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October 10, 2023
Miguel Fernandez

The next Billion Dollar Startup - Story of Capchase by Founder & CEO Miguel Fernandez

The next Billion Dollar Startup - Story of Capchase by Founder & CEO Miguel Fernandez

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Show Notes

Mudassir (00:02.25)
I think you can, yeah, it's perfect. Okay, so yeah, please do that for me. Okay, you remember that, okay.

Miguel (00:06.61)
Yeah. You have it to clap.

Miguel (00:11.685)

Mudassir (00:15.502)
Okay, thank you for that. I'm trolling now. Hey Miguel, welcome to the show. How you doing my friend?

Miguel (00:25.464)
Right. Yeah, I can hear you perfectly.

Mudassir (00:25.666)
Can you?

Yeah, okay. So like we're starting right away, okay?

Miguel (00:32.441)
That's it.

Mudassir (00:35.274)
Hey Miguel, welcome to the show. How are you doing my friend?

Miguel (00:38.232)
Hi, I'm Udaz here. Happy to be here. Thank you so much.

Mudassir (00:41.578)
It's my pleasure to have you. Usually when I talk to anybody, I start with the context. I'm a huge fan of context. I think whoever we are today, it's just because of the context of life, whatever has happened in the past. So what is your story? Who is Miguel? Yeah, what exactly is your context?

Miguel (00:55.449)

Miguel (01:00.94)
Yeah, nice question. So, well, I'm Miguel. I grew up in Madrid, in Spain. I grew up here my whole life. I grew up like, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a family where both my parents were entrepreneurs or are entrepreneurs. So I kind of like grew up, you know, seeing that risk tolerance and the ups and downs of entrepreneurs. And that was something that always excited me. So...

I'm also very curious, so I was interested in understanding how things work. So, yeah, grew up.

playing Lego, which is like one of my favorite pastimes as a kid. And then I started engineering in the same vein to understand how things work. I started engineering in Madrid and in Munich. And then, you know, I felt that I needed to learn how to work. So like a lot of people, I went into consulting. I considered consulting or investment banking. I chose consulting in the end because I thought it would be like more...

like real life problems. And then I saw that it wasn't, you know, like I learned how to work and I learned how to work hard and how to structure communication, how to run meetings and so on. But, you know, I was working on problems.

for really, really large telco and banking and retail companies from like the non-digital economy. So yeah, I left and joined a really early stage startup and that's where I got my chops. I'm, I was one of the really early employees, first person in sales, zero revenue, and I built and led sales and customer success and then international team, and after that, I wanted to launch my own company, but I felt like I needed to learn a little bit more still. So.

Miguel (02:48.854)
I went to business school. I was super lucky and got into HBS. And there I started looking at different ideas, met one of my co-founders, and then launched Capsaic. So that's kind of like the long-winded way of saying what I am now, which is the co-founder, and see how Capsaic is.

Mudassir (03:11.31)
Okay, you know, this is not gonna be part of the recording, but I do happen to interview somebody who was in, who lives in New York. His company name is Fuse. I don't know if you know them or not. They're like in FinTech space. His name is Andreas, Andreas Klarich. Yep. Yeah, okay. So yeah, he is exactly the same story, you know, came from, you know, I don't know where like, where he came from, Belova or something like that.

Miguel (03:25.588)
Nice. I heard about it, yeah.

Miguel (03:37.924)

Mudassir (03:38.622)
And then I went to Harvard Business School, came back with a founder, started a fintech business, something like that. So yeah, just like a little off topic or something like that. OK. If there was a perfect, sorry, if there was a parallel world out there, how would Miguel would look like there? Would look like in a parallel world?

Miguel (03:48.389)
Nice, nice.

Miguel (04:00.085)
Man, yeah, that multiverse theory is interesting, right? Every action, all the infinite possibilities of that action replicate in parallel universes. Look, I think about that quite often. I wish I had like three lives. One to do what I'm doing now. One to...

Um, do crazy things, uh, like, you know, things that are risky. Um, and you know, it can be catastrophic if it don't go, go well. Things like, I don't know, being a fighter pilot or, you know, like doing. Like, I don't know, like living in a, in a surf town in the middle of the, in the, in the, in the ocean. You know? So like a bunch of different things and then another life to, to just kind of like pursue.

Mudassir (04:47.19)

Miguel (04:47.516)
learning, you know, and learn about different stuff. So, so yeah, like in a parallel universe, does it have to be like today, like in this day and age, or can it be like in the past? Oh, I would be, I would be a consul or a legate in the Roman Empire.

Mudassir (04:50.23)

Mudassir (04:56.902)
No? In the past.

Mudassir (05:07.798)
Wow, okay, okay. I did not expect that one, okay. All right, yeah, just move the lid a little bit, like, you know, towards the face, so, you know, so we have, oh yeah, perfect. So now we see the sort of the headshot, okay. Yeah, okay, yeah, that's amazing. So, moving toward the whole startup thingy, whatever, you know, we're gonna talk about today. When we were doing some research on you, one of the things that popped out to me,

Miguel (05:08.72)
Hahaha. Yeah man.

Miguel (05:17.444)
Yeah. Perfect.

Mudassir (05:37.594)
It's not very uncommon to see people don't have failures. So I think that's very common. Every successful entrepreneur I've interviewed, I've met, I know, they have had a lot of failures. I think you failed a couple of startups before starting this one, before going really big with Capchase. So a couple of questions on that. Tell us a little bit about what were the startups, the ones that you actually failed. Why do you think you failed all of them, and what were the lessons that you have actually learned from them?

Miguel (06:06.04)
Yeah, yeah. And by the way, like for the record, I think I still fail a lot every day. So yeah, in different things. But yeah, like these two startups, one was Wevo, the other was Hay Day. Look, the main reason why they failed was because they were just like not good ideas, right? And they were also like probably not really well executed.

