John Corcoran 6:31
you started engineering, and now you’re in the world of finance. So that must have been quite an education.
Pramod Dabir 6:37
It was yeah, when I was when I was an engineering, I realized very quickly, like, this is not what I want to be doing for the rest of my life. Like, I wanted to get more into business and business oriented stuff. And the two paths are investment banking and consulting, you know, if you’re kind of trying to get into that into that world. And so, you know, I chose the path of banking. And so yeah, it was a way to kind of get me out of like, pure pure engineering or technical stuff. And then, and learn a lot more about business and how businesses operate, why they function? What are the challenges and more from a, you know, investment banking side of things? Not operationally, but you learn a lot that way.
John Corcoran 7:13
Yeah. Now, not long after that you kind of came across an opportunity in in early days of like influencer marketing. So you kind of had an idea for a business around the converging worlds of influence marketing, e-commerce talk a little bit about what that was.
Pramod Dabir 7:32
Yeah, so. So we’re kind of right after Goldman, I worked at a private equity fund, and we were investing in a number of different types of companies. And there was a company that we were looking at, that was growing, actually, there were a couple companies that were looking at it, we’re growing really, really fast in sort of that social selling model, you know, more like that Tupperware sort of model that that, you know, that for selling something more in person, but I was thinking how do we how do we take that digitize it and actually leverage, you know, your influence or, you know, with with the people that know you and connect with you, whether it be on Facebook, or other social media platforms, and so we we’ve built a platform for women to build online virtual boutiques through that kind of stuff, you know, like all in being able to, it’s almost like Pinterest to be able to put together a board of stuff that you like, share with your friends and you know, Facebook and whatnot, and then earn commission for sales that you generate it through through your, your boutique. And so that’s, it was an interesting business, we raised, we raised some, you know, some money, built a team a product, and kind of went through that whole evolution. And it was, it was a great learning experience. And fortunately, you know, that was the heyday of e-commerce back in 2011. And it was a lot of a lot of companies blew up in that space, but in fashion is very, very difficult. But it, you know, we learned a lot, we built a really strong team, which kind of transitioned, you know, so you know, as well for that for kind of what we’re doing today, which is at west edge labs. So,
John Corcoran 8:57
previously, we’re talking about the idea of grocery delivery, which is a huge idea. tonnes of capital, big investment in big companies like Amazon are tackling it. What you just described to me sounds like pieces of, as you mentioned, Pinterest. You know, there’s like kind of Shopify pieces in there. There’s e-commerce pieces in there. So another big idea was big idea.
Pramod Dabir 9:21
I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s taking components of what existed but actually making it it was making it in a way that was, you know, today you go on Instagram, and you see like, a, you know, a woman wearing a shirt, and she’s like, Oh, I got it here and you click it and you go, you buy and then she’s getting these referrals, you know, off of off of, you know, the stuff that she’s posting. That’s that’s all like mainstream today, right? Like that, like that’s, that’s something that that exists now and is very, very normal. You know, we were we were probably a little early, when we were thinking about about that and working on that idea. And this is also right when Pinterest was taking off so we were leveraging Pinterest as well. By Uh, but yeah, it’s it’s a number of different components that were tied to it, you know, we had to dropship model. And today, I would say that it’s the plot platforms exist to really make that a lot easier. The technology exists to be able to make that a lot easier as well. Yeah, back then it was you had to build it out yourself. Exactly. So back then we, you know, we did spend quite a bit of capital, like building out a, you know, what I would say, was very good technology. Just, you didn’t kind of fit with the product market fit at the time.
John Corcoran 10:27
But what I want to know is how did those experiences of having these big ideas? It seems like you were a visionary from a young age, how’s that affected your approach now to business?
Pramod Dabir 10:39
Yeah, I mean, for for me now. I mean, I would say it’s the, it’s actually interesting, I would say, it’s made me simplify things a little bit. Like when I was when I was younger, I had these big ideas, and I want to do all these different things. And, you know, I think the last business really, you know, the Boutine, which we’re talking I’m talking about really did make me think back and say, Actually, I want to do something simpler, a little more focused. And so the things that I’ve explored or kind of gotten into later have had a much more very strategic focused approach to at least from an execute to be able to execute and do better. So the things we’re talking about, like the laundry, laundry delivery, I say, the laundry software business, right.
