Firing Squad: BeRemote's Vivek Nigam


Work from home is a thing. Maybe you've heard. This means vendors hoping to support employers with a remote workforce have a lot of tailwinds going in the right direction. However, like most things, there are going to be big winners and some big losers, and everything in between. That brings us to BeRemote, a startup hoping to take advantage of this red hot trend. Do they have what it takes to survive Firing Squad?

Gotta listen to find out.


PODCAST TRANSCRIPTION sponsored by:

Disability Solutions is your RPO partner for the disability community, from source to hire.


Firing Squad INTRO (0s):

Like Shark Tank? Then you'll love Firing Squad! CHAD SOWASH & JOEL CHEESEMAN are here to put the recruiting industry's bravest, ballsiest, and baddest startups through the gauntlet to see if they got what it takes to make it out alive? Dig a fox hole and duck for cover kids the Chad and Cheese Podcast is taking it to a whole other level.


Joel (22s):

Oh yeah. I'm about five cups of coffee and I am ready for some firing squad. What's up everybody? This is your favorite guilty pleasure. The Chad and Cheese podcast. I am your cohost Joel Cheeseman joined as always by my partner in crime Chad Sowash.


Chad (38s):

Hello.


Joel (38s):

Today, we welcome a new victim today. We welcome Vivek Nigam. He is the founder and CEO of BeRemote. Vivek welcome to firing squad.


Vivek (48s):

Thank you. Thank you. Great to meet you guys.


Joel (51s):

Outstanding. We're happy to have you here. So before we get into the business side of this podcast, let our listeners know a little bit about Vivek. Who are you?


Vivek (1m 0s):

Sure? My name's is Vivek Nigam. I'm up here in a frigid cold Connecticut and sorry yeah, I don't blame you. Many years ago, I ran a tech startup down in the DC area with, for a nice positive exit. Worked for some big companies for many, many years. I'm married to my high school sweetheart, went to the senior prom together for many, many years and have two kids kind of grown up and although their home and due to the pandemic, but they're grown and on kind of on their own. So.


Chad (1m 35s):

Nice.


Joel (1m 35s):

So your life is a hallmark special basically is what you're saying.


Vivek (1m 40s):

And some people do say that.


Chad (1m 42s):

It's more like the Walton's there. They're all still at home.


Joel (1m 50s):

Night, John boy. Amazing. Now let's tell him what he won Chad.


Chad (1m 55s):

Alright Vivek, you will have two minutes to pitch, BeRemote. At the end of the two minutes, you're going to hear that bell then Joel and I are going to hit you with rapid fire Q and A. At the end of Q and A you're going to receive one of three of these ratings. Number one, big applause, Australia, just granted you entry and you have a great chance on winning the title. Tennis clap. You're stuck in quarantine, but focusing on the right decisions can get you back on the court and last but never least the firing squad, your ass just got sent home.


Chad (2m 35s):

Don't pass go. Don't collect $200, trash it and move along smartly. That's firing squad. You ready to go?


Vivek (2m 45s):

I'm ready.


Joel (2m 45s):

All right. Vivek in three, two.


sfx (2m 47s):

Ding, ding, ding.


Vivek (2m 47s):

All right. So the pandemic accelerated the widespread adoption of remote work, but instead of taking advantage of this opportunity to improve how we work, most organizations simply took their offices online along with the bad habits, have permeated them. As a result, employees are feeling more stressed than ever. In fact, a third of workers are feeling disconnected from company culture and their colleagues. 74% of workers will leave their current jobs that they found more flexible options elsewhere and cross team collaboration, which is the number one source of innovation has declined by 25%. For example, if two folks are in finance and they're still working well together, remotely, but now the serendipity of someone from finance, bumping into someone from marketing has plummeted. This is what we have BeRemote called "innovation decay."


Vivek (3m 31s):

So we created a platform called ReTeam that is designed to reduce meetings, facilitate innovation, improve team participation, and ultimately increase employee retention. And among our use cases, the three most popular are first reduce meetings. So leaders are spending 80% of the day in virtual meetings. And instead of back-to-back in person meetings now they're back-to-back zoom calls. We have several clients that have been able to reduce five hours of meetings every week using ReTeam. Second improve innovation ReTeam suite of tools makes ideation intuitive, effective, and better for hybrid Teams. We use a process called "iterative ideation," and I've found that ideas can be developed in days and weeks, rather than months and quarters.


