Reddit AMA Recap with AiSDR CEO Yuriy Zaremba

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On February 22, 2024, our co-founder and CEO Yuriy Zaremba hosted an AMA on Reddit.

Anyone could pay a visit and ask a question about anything, from business and entrepreneurship to his personal day-to-day life.

Below are some of Yuriy’s key insights and takeaways.

About Entrepreneurship

Before becoming an entrepreneur, I used to be a corporate lawyer. But during my lawyering days, I found myself burning with an idea to solve a specific problem I had been struggling with.

There was no clear-cut solution on the market at the time, which was what led me to start my first company AXDRAFT. Since then, I’ve taken part in Y Combinator twice, started two companies, and navigated one successful company exit.

With seven years of entrepreneurship and founder-led sales under my belt, here are some of my thoughts about starting your own business.

If you have an idea, you should start acting on it

You shouldn’t just wait around, kicking the can down the road.

My first start-up was so hard to build that I thought I’d never launch a start-up again after I sold it. But as time went by, I started to get bored.

I did a bit of start-up mentoring, taught a university course on start-ups, and opened a restaurant with some friends, but all of those projects were “short”.

When ChatGPT came out, I realized it was a technological leap that would create a new generation of category-defining companies. It was a once-in-a-decade opportunity, and I knew I had a problem I wanted to solve.

And that’s what I did. Once I had an idea, I started taking action.

Start hiring once your workload becomes too big

At my first company, it was just my brother and me in the beginning. I managed all sales, onboarding, and customer support for the first six months while he handled the tech. We only started hiring once it became clear we were spending too much time on specific tasks and not enough on growth.

By staying small, this allows you to stay lean and agile. You won’t need to constantly check that you and your team are aligned. After all, in the early days of a start-up, it’s common for everything to change every couple of days (if not a couple of times within a day).

Eventually, the workload became too big and started to block me from doing sales. When this happened, it was a sign for me to hire our first customer success specialist.

Do what you can to stay “default alive”

Start-ups regularly fail for a number of reasons. But so long as you have some money in the bank, you have a chance of keeping your company alive and in business.

At one point at my first company, when money was running low, we cut our costs dramatically so that we could get profitable. When my credit cards were maxed out, I used new credit cards to refinance the old ones and extend my payment schedule. This allowed me to stay “default alive”.

I also explored opportunities for additional funding and investments. When opportunities in the UK dried up due to the UK embassy rejecting my visa application twice, I applied to Y Combinator and fortunately got in.

Some have asked me, “Why didn’t you start small?”

In my opinion, unless you go all-in, you can’t really know if the problem is in the product, the people you’re talking to, or a lack of sufficient effort to figure out the solution.

Make sure to do your research at the beginning

Before building AiSDR, I did a lot of customer research and had several conversations with different sales leaders. I found that not only is sales development challenging for AI, but that sales leaders are trying hard to solve an overall decline in SDRs hitting quotas.

A lot of AIs use 3-5 sentence prompts to create emails. This causes emails to sound overly generic, long, and like they are AI-generated.

We built AiSDR to avoid this problem. We use prompts that are 3-5 pages long and persona-driven, which has proven to be effective at generating human-sounding emails that convert. Still, conversion is heavily affected by a company’s product-market fit and industry.  

As a standalone channel, email outreach is simply not enough, which is why we’re exploring our options for multi-channel outreach, such as text messages.

Failure happens, but what matters is how you bounce back

In the immortal words of Rocky Balboa, “It ain’t about how hard you hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward; how much you can take and keep moving forward.”

There were at least two instances when my first company came close to running out of money. Before the company was acquired, we managed to scrape through by maxing out our credit cards.

I was also accepted to Techstars London, but the UK embassy rejected my visa application twice, so I wasn’t able to go. It worked out in the end though as I managed to get accepted to Y Combinator and receive a US visa.

About Y Combinator

I’ve taken part in YC twice: once in Winter 2019 and again in Summer 2023. 

In case you’re unfamiliar with YC, Y Combinator is a technology start-up accelerator in the US. In addition to a small amount of seed funding, YC also helps founders and start-ups work on their business ideas and get additional funding.

Some notable names that have previously taken part in YC include AirBnB, Dropbox, and Coinbase.

After participating in YC a few times, here are a couple of takeaways I want to leave you with. 

 

Y Combinator is the most life-changing experience you have as a start-up

I strongly believe that YC is the best experience you can have as an entrepreneur and new start-up. 

At YC, they push you to grow super-fast while surrounding you with amazing people and creating opportunities to genuinely connect with them. Combined, all of this prepares you for your big Demo Day, which also happens to be the fastest, most founder-friendly fundraising session you’ll ever experience.

Be prepared to apply multiple times to get into Y Combinator

Acceptance into YC is extremely competitive. Their website claims their acceptance rate is 1.5-2%. For comparison, YC’s acceptance rate is significantly lower than that of Ivy League universities where it’s ~4-8%. 