But to give a little bit more detail, so WebO was a peer-to-peer sharing and lending platform. Lending, I said like, I lend you something so you can use it and then you give it back. So users will share, rent, lend more.

like sports equipment and gadgets, you know, it's like GoPros, drones, cameras, bicycles, skis, and so on. So it was, um, we launched it on the wake of Airbnb and the sharing economy, you know, boom in 2014. And the thesis was that everybody, you know, like, or not everybody, but like a lot of people have things that they buy and they use very solemnly. Um, whereas other people, um, you know, would like to do activities, but they require, you know, these things that.

and it's hard to get by. So when we launched, we went into the marketplace where people, for example, they say you wanna go skiing in Aspen, but you don't have skis. And then there's somebody that's not gonna be in Aspen that day that has a couple of spur skis. Then you can use them and pay the person, I don't know, 50 bucks a day or whatever. So we...

The first mistake was that when we validated the idea, we were following step by step. We need to validate it, we need to ask people for feedback and so on. So we did it, but we only asked our family and friends for feedback. And they sent it to their family and friends, so basically nobody wanted to tell us that it was a crap idea and that nobody would use it. Everybody was like, yeah, we totally use this, this is so cool, whatever. So then when we launched, we basically saw that it was

Miguel (08:13.676)
way, way more expensive to get a transaction than the money we would make from a transaction. And the reason being is that there was so much friction in the process that it didn't make the company viable. For example, if you're like, the thing about like renting something to somebody is that you need to meet that person to give it, to give the item to that person, and then you need to meet again to get it back or introduce delivery, but then like that increases, cost a lot.

And then if it's something that you really like and that is very valuable, you are afraid to rent it out. You could make money if you rent it out, but you're afraid to rent it out. So then that added more friction, we had to insure things. And then if you don't care about renting it out, they're so cheap, they're not gonna make you a lot of money. So you don't wanna go through the friction of meeting twice to do it. So basically, the union economics were turned upside down and it was really bad.

After that, there have been a couple of companies going through YC trying to do something similar and they haven't succeeded, but there are one, there is a really big company in Germany, sorry, that has been able to do something similar, but actually buying the inventory themselves and then renting it out to customers. And that's an interesting business model that we hadn't, you know, we didn't think about at the time.

Mudassir (09:30.016)

Miguel (09:33.224)
So yeah, I mean, we failed, we didn't lose a lot of money because it was all like put straps and so on, but good learning, good learning. And the second one was different. It was a marketplace for up and coming brands. The typical thing that you see in Instagram, we would hold them in a warehouse in the middle of Madrid and we would deliver them within two hours. So basically, you know, that was profitable from the beginning, good union economics, very solid, but the time was tiny. After like...

Mudassir (09:38.791)

Mudassir (09:45.211)

Miguel (09:58.812)
not many times you're going to buy today the things you're going to work today so you can deal with the one or two delivery so yeah bad time

Mudassir (10:00.225)

Mudassir (10:05.669)

Okay. Wow, okay. Do you think good idea matters? Do you think that?

Miguel (10:14.508)
Oh yeah, 100%. I mean, good ideas matter a lot, but it's not just a good idea. Execution is as, or even more important. Let's say a bad idea with amazing execution would probably be like a very fast failure, at least like you won't spend a lot of time, but a good idea with poor execution.

Mudassir (10:31.518)

Miguel (10:38.02)
would probably be like a failure as well. You know, magic is when good idea, good execution and very good luck meet at the same time.

Mudassir (10:47.166)
Yeah, okay, okay. I think most of the times what we see is decent ideas, like not a great one, decent ideas, but great execution. Those tends to make like really big companies, really successful ones, right?

Miguel (10:53.829)

Miguel (10:57.019)

Miguel (11:00.78)
Yeah, and also I think that maybe like these ideas with great execution actually create like a platform or a breeding ground for great features and great, you know, like sticky loops or variety loops and so on. Yeah, like I can think of a few examples are like, oh, this is an obvious idea, but the execution is so good, you know, that it becomes amazing.

Mudassir (11:08.794)

Mudassir (11:14.591)

Mudassir (11:24.094)
You know often we hear this word that Execution needs to be amazing, you know, but you just need to execute Like this is some sort of a buzzword as well In your opinion, what's a great execution looks like if you were to have a mediocre idea But knowing all the things that you know today and you know, okay Yeah, you know the time is good big enough. I got a lot of experience. I got a decent team or something like that if we execute

At least we're not going to fail drastically or something like that. So in your opinion, in your mind, what is a great execution looks like?

Miguel (12:01.42)

Miguel (12:05.244)
I think execution, to me, if I would have to summarize it in as short as possible, I would say that it's accelerating learnings and the risk in the business in layers. Like that is, to me, the most important thing, right? So what I mean by accelerating learnings is that you need to have a culture and a company and a team that is happy to take bets and then learn from the bets, you know? And like, be comfortable that most bets are gonna fail, but it doesn't matter.

because if one or two or three or like a percentage of these bets work, then you achieve step changes in the business. So that to me is like the absolutely most important thing. And then the risking layers, when you have an idea, it can be a, let's say like, let's call it an obvious idea, you know, like something that already exists, but you just think you can do it better, you know? It's not brilliant, it's just like an idea, you know, like a solution to a problem, whatever.

If you start the risking sequentially, you know, that starts to build momentum. And then the team starts to get in. It starts to every day. It just makes it things a little bit easier, you know, where you're like doing this sequentially as opposed to in parallel, which can add a lot of latency and just distract people and like your surface layer.

of action just gets too large and then you're applying too little pressure. So I would say those two things is in my mind would differentiate the best from the good and they're easy to explain, but they are so, so hard to do and to maintain as the company grows larger. I think it's easier to do it when you're like five, 10 people, 15 people.

Mudassir (13:48.247)

Miguel (13:48.444)
Once you start getting above 25, it's super hard to continue to have that a spirit of experimentation, being okay to fail, you know, like taking bets, the risk and things sequentially and people and we included, you know, falling into temptation of trying too many things at the same time. And that means that, you know, like execution really slows down to a whole.

Mudassir (14:13.086)
Okay, yeah a lot of questions on execution front that comes to my mind. So most of the times what happens is somebody pick any startup and what they would do is they don't, going back to your first mistake is just like, we had a funny conversation with Alistair Crowell who was one of the guests on the podcast and he was like, I used to go to VC events wearing a shirt that says, your mom is not your ideal customer.

So stop asking her for opinions or something like that. So a lot of people do that. Yeah, but one thing that a lot of people do is, even experienced entrepreneurs, they end up scaling way too quickly. By scaling I mean they start hiring early on. I don't know if they have a product market or not. They just start building that sort of a team around themselves like they have multiple VAs, marketing people, sales people.