Vivek (4m 15s):

And the third is increasing team participation. So increasing employee participation can be directly correlated to an increase in profit margins and retention. And some of our early clients have seen an average of 30% increase in team participation. We have a standalone web app. Our mobile app As available in apple and Android. We've integrated into the Microsoft Teams app store, and we're working on developing integrations with Zoom and RingCentral. And to learn more, you can go to BeRemote.com or drop us an email at info@beremote.com.


Joel (4m 49s):

Very nice. That was tight. You've rehearsed that obviously.


Vivek (4m 52s):

I actually wrote a couple of things down.


Joel (4m 54s):

All right. Vivek my first question is you have a fairly illustrious career in insurance, according to your LinkedIn profile, you were at Hartford, Travelers, Aetna, correct?


Vivek (5m 5s):

Yep.


Joel (5m 6s):

So what does an insurance guy get into the employment industry for? What was the origin for this? You seem like you had a nice little life there in the insurance company business.


Vivek (5m 16s):

Yeah. So contrary to what some of my friends liked to tease me about, I didn't actually sell insurance. I actually managed Teams and did some, you know, technology and IT work. Interesting thing is that when you're in that space, you're dealing with a lot of different cultures and, you know, you do remote Teams quite a bit. And what I was found is that people who were social, they tended to do better and people who weren't, they tend to get left behind. So started this journey about five years ago, just talking about leveling the social playing field across cultures. And that's really where it started. When the pandemic hit, we pivoted and said, you know, we've got the foundation to help with team participation, but we thought there was so much more to do. And so now we focused more on just making hybrid Teams, more effective, reducing meetings and innovation and things like that.


Joel (6m 1s):

So from the looks of it, this is a totally bootstrapped organization. Is that correct? Or have you raised money that just sort of is family, friends, smaller rounds?


Vivek (6m 10s):

Mostly family, your friends and angels, we raised about $300K and a good amount of bootstrapping in there too, but yeah, that's been our raise to date.


Joel (6m 20s):

Now was their plans to raise money or are you going to continue to be a bootstrap organization? Grow organically?


Vivek (6m 28s):

Our intention is to operate through revenue obviously, but yeah, we will probably do a series A most like in the second quarter of this year and hoping to lead up to that.


Joel (6m 39s):

Okay.


Chad (6m 39s):

Well, off of that, how many clients do you have currently and what are your revenues looking like?


Vivek (6m 44s):

Yeah, so we have, we have about 10 clients today and revenue's are small, so we don't have the exact numbers, but that they're not something that's going to make us a public company, but we're growing. We've got people that are, you know, we've got some large insurance companies, we've got some law firms, we've got some technology companies and we're learning a lot through all of these, these processes and yeah. And we're early in this stage of getting some good conversions.


Chad (7m 17s):

Okay. Well tell me about your prior exit, what was the product and what was the industry?


Vivek (7m 21s):

Oh, you're gonna love this. This is so, so cutting edge for, for today, but this is 1994 when the internet was very young and literally our intention was to put yellow pages on the web. Nothing today, but back in the day, people didn't have domain names. They were on like their ISP slash business name,


Chad (7m 47s):

AOL?


Vivek (7m 47s):

AOL, exactly. Right. And so really we build technology to spider out and the pages and just determine who is a personal page, who is a business page and then link them to their yellow pages listing. Sounds like nothing. But, you know, back in the day, that was quite a challenge. And, you know, we sold the company to AOL. They wanted us for our business taxonomy of all things and our search capabilities.


Chad (8m 9s):

Very nice, very nice.


Joel (8m 13s):

Fair enough. You were Craig before Craigslist is what you're saying. So my initial thought when I saw this thing was, holy shit, these guys just brought a pistol to a Howitzer fight. You have a ton of competition, whether it be Slack and the apps in Slack, Teams, Poly Disco, Work Human. I mean, there's just a lot of competition.


Vivek (8m 36s):

Sure.


Joel (8m 37s):

You obviously get the question in sales. Like, how are you different? So what is the answer to that question?


