The SaaS Podcast

Overcoming Rejection to Build a High-Growth SaaS Business – with Suneera Madhani [276]

Overcoming Rejection to Build a High-Growth SaaS Business

Suneera Madhani is the co-founder and CEO of Fattmerchant, a payment technology company that makes it easy and affordable for businesses of any size to accept modern forms of payment, track data, and stay competitive.

In 2012, Suneera was working in sales for a merchant services company. She would drive around from one shopping plaza to another in her VW Beetle selling payment terminals out of the trunk of her car to small businesses. She describes it as the worst job she's ever had.

As a self-confessed data nerd' Suneera saw all these transactions being processed through the merchant services company and wondered why they weren't turning that data into analytics that their customers could use to increase their sales.

She also realized that their pricing was too complicated and customers couldn't understand what they were being charged. She believed that instead of monetizing the transactions, they should monetize their SaaS platform with a flat-rate unlimited processing subscription.

Suneera wanted to solve this problem and did a lot of research. But she had zero desire to build a payment infrastructure network and absolutely no idea where to even start.

So she pitched her idea to her bosses – who laughed in her face. They thought it was a ridiculous idea.

Shortly after that she left the company and pitched her idea to about 12 different payment processing companies. And she was rejected a dozen times.

So she borrowed money from friends and family and gave herself 6 months to her idea off the ground. If she failed, she could always go back and get another job.

In this interview, you'll learn what Suneera did in those first 6 months to prove her idea and find initial customers. And we explore how she's gone on to build a company with over 7,000 customers and more than 130 employees. She's also raised over $20M in VC funding and last year her company was valued at $140M.

I hope you enjoy it.

Transcript

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Omer Khan: [00:00:00] Welcome to another episode of The SaaS Podcast. I'm your host Omer Khan. And this is the show where I interview proven founders and industry experts who share their stories, strategies, and insights to help you build, launch and grow your SaaS business. In this episode, I took to  co-founder and CEO of Fattmerchant, a payment technology company that makes it easy and affordable for businesses of any size to accept modern forms of payment, track data and stay competitive.

[00:00:41] In 2012, Suneera was working in sales for a merchant services company. She would drive around from one shopping Plaza to another in her VW Beetle, selling payment, terminals out of the trunk of her car to small businesses, she describes it as one of the worst jobs she's ever had.

[00:01:00] As a self-confessed data nerd, Suneera saw all these transactions being processed through the merchant services company and wondered why they were turning that data into analytics that their customers could use to increase sales. She also realized that pricing was too complicated and customers couldn't understand what they were being charged.

[00:01:20] She believed that instead of monetizing the transactions, they should monetize their new SaaS platform with a flat rate, unlimited processing subscription. Suneera, wanting to solve this problem and did a lot of research, but she had zero desire to build a payment infrastructure company and absolutely no idea where to even start.

[00:01:40] So she pitched her idea to her bosses who laughed in her face. They thought it was a ridiculous idea. Shortly after that she left the company and pitched her idea. To about 12 different payment processing companies. And she was rejected a dozen times. So she borrowed money from friends and family and gave herself six months to get her idea off the ground.

[00:02:02] If she failed, she could always go back and get an off the job. In this interview, you'll learn what Suneera did in those first six months to prove her idea and find initial customers. And we explore how she's gone on to build a company with over 7,000 customers and more than 130 employees. She's also raised over $20 million in VC funding. And last year her company was valued at $140 million. So I hope you enjoy it. Suneera, welcome to the show.

Suneera Madhani: [00:02:31] Thank you, Omer. I'm so excited to be here.

 [00:02:33] Do you have a favorite quote, something that inspires or motivates you or just gets you out of bed everyday?

Suneera Madhani: [00:02:39] Yes, I do. Absolutely. I think everyone who knows me has heard me say this, but my favorite quote is “There's no such thing as a billion dollar idea, only a billion dollar execution.”

[00:02:51] And that for me is super game changer because it really doesn't matter what ideas we have, what company, whatever it is, it doesn't matter if we can't execute on that vision. And so that's really what it takes.

Omer Khan: [00:03:03] So for people who aren't familiar with Fattmerchant, can you just tell us, what does the product do? Who is it for? And what's the main problem you're helping to solve?

Suneera Madhani: [00:03:12] Yeah. So Fattmerchant, we are a payment technology company and we have a platform for businesses to accept payments. So credit card processing transactions at the core of it is what we do. But our platform Omni is an integrated tool for businesses to be able to integrate.

[00:03:28] All the, which ways they need to accept payments. So we're in 2020 businesses need to accept payments via online e-commerce invoicing in person, and they have to go to four to five different places to go accept these transactions. Four to five different tools, nothing talks to each other. Nothing reconciles with their backend, that QuickBooks or anything.

[00:03:48] So we have an incredible tech platform that is super easy to use that makes payments a breeze, and that is our direct to client facing product. And then we also have Omni Connect, which is the backend API to enable software companies to actually embed payments in their software so that they can monetize against their payment streams, as well as provide that seamless user experience for their customers to accept payments.