Miguel (14:44.924)
Allah Hafiz.

Miguel (15:10.512)

Mudassir (15:12.966)
I want to ask you before this thing, I want to ask you, why did you start CapChase? How did you get this idea? What was the aha moment? And after that, I actually want to know, how did you tackle this hiring problem? Like, how did you end up like, okay, now it's time, I'm gonna need a co-founder, like, okay, you already have that one at the beginning. I'm gonna need two more people, I'm gonna have five more people. That's always been a mystery to me.

Miguel (15:28.664)

Mudassir (15:40.142)
So I really want to know, like, how did you do that?

Miguel (15:40.336)

Yeah, so we started Captchaos because, you know, like when I was running that sales and customer success teams back in the SaaS company before HVS.

Every single customer wanted to pay monthly or quarterly or late. And as a startup, a VC bike startup, we needed all that cash upfront to solve, you know, the famous cash gap that SaaS suffered, right? So the only tool we had back then was to give a discount. A discount would be let's say like short-term gain, long-term pain, because yeah, we would close the deal sometimes, you know, we'd get all the cash upfront. But.

our ECD would suffer, our retention would suffer, our lifetime value would suffer, right? So then the idea for Capsis was like, hey, if every single customer wants to pay monthly and every single vendor wants to get paid upfront, there's a huge friction in the sales process right there. So why don't we solve that pain by offering a solution so that SaaS companies can offer flexible payment terms, but get all the cash upfront from a third party. So...

When we started, we had four co-founders. Three of us used to work together. The fourth one and I met at business school. So we had very complimentary profiles. I was more like a go-to-market person. My two other ex-colleagues were more product. One more data-oriented, the other one more product and design-oriented. And then Pshemek, my co-founder from HBS, was a growth investor for business school. So we had different...

Miguel (17:23.476)
skillsets, right? So what we did, which was really, really good at the beginning, was that we each were running, you know, in our own, like extremely fast and bringing all the combined knowledge to the table in very frequent catch-ups. So then we started to see the things that we could solve ourselves and the things that we needed to augment with people. So we started to hire mostly data and risk and analytics, you know, and to try to predict, you know,

tried to predict what SaaS companies were going to do with the revenues to see if we would actually take the risk of inserting ourselves at the point of sale to facilitate that transaction. So yeah, after that, we were doing fund-related sales until we had the first.

millionaire roughly, then we started to hire go-to-market, then we started to hire marketing first as contractors and then like more of a team and then you know when it was too much finance heavy for even us, we hired a finance. It was like very sequential steps trying to fill in the gaps that we had as a team at a particular time. And then you know as we grew

And it was 2020, 2021, right? So there was a lot of pressure to grow faster and faster. So we probably made some highs specifically in the go-to market front that probably like didn't, didn't even ever pay back, you know, like it's not like the payback was longer. It was like, there was no payback at all because you would lower the bar of hiring because you were in such a hurry. And then adding more people just compounded a problem, you know, like you have a problem.

Mudassir (18:43.828)

Mudassir (18:59.201)

Mudassir (19:03.627)

Miguel (19:05.256)
and you have two people, if you add two more people, you're gonna have twice the problem because, you know, like, yeah, so, actually, you know, like, what we did is, you know, like, we started to actually focus on solving the problem first and defining hiring. Actually, like, everything that we're talking about is execution, right? It just is hiring and pacing, it's also execution, but we started to define hiring based on milestones. So, for example, if you're a marketing leader,

Mudassir (19:10.024)
I know, yeah.

Miguel (19:32.756)
until your CAC is below a certain threshold and your CAC payback is below a certain amount of time, you don't get additional headcount. Once you do that, then scale that. Scale something that works. If you're product leader, then until you hit your OKR regarding usage and whatever you use, you don't get another headcount. So in that way, you're incentivizing the team to get better and you can like

Mudassir (19:59.394)

Miguel (20:00.588)
having that snowball feature, as opposed to building a bunch of people and then trying to figure out where to slot them to work on different things. We just add bureaucracy and latency to the system.

Mudassir (20:14.698)
Yeah. Yeah, OK. So you guys have four co-founders. This is the first time I'm hearing something like that. How did you manage the equity split?

Miguel (20:24.696)
Uh, there's a good question, I guess. Yeah, it's, uh, yeah, pretty, pretty fair.

Mudassir (20:28.758)
Yeah, okay.

Mudassir (20:34.963)
OK. So some of our listeners are like first time founders, so they haven't been into the game for quite some time. So if you can explain the cash cap that's pertaining to the SaaS industry, but yeah, that would be very helpful for them. What exactly is that? Who's going to suffer from them? Capch is obviously a solution to that. So if you can just talk about that a little bit.

Miguel (20:45.849)

Miguel (20:53.518)

Miguel (20:57.356)
Yeah, yeah, for sure. So the cash gap, I mean, the first time I joined the SaaS company, I learned everything about the cash gap and about all the other SaaS metrics. But the cash gap is super important, because if you think about a SaaS company, there are a lot of costs that you need to incur.

until you sign your first customer. You know, you need to invest a ton in developing the product. So that's like a lot of engineering resources spent, a lot of salaries spent. And then you need to spend money to acquire customers, right? And then let's say day zero of acquiring a customer, you spent a bunch of money. You spent the development money, but then also the cost of customer acquisition. So you're in the red, you're like negative. And then the customer starts paying.

they can start paying monthly or quarterly or yearly or whatever, but they start paying and then you start making money. And then at some point, you've made more money than what it costs you to acquire the customer, right? And that can be short, it can be a couple months, it can be 16 months in enterprise, whatever. And then after that point, you're pretty much printing money for that customer because you have a high gross margin and so on. So what happens with that cash cap is that the faster you grow,

the worse the cash gap becomes because you start adding negative, or you start adding expenses, and then it takes longer for those commutative payments.

to pick up and close that cash gap. So basically, there are ways to solve the cash gap. And until very recently, the main way was VC money. You would get VC money, and then you would use that VC money to invest in customer acquisition and to support the business until the cumulative payments picked up and were enough to make the company profitable. But there are pros and cons with VC money.

