ODPM Fellow Showcase: Sathya Viswanathan
Meet Sathya Viswanathan, the Associate Director of Product Management for Kissflow Workflow, the company’s highest revenue product.
Right now, leads a full-stack team of engineers, designers, copywriters, and product managers.
Sathya’s been working in product management for over a decade, helping to launch a number of successful SaaS products in India and the UK. These days, he’s based in Vancouver, Canada.
How Pramod Rao and Abhishek Nalin Created Threado for Better Community Building
Pramod Rao shares his experience creating a platform for community builders.
“Our goal with Hellosaurus is to provide a safe and fun space where kids can pretend to be whatever they want today, so they can develop the skills to become whoever they want to be tomorrow. Through a pretend play lens, children will be able to learn about the world, different opportunities, and topics while also developing critical skills like creative thinking and communication.”
Vance Roush and Kyle Woumn share their experience building Overflow, a company that inspires generosity through technology by making donations frictionless across every major asset class. With the help of On Deck, Vance and Kyle built the network they needed to take Overflow to the next level and raise a $10M Series A to empower people anywhere to give to causes they care about.
"The access to people, experts and the expertise has saved us a lot of time in doing research and outreach just by centralizing a lot of knowledge in one place. Given Climate Change is such a broad problem to be tackling, Nestor and I had about 100 areas that we weren’t experts in (grant funding, intellectual property, etc.)."
In science, there’s a multi-trillion dollar data loss problem because of a lack of software and infrastructure, which leads to disaggregated and unsearchable data. This has always been a massive problem, but it’s come to the forefront with COVID-19... We saw an opportunity for a tool purpose-built for the scientific community to eliminate inefficiencies and foster more innovative research.
When I started at SquadCast in August 2020 I had never formally been trained in community building. Harry Duran, one of the advisors of SquadCast who had been participating in the On Deck No Code Fellowship, saw that On Deck had launched the Community Builders fellowship and recommended that I participate.
"I believe that the fastest way to grow and improve is to give your ideas, products, and models exposure to smart people. ODFintech allows you to gain this exposure in a 10x way, where one conversation changes the vision of your product and introduces you to a host of other people you should connect with."
One fireside chat in particular comes to mind as far as holding the insights I was looking for. Erik Torenberg spoke about how On Deck went from a physical dinner series and retreat to an online fellowship. He emphasized that you really had no idea what would work unless you went out and tested it. He reflected on how it took 4 years to find the model that worked and how transitioning to a cohort based approach made all the difference.
We saw an opportunity that we could create a product that connects seamlessly with your calendar and turns on whenever you speak in meetings. It then would give you personalized feedback in real-time and after the meeting where it provides you with tips and lessons, evaluating things like your confidence, clarity and empathy.
When I was accepted to On Deck in November 2021, I had just begun a new job search and was looking for roles and companies I could thrive in. On Deck Customer Success seemed like a great opportunity for me to grow my career and build a network of peers who were doing the same.
ODCoS Fellow Kirstie Marsh shares her experience of finding a lifelong community of trusted Chiefs of Staff while living in a country where almost none exist. ODCoS connected Kirstie to a trusted peer network that allowed her to gain confidence in the early stages of her Chief of Staff career.
At On Deck, I attended intimate sessions with other founders about both their successful and unsuccessful journeys. I got so much energy from writing code for the hackathon (I built OfficeTogether’s MVP in Airtable!) and I also met so many people in 1:1 meetings who had just made the leap. My experience at On Deck gave me the courage to leave my job and start my own company, which was hard given how much I loved Coinbase.
It meant a lot of VCs started reaching out to us on Twitter and said, “I saw your Demo Day presentation, and I would love to have a conversation about what you're building.” Plus, the founder of Bubble was part of the judging panel on Demo Day and mentioned that I had created an ‘Impressive build.’ It was super validating considering I had just taught myself Bubble.
Structuring the round was really interesting. In our cap table, we have investors that are super focused on climate. We have investors that care about the biotechnology. We have investors that care about the future of food. We have investors that are principally supporting our go-to-market strategy (with experience investing in other similar products like Impossible, Beyond, Blue Bottle) that can help us get there.
For a project like this, you just have to start and dive in headfirst. You have to put an initial prototype together — evaluate properly, understand what the baseline is. Then you create an optimization framework, and iteratively work to reduce errors to get to a point where you match and exceed current human judgment. That’s surprisingly within reach.
"One of my biggest beliefs in investing is that a good investor has a general worldview of how the world operates and their investments fit into that worldview like a Lego block snapping into place. Even though you are allowed to have multiple interest areas as an investor, there should still be one unified belief behind why you are making certain investments."
Small businesses with fewer than 10 employees make up about 90% of the businesses in the world. But they answer the phone only 35% of the time. The reason is very simple — they're busy. They're doing what they know. They're serving the customer in front of them. They're unclogging toilets. They're hemming a dress, They're fixing a shoe. Whatever it is they do, they're doing that. And they prioritize it over the inbound phone call. We’re here to help them pick up that call.
"When questions came up that fell out of the scope that I or one of the collaborators I was working with could answer, my go-to location became the On Deck Health Asks & Offers channel. It was the best search engine in the niche as the results were driven by people passionate and informed about the space."
"When I was new to this ‘Founder World’, I had no community, I had no people to talk to you. I didn't understand the legal, the HR, the tech, the coding, the fast iteration, the rapid pace —I was overwhelmed. So I went to On Deck seeking community where I could meet with and talk to other people in a similar stage.
It's really hard to filter through all the startup advice available on the internet since there's so much outdated and low quality content mixed in. On Deck does a great job at filtering who gets in, so searching through the Slack meant 1) the advice was recent, and 2) it came from qualified people.
The smaller you get, the less you have. By the time you get down to very small companies, in the US, they're sending checks; in the UK, they're copy-and-pasting from payslips into their bank account one by one, paying things manually. It's a time consuming, laborious, painful process. And there just hasn’t been a way to automate it. It's been assumed that nothing can be done until those businesses are bigger.
One of my main challenges was growing a team quickly. I had a few people in my Mastermind group that had thousands of employees at different parts of their career and they were able to give me advice throughout the process. Without On Deck I could have made some hiring and firing mistakes.
Contractors who care about their teams want to go invest in things that make them safer. What is missing from that equation is that the companies which support these businesses: their financial services, their insurance companies, their lenders, their banks, are not currently creating a model that says, hey, if you do these things, we're going to give you credit for improving the risk profile of your business.
"Everyone in the program has a job and a blog, or they are launching a podcast, and maybe also founding a startup, and they’re investing. That sense of ambition is contagious. It’s powerful to be around a community that has a different approach to their own career strategy than the straight and narrow conventional path."