John Corcoran 11:19
But before we get to that, I’ll definitely want to ask you about that. But even before you got to that, you created West Agile Labs, which was kind of a more phenomenally successful, now you have 400 people working for you, but a more straightforward, more straightforward business model, at least simple done for you, we’re going to take on tech projects, and we’re going to develop them for you. We’re for hire, so to speak.
Pramod Dabir 11:43
Yep. No, that’s right. So you know, I kind of came out of the experience of building between having worked with folks off shore and kind of going through the whole experience being like, Man, this, this can definitely just be done a lot better. And, and so, you know, we had good processes in place, we had good engineers in place. And we said, let’s give this a shot. And that’s exactly right. Right, we started out with four people were like, Alright, let’s do this, we did good work, we got paid for it. And, you know, we, we got referrals, we kept doing more work. And, you know, we hired more people because of it. And, and then you know, things now are a little bit more complex, but but it grew organically. And now, you know, now we’re 10 years old. And so, you know, we’ve got better systems, processes, technology, you know, everything but, but it grew in a way that was made sense. And it was something that was bite sized, or at least at the time, when we started that felt achievable, that we could accomplish rather than something. So in such a big scope that we were trying to try to take over. So many
John Corcoran 12:36
companies these days, as we all know, the pandemic or their own choice, or having to work with remote teams, you’ve got 400 People that are halfway across the globe from you, you’ve got people in the US, what has been the secret for you to managing a team like that that’s distributed across the globe.
Pramod Dabir 12:56
Communications and process, right, like, for us, it’s transparency into what everybody’s doing. And then putting that into a way of putting that in a way that we can look at it on a weekly basis and be like, alright, you know, hey, this is all going well, these are the areas that we need to focus on. And these are the areas that, you know, need a lot, lot more improvement, I guess. And so we spent a lot of time and we did this actually, very early on when we were small, in, you know, putting together processes internally, that we can actually look at every business, every single project that we’re working on, on a day to day basis, and just ensure that like, hey, things are going well here or things aren’t going well here. And that’s needed when working with teams overseas. Just so that it’s you know, from from a management level perspective, you just kind of know where to where to spend your time. Otherwise, things can get lost over time if we’re not talking to people every single day. And so, reporting is something that is like, you know, that we really focus heavily on? Yeah,
John Corcoran 13:55
no, I know, you have a couple of other businesses, what I want to ask you about is when you have a company that does work for hire type of work, you tend to be exposed to a lot of different ideas. And when you are an entrepreneur that takes interest in a lot of different things like you are like IR like I am, it can be tempting to pursue those different ideas. How have you decided which ones to pursue? Because you have a couple other ideas that you pursue?
Pramod Dabir 14:19
Yes. I think it most of it has to do around who I’m partnering with. And number one and then number two is Yeah, I mean, obviously an idea that is of interest that I can get behind. I’ve always been interested in just like niche businesses and, you know, businesses that type kind of tackle problems for a very large market by kind of like almost like forgotten markets. And, and so for me, like, and I saw a lot of that stuff actually, when I worked I worked in private equity, which is actually why i i You know, I really enjoyed my experience there. It’s like, go to, you know, some random city and in Kansas or something and go visit a company You realize, like, you know, they’re doing, you know, 75 million of revenue and, you know, 20 million and EBITDA of EBITDA growing 30% A year you’re like, like, Who are these people? Like, you know, where did this company come from? And what and like, what are they doing? You know, and, and so it just really interesting companies. And so, in the same way, you know, I like, it got me really interesting kind of tackling problems in markets that are maybe less, less visually, you know, less than the in the news, and you know, that.
John Corcoran 15:27
Alright, so there’s two I want to ask about one is a SaaS for laundromats and the other is a daycare. So how did you get in first, the laundromat business?