Vivek (8m 42s):

Yeah. And so let me, let me address a couple of those right there. So like a people like Teams and Zoom and Slack, we don't want to compete with them in that, like we view them as platforms that we can, we can compliment. And so our implementation with Microsoft Teams is actually pretty interesting where we'll let them do the live meetings and we want them to have the live meetings there. What we do is we're based on social science, right. And did a lot of this research before we started the company just to figure out how people interact and what's the best way to get them to interact. And that's all those processes are built into what we do. We're hoping to compliment things like Slack, things like Zoom and build tools that now can take meetings off the calendar and help you communicate and prepare and follow up on meetings.


Vivek (9m 33s):

Now, a lot of the companies, they are trying to get more meetings and because that's how they get their utilization. We are going the other way. We are trying to reduce the number of meetings to kind of change the management style of it. I think we've got something here. We are, our politics and our implementations are strong, some good positive results. And yeah, I mean, I think it's really a matter of continuing to run fast.


Chad (9m 58s):

Okay.


Joel (9m 58s):

So you, you handled the platform question pretty well. Now talk about the direct competition, the Discos, the Work Humans, et cetera.


Vivek (10m 8s):

Sure, so a lot of the competitors have focused on one or another or a handful of features that there's people that just do a water cooler or people that just do, you know, pure recognitions and things like this. What we're doing is trying to put all these together. And as we've gone through the politics where we're adding to it and building onto it, all of these together build greater what I like to call team cohesion is a little bit too much of buzzwords. We talked about team participation. And so all of these put together have improved the team participation. There's multiple ways to reduce meetings. We think that's an advantage for us. Some of the algorithms that we have underneath are designed to help improve that participation.


Vivek (10m 51s):

And we're hoping that we can continue to improve it to, you know, to be more effective learning than the competitors.


Joel (10m 57s):

So when can we expect to see an app on Slack or Teams or some other platform?


Vivek (11m 2s):

We do have an integration to Slack. It's an arm's length into integration where it's just messaging back and forth. So if you're in Slack and you're in ReTeam, and there's an activity and ReTeam will show up in Slack, not super compelling, we'd like to make that more compelling. Microsoft Teams is live. So if you're in Microsoft Teams, you can search for ReTeam and install it and start using it. And we did that largely because we got challenged from companies are saying that they don't want another application. So now we're saying is, if you're already in Teams, you don't have to install something new. You enable us in Teams, you can begin using it. And that's also the approach to get into Zoom and to RingCentral, we've got a couple of big companies that we're working with that are big brands, RingCentral implementations.


Vivek (11m 47s):

And I think that platform is actually pretty interesting.


Joel (11m 50s):

And how are the apps going? I mean, I know I checked the app store on my iPhone and you guys don't have any reviews. I know 10 customers, but what are you saying with the app, the app stores that you're leveraging right now?


Vivek (12m 6s):

Yeah, so we sell one-to-one. And so really it's not a wide outbound marketing campaign, so we're not looking for people to just to discover us and download and start playing games and things like that. Right? So it's really about, we talked to two customers and then when they download it, they'll use either the app, the web app, or one of the Microsoft Teams implementations. We have a nationwide law firm that's using it that actually is doing all of them. They're in Teams, but so they use it within Teams. And, but they've got clients and customers that are in all of the different platforms. So some are an Android or in Apple, some are on the web.


Vivek (12m 48s):

So that's really been the more interesting implementation. So again, not surprised we don't have reviews or because we're not, we're not going direct to consumer marketing at this point. .


Chad (12m 59s):

Okay. So Joel's fine with your platform answer. I'm not. I'm not even close to find because Slack and Teams, which I use, it seems like I can do every single thing. I can create wellness channels. I can create team channels. I can create all these different channels. I can use calling. I can put videos, I can drop emojis, this, I mean, I can do all these things, Vivek. So I guess my question is, are you focusing on all the others who might actually buy you as a feature to compete with Slack and Teams? Because it seems like I can do all of this within those two big platforms.


Vivek (13m 35s):

Yeah. You know, and aspirationally, I wouldn't be a CEO and, you know, and founding this company without some aspirations say, I think we can be better, but I do believe that we are better. I've looked at all the different components that are in Microsoft Teams. And what we find when we talk to companies, there are a few people that are using some more advanced things, and they're doing the processes that, that we actually advocate, but those are manual processes. Right? What we do is enable you to make those a lot better. So you don't have to always be the one to do every single little piece of it.