Omer Khan: [00:04:15] So with that, the API you're, you're basically getting into the market with companies like Stripe Braintree, etcetera.

Suneera Madhani: [00:04:26] Exactly. So we compete head to head with Stripe, Adyen, Braintree on the software API side. They also enable companies to embed payments, but our capabilities are, you know, specialized in certain key verticals.

[00:04:42] We allow a lot more flexibility from a monetization perspective, user experience perspective. We have a whole partnership success team, so there's lots of differences. But at the core of it had to have with Stripe from a integrated payments perspective.

Omer Khan: [00:04:56] Okay, great. That's going to make an interesting conversation because people are going to be like really, and I think once we can share your story and where you've taken that business and what you've done, I think that's going to make a lot more sense for people.

[00:05:14] And I think is a really interesting story. I think we can tell before we get to that point. So why don't we start by. You just telling us, like, how did you come up with the idea for this business?

Suneera Madhani: [00:05:25] Yeah, so I launched the company in 2014 and prior to that, I was working for a payment acquirer. So I was working for a large merchant services company.

[00:05:33] This is pre it doesn't seem that long ago. This is 2012. So it's been about eight years when I was in the industry. And a lot has changed since then, but there wasn't a lot of technology that was taking place. There was a few companies like Square and Stripe were emerging, but the industry was very outdated and it was very just merchant acquiring, very commoditized business for payment processing.

[00:05:56] You got your credit card processing, how to bank, zero technology, zero customer experience. And I was a seller for merchant services and I kid you not Omer. That was like the worst job I've ever had. Selling merchant services is not an easy task. I remember I would drive my Volkswagen Beetle around Plaza to Plaza and sell like payment terminals out of the trunk of my car, telling business owners that ethernet would change their lives on their, versus their dial up terminal.

[00:06:25] And this is 2012, right? So this doesn't feel like, I mean, it's not that long ago, but the technology so outdated. And so there's a little bit, a lot of disruption in the payments and FinTech space since then. But when I was, I was with the companies, I switched a couple of different processors. I worked for a lot of the big ones and couldn't understand why we weren't.

[00:06:45] I was a finance major at UCF prior to that. And as a data nerd, I was like, these transactions are data. But they're not treating it like the data that it is. What if we can take all of that transactional data and actually show them analytics, show them real-time insights. How can we take the data that we have to help them actually grow their top line?

[00:07:07] Not just take from their bottom line. And so I, you know, did a lot of research around what that could look like, what can we do with the payment data itself? And then also one of the biggest pain points that our customers were having was they couldn't understand what they were being charged. The pricing was really complicated.

[00:07:25] And as a millennial, as an elder millennial, I was subscribing to every subscription-based product I can get my hands on, and this is pre subscription economy. So this is pre SaaS subscription. I was like, why isn't anybody doing a subscription and payments, flat rate, unlimited processing. Awesome tech. Give it to the, to the merchant.

[00:07:45] And instead of monetizing it against the transactions we monetize against the SaaS platform. So I took my idea, pitched it back to my old bosses because I had zero desire to go build a payment infrastructure that work, nor did I tell him where to go, where to go begin or where to go find Mr. Visa. I'm 26 years old, no money in my bank account and pitch this idea and it gets rejected.

[00:08:09] So I leave the company and I pitched, you know, Fattmerchant to about 12 different processors. I still needed to get a bank. I needed a sponsor network. I needed a lot of things and I was rejected over a dozen times until I was my last choice. Then then I gave myself six months borrowed some money from friends and family.

[00:08:29] And I was like, all right, I'm going to go try to do something with this. And if in six months I fail, then I'll go back and get my MBA and go work for another corporation. So that's kind of how that founding story of that merchant began.

Omer Khan: [00:08:39] So you shared the idea with your bosses. What was, what was the reaction there?

Suneera Madhani: [00:08:46] I was laughed at. It was the most ludicrous thing that they ever heard. Why would they want to give away the transactions? Right. So there's no interchange fees. Like there's no markup above interchange. So we're going to pass through the direct cost from visa. So we weren't going to make money on the actual transaction processing, the percentage processing, no basis points.

[00:09:04] We're going to charge the flat subscription. So one, they couldn't understand why we would be so transparent to why would they invest in building tech when they just locked customers and contracts? Like they just didn't see the, where the industry was headed. And you know, that year, you know, when I got Fattmerchant off the ground, we did 5 million in payments our first year and five years later, we did 5 billion in payments.

[00:09:29] And so it grew like the concept was super novel. I had no idea either. Omer like, I did not know that this was going to grow as quickly as it did that, that customer is going to, we're going to want it as fast as they demanded it. And so I wasn't prepared for this scale, but the market spoke and you know, we were able to get it off the ground really quickly. And we had a lot of tech building to do, which I'm sure you're going to have a lot of questions on.

Omer Khan: [00:09:55] So you said you didn't have a desire to build a business. You didn't want to own it. Didn't even know how to go about building a business like this. So what pushed you off the cliff and made you leave your job and go out and try to do this?