Pramod Dabir 15:37
Yeah, so the laundromat, business was interesting. Actually, my other co founder, it was, it was a it was his, he kind of came came forward with like a problem, which was interesting, and, you know, just kind of talking about, he’s living in San Francisco, and, you know, we’re going in and it goes down to his, his laundry machine and putting in, you know, 20 quarters to do to do laundry, he’s like this, this doesn’t make any sense. And so, the very quickly, you know, we started having conversations around it, learning about the industry and the business a little bit more. And, you know, we thought about, like, hey, what if we build like a, you know, a hardware solution, which was kind of where we started, but then we, we’ve now moved over into more software, but a hardware solution kind of, like have tapped to pay and have, like, you know, taking taking kind of coins and stuff out of the out of the whole system, and having everything be a little more integrated. So that’s kind of where we started. And, you know, that more often does talking to laundromat owners day in and day out and learning a little bit more about the business and the industry and realizing, you know, they don’t actually have like a good point of sale solution for, you know, for for their vertical like their, you know, they they leveraged a square, or a clover or kind of, like, just makeshift solutions to their industry. And, you know, this is a $5 billion industry that, you know, just in the US alone. And so it’s, it’s massive and, and so we said, okay, let’s let’s, let’s talk to some of the largest players in the space, of which we did. And we actually brought them on, as partners into into kind of building this, this product that we built. So we’ve got a point of sale business management solution, we’ve integrated delivery, a bunch of other, you know, payroll, I mean, a bunch of other stuff that kind of integrates into what’s now a more holistic kind of overall business management solution and point of sale. But, you know, we that’s kind of where we started. And, you know, now we’ve got about close to 1000 laundromats, you know, across the country and growing and it’s a it’s a pretty, pretty cool business. How,
John Corcoran 17:34
so what I hear you say that you did that was really smart was rather than trying to reinvent the wheel, you went to another solution provider out there, like a clover or something like that, and said, Hey, you’re not attacking this vertical? We’d like to what white label what they created, and is that,
Pramod Dabir 17:51
oh, no, no, no, no, sorry, what I meant was, like, laundromat owners were utilizing because they had no other choice solutions, like clover and, and square and whatnot. We decided to reinvent, like all of it, actually. And so we didn’t we never partner with any of those folks. And we have our own, you know, we leverage kind of third party, you know, hardware and, and actually built all the software for it and, and create a, you know, a point of sale solution that you see, you know, that you know, you tap and you turn it around and you sign for it and you know, all that stuff, you know, we’re
John Corcoran 18:26
gonna coffee shop. Yeah. Yeah. So
Pramod Dabir 18:28
like, all that stuff, is stuff that we designed and built software level perspective. For this, you know, this vertical, specifically both dry cleaners and laundromats?
John Corcoran 18:38
How did you manage? I don’t know, how you guys how you get everything done? How did you manage to build that business, which itself sounds like, you know, could consume all of your time while having West Nile jaw labs at the same time?
Pramod Dabir 18:51
Yeah, so what was such a labs, you know, it was a business that by the time I kind of kicked off this, this thing with sense was, you know, I’ve been doing West agile labs for about six or seven years. So we had a good infrastructure and system generally. And, you know, the other part of it is we leveraged the team in India, that we have to actually build the software so that, you know, we that was kind of the arbitrage that, you know, that I had that that allowed us to build much more, you know, affordably and really kick off a business like that. And, you know, I had other we had a tweet a team for cents and so, so it was kind of part time, you know, and both helping, kind of helping you build that build that business as well.
John Corcoran 19:34
Okay, so now, this all makes complete sense. So tennis, competitive tennis, do electrical engineering, to Goldman Sachs, Boutine e-commerce, to building outsource offshore development, to laundromats to daycare in San Francisco. So how do we get to daycare?
Pramod Dabir 19:56
Yes, so daycare was interesting. That was more opportunistic. I have a seven year old. And when I was living in San Francisco and looking for daycares at the time, you know, I think I was very naive. Yeah, there was there was a woman running a home daycare. And that seemed like a really great program. And I went up to her, I’m like, oh, you know, I’d love to join. And she’s like, Yeah, I’ve got a, you know, 18 month waitlist. And you know, and she’d been around for less than two years. So that was a supply and demand thing, right? I just looked at that. I’m like, the demand is insane. There’s not enough supply. For every interest after studying it a little bit more. For every five and five out of six children that needed a spot in a daycare, there’s only one spot available. So, you know, it was almost like a, it almost seemed like an relatively easy problem to solve in a way. It’s like, like, you have the demand like the like you can, it’s so easy to find people that want that want what you want, if you can create it. So
John Corcoran 20:51
what do I need to do to film that? Is the harder part, right? Hiring people that you know, especially in an expensive city like San Francisco?