Chad (14m 17s):

Well give me an example. Give me a specific example of how it's easier in your platform versus the manual piece on a Slack or Teams.


Vivek (14m 22s):

Yeah. I'll give you a very simple one. So we have something called a team video and something we're a big fan of and something that a lot of people use. And the concept on the surface is pretty, pretty simple, which is you set a topic, say, give me an update for, for this Teams meeting, everyone records their updates. We stitch it together into a long video and, or you can watch them individually and there go one meeting on your calendar comes off and comes into ReTeam. A lot of people can get success with that.


Chad (14m 55s):

Gotcha.


Vivek (14m 55s):

Yeah. So now that has multiple factors to it. Not just have you taken a meeting off your calendar, but you've improved your participation. You got some additional statistics that go along with what was the effective, what wasn't effective. You can use it for multiple different ways.


Chad (15m 7s):

So talk to me about your go to market on the sales side of the house. Are you going to bone up and try to go company by company, are you going to go channel partnerships with some of these bigger companies, how how's that going to work for you?


Vivek (15m 22s):

Yeah. Where we are in our maturity, we are, are going one-to-one right. So we're just, we're building out a sales team and, and expanding that sales team as well. And Billy it's going through contacts and then conversations and meetings with some larger companies. And that's our approach today. We would love to grow into and I think this is an area of growth for us, grow into being a partner. If I can get to be part of the distribution of, you know, RingCentral or somebody like that, and be a part of their standard offering and, you know, kind of do some combined sales with them. We'd love to get there.


Vivek (16m 3s):

We're not there yet.


Joel (16m 4s):

What in your mind is the ideal client? You mentioned big companies. Is there an industry that you're maybe targeting, people listening, you know, asking themselves, is this a product for me? Like what kind of target audience are you looking for with this product?


Vivek (16m 19s):

Yeah. Great, great question. So, you know, initially we started off talking about technical teams, development teams, right. IT types of teams. So, and, and why, because the tapping tend to BeRemote. They tend to be multicultural. They tend to have all these social issues. We, you know, languages and things like that. So that's what we had started. And we do have a couple of companies that are basically staff augmentation companies and development companies that are using this and getting, getting good success. What we found is that, and I think the pandemic probably helped is that people who have hybrid workplaces, there's applications for all of them, and really it's a matter of, you know, do you need to innovate? And are you suffering with that? Do you have too many meetings because now everyone's out of sight.


Vivek (17m 3s):

So everyone wants to have a meeting all the time and there's an opportunity to reduce meetings. So we think the market is large, but we definitely are looking at hybrid workplaces. So if everyone's all in the office or it needs to be in the office, there are manufacturing, you know, on the floor. We're not an application for them, but if you're a hybrid workforce where you can, where you're meeting online, we think that's our sweet spot.


Joel (17m 27s):

So you mentioned global, is this a product that can be used in any country? Any language what's the breakdown on that?


Vivek (17m 34s):

Yeah, so we are English only today. However, you know, some of our developers are, do have a right to left language, right? They're in some of those countries, we've looked at that. Now, a lot of what we communicate with, even though there is a good text base to it, is audio and video. The team participation really just is so much better with audio and video. So it, in some, some respects diminishes the need to talk about implementing language, because you're communicating in whatever language that you want, in those formats. But we do need to expand to multiple languages. We're going to start with some of the, you know, Western languages, you know, Spanish and things like that.


Vivek (18m 18s):

But we want to get to some of the far Eastern languages as well, still on our roadmap.


Chad (18m 24s):

Vivek, being a leader, whether it's sales leader or managing tech Teams, whatever, I always hated meetings. And I always reduce them and I didn't have a tool like this. So my point is that if you're a good leader, a great leader, you don't need a tool to reduce meetings. You just need a brain right now from a communication standpoint, this definitely helps, but your pitch feels like you're trying to make shitty leaders into good leaders, and that's not what tech's going to do. Right? It's just really just going to scale the shittiness. So my question to you is, if it's all about just reduction of really meetings and being able to get five hours back that, would you agree with me that has more to do with the human and the choice than it does the tech?


