to engineering school and worked together in the past. This allows the team to withstand long days, with a positive attitude, to get your business off the ground. Creating a space that allows for creativity and collaboration will bring out the best in each team member and make them want to work hard because their dreams are being fulfilled, too.
Additionally, it is crucial to take breaks. Schedule time off and unplug for a little while. Enjoy this time and trust that your team will survive without you. Having support from those closest to you will help you through stressful times, as well as create true reliability in the workplace.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I am grateful for my family and their continued support throughout my career. They have always been there for me and provided encouragement when things became difficult in the initial phases of Clik.ai’s launch.
Approximately how many users or subscribers does your app or software currently have? Can you share with our readers three of the main steps you’ve taken to build such a large community?
Clik.ai has underwritten 12 billion dollars in loans for various clients since its founding in 2017. Three of the main steps taken to achieve this were:
Forming and maintaining partnerships with companies like Bellwether Enterprise and Merchant’s Capital.
Office location expansion. Clik.ai has offices in Toronto, New York, and Gurgaon, India. This created the opportunity to service more clients in multiple countries.
Understanding the need for regular updating. We want to provide our clients with the fastest and highest accuracy outcomes. So, Clik.ai’s software is always being monitored to ensure the fastest and highest accuracy outcomes.
What is your monetization model? How do you monetize your community of users? Have you considered other monetization options? Why did you not use those?
B2B Saas subscription per user/month or per year is the simplest way for us to sell.
Pricing tier changes obviously based on features and number of users per company.
After trying many different models, we decided to go with a typical SaaS subscription to keep the sales process simple and not confuse potential customers.
Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful app or a SaaS? Please share a story or an example for each.
1. Create a solution. Not only should your app or SaaS be easy to use, but it should also solve a problem or simplify an obstacle your audience faces regularly. This will improve adaptation of your app or software.
2. Keep researching/updating. Keep pushing and improving your technology. By anticipating updates and providing additional resources, your users will be ultimately more satisfied.
3. Network and create partnerships. Look for appropriate partnerships to help build brand recognition and trust. Keep those connections for future initiatives or support.
4. Hire a team that is as motivated as you are. Take time to ensure you are creating the business environment that is encouraging as well as productive. When launching a business, the people around you should be highly motivated to help you achieve your goals and you should be motivated to help them achieve theirs too.
5. Lean on those closest to you when you need support. Creating an app or software service can be taxing as it requires a lot of energy to ensure success. There will be times that you may feel tired or defeated. Find comfort in talking to your close friend or family about how you feel.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I am concerned about climate change so if I find time and resources in future, I may end up spending a few years of effort on a tree plantation campaign across the globe.