Pramod Dabir 20:59
Yeah. So that’s right. So one of the ideas that we actually came up with was creating a network of home daycares. And so we actually bought a building in San Francisco. And we actually let teachers live in those units for free, and then we basically, and then we run the daycares out of their homes. So we’re providing housing for the teachers, which, you know, obviously, is a major, major cost of living in the city and part of their disposable income, we created, you know, creating more supply through that, because they’re working out of their homes. And so, you know, and we’re pretty much just generally more childcare in the city as well. So it kind of worked out to be a win win win situation, you know, teachers are actually getting, you know, more than double their disposable income by working with us. And so that allows us to also find amazing teachers and hire some of the best teachers as well, because we pay for all the housing utilities, you know, internet laundry, like we take care of all all living expenses, they don’t need to pay for commute, right to go to work. And then when they finish, they’re done, right after, you know, at 5.30. And they don’t have to spend an hour commuting back to, you know, a more affordable part of, you know, the Bay Area. So it was actually a pretty, pretty unique model that we kicked off. And, and so yeah, we’ve got one location in San Francisco right now. And, you know, you know, hope to hope to kind of grow that more over time.
John Corcoran 22:19
It sounds amazing. How did you make the economics of that work out? And then why do you think others had not come up with this model before?
Pramod Dabir 22:28
You know, I don’t know, you’ve definitely got more traditional sort of like daycare systems, and, you know, companies like bright horizon that are more like behemoth, like type companies, you know, the home daycare model, I think is a little bit different. And you kind of have to understand all the nuances to setting that up and the liability associated with it, and you know, all the other other pieces to it. So, so it’s a, you know, there’s a bit of a learning curve, but, you know, it’s an interesting in when you talk about, like, you know, the business model and kind of working on it, you know, if we had a real estate asset, that was just generating, you know, we bought a real estate asset, we were renting real estate, you know, renting to different folks, you know, the, you know, this, this obviously generates, it’s like taking the same exact asset, and being able to generate significantly more income off of that asset. So, when you think about like your return on equity, it’s the math is very, very different. So it’s kind of it was
John Corcoran 23:25
interesting. I want to run a little short on time, but in some ways you kind of came full circle from your Goldman Sachs days to now you also have an investment fund. Again, I don’t know how you manage all these things, but open doors partners, which actually is not focused on any particular one vertical, like tech, or SaaS or something like that. You invest in different asset classes. So talk a bit about that idea. Yeah, it’s a it’s
Pramod Dabir 23:51
an alternative investment fund, just focused on looking for unique investment opportunities that, you know, will generate significantly higher than market returns and, and across a variety of different asset classes. So we’ve invested in, you know, like more traditional sort of like venture capital based businesses we’ve been, we invest in a number of funds as well, that that typically most folks if there were just going in individually wouldn’t get access to be able to have access into that have historically done done really well. We’ve invested in, like a real estate private equity fund that invests in like university housing, a number of other areas as well. We’ve invested in a company that actually bought and purchased water dispensing machines and disperse them across different areas that, you know, generates a pretty low risk, you know, return of, you know, 15% on your capital, which is, which is pretty cool. And you get dividends off of that. So, different kind of unique opportunities that that we invested in, and the funds, you know, done really well. I mean, we were on the exits that we have and you know, kind of even, you know, even into As market with our market or market, you know, we’re we’re generating, you know, close to 40% IRR returns, which is which is pretty cool, amazing.
John Corcoran 25:08
Pramod this has been a lot of fun. Tell me where can people go to connect with you and learn more about your various different initiatives?
Pramod Dabir 25:14
Yeah, you know, hit me up on LinkedIn, you know, and you can definitely reach out to me that way. You can look for me on Westagilelabs.com. I got my contact info there as well. But yeah, we’re always always looking to connect with interesting folks and, you know, build good relationships.
John Corcoran 25:30
Excellent. Thanks so much. All right. Thank you.
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