Vivek (19m 15s):

Great point. Now we are trying not to sell just the technology. We have a process, right? And, you know, we've started toying with the idea of calling it, you know, being your Chief Remote Officer. We want to educate, we want to show how these things could work. Someone actually said to me, you know, you guys are actually promoting a new management style. And I think there's validity to that. That's ambitious, right? That's, that's not it that wasn't the intent. There are processes built in here that will encourage people to, aspirational, I'll say to be better managers, to be better coaches. And you're the kind of led me into one of the items on our roadmap.


Vivek (19m 57s):

You know, managers need to be better coaches and mentors. And one of the major components in our roadmap is putting a better platform and therefore coaching and mentoring internally. We're not gonna solve all those problems immediately, but we would like to have the team be empowered to take care of itself. So a lot of what you see in the platform is, you know, data and insights that the whole team has visibility to. So they can encourage themselves to be better direct. We're laying the foundation. I'm hoping we don't end up with crappy leaders becoming just crappy online leaders. Right.


Chad (20m 35s):

Scaling the shit, man.


Vivek (20m 36s):

Actually, I like that. I want to use that.


Chad (20m 38s):

It's all yours.


Joel (20m 40s):

He has it. He has it trademarked already. So you'll have to pay him a royalty for them.


Vivek (20m 46s):

We'll footnote your name on it.


Joel (20m 49s):

Yeah. Chad asked about the sales strategy. I want to ask about the marketing strategy.


Vivek (20m 53s):

Sure.


Joel (20m 54s):

Certainly as an outsider, just looking in, it seems really disparate. I mean, the site is obviously not cutting edge. I'm probably not telling you anything that you don't know. Design could do some work. You know, you have, you have a link to the blog and the main navigation, and you have a whole of three blog posts in your blog. You have every social media outside of TikTok and Snapchat, which seems really unfocused to me. I'm not sure why you would think Instagram was something that you could leverage. So tell me about your marketing strategy, how you're going to build the brand and obviously compete with some of these high rollers and guys with bigger wallets than you.


Vivek (21m 37s):

Yep. And all of your insights are accurate. We've toyed with different things as we've grown. And what we're doing today is we are still at the one-to-one, you know, meetings trying to reach out and, you know, it's a very heavy, heavily person and time intensive. We do need to get a broader marketing strategy, we just haven't defined that yet. We'll look for some results. Now, the two major activities going on right now, we have an advisor who is a professor at UConn, and she's been helping us with, you know, validating the assertions that we have and the processes that we're using. And we're got some clinical research going on with University of Miami, Ohio, and Pepperdine, looking at before and after results with some of our clients.


Vivek (22m 21s):

And so that we can get independent results. Once we have those independent results, we think at that point, we want to do a marketing blitz and all of this is going to get cleaned up. But that at that point, we'll have some clinical research and some results that I think we'd be very proud of. And we can, we can get out there. We're hoping to have that within the next couple of months.


Joel (22m 46s):

Okay. You mentioned advisor advisory board. Talk about the team. You have a co-founder it looks like, or another maybe developers side. Are you looking to grow the team and exactly what positions are you hoping to fill?


Vivek (22m 58s):

Yeah. Great. We have, our development team has been intact for some time. That's about 10 people strong. We've been growing our customer success and sales teams. We have about five people on that side today. We need to grow that. Then that's really, when we get to series A, because some additional investment, I want to really focus on the marketing and the sales. I'm comfortable right now with where we are on the development velocity. Right. So how fast we're going and what we're expanding on that side, we'll probably invest more on the data analytics and, you know, we want to operate, be able to use that those data analytics to operationalize sales features in the application. But yeah, the focus is going to be mainly on, I would say on the data side and on the marketing and sales side and we are definitely looking to grow.


Chad (23m 47s):

Okay. So all of this together, especially when you are trying to bootstrap this baby, you need some revenues. So what's the pricing on this? What's, what's a company going to pay, how are they going pay?


Vivek (23m 59s):

Yeah. So what we've been charging to date is $600 per user per year. And it's pretty low pricing. We don't want pricing to be an obstacle today, and that seems to be pretty effective.


Joel (24m 11s):

Sorry did you say 60 bucks per person per year?


Vivek (24m 16s):

Per year.


Joel (24m 17s):

Okay. Just making sure I heard that correct.