Suneera Madhani: [00:10:10] Yeah, so I actually come from a background of entrepreneurs, so my father was an entrepreneur. My parents own small businesses. They're immigrants from Pakistan. So entrepreneurship wasn't sexy in my house growing up. Like I like they sacrifice everything that they did. That was the only option they had to provide a life for me and my brother, which was through education.

[00:10:30] Like their entire, everything that they wanted for us was to be educated and to go get the opposite of their life, which was to run a small business and you know, so I'd never wanted to become an entrepreneur, but I guess it's just, I wanted to solve the problem and nobody was helping me solve the problem.

[00:10:47] And I think that because I came from working in these small businesses, my brother and I worked at the convenience store, the pizza shop, like every single business like that we had we've worked in these businesses as a family operated business. And I understood the pain points of that business owner and what that the power of technology can actually do if my dad actually just had information to, to adjust his hours based on transaction sales time, or be able to do marketing based on certain days of the week. And so I think I saw it from two different lenses once, you know, having the education, but also being working in that small business environment.

[00:11:24] So I really just understood that pain point firsthand and just hated the way that the industry was treating these merchants because we were one of them. And so I think I just really had that desire to go solve this problem. And when I couldn't find anybody to help me solve it, that was that point where it was, I have to go solve it. And so that's really where that, that why came from.

Omer Khan: [00:11:46] Okay. So tell me about what happened in those six months. Yeah. So now, now the clock is ticking. You've given yourself. A deadline to make something happen. What did you do?

Suneera Madhani: [00:11:56] Well, I moved back into my parents' house, quit my job had no money for rent, and then I needed to go get a lot of regulation stuff completed.

[00:12:05] So I had to go find a sponsor bank. I had to get licensed and registrations with Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express. And at first I was white labeling our technology. So I didn't have a tech stack on my own. I needed to prove out an MVP that people would be willing to pay the subscription model, which hadn't been done.

[00:12:23] And so I joined a tech accelerator in Orlando. So I'm actually from Orlando, Florida. And there was a this is 2013 and there, the tech boom is happening, but Orlando is not Silicon Valley. And so there was just like one accelerator where all the tech geeks hung out and I was like, I need to go find some engineers to help me create the software.

[00:12:46] And so I joined the tech accelerator. It was a 12 week accelerator. It's called starter studio. That's kind of where as a founding team was formed, I met our lead engineer and my CTO and our first hire. So we kind of came out of this tech accelerator. And asked for half a million dollars of a seed round on demo day at the end of the accelerator.

[00:13:05] So we were able to actually create the MVP for the product demo, but what was really interesting about our company versus some of the others in the accelerator was we actually had I think about 16,000 in monthly recurring revenue, we have customers paying us on like a white label solution. So it wasn't even our own solution.

[00:13:22] And so the tech came after the customers. And so we were building based on what customer, like real time customer feedback of what their needs were. And so it was the opposite of like build it. And then they come, it was like they were coming and we were building like, we were building the plane while flying it.

[00:13:40] And so we ended up raising. $1.4 million that night out of the accelerator demo day. And that was really kind of the start of putting the money to use building out our team and really getting customer traction through digital acquisition. So we actually also, where my industry was at that time is they were acquiring merchants.

[00:14:02] Like I was feet on the street. I was a feet on the street sales person, the banking channels, the partnerships with like banks, like bank of America, Wells Fargo, et cetera. So it was all heavy face-to-face sales. And if we wanted to scale, we were selling, we were SaaS. We were platform first. We just happened to do payments.

[00:14:17] So we went online. We were like, we're going to acquire our customers digitally and we're going to do so through like an inbound acquisition model. And so we invested our dollars into product, so into technology as well as into digital marketing. And so that was really the one of the key drivers of our success was the digital marketing engine that we were able to build.

Omer Khan: [00:14:37] So I want to just unpack a little bit about this MVP and white labeling it. Most people, well, a lot of people would go in with the mindset of, I've got to build a product and my MVP might not do everything that you shouldn't do everything that, you know, your final product should, but I have to build it myself that, you know, I need to kind of build this.

[00:15:05] And basically from what I'm hearing is that, like you got to the point we were generating over a 100K ARR. And you didn't really even have a product

Suneera Madhani: [00:15:16] I didn't have a product and the concept was so novel to the industry. It was flat subscription. Nobody had done it. It was actually really quick. What had happened was we were pitching Fattmerchant at every pitch competition that we could get our name into and we were winning.

[00:15:32] Competition after competition. So, you know, like the giant checks, I took home over $200,000 in prize money competitions. That was kind of like the fuel that was happening during the start, our studio momentum that we had. And then fast company did an article and I was titled meet the woman, trying to change the credit card industry.

[00:15:50] And the article went viral and our little teeny office in Orlando, Florida with two employees. I mean, we had to get phones installed. All the startups had, like we had our CRM crashed, our website crashed, like everything was on fire. It was the greatest and the worst thing that ever happened to us. But what, what, it was a realization that we were thinking too small.

[00:16:10] Like I thought I was going to build this great lifestyle, you know, business out of Orlando and have a great processing company. And that is when the, I finally saw that vision, that this is going to be the next big payment processor, you know, in America, we're going to be a top processor and it's so incredible.