Miguel (22:43.392)
Another option would be venture debt, which is very similar to VC money. You know, like long term, it would help to apply that gap. But basically what this means is that as the company grew faster, that cash gap got wider, so it meant that you need to, you need to raise more and more VC money or venture debt to fill in that gap. Another way to fill in the gap is just get every single customer to pay up front. You know, like if they all pay up front, then you would recover your cash immediately.

But the thing is that nobody wants to pay upfront. So that has also pros and cons. And that's one of the reasons why we launch Capsis. Another one is use Capsis or something similar where you're using your customers' expected payments to get financing today to invest in customer acquisition. So that's kind of like the problem that we set to solve.

Mudassir (23:24.319)

Mudassir (23:33.739)
hold. Okay, so just giving you a rough scenario. If I were to run a SaaS company and my burn is 10k prior to acquiring any customer, suppose I'm just selling, I don't know, 500 bucks a month, some subscription, which is 500 bucks a month. So I need 20 customers in order to just break even, right? I'm not going for venture debt. I'm not going for venture capital. I'm going to cap chase. So what you guys are going to do is like...

Miguel (23:47.129)

Miguel (23:52.059)


Mudassir (23:58.826)
Assuming that we have 20 customers, you're going to pay us a friend that covers the cost and then you'll just, you know, you could pay that later. Then how do you guys make money? What is your business model? Do you guys?

Miguel (24:08.129)

Miguel (24:12.621)

So let's say, for example, that you decide to draw $10,000, or $20,000. Then you take $20,000, Captures gives you $20,000, and then you end up repaying $22,000 over the course of a year. So as your customers pay you, we're giving you your expected repayments from your customers, minus a discount, and then as your customers pay you, then we get paid back.

Mudassir (24:32.718)

Mudassir (24:42.574)
OK, got it. So one other thing that I think that was made public on your LinkedIn, or I think was it your CAPTCHAZ website, you guys recently compiled a benchmarking data of over 900 SaaS companies. I think more than 900 companies. What were some of the most interesting, surprising insights you guys have uncovered? If there are quite a few, I'm sure of that. Yeah, if you can pick a few.

Miguel (24:56.784)

Miguel (25:05.484)
Yeah, there are a bunch. Look, on the positive side is that even though companies are growing slower than two years ago and considerably slower, their rule of 40 is stable. Do you know what, I mean, I may as well explain what the rule of 40 is. Rule of 40 is that it's the sum of year over year growth plus net margin, right? So...

the bottom plus the burn basically in percentage points. So for example, if you're growing 40% year over year and you're break even, so your net income is 0%, then your rule of 40 is 40. If you're growing 300% per year, but you're burning like double of your ARR, so you're burning let's say, your net income is minus 100%.

then your rule of 40 would be 300 plus minus 100%, 200, right? So any rule of 40 above 40 is pretty good. So what we've seen is that even though companies are growing way slower than before, they are burning way less as well. So companies are becoming more efficient, even if they're growing slower. I think that's a key, key takeaway of this higher interest rate era. And another one which is like bad but to be expected is that

Sales cycles have increased a lot over the last 18 months. The ACV is lower. And then as a result, you know, like LTV to CAC is also worse than before. The reason being is that buyers are much more conscious about purchasing SaaS. They have less budget. They want to pay everything monthly. They are looking at more options than ever. And they are expecting an ROI.

So then, hey, if you want to sell more, do exactly the opposite of that, right? Make sure that you're giving flexibility to your customers, that you can show with a simple model what the ROI of using your product is, ideally using your customer's data. And then you just make it easier. Make it easier for the customer to buy your product.

Mudassir (27:23.838)
Okay, so anything else that you guys have uncovered, which is not on the good side, which is a bit negative.

Miguel (27:36.1)
Look, I think that in the last, let's say like 16 months, every day was a little bit worse. Like it became way worse during, let's say, February 2022 to like July 2022, like the quality of companies just decreased massively. And then it's been just like a little bit worse every month until something like two months ago when it started to get stable.

Mudassir (27:41.33)


Mudassir (27:54.286)

Miguel (28:01.724)
And so yeah, I think we may have seen the end of this. I don't know, we'll see. What we have seen is that, so it's not such bad news today as it was maybe. We had talked maybe three months ago.

Mudassir (28:06.842)
Mm-hmm. Okay.

Mudassir (28:14.866)
Yeah, a few months ago, yeah, okay. So when I went through the whole findings or whatever you wanna call that, and by the way, if you can, please just share that. So we'll share it with the entire audience as well. So one other thing that caught my eye.

Miguel (28:27.712)
Oh yeah, we'll share you the link. Perfect.

Mudassir (28:37.378)
That was like despite spending less on venture backed peers, like spend on a new customer, like if you compare like a VC company and you compare a bootstrap company, obviously VC companies spend a little bit higher, usually a little bit higher on acquiring a new customer compared to the bootstrap one, but the growth has been pretty much the same, like pretty much the same. So I was like, hmm, okay, like okay.

Miguel (28:47.739)

Miguel (28:51.813)

Miguel (28:57.681)

Mudassir (29:02.602)
So I mean, usually when you talk to anybody who has raised a couple of million dollars or something like that in venture capital, the whole point is, the whole thesis is, usually, not like all the time, the whole thesis is gonna help them grow pretty quickly, which means they can acquire more customers, stuff like that. If they're growing exactly at the same rate as a bootstrap company, what exactly is the point of venture funding then?

Miguel (29:27.16)
Yeah, that's a good point, you know, and let's try to unpeel it. Basically, you know, like a little bit of the of the whole, like growth at all cost mentality over the last few years was that money was very cheap. Right. So it didn't really matter if it was efficient to grow as long as you were growing.

Mudassir (29:43.308)

Miguel (29:50.26)
because that every company being measured as a multiple of revenue just incentivize everybody to grow. So there are two ways to grow faster. One, have more money or two, have friction less revenue. Let's say it's easy, you know, to yeah, exactly. More sales are like just easier to sell, you know, like just reducing friction in the sales process. So boost strappers don't have money. So they became quite good at reducing friction in the sales process, just making it easier to buy.

Mudassir (29:50.28)

Mudassir (29:54.858)
Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Mudassir (30:03.274)
Yeah, more sales.

