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Devendra Laulkar
Co-founder CTO Vessel.io (acquired by Marketo)

Hey! I am Devendra I co-founded Vessel, which is SaaS platform providing mobile marketing automation and analytics. We were recently acquired by Marketo. Prior to Vessel I was an Andriod dev @Pulse (acq by LinkedIn). I graduated from Columbia University in New York. Originally from Pune, India where I used to work for a startup which was restoring old Indian Bollywood Films. As you can tell, I was always fascinated by technology and startups. It has been one interesting startup journey for me – I have a lot of experience fighting the broken visa system. AskMeAnything about my career journey!

Why’d you sell Vessel? Was it an acquihire as you aren’t releasing the sold price?

Alignment of vision and our roadmap. We were not "acqui-hired"- This was an acquisition of the product, the deep mobile expertise and the customer base that we have.

How did you get your first 1000 users?

The hard, "unscalable" way :) We started posting to various Developer groups, Quroa. Started attending meetups in the Bay area.

What are few things you were scared about in your mind before starting your company and in reality didn’t turn out to be as bad as you thought?

We had a tough time initially figuring out the immigration issues. This was a major concern initially. As time progressed, typical startup issues (growth, funding, product, hiring, etc) were more important.

How would you recommend someone get started with Mobile development if they are getting started now?

Build an app. Find something that you are passionate about, or some problem that you face which can be solved with an app. Pick a platform and build an app out.

Considering both co-founders are on H1-B, ready to leave the job & not get paid for another 2 years (No funding sought for another 12 months.) , how do they navigate visa system and be legally able to work on their gig full time.

You should consult a good lawyer about your situation. It is possible to navigate the visa system and work full-time. As compared to 2011, it has become easier to start a company and get a H1B transfer. There are few law firms in SF which will gui...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free

How did you meet your cofounder and what made you decide to start a company?

I met KD in college. We drifted apart, before reconnecting in 2009 to build apps together.

Did you validate your idea before quitting your job? What was the moment when you realized you gotta pursue the opportunity all-in?

We validated our idea before quitting our job - We worked nights and weekends for almost one year, got 1000+ developers signed up with few paying customers. 6 months after our beta launch, we realized that there is an opportunity in this space, bu...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free

What would you do differently if you were starting Vessel now?

Spend more time in Marketing & Sales and build less product. We built a ton of product, which needed to be matched by the marketing and sales efforts

Most immigrants tend to join a stable company after graduation. Many have to pay back student loans. What made you join a startup immediately after graduating from Columbia?

2008-2010 was a different time period - The financial downturn really affected everyone, especially for residents of New York. So I had to improvise from the start. I experimented with a lot of ideas during this period.

Hi Devandra, I am founder of http://forkize.com , which is all about  mobile marketing automation and analytics. Congratulations to you and Vessel team on your recent achievements. You rock!!! Whats are the top challenges of building such product and acquiring customers? What was your answer to questions like “Whats your competitive advantage?” Every investor asks that, and I am always referring that the market penetration is about 2% and it’s growing becouse at the end of day you cannot find lots of innovation in this domain, and every feature set could be repeated and re implemented by other players.

Thanks! 1] Most of the challenges that companies face are around Product-Market fit and Marketing&Sales. B2B Saas businesses need a hefty Marketing budget. If you are targeting Enterprises, then you need a savvy sales team. 2] For competitive adva...This knowledge is worth millions but signing up is free

Most immigrants tend to join a stable company after graduation. Many have to pay back student loans. What made you join a startup immediately after graduating from Columbia?