[00:16:29] US news put us at the top three credit card processors, neck to neck, tied with square this year. Wow. As the top credit card processor in America. And the volume that we're doing is incredible others in so many pivots. And I'm so excited to share what took place it transpired after that six months. But the vision, I felt that at that moment of, we were thinking too small and that was it.

[00:16:51] Like then I saw it and that's when it was what we just talked about. It's not a billion-dollar idea. It's the billion-dollar execution. And we set out on a path to go build a billion-dollar business.

Omer Khan: [00:17:01] So this story in Fast company, was it Fast company?

Suneera Madhani: [00:17:05] Yeah. It was fast company.

Omer Khan: [00:17:08] You being a woman and a woman of color that probably played into it because it made it even more of an interesting story that she's going out in tech and changing all of this stuff.

[00:17:23] And so that was probably an advantage, but in many ways, It's also been a disadvantage for you. So give me one example of a struggle that you've had to face, especially in the early days because of being a minority woman.

Suneera Madhani: [00:17:35] Ugh. So many Omer. I wish I could. I wish I kind of kept a little diary of all those little struggles to like look back at so many struggles.

[00:17:43] I think the first thing is just being taken seriously. That was just always a challenge. You know, fundraising, walking into rooms and I mean, I was rejected. I was rejected. Every time when this was a very, this is a great idea and that any of the acquirers could have really taken it with the scale that they had.

[00:18:01] And I think being taken seriously is definitely a challenge. One being a woman, and that's just almost every female founder has had this struggle. But also being a minority woman on top of that. And so being young, being minority and just pitching your, you know, your ideas and you don't have the experience, that's also part of it too, of why I'm not taking seriously for every single reason, some of these reasons rightfully so some of them not right.

[00:18:26] And so I think when you stack it all feels like the cards were stacked against me every day. So that was a struggle. And then so many struggles through my journey, you know, I think just. I feel like I've had to work twice as hard as my counterparts have had to. I feel like we've had to get, I've had to prove out our tech, our platform.

[00:18:47] I feel like I've had to prove out, like, we've literally have record breaking KPIs. We're on the Inc 500 fastest growing companies year after year and the top 5%, top 10 and FinTech, you know? So it's. I feel like finally this year, I feel a little bit of the weight off my shoulders. You know, that we've, we've made it, that we've arrived.

[00:19:07] And, but I've been screaming this from day one. And so it's been, and it's not like I've been short of any accolades. Right? So I think that that's where you talked about of being a minority woman, being in tech, having a successful startup that's growing, there's a lot of advantages there from a press standpoint I've received.

[00:19:23] So many incredible accolades over the last few years, and people definitely want to share my story. They want to share the minority women, making it to the top. And I think that that is, and I'm so happy to share that story. So I think that there are advantages that I'm not going to discount there, but at the same time, people only want to talk about it when you're successful.

[00:19:42] And so that's the reality of it. So I'm so thankful that I've made it to this point where now I can at least be a spokesperson and, and be a inspiration and a role model to all those other women that were just like me. That I see. And I hear, and I feel, I want them to know that they, 100% can do this, but they just have to work harder and they have to not let the imposter syndrome and not let everybody else bring them down.

[00:20:08] And they have to just show up and fight the fight, because if they're not going to fight the fight that we're never going to make it. And so we've, I've made it this far. I have plenty more to grow, but it's definitely not been easy getting here.

Omer Khan: [00:20:21] Was the imposter syndrome, something that you struggled with as well

Suneera Madhani: [00:20:24] 100% still struggle with it. I think something that you and I were talking about right before the interview was I didn't go to CEO school. So that is something that I've always had in my head of every day. I show up this company is the biggest company I've ever run in my life every day that we grow. It's a, it's a new day and it's a bigger beast that I had that the day before and showing up for that, we have 130 employees.

[00:20:48] I have raised over a hundred million dollars in venture capital. Like I've got to return value to my shareholders, to my team, to our customers, a lot of pressure, right. And it's a big job to do. And so there's definitely a lot of imposter syndrome that comes a lot of pressure that comes, but it's kind of reminding myself that just have to do the best that I can every day.

[00:21:08] And if we operate in with all the, the, the values that I've learned at like growing up as a child of like being a good human and, you know, doing right by your team, doing right by our customers and just doing our best is what actually makes great CEOs and great business leaders that makes great businesses.

[00:21:24] And great mix, great leaders. And I think that if we just stick to what we know best as humans, that is what is CEO of school. And that is how we should be operating. It's not some KPI charter, a P and L that I didn't know how to read. It's not about the nuances in those details, although those are important, but we're going to learn them, but having the skillset and the values is 10 times more important to actually build a successful business. And so then posture syndrome, I wish I could tell you that it doesn't exist. It exists still for me today.

Omer Khan: [00:21:53] So let's go back to this. The you've got through the six months, you don't have a product, but you're generating revenue. You have customers.

Suneera Madhani: [00:22:02] Yeah. Don't tell me, don't tell the first 100 customers that.

Omer Khan: [00:22:08] So what happened next?

