Raj Singh
Raj Singh

Raj Singh: Being In CA Does Mean That We Are Closer to the Epicenter of a Lot of Venture Capital Funds and Still Many, Many Big Tech Companies as Well as Startups

Raj Singh of Pulse — Automatic Status.

Tell us about yourself?

I’m a long-time startup entrepreneur. I started my first company while doing my undergrad at Cal Poly SLO and never looked back. I’m currently Co-Founder and CEO of Pulse – Automatic Status.

We automate your Slack status in real-time based on your preferences, level of️ focus, calendar, work hours, and the apps you use.

Teams and individuals report increased connectedness, less disruptions and more.

Besides work, I’m a father of two kids and a puppy which has become a 3rd! I’m based in Cupertino next to the Apple spaceship 🙂 I do Brazilian Jiu Jitsu because I find it to be the closest thing to help me get into a zen state meaning totally focused and not thinking about work.

What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?

It’s hard to choose only one as there are so many misconceptions. I meet folks who think of startups as a get rich scheme. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I meet others who think of startups as a checkbox for their resume.

I can assure that for those that have enjoyed the luxuries of having a support organization around you, startups are a real shock for many coming from those larger organizations and they often go back to the comfort of a big company within a year.

I’ll meet people who think startups are easy. You just take an idea and build it. In some ways, there is some truth to that but the part that they often miss is that building is often the easiest part.

The hard part is driving the go-to-market. Finally, I meet folks who think startups mean working 24/7 and having no life outside of work.

As a Founder, there is some truth to this but there is a fine distinction. You’re definitely not working 24/7, nobody is. You’re rather thinking about work a lot.

Even when you’re not “working,” you might be thinking about a decision or an approach to something or a new idea. It really does become life encompassing, but this is part of why mission driven founders often do so well.

What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?

Having worked on a variety of startups in my career, I have way too many anecdotes and experiences. I’ve seen a lot but I’ve also come to realize that luck is a key factor as you can’t control timing, and what may have worked in the past may not work in the future.

You have to keep reinventing yourself and .your approach to the company. I’d say my greatest takeaway from entrepreneurship is that I’ve learned what things I do that I truly enjoy.

I like building software and tools that solve my own problems. I also realize that there are few things that can make you more proud than hearing feedback from users who love your product. That is a feeling that is hard to match.

If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Earlier in my career, it was probably ego. Later in my career, it was probably not taking enough risk.

This was in-part because many of my earlier startups were boot-strapped to profitably which is a very different mindset to a venture backed company. Finally, even later in my career, I think being too slow to recognize something isn’t working and then pivoting.

A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?

The hard part is less the work and more the mindset. Even if you’re not physically working, you’re mentally thinking about work. With remote work and in this post-COVID world, work has become integrated.

What I mean by that is we may do personal stuff during the week and may do work stuff on the weekend.

I don’t necessarily think this is a bad thing but many do prefer clean separation. I think that’s difficult as an entrepreneur.

The point at which you can truly disconnect from your startup is probably the point when your startup has made it because it means that it’s mature enough such that you have other leaders on your team that you can delegate decision making to while you’re out.

So full circle to the question, I struggle with this problem myself and I don’t have any specific tips and tricks other than simply putting the phone away!

Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?

My previous company was a distributed team. After we were acquired, the new company wasn’t as remote friendly. I would periodically check-in with my former colleagues to ask how things were going. They obviously felt disconnected.

After taking some time off, I was thinking about this problem – how can we make a distributed team feel more connected. This was the path that led to Pulse.

What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?

Status for most is an afterthought. It’s just a feature or an option within any messaging app. This may have been ok in 1995 when we had AIM but in 2022, it’s time to reinvent that experience.

We are bringing AI, the cloud, API integrations and more to make status richer, more contextual, more collaborative and simply just smarter to better reflect our intents and what we want out of our perfect workplace experience.

Certainly, I expect that existing workplace messaging tools will make improvements to their status but our advantage is we are heterogeneous.

What I mean by that is we go across ecosystems. It doesn’t matter whether you have a Zoom call with Teams or decide to use Dropbox with Google Workspace, it’ll still work.

How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?

We launched the paid version of Pulse in Spring and we’ve been growing month-over-month which is awesome! Considering that we don’t enforce the paywall and we are just getting started, I couldn’t be happier with our progress.

My only comment for those just starting out is to launch paid sooner than later. Without launching paid, it’s hard to really know if what you’re working on is solving enough of a real problem or is just a vitamin (versus a painkiller).

In addition, your paid cohort often represents your strongest fans and are most likely to positively improve all metrics.

What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in California over other states in the US?

In 2022 and with the future of work, I don’t think location matters as much as it once did. Talent is distributed. There are certainly areas that have a higher density (eg the Bay Area, New York etc) but you can perfectly operate your business from another state.

That said, being in CA does mean that we are closer to the epicenter of a lot of venture capital funds and still many, many big tech companies as well as startups. This means, there is more opportunity to network with peers and others which may lead to serendipitous business opportunities.

What (if any) are the weaknesses of operating your business within California?

As mentioned above, I don’t think location matters. Historically, CA’s biggest challenge is its an expensive place to live and so talent is more expensive.

This can be fine if your company is larger and further along but early on, when things are more cost-sensitive, it can almost be cost-prohibitive to operate in CA.

We are currently suffering through a cost of living crisis. With California already being one of the most expensive states to live in, how has this impacted your business?

This hasn’t had much impact on Pulse as our team is distributed and was distributed from even before COVID.

It is no secret that California is the birthplace of innovation. But that also makes it incredibly competitive. How have you found the competitive environment of California?

I think this is a good thing. Building a startup is not easy. Startups aren’t a drive-by hobby or a resume padder. Startups and entrepreneurship is real work.

You may not physically be working as hard as you are at that investment bank or other but the mental and emotional roller coasters are unmatched and it drains you in a way you otherwise cannot compare to.

The competitive environment of CA is positive. It pushes you to innovate faster and it surrounds you with folks who are thinking in a similar way.

Without this drive, you may not execute fast enough or operate with the level of urgency required. Many great startups fail simply because they moved too slow and the market moved past them.

Have you considered moving your company to another state? If so, which state and why?

No, never considered. We, like most startups, are technically incorporated in Delaware but we do not see the reason to move as we can hire remotely.

Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?

As mentioned above, status and presence have not changed since the days of ICQ and AOL. We have an opportunity to reimagine this experience.

The future of work is the digital office. When in the office, we could see and hear each other. This was our status.

Whether we were wearing headphones to indicate that we were focused, talking to a colleague to indicate that we were busy, or even sporting a 49ers t-shirt to indicate an interest – the in-office interactions were an opportunity to learn and empathize. All of this has been lost now that we are remote.

With status, we are bringing all of this rich context into a simple indicator. With 100s of millions of daily digital office users, we expect Pulse to become the default status and presence experience in workplace communication tools and beyond.

And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?

Please visit www.getpulse.team and/or email me at raj at getpulse dot team. Looking forward to hearing from you!

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