Miguel (30:18.756)
with whatever premium products or, you know, like trial periods and a bunch of stuff. And a bunch of VC backed companies just put money to work and were buying revenue. I like money, it's a value strategy, right? Like it worked for a lot of people. Okay, now when the music stops and then nobody has any money, like the bootstrappers are still...

They don't really care. Like they're still living in no money land. So they're used to it, right? And they have the emotions and so on. It may be a little bit harder to sell than the last year, but you know, they're still figuring it out. But suddenly VC-backed companies are facing the prospect of not being able to raise again. So then even if they have still money left because they raised money in the past, they can't use it as...

they would be able to, you know, like they need to save it because they're still burning money and if they don't become profitable and they burn it all, then they're going to go out of business and shut down. So then that scarcity is what makes them behave a little bit more like a bootstrap company, which means that every single dollar at the door needs to have an ROI, needs to have a payback and needs to be quick.

And that's why they're growing pretty much the same, because even if you have the money, you don't want to spend it quickly.

Mudassir (31:40.842)
Yeah, and I think exactly to your point, that is why we have seen a lot of companies going out of the business, like venture backed startups going out of the business, mainly just because they spent so, the burn rate was so high and all of a sudden, you know, the cash was drying up and they just went out of business. Yeah, okay. Okay, so one thing that comes to my mind is, when you talked about bootstrap, so I think a good point would be, like how do you remove the friction from

Miguel (31:48.26)

Miguel (31:53.98)
Hmm. Exactly.

Mudassir (32:10.91)
you know, from sales, like how can you actually improve the whole entire sales cycle? But another question that I have in mind is, what are the, you know, in your opinion, what are the challenges, growth challenges a bootstrap company would face? Like the severe ones. I mean, lack of cash is like an obvious one, which may lead to a further few. But yeah, in your opinion, like what do you think about that?

Miguel (32:25.733)

Miguel (32:30.98)

Miguel (32:35.516)
There are a lot of challenges that come associated to not having the urgency that VC money brings. So let me compare that and then we can go into the friction. Basically, when you raise VC money, you know you're putting yourself in a race. And the race is to get an exit in the amount of time that a VC investor requires. That's typically, let's say, like a six to ten-year horizon.

And the thing is that for a VC money to make money, you're gonna have to return 3x of what they invested. Let's go select 3x, yeah, minimum, yeah, exactly. So that means that you gain the fuel, but you expect it to burn it to achieve the loss, escape the loss of it. So then that has...

Mudassir (33:12.722)
Minimum, yeah, okay.

Miguel (33:26.416)
Pros, which is having more capital, has cons, which is like a binary outcome. It's like you either make it or you don't. Another pro is that you have usually somebody that's gonna be very demanding of you, and also you have the urgency. Another pro, sorry, is that you can attract talent, and you can overpay or you can pay for better time than you should deserve at that stage, because you have more money. The bootstrap company.

you don't have the urgency, which can be a blessing and a curse. You know, like it's a blessing because you don't have to, it's not an all or nothing. It's not like all in, you know, going to go home. It's more like, hey, like, let's do it. You know, we're finding ourselves with the cash flows, which means that there's way less urgency because if you don't achieve your goals this month, you know, maybe you can achieve them next month or maybe the following month. It doesn't really matter, right? It's not like...

damn, if we don't achieve our goals, we're not raising the name of our money, and then we're out of the business, right? So that is kind of like a curse. And then also for an employee, is it sexy to work in a company that has equity money and is raising multiple rounds, and then you can see the paper worth go up.

you know, every couple of years and a bootstrap company doesn't really have that. Right. So it's that is a challenge as well. But then again, like an exit, a $15 million exit in a bootstrap company can make as much money to the founders as a, I don't know, $200 million exit in a busy back company. So.

Mudassir (34:56.974)
100%, yeah, 100%, yeah. I had a friend who used to say that the goal is to own like 90% of a million dollar company compared to 0.1% of a 10 million dollar company or something like that. So I think it's exactly the same thing. Okay, so yeah, that's a good point. I saw a very funny article, you know, the last time you and I met, right after that article. So Forbes was kind enough to draw up a list and.

Miguel (35:13.412)

Mudassir (35:26.166)
they had like, you know, the next unicorns until 2030 or something like that. I think there was a date, there was a year or something like that. I think it was more like top unicorn, like 30 unicorns to watch until 2030 or something like that. Yeah. And you guys were like at fourth or maybe fifth or something like that. Two questions on that. Why do you think you're going to hit that level, like a billion dollar valuation?

Miguel (35:33.936)

Miguel (35:40.11)

Mudassir (35:55.574)
So that is one, like why? Two is, are you gonna get there?

Miguel (35:59.36)
Yeah. So why are we going to hit the valuation? First of all, because we're building up a massive business. We have an amazing team, and we're solving really, really big problems. So when you think about the price I was falling for these businesses, we are going to end up owning all the revenue lifecycle of a SaaS company, all the way from.

preparing a proposal, to actually configuring it, to negotiating, to closing the deal, to invoicing, billing, collecting the money, and then financing the transaction, and eventually doing revenue reconciliation and recognition, and subscription management. That's a lot, but we're building a platform to do all of that, and each product that we launch is filling a little gap in that sequential.

Let's see, like value chain. So that is a massive business. And if we solve that for the B2B SaaS industry, that's a little bit further than that. Let's say B2B SaaS, cloud, data centers, and managed service providers. That is a 3.4 trillion industry.

and we can take a clip of that, right? So it's huge if we, you know, and like, we are gonna do it, right? So that's why we're going to become a unicorn. How we're gonna do it, that's the hardest part. How we're gonna do it is, basically we need to be really deliberate about what we launch, you know, and when we launch it and how we bring it to market.

Mudassir (37:12.82)

Miguel (37:33.924)
because there's a lot of pull, like a lot of customers are asking us for different features, but every additional product, every additional launch that you add to the let's say product portfolio, complicates things a little bit and increases complexity. And it gets harder to sell, because then you need to have, like you need to make decisions, like do you train all your salespeople into every product, or do you have a specific salespeople per product, and what product features do you prioritize? This product and this feature,

on the future. So you start kind of like needing to make decisions on how to structure the company to make sure that execution doesn't falter. I think that it actually gets harder you know as you as you grow. It doesn't get easier. Actually you know like maybe they're true like I would say it never gets easier but you know you just go faster which is like a cycling quote.