Suneera Madhani: [00:22:10] So what happened next is we built out a team and we built out an incredible engineering division and we got to work and we were in record speed, building a payment network payment product payment platform. And we built Fattmerchant. I mean, we were just, you know, pairing it up with a really strong inside sales model, inbound lead generation, the product was outstanding.

[00:22:34] We were really able to solve customer pain points. And what we were able to actually solve was the fact that, and this is what we learned. I didn't go out knowing this. So. At first, it was a subscription play of, they want transparency and pricing and they want an easier platform. But really what that meant was we learned that businesses were now accepting payments in a multitude of ways.

[00:22:56] Right. So they, they were starting to get online. So e-commerce, wasn't a huge component. Even in 2014, 2015, it was growing, but payment channels and multi-use payment channels was growing and growing and they have to go to multiple different processors, multiple different tools to actually be able to take those transactions.

[00:23:13] And there wasn't one consolidated platform that tied all of that together. And so. That was the first core of it. And then we also learned is that, well, payments are the heart of every business. This is like the one thing that obviously makes their business even run. It's it's the revenue that comes forward.

[00:23:30] How can we take the top 10 business tools that that customer is using? Think about mint.com that we use for our personal finances. How do we do that as a platform for these customers and to integrate it back into their QuickBooks, integrate it back into their MailChimp. So when they actually send a e-blast for a promotion that when they click the link on the invoice, it automatically ties back to their reporting and reconciliation.

[00:23:54] They don't have to do double, double the work, or we can identify customers that maybe haven't purchased in a year, and then you can utilize your MailChimp integration to go. Send them a blast. And so we really focused on the platform itself. So that was really the next phase of it. But something magical took place, which I thought was crazy in 2017.

[00:24:14] So we're growing and we have a couple thousand customers. Now we've done our Series A, Series B company is growing, but we are direct one-on-one to customers, we acquire every single customers individually from that inbound model. What took place is we had partners that were building software companies that said, How are you able to take all of the ways into payments into one API?

[00:24:37] We need that we can, right now we just have Stripe's API, which only does card not present. So only like only card, not present transactions, but our customers also need to take physical payments. How are you guys able to do this? Would you allow us to have your API? And at first I was like, no way, this is our secret sauce.

[00:24:57] We're going to go acquire every customer. And until we had our first one of our first partners that made a really strong case and we allowed them to do our API. And just from that one customer, I think at that time we were onboarding, we were like a hundred customers a month. And this one partner, we onboarded 50 customers.

[00:25:15] Just those one partner. And then the light bulb went off and I'm like, wait, Suneera, we've got the model wrong. One-to-one is great. But one to many is even greater. And so in 2018 we launched Omni Connect, which is our partner facing API. And that has been a huge driver of our success is the, our API embedded for IFCs and software companies to help them enable payments.

Omer Khan: [00:25:39] So how much of your, just as a rough percentage comes from the Omni Connect part. And how much of it is sort of direct sale to, you know, a small business or retail or something like that?

Suneera Madhani: [00:25:54] Yeah. So based on, because we've had such a headstart in the direct to consumer 75% of my business is direct to consumer today, 25% is from the partnership division.

[00:26:05] However, the fastest growing cause just the exponential opportunity for growth. Every time we onboard one partner is much greater than when we onboard one customer. So we are actually, I see that split happening at about a 50 50 rate come 2021. So we are actually acquiring just this last two quarters.

[00:26:24] I think we acquired over a dozen ISC partners and we're exciting some really large names that are bringing on hundreds and thousands of businesses all at once. And so we're very, very excited about the partnership division. It doesn't mean that the core of what we've built and the direct decline isn't going to go away.

[00:26:42] We just now have two revenue streams and two pretty much divisions of the company. It's still the same API. It's still the same product. One is our front end front facing for our customers. And then one is more of the API and the infrastructure, and then front facing platform for partners to manage their customers.

Omer Khan: [00:27:01] Got it. So in the early days, like the first year or two was all the new business coming in through this inbound marketing model where you're doing any outbound and who was leading the sales.

Suneera Madhani: [00:27:19] Yeah. So all of our customers have come through an inbound marketing model. We actually have not done outbound marketing from a call center, or we've attempted a firm like even our SDRs, our inbound SDR.

[00:27:33] So they're still, so we have a really robust lead gen engine. That was really strong. So we actually haven't had the need to do outbound yet. So we don't just like buy lists and do e-blasts and things like that. And so it's all been inbound and Sal my partner, co-founder, he's the one who leads our sales and operations of the company.

[00:27:52] And so he runs our inside sales division and he's had just tremendous experience in his past where I haven't had from a SaaS. He actually was one of the first 50 hires at a software company called Anaplan out in San Francisco and really built he was like, you know, one of the, like a, an early team member and built out a lot of the sales distribution models and you know, sales, forecasting, sales KPIs.

[00:28:17] So he's just a beast when it comes to that. And so we have a really strong leader there that kind of helps it's it's all metrics. That's, that's really what it comes down to.