With my first company, I applied three times before finally getting in. At the time, we had ~$5K MRR. But with AiSDR, we applied and were accepted despite being at the idea stage.

Between our first and third attempts, this is what changed:

  • Clarity of communication (numbers first, concise, no superfluous marketing)
  • Understanding of the market size and fit (market analysis, competitor analysis, and our unique value props)
  • Traction (15% MoM MRR growth for four months)

If you’re looking to attract YC, it helps if you have a previous track record of achievements or education, and if you’re working on a problem in a massive market.

Decide if you want to set up in the Valley or somewhere else

I think setting up in the Valley gives a lot of fundraising and hiring advantages during the later stages of your company. In the early stages when you’re still figuring out your product-market fit, I prefer hiring great talent in a low-cost jurisdiction like Ukraine. It gives me a 3x longer runway than some competitors.

Once AiSDR has a strong product-market fit, I myself will seriously consider relocating to the Valley to benefit from networking there.

About AI in Sales

Just like my brother and fellow co-founder Oleg believes, I think sales is ripe for massive change as we undergo the current technological shift. We’ve already seen AI make an impact on specific tasks, such as content creation. Now the next step is for AI to inspire an evolution in the overall sales process.

Here are some of my thoughts about the future of AI in sales. 

Generative AI will force Sales to evolve

I believe that what AI truly enables isn’t high-volume, high-quality outreach (which will become spam soon). Rather, AI will shine at instant intent-based outreach.

This will cause sales to split into two distinct categories:

  • Fully automated sales where you’re contacted and you buy one when you’re looking for a solution
  • Highly personalized, human-driven process where you sell to people who weren’t originally planning to make a purchase

On top of that, I think that AI unlocks considerable opportunities in personalized marketing.

AI will inspire a hybrid approach to negotiated pricing

The relationship between negotiated pricing and sales with regard to sales enablement will heavily depend on the industry, the product, and your go-to-market plan. With or without generative AI, there will never be a “one size fits all” sales process.

If we look at the B2B SaaS space with $15-$50K checks, I think the relationship could look something like this:

  • Inbound: Fully automated until a meeting is booked (i.e. AI handles qualification, nurturing, conversion, personalization). Then there might be AI-guided demos and AI-powered trials with little to no human interaction.
  • Outbound: No mass emails, LinkedIn outreach, or calls. Only intent-based outreach where you either talk to a person or move them to an inbound funnel.

To accomplish this, pricing will need to be clear, public, and with a self-service pricing calculator.

For enterprise sales, AI will probably be just one of the account-based marketing channels. I don’t foresee anyone signing a 7-figure deal with AI as the sole channel.

SDR agencies will have to pivot and work with AI to continue

If SDR agencies want to avoid being rendered obsolete by AI, I would suggest starting to build offerings and services where you combine an existing AI tool with consulting services. 

This way you can earn referral revenue from AI providers as well as service revenue from consulting while bringing additional value to your customers through setting up processes, configuring AI properly, and fine-tuning its performance.

Google’s Gemini issues will ultimately help improve AI 

Honestly speaking, I think people sometimes expect too much from AI. Mistakes happen, and it’s a good thing when they happen. It makes those expectations more realistic.

Case in point, one of our customers came to us complaining about how their emails had typos and grammar mistakes. We looked into it and it turned out that the email had been written by one of their human SDRs, not us.

The moral of the story is that we’re used to and have come to expect people to make mistakes. Yet for AI, we expect it to be perfect, leading us to call any errors “bugs” or “hallucinations”.

About Life

The entrepreneurial lifestyle can be a challenge, especially if you’re ill-prepared for it. It’s very common to make certain sacrifices in the early days of your start-up. After all, the sooner you can launch, go to market, and acquire real customer feedback, the sooner you can start fixing and fine-tuning your product.

However, you shouldn’t sacrifice all your time and energy for your company. Burnout is a very real and dangerous problem that can just as easily derail your start-up as a lack of funding.

You can avoid – or at least mitigate the risk of – burnout with this simple takeaway.

Find a way to recharge your energy

I try to be very disciplined in how I spend my energy. I primarily focus on two things: (1) my family and (2) my company. Aside from those, I don’t spend much time on anything else.

I’m also a bit of a creature of habit. Here’s a glimpse at my typical day:

  • Wake up
  • Do a mini-workout with my son
  • Drink my morning brew
  • Drive my son to school
  • Go to the office to carry out strategic work
  • Pick my son up from school
  • Have lunch
  • Carry out customer calls
  • Have dinner
  • Carry out even more calls
  • Sleep

I find that by exercising, eating well, and sleeping well, I’m able to maintain a high level of energy throughout the week.

Wrapping Up

Sales development representatives are responsible for generating 30-40% of a company’s new revenue. However, current market conditions have made reaching sales targets considerably more challenging.

That’s why AiSDR was built.

An all-in-one sales outreach platform, AiSDR is capable of powering your outreach from end to end, from email warm-up and lead prospecting to lead qualification and getting meetings booked.
Book a demo to try out AiSDR-driven outreach.

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