Mudassir (38:30.91)
Yeah, okay. Okay, so Miguel, we have a decent big of an audience of first-time founders, second-time founders, and they're kind enough to send in questions every single time we introduce, like, okay, so Miguel is coming and he built this company and all the great things about you. So they just send up some questions that are their problems and hopefully we can, through this platform, we can resolve that, or we can help them resolve that. So.

Miguel (38:44.825)

Miguel (38:54.892)
Nice. Yeah.

Mudassir (38:56.898)
So there was like a bunch of those, but I think we just consolidated them in order to just fit in the time zone or something. So in no particular order, that's the first one. How long you should pursue an idea before you start thinking about quitting it or you actually quit it?

Miguel (39:14.84)
Yeah, I think that's really contextual, but let's see. I think it really depends on what your customers tell you. Like, I don't think that you should ever pursue an idea in isolation because an idea doesn't hold any value until it faces the gravity of a market. To give you an idea, before we started CAPTCHAES, we looked into like 10 different ideas. And the way we would do it is we would have a hypothesis.

For two weeks, we would talk to a bunch of customers in the area and experts in the area, and we would learn about it, right? And then we would formulate the hypothesis and learn more about the pains. And then after those two weeks, if we hadn't found any pull or any interest in customers or any common interest more like, or common problems, we would either go into a different direction or...

from all the learnings that we accumulated, dig deeper into our learning. So we discarded like 10 ideas over the course of a quarter while we were researching for CAPTCHAIN. So at the same time, if you talk to the eight customers and five have the same pain and they can resolve it, hey, that is a good idea. There's something there. So...

I would say that just don't do anything in isolation. An idea doesn't matter unless it solves somebody's problem and somebody's willing to pay for it. So just put it to test. And you're going to know really quickly if people are interested and if it solves a problem or it doesn't.

Mudassir (40:49.946)
That's very helpful. The next one is, so this question is from someone who owns an agency business. And he is actually, you can say that, seduced by the whole SaaS world. So this is coming from that person. I own a dev agency or something like that. The question is, when should I start thinking about getting into SaaS? Now we are profitable, but should we go into SaaS or not? So we do have a few ideas here or there.

Miguel (40:57.948)

Mudassir (41:19.254)
But you know, when should we make the switch?

Miguel (41:19.676)
Mm-hmm. Yeah. So let's see. A lot of successful SaaS companies started first with professional services. And the reason being is that you find a problem and you find a pain, but you just don't have a product that can solve the pain yet, right? So then you start building custom solutions and you're consulting to solve the pain. But then as you learn more, you start to automate certain things of the solution, and then you end up building a product.

then you sell to, I mean, if you see it sufficient times, you start building a product that can solve multiple planes. So I would say, I would suggest that, I'm not an expert in the agencies, but I would say if you find yourself that you're constantly solving a similar problem for people, maybe start automating things that are part of the solution, because then one of the two following things will happen. One.

you will at least improve your margins, right? If you're automating a bunch of things that previously you were solving with, building it from scratch with people all over again, your margins are gonna get higher. And two, maybe you can start selling parts of the solution to other customers or even the full solution and automate more and more things. So I would let the market dictate whether you should start.

with SAS or not. And if you're like kind of thinking of starting SAS in a different space where you were developing or doing services for, maybe start selling services to solve pains in that additional industry so you learn more about it before you prioritize it.

Mudassir (42:56.638)
Okay, that's a great one. When you go from zero to one, like you just have an idea, you find a product market for it, then you go from one to 10, which is like, you know, you're like making maybe, I don't know, the sweet spot is like everybody talks about a million ARR, so you know, you get to that point, and then you actually start building it, maybe turning that into a nine figure business or something like that. So in these three stages or four stages, what metrics you should keep a track of?

when you're going from like these all these stages like you so maybe we should keep at like metric X at stage one metrics Z at maybe stage four like how would you do that?

Miguel (43:41.202)
Yeah, there are a ton of metrics. I would say that I would say that I really at the beginning, so before you're ready to scale, I think it's you need to probably solve for burn, you know, and learnings per dollar burned, you know, because until you have revenue, it's all about learning. I like building a product with a design partner or whatever, right? And if you...

If you have to do professional services to monetize, then do it. Um, then once you start actually adding revenue to the business, I think a metric that is amazing is the burn multiple, which basically every month you calculate how much you've burned and how much ARR you've added, right? And then you divide one by the other. So, you know, let's say I burn multiple of one. It means that you're burning one dollar for every dollar of ARR that you add.

That's okay. It's not amazing, right? I've learned multiple of like...

you know, six is they are burning six dollars for every one dollar of AR they are adding, right? So like some companies can survive with that because their lifetime value is huge, but it's gonna take a long time to pick up with that. You know, so that's a metric that probably encompasses a lot of your complexity for SaaS business like CAG, Payback, LTV, and so on.

Mudassir (45:02.999)

Okay, okay. How did you find your product market fit for Capchase? And you already mentioned that you guys pivoted like 10 times in a quarter before coming to this particular idea. But how did you find a product market fit? But I want to add a follow up question on that one is, how do you define a product market fit? Like a lot of the time, it's becoming somewhat of a buzzword these days. Like yeah, we just found our PMF, we just found our PMF. And I've seen like, I'm guilty of one of those conversations with a lot of VCs, where it's just like,

Miguel (45:25.637)

Mudassir (45:35.434)
hey, we just got a deck and the team pitched something like, we just found the product market fit, so we're just ready to raise it out or something like that. So my question is, how did you find it? And the other one is, how do you actually know that you actually have found a product market?

Miguel (45:44.377)

Miguel (45:53.896)
Yeah, it's one of those things that's easier to fill than to define. But basically, when we thought that we had found product market fit was when our closing rate was just insanely high. You know, like...

from getting a customer interested in talking to us to getting that customer to sign, it was super high. And you could feel it across the company because everything was breaking and we were just trying to scramble to build everything. Literally that phrase of...

trying to figure out how to land the plane while you're a mid-air. So that kind of stuff, you know, that we, our connections would pray because there were too many people at the same time that we had to figure out how to underwrite, you know, companies that, that were, that had a mix of recurring revenue and non-recurring revenue and like how to deal with that. So like what every day just brings you something new, um, and just can't keep up with the, with the demand and how we found it, you know, like we thought that we had something special.

into founders, I started to realize that the pain that we're talking about before, the cash gap, everybody felt that it was real, and people were really interested in converting the future payments into cash today to fund the cash gap. So every conversation, there was some interest. Not everyone, but most conversations. And then...