Omer Khan: [00:28:28] Tell me a little bit about this inbound marketing model. How does it work? What's the flow. Where the customer's coming from. Is it paid advertising? Is it SEO? And then how did you figure out like who to target? I mean, this is kind of a solution that could work for anybody who's selling something. Right. So how do you, how do you focus?

[00:28:51] Suneera Madhani: [00:28:51] I love that question. I'm so glad you asked it because I wish that somebody had asked me this question in 2014, when I was building this out, that I can't market to everybody. And that was kind of the challenge that we faced as we were growing is that we were such a horizontal platform that worked for everybody, regardless of volume, regardless of industry type, I can't service everybody nor do I want to. Yeah. And so I think that as we matured as a company, we realized who we serve the best and who we serve the best, our three verticals.

[00:29:21] So we serve healthcare, professional services and field services. So professional services like lawyers, marketing companies, professional services, and then field services like pool care, loan care, and healthcare is like the retail healthcare. So optometrists dentists, what all of these have in common. Is that all of these are card, not present. They send invoices or they have an online and they are card present. So they physically also take transactions. And that is where our technology was really were square was so focused on card-present and Stripe is so focused on card, not present. There was a huge void.

[00:29:59] And what we found is that that is what our customers were coming to us for. I didn't realize that. When we were just selling it all. And so we got really focused on attracting these three key verticals and it's so important for anybody that's listening that's running a SaaS company to obviously know your customer and know, not just know your customer, but really understand where you win and understand those traits of when you win, because you can use that in your messaging and your marketing.

[00:30:23] And also, I wish there was one avenue that you can win a customer from. It's not. So I like to coin it. It's our multi attribution, digital marketing engine. And it would make my life so much easier if all my customers came from paid up or if they came from referrals or if they came from SEO or they came from content or social or whatever, they don't, it is noisy in the digital space.

[00:30:45] It is noisy in the digital space today. Right. Just, if you think about how we as consumers purchase, it takes over 21 touches just for us to recognize a brand. I think when I went to school, my marketing class, I think it was like six touches to, to when a customer, I mean, in a digital marketing space today, we are crowded with content and we want it quick and we want it fast.

[00:31:07] So we have no attention span. So it's tough to really stand out in a digital world today. And so you have to be creative. And so you have to get to your customer in every avenue. So it's not just focusing on one. There are going to be key ones that you're going to see conversion against. So there are certain landing pages and certain content that does convert at the end conversion, but we need it all.

[00:31:29] You need to show up on social. You need to show up on retargeting. You need to show up in their emails. You have to show up everywhere. And that's what the multi attribution digital model really is. And so that has really been, that's like our, that is the secret sauce. Is that. There really isn't one.

Omer Khan: [00:31:43] And how did you figure out who those customers were, who that target market was?

Suneera Madhani: [00:31:48] Yeah, so I, you know as we just talked about, so it was those three key verticals and then also based on their revenue. So something that we also identified is that we did our products. I mean, Square is cheaper, if you are doing less than a hundred thousand in volume. And did we didn't want the customers that we want a little bit more of a complex customer, because our solution set is invoicing.

[00:32:10] It's required  there's so many they're paying for the software. And so that's subscription price point kind of tapers off at that 100,000 mark. And we were first onboarding customers, but we saw attrition when it came to the lower volume customers. And then we also, I think it's just like skinning and understanding.

[00:32:28] So first I would say throw spaghetti on a wall and like get the customers and then really understand who you serve best. And so for us, we serve best against those three key verticals, professional serve field, healthcare, and they are what I call mid-market SMB. So the customers that are doing, you know, half a million to a hundred million, so in revenue, so above that, we're not winning the enterprise may see that's not my customer, but we are winning that, that sweet spot is really that one to 20 million in their revenue. And we can do wonders for their teams, their, their CFO, you know, so really just skinning your customer a little bit further and You know, putting those attributes in for lookalikes in your Facebook campaigns or content marketing that speaks to that bin market customer that we serve.

[00:33:20] So that is how we approach identifying our customer and then getting in front of that customer.

Omer Khan: [00:33:25] Yeah. So I guess what I was trying to get to was was this something that you looked at by saying, let's, let's figure out what Square is doing, what Stripe is doing, where the opportunities are, and then we go after this, or it was more like.

[00:33:38] Let's go out and sell to everybody. And then something started to emerge and you started to see where the message resonated more with certain types of customers. And you figured it out from that.

Suneera Madhani: [00:33:48] Yeah. So I, I wish the story went the opposite of where I didn't sell to everybody at first. I mean, we wanted revenue.

[00:33:56] We literally sold to anybody that would buy to buy from us. Like anybody that would buy from us. We didn't say no to a single customer, I would say for three years, which is a horrible practice by the way . We didn't fire a single customer that we should have fired, right? Like you just make decisions.

[00:34:11] We were in scrappy startup. We were going to take every dollar that somebody was going to pay us. And so, you know, I think that now at a certain point, you kind of set those milestones of, okay. Hey, at that. A thousand customer. But we were learning as we were going growing, right. So I think it's iterative.

[00:34:27] So in the beginning we thought we had a product market fit for certain segments. We were wrong. Like we're not a product market fit for restaurants. We thought we'd be a great fit. And I'm so thankful that we are not in the restaurant space because that would have been the end of that merchant competing against the point of sales in the market.