Vivek (24m 20s):

I know it's low, right? We're expecting that to increase. And, but at this phase, we are still looking at getting adoption. We're still looking at getting learnings and really understanding and making it better. That's where we today.


Joel (24m 35s):

Alright. Vivek that bell means you get to face the firing squad.


Vivek (24m 40s):

Wait let me take cover. All right.


Joel (24m 41s):

Yeah. Take a little cover. Dig that fox hole a little deeper. I'm going to go ahead and go first, my initial thought in terms of bringing a pistol into a tank fight, I think still holds true. Now, if you had had a series A round and you know, you had $20 million in the bank or something, then that opinion might change. But I think it's a really tough road for you. I think there are established players. I think there are brands that people recognize. And I do think the marketing is an issue. I mean, I think if people go to a website and it looks like something that is sorta chintzy, then that is a point against you.


Joel (25m 27s):

If not multiple points, depending on who goes, goes to the site. And obviously that's about as simple as it is. I think that if you're going to make this thing work, you're going to have to pivot to a particular segment that you can customize your solution to. Whether that be, you mentioned RingCentral. I don't know if that's a niche that you can do. I mean, there's healthcare, there's manufacturing. Like you have to get really laser focused in a particular area, in my opinion, to make this thing work. Because if you're just going against the people with a lot of money and the brands that people know, I don't think you have a snowball's chance in hell of surviving. So in the current state, you're going to have to pivot really hard somewhere.


Joel (26m 9s):

I hope you raise the money. I hope you get the talent to come on board in terms of marketing, the sales piece and obviously development, which you're going to have to, you know, bring the A game in terms of competitiveness on that. But for me, it's nothing personal. I'm a been doing this a long time and I've seen a lot of businesses like yours. I think you can turn it around, but as for right now.


sfx (26m 34s):

Machine gun bullets


Joel (26m 36s):

You're going to get the guns from me Vivek.


Vivek (26m 40s):

All right. All right. Appreciate it.


Joel (26m 43s):

Maybe Chad has a different outlook.


Chad (26m 44s):

Well, Vivek, I love your passion for this idea, but I think it's about three years too late. And the only thing worse than being too early to market is being too late. And I've said this before on the show, technology cannot solve issues like leadership, right? Technology cannot build a strong team, but it can be the glue of that team. Communication means everything, but you need great leaders and technology cannot build great leaders. Now that being said, remote is the future. It is, and it's not going to go away. But the competition, Slack and Teams, they're talking about the big boys. It's not really your choice, whether you are going to compete with them or not.


Chad (27m 29s):

That's their choice, right? They they've got the cash and they can go in any direction that they want fast, but it's early for you. It's very early for you. And now that there are many other platforms that are out there who want to compete with the big names, I believe you have an opportunity to be able to partner with those organizations. Not direct, we're talking about partnership, and go to market and really look for a good exit. You've done an exit before. You've had an exit before, not in this industry, but you understand what that looks like. The opportunity is yes, partnering with Teams and Slack from an integration standpoint, but that only makes it much better for all of those others who are not Teams and Slack for you to look for an exit and look for some traction, you are up against the wall, but I'm going to hit you with the tennis clap.


Chad (28m 22s):

I think there's something there. Remote is big, but your focus has to be laser.


Vivek (28m 28s):

Very good. I appreciate it!


Joel (28m 28s):

Oh, he's still alive. Making sure we didn't actually kill him. Vivek man, we love startups and we love shining a light on your business. You obviously have some work to do so I'm gonna let you go. But before I do that, I'm gonna let, give you a chance one more time to let our listeners know where they can find out more about BeRemote. Be Be Remote.


Vivek (28m 47s):

I appreciate it. Yeah. Go to our website and we'll be working on it. It's a BeRemote.com. And if you feel like drop an email info at beremote.com and one of our team members will pick that up and well talk to you.


Chad (29m 4s):

Gotcha. I would've thought that Joel would have liked the logo because it looks like a cassette tape.


Joel and Chad (29m 9s):

We out, we out.


Firing Squad OUTRO (29m 10s):

This has been the Firing Squad. Be sure to subscribe to the Chad and Cheese Podcast so you don't miss an episode. And if you're a startup who wants to face the Firing Squad, contact the boys at chadcheese.com today. That's www.chadcheese.com.



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