And then yeah, like that was enough to build a prototype, close a customer and then raise some money.

Mudassir (47:36.862)
Okay, did you guys raise some money?

Miguel (47:39.46)
Yeah, we raised, we've raised in total about $110 million in equity and almost $1 billion in debt.

Mudassir (47:45.377)

Mudassir (47:50.436)
And how long ago that was?

Miguel (47:52.724)
We raced, our seed run was 4.6, our A run was 25, our B was 80, and then our B was in January of 2022.

Mudassir (48:07.134)
Okay, so it's almost a year, okay. Amazing, amazing growth there. Okay, so the next one is my favorite. Like what were your first five hires looked like? But I think you already have answered that. So I'll just skip that to the next. Yeah, I'll just skip that to the next one, which is how did you come up with the name and brand identity for your company and what was the process like?

Miguel (48:10.551)

Miguel (48:17.432)
Oh yeah.

Miguel (48:26.524)
Ooh, man, that was hard. Basically, we tried multiple names. We tried everything, like,, pay, spelled P-A-E instead of P-A-Y, whatever. But all of them were taken. The names were taken. So basically, we tried also words that meant what we were trying to do in different languages. For example.

like growth in Sanskrit or, you know, like just like different things to see if anything like resonated and we discarded like hundreds of names because either we didn't like them or they weren't domains available. So in the end what we did is we put a bunch of words that had something to do with what we're doing, like capital, you know, growth, dilution, blah, like ownership, all the stuff. And then we...

just broke them into pieces and mashed them together. And then Capsaic was one of those that we really liked. And that's how we chose it. And the brand identity, it's changing, you know, as we change as well and as our customers change and go more upmarket. But yeah, that one is more like artistic and like more like a creative process than something that we really feel within us, you know.

Mudassir (49:35.02)

Mudassir (49:38.198)

Mudassir (49:43.278)

Mudassir (49:48.395)
Okay. So the next one that we have is, how do you build a great company culture? Assuming now that you guys have like been through multiple rounds. What's the headcount you have today?

Miguel (49:53.784)

Miguel (49:59.476)
130 people. No, we are spread out. We have four offices in New York, London, Madrid and Barcelona. And I said like about like 30% of the people are fully remote.

Mudassir (50:01.63)
and all remote like everybody's in New York.

Mudassir (50:10.164)

Mudassir (50:15.766)
Yeah, like how do you manage, how do you build that company culture?

Miguel (50:19.46)
Yeah, it has a lot to do actually with the previous question of, like, what are the first five people that you hired? What we did to ensure that we had a culture was, one, be very deliberate. So we actually defined the values very early on. We had five values at the beginning, which then became three. But basically, you know, like, you need to constantly screen for those values. You know, you need to understand really well.

what you want to see the people that you hire and what you're not going to tolerate. And then it is easy to let culture slip because every time you see an example that doesn't gel with your culture and you don't do anything to stop it immediately, that sets the new bar for the culture.

Mudassir (51:08.534)

Miguel (51:09.604)
culture just degrades to whatever you allow. So it needs to be very deliberate and you need to remind it a lot. What we do, and we make some mistakes of course, but what we do is that in every single all hands meeting, always we start with the three values and then somebody in the company talks, describes one value by illustrating something or somebody.

in the company, something that somebody has done or somebody in the company. So then every week we reinforce the values so that people have it first and foremost and we reward people that embody the values as well. I think it's super important, super important.

Mudassir (51:51.446)
Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. I think even early on, or even in the later stages, now that you guys are, if you end up hiring somebody who's amazing, gets a job and perfectly fine, but not a cultural fit for you, that one person can ruin the whole thing. That's the nature of it, right? Okay, yeah. What qualities do you look for when hiring a key, or hiring somebody for a higher position? What makes somebody a good fit in your...

Miguel (52:02.924)

Miguel (52:09.252)
Yeah, 100%.

Mudassir (52:21.564)
idea in your mind.

Miguel (52:23.308)
Yeah, first thing I do is I try to talk to some trusted people in the same position to understand what good and great looks like. You know, I'm a first time founder. I mean, the two previous companies were just so small that I don't even consider them as experienced with this. So I don't have a lot of experience in, for example, what does an amazing VP of product looks like or an amazing VP of marketing or sales or whatever. So first talk to people.

that can actually tell you what is the best thing or what does an amazing profile look like. Then sometimes also bring those people into the interviews so that you get an outside idea. And then besides looking for...

specific expertise, you know, in the area and functional expertise. There are a couple of things that I'm really interested in looking at. One is how do they collaborate with other peers? You know, is it somebody that is collaborative, you know, or they're trying to do everything by themselves? Because like that's going to define whether somebody's going to gel with the executive team or if they're going to, you know, like delegate and like elevate themselves or so on. And the last one, the second thing would be if I would be

Happy working for that person.

Mudassir (53:42.462)
Yeah, that's very helpful. OK. So the last one on the list is, how do you think AI will change B2B SaaS?

Miguel (53:52.768)
Um, I think there will be a lot of new verticals created, you know, and I think that we're only at the beginning of it. Um, I think there are a lot of, there's been a lot of hype. Um, I'm generally not like a hype person, so I didn't believe in Bitcoin or blockchain or crypto, you know, um, back then, and like, I do believe more in AI because I, I can understand it, I can use it every day.

But I see very little differentiation. So I see a lot of wrappers of GPT, you know, and things like that. So I feel like those will be commoditized and the actual margins will be extremely low in those wrappers. So there will be more like bootstrapped businesses than busy backed and there won't be massive businesses. But I think there will be certainly like brand new industries on things like.

Mudassir (54:20.791)

Miguel (54:47.32)
you know, like Discovery and like UX and things like that, where actually, you know, having AI can help you to just make it easier for users. And then two, which I'm really excited about, actually, like I think it will increase margins massively, you know, besides creating new verticals, that it will be big, I think the biggest impact will be that things like that were only before only solved with man hours.