[00:34:43] It's super highly commoditized. So we in the beginning were pretty wide. Until we started acquiring customers and then listening to those customers, listening to those, what problem do we actually solve for them? Not the one that my sales person thinks. He solved the one that they're like setting the NPS score back and saying, wow, thank God for this feature because you guys really saved me time here and then double downing against that.

[00:35:06] And so I think it's really that approach of really listening to your customers, not just what, what you're selling or what you think you're going to, you're selling to them and seeing how they actually using it, putting heat mapping tools into your product or your software itself to say, what are the feature functions that are the most utilized feature functions?

[00:35:23] What are the things that they're doing outside of the main core of what your platform is supposed to do? So we really paid attention to those things and really tracked a product KPIs that way. And learned that, okay, these are actually the three verticals that we just rock at. And so there's plenty of them out there.

[00:35:38] And if we just focus on these and we're trying to get even more granular now, like now that we are in the seventh year of our company, we are plus, you know, $25 Million in ARR. We have 5 billion in processing. We have, you know, 10,000 users in our platform. I can be a little bit more selective now and say, okay, let's, let's take this up a notch and specialize further.

[00:35:58] And so specifically we did that when we launched Omni Connect. I wasn't going to create an API for restaurants. I already knew the first target that we went after was our three verticals. And we have landed the biggest SaaS platforms and field services. Why? Because we, we do really well on the direct side with our product.

[00:36:16] And so I think you, as a founder and as like a, as any leader in, in a SaaS company, you learn to pay attention to those things and then pivot accordingly. We're still down to the same core of our product, but I want to be as verticalized or as, you know, providing a solution to a few key people versus everybody.

Omer Khan: [00:36:35] And does the same apply for the API? That you're still focusing on those three markets. It's not like, Hey, all SaaS companies come and start using our product.

Suneera Madhani: [00:36:45] No, we're, we're focused on professional services, field serve and, and healthcare right now, technology, we do have a tech SaaS, so there is kind of a, you know, a blur there of certain products we have, like, but they also fall into professional services.

[00:37:00] We have really cool accounting software is really cool. Time management software. So we have a little bit of that better that they span across several, several industries themselves, but we've kind of categorize it in a few key buckets and we've even gone further to even verticalize our API. So our, our, even our API stacks are verticalized for our software companies so that they can come in and get up and running and you know, get the payment infrastructure ready in less than 90 days.

[00:37:30] To go build against this, which would take them two years if they went to a traditional processor or to try to go become a payment facilitator themselves. So a lot of great learnings. And I think that this was the best time. Like I wouldn't have been able to have the software success on the API side, if we didn't have all the learnings on the direct side of the business.

Omer Khan: [00:37:50] So you said you are doing what? Around $25 Million ARR and you've also, how much have you raised so far?

Suneera Madhani: [00:37:58] I can't now disclose the exact number because we actually just closed on our recapitalization of Fattmerchant this Tuesday, like literally on Tuesday, we did our recap of another growth investment into the company, a lot of debt capital on the side as well for the next phase of growth.

[00:38:14] And our new partners are greater some ventures. They're just super incredible. They've built billion-dollar payment platforms, and we hope to be their next one. And so we had a really successful recap and did really well for. All the initial investors and our, our, our last investors that really believed in us from the early days. So really proud of, of it. So it's, but it's, but it's been over a hundred million in venture capital.

Omer Khan: [00:38:39] So, I know we're out of time and we need to wrap up. I do want to ask you one question that I think is an important one. When you look through this journey that you've taken and all the struggles and push back, you've had to get to this point.

[00:38:58] And probably feeling now that, Hey, finally, it's all come together this, this vision that I, that, you know, I had that light bulb moment eventually when I realized how big this opportunity could be and where we're moving towards that when you now go back and look at that, that day, when you had the idea and you, you pitched that to your bosses and they laughed in your face and, and sort of in the context of somebody who maybe isn't that situation today, who has an idea or is just, feels like there's a problem that needs to be fixed. But number one, they don't maybe feel like, I don't know how to solve that problem. I don't know where to start. Maybe I'm not even the right person to solve this problem, but I can see it. And I feel like somebody should be doing something about it. What advice would you give somebody like that?

Suneera Madhani: [00:39:45] Just start. I think that it's the, we could sit here and contemplate of the million reasons why we shouldn't. Just find that one reason why that you should, and if your, why is strong enough that why will carry you through and you will find the answers and you do not need to be the one to have the answers.

[00:40:04] That's what, that's what I wish somebody told me that I wasn't the one that had to solve every problem. I had to find people that could help me solve the problems as well. And so if you have a why that is strong enough, that it problem that you're going to solve, that's going to really change something and you are willing to put everything on the line to go solve that problem. You can rally a team. That is that expert in that whatever that piece looks like, that you don't know to help you get there. And that one person isn't going to be the only one person with the answer, then there's going to be another and there's going to be another.