Mudassir (54:52.608)

Miguel (55:14.324)
now dissolved with technology, even more so, simply because there are a lot of repetitive tasks that require context, that take time to train a human and then humans are expensive. And then AI means that those tasks can be automated.

the context gets absorbed automatically, and then it just costs way less, and it's much more scalable. So I think we'll see even bigger margins, more like net margins than gross margins, but bigger net margins in such companies.

Mudassir (55:49.73)
Yeah, one weird thought that I have, and you mentioned GPT wrappers or something like that. So this is a very dumb question that you're probably gonna hear all your life. So the question that I have is, my God, this is gonna sound dumb. So the question that I have is, all these new products, so I'll just explain. So if I were to pick, so now that we're in this podcasting space.

Miguel (55:59.116)

Mudassir (56:16.226)
So one of the cool things that's coming out is you can take a long form video, it can break it down into a short form video in like a matter of minutes or something. I was like, cool, okay. So there was one startup, somebody from Israel built it, used it, great people, and another one from India. That was like a couple of months ago, and now there's like 20 of those. Yeah, now there's like 20 of those, doing exactly the same thing, exactly.

Same LLMs, using the same APIs, open APIs. Every single thing is the same. Pricing is almost the same. I hate when companies compete based on pricing because that's a telltale. That's a sign already. My question is, if everybody is building all these platforms, all these wrappers, on the same AIs, they have the same data sets, right? What's gonna set them apart?

Miguel (57:10.164)
nothing. And that's exactly what I meant. Then the value goes to zero because let's say that you're one of those 20 competitors. And then every time you go to a customer and the customer is looking at options, they're like, wait a second, you guys are all the same. Which one should I buy? Well, you're going to buy the cheapest. So then you start competing for price and then the price drops to zero or the margin drops to zero. Maybe you can have an amazing distribution or something.

Mudassir (57:11.306)
Right? Yeah. Exactly.

Mudassir (57:22.226)
Mm-hmm. Yeah.


Mudassir (57:33.503)

Miguel (57:40.4)
But that's hard to build and hard to sustain, especially there's no other differentiation. So yeah, it's tough. I'm sorry, and one more thing, do you know what's really different this time? That very big companies can even do this internally at a very low cost. So that means that the large software providers can make all these companies, just make them features of their company.

Mudassir (57:48.531)

Mudassir (57:53.312)

Yeah. Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yep.

Mudassir (58:04.279)

Mudassir (58:08.062)
Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Yeah, and the platform that we're using now, Riverside, so they have done it. Exactly the same thing. So the whole video podcasting, the same thing that we're recording, you can just go inside the editor, you can just have the same short form video. And my other thought was, which I think you already mentioned, is...

Miguel (58:09.529)
and increasing my items, so yeah.

Miguel (58:18.2)
Yeah, exactly. It's a feature.

Miguel (58:29.069)

Mudassir (58:34.198)
Businesses like these, like AI, we're not going to see a whole lot of AI businesses getting a lot of funding. It's just because there's like no margin, no room or something like that, right? Okay, awesome.

Miguel (58:43.396)

Miguel (58:47.568)
So we have seen them try, we have seen some get funding, some get funding at ridiculous valuation because the growth was like this, but then again, there's 20 competitors and then their growth goes like this and then like this and then like this and then they start declining, right? So we'll see some spectacular booms and failures for sure. I will see some amazing companies that are doing something that we didn't even think was possible.

Mudassir (58:50.977)

Mudassir (58:55.914)
Oh yeah. Yeah.

Mudassir (59:03.383)

Mudassir (59:06.887)
Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Mudassir (59:13.182)
Yeah, do you think it's gonna be like a dot com bubble or something like that?

Miguel (59:17.507)
Like it was, right?

Mudassir (59:18.494)
like a dot com bubble you know back in 90s when the whole dot com boom was coming around.

Miguel (59:22.059)

Oh, um...

Miguel (59:29.801)
I think there will be some amazing winners, you know, but there will be also some losers I don't know if even if they will make it if some of these companies will make it public or they will just like fail Before them, you know or fail or be acquired or you know commoditized or whatever, but there will be some spectacular winners You know, like some companies are doing something that's like just hard to replicate like if you have your own LLM That's a huge advantage, you know

Mudassir (59:37.137)


Mudassir (59:51.582)
Yeah. Okay. Awesome. So Miguel, we do have this small ritual on the podcast. So what we do is we ask all our guests a question for our next guest without telling like who the next guest is going to be. So the question that the last guest left for you is why you must live and die for whatever you're building.

Miguel (59:58.736)

Miguel (01:00:13.772)
You know what, whenever I'm not having a good time building CAPTCHAs, and every entrepreneur has highs and lows, I always think like, hey, why am I still doing this? And the answer always is, because if I wasn't doing this at CAPTCHAs, I would be doing the same thing at another company, and it would probably be even harder, because we were just really lucky at CAPTCHAs, right? So that's the reason, is because I love...

Mudassir (01:00:22.22)

Mudassir (01:00:26.273)

Miguel (01:00:42.996)
I love building stuff and seeing things improve. And that's like with everything, man. I like to see buildings get built. I like to see plants grow. I like everything, you know, so like I love building and seeing things grow. And, and yeah, and, and I just love CAPTIS.

Mudassir (01:00:55.148)

Mudassir (01:00:59.51)
Awesome. What's the question for our next guest?

Miguel (01:01:03.128)

Miguel (01:01:06.708)
Maybe like if you go back 12 months, what will you tell yourself 12 months ago? Yeah.

Mudassir (01:01:16.35)
Awesome. All right, Miguel, thank you so much. Appreciate the time. Please stay after the recording, so you know we can just upload it and all that. Yeah, yeah. But thank you so much, man. Thank you, appreciate the time. And it was a great chat. I hope you enjoyed it.

Miguel (01:01:21.914)
Yeah, it has to upload, right?

Miguel (01:01:30.168)
Yeah, it was fun man. Yeah, it was really good. Who do you usually, so who's the audience? Usually like first time founders and so on?

Mudassir (01:01:38.142)
Yeah, let me actually pause the recording thing.

Miguel (01:01:42.012)
Oh no.

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