[00:40:39] And that's really the power of building a team that has rallied around a bigger mission than themselves. And you are, you're able to do that. So believe in the power, like the greater sum than the, than the individual and. You can achieve it and just get started, go find, go ask the questions.

[00:40:59] Something that I was afraid of earlier on is. I was laughed at, nobody took me seriously, but I still showed up. And I asked the questions. I still show up every day asking the questions that people are like, I can't believe she asked that she should know that, but I don't, and I'm not afraid to raise my hand and ask for help. I'm not afraid to raise my hand and say, I don't know something.

[00:41:19] And I think that that's really what makes great leaders is that transparency, that openness and saying, but I do know there's things that I'm really good at, and I know the things that I'm really good at. Identify those traits that you have for yourself and just, don't be afraid and ask yourself, what's the worst that's going to happen.

[00:41:35] You're going to fail. It's not going to work out. And then in six months, you're going to go back and get an incredible job and do the thing that you were doing anyway. So what's, what's the worst that you've got to lose. You have a bigger opportunity to, to not do it, I think.

Omer Khan: [00:41:49] Yeah. And I think most of the regrets we have in life are not about something. You tried that things that. You never did. Yep. All right. Let's wrap up. I feel like we just scratched the surface here with this conversation, but we do have to wrap up. So I'm going to go into the lightning round seven quick-fire questions. Just answer them as quickly as you can.

Suneera Madhani: [00:42:08] Let's do it.

Omer Khan: [00:42:09] All right. What's the best piece of business advice you've ever received?

Suneera Madhani: [00:42:12] Best business advice is it's never as bad as you think, and it's never as good as you think.

Omer Khan: [00:42:18] What book would you recommend to our audience and why?

Suneera Madhani: [00:42:20] Dare to Lead by Brene Brown. Just love leading with vulnerability and empathy, and just think it's a doesn't matter what, where you are as a leader, you should read that book.

Omer Khan: [00:42:32] What's one attribute or characteristic in your mind of a successful founder?

Suneera Madhani: [00:42:37] Visionary.

Omer Khan: [00:42:39] What's your favorite personal productivity tool or habit?

Suneera Madhani: [00:42:42] Journal every day,

Omer Khan: [00:42:45] Love that one. What's a new or crazy business idea you'd love to pursue if you had the extra time?

Suneera Madhani: [00:42:49] I would like to have a subscription wine company that comes in half bottles of wine, because I need to have a glass of wine and I hate opening up an entire bottle.

[00:42:56] And so I'm going to launch my Mom Boss Wines, hopefully in the next couple of years. That's my retirement plan. Mom Boss Wines, lookout for it.

Omer Khan: [00:43:04] Yeah. What's a, an interesting or fun fact about you that most people don't know?

Suneera Madhani: [00:43:09] I am a mom of two. I have a four-year-old and a year and a half year old. So I've been doing all of this while raising two little ones.

Omer Khan: [00:43:16] Yeah. And as we were talking about earlier, you were kind of going in and raising money while you were pregnant as well with both the kids, right?

Suneera Madhani: [00:43:24] Yeah. Well, I was, I was pregnant with, with each of them at, at, at various points of fundraising, so yeah.

Omer Khan: [00:43:30] And what's one of your most important passions outside of your work?

Suneera Madhani: [00:43:33] Yeah. So I, my, my biggest passion outside of work is CEO school. So I also have a podcast it's called CEO school. And the entire premise is less than 2% of female founders ever break a million in revenue. And we are 100% on a mission to change that. And, you know, we run a really large Instagram as well.

[00:43:52] It's like daily inspiration quotes. I have, you can follow me at Suneera Madhani. So my first name, last name. You can follow at CEO school and just trying to get more women to take a bet on themselves, launch businesses across the globe, and to see more female founders succeed, especially minority, female founders.

Omer Khan: [00:44:12] Great. Well, we'll include links to all those in the show notes. And if people want to find out more about Fattmerchant, they can go to fattmerchant.com and it's fat with two T's. And there's a reason because it stands for

Suneera Madhani: [00:44:26] fast affordable transaction technology.

Omer Khan: [00:44:28] There you go remember that, and if people wanna get in touch with you, what's the best way for them to do that. Where do you hang out?

Suneera Madhani: [00:44:33] Yeah, I hang out on Instagram. So if you want to get in touch with me, I'm literally on my DMS. You can message me. It's @suneeramadhani on Instagram.

Omer Khan: [00:44:43] Awesome. Suneera, thank you so much. I'm really glad we had this conversation. I'm always on the lookout for the opportunity to talk to more female entrepreneurs and especially minorities.

[00:45:00] And then obviously you and I are both Pakistani. Let's not forget that. And so this conversation is something I was literally looking forward to. I feel like there's so much inspiration here for a lot of other people who maybe are still earlier in the journey. So thank you so much for sharing your story, being an open book and sort of telling us about the good stuff and some of the struggles, and I wish you and the team all the best of success.

Suneera Madhani: [00:45:32] Thank you so much. I really appreciate being on the show today and I hope everyone got to learn a little piece of a good heartfelt, honesty today.

Omer Khan: [00:45:41] Love it. Cheers.

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The Show Notes