Starved for Intel w/ Sharekh Shaikh | Ep. 123

March 05, 2024 Big Pixel Season 1 Episode 123
Starved for Intel w/ Sharekh Shaikh | Ep. 123
More Info
Starved for Intel w/ Sharekh Shaikh | Ep. 123
Mar 05, 2024 Season 1 Episode 123
Big Pixel

In this episode, Gary forges it alone with the cleverest of guests, Founder of CleverX, the world's leading research tool, Sharekh Shaikh. They discuss the future of market research and how global companies are harnessing its power to inform their business operations and scale.



Submit Your Questions to:

OR comment on our YouTube videos! - Big Pixel, LLC - YouTube

Our Hosts

David Baxter - CEO of Big Pixel

Gary Voigt - Creative Director at Big Pixel

The Podcast

David Baxter has been designing, building, and advising startups and businesses for over ten years. His passion, knowledge, and brutal honesty have helped dozens of companies get their start.

In Biz/Dev, David and award-winning Creative Director Gary Voigt talk about current events and how they affect the world of startups, entrepreneurship, software development, and culture.

Contact Us


FB | IG | LI | TW | TT : @bigpixelNC

Big Pixel

1772 Heritage Center Dr

Suite 201

Wake Forest, NC 27587

Music by: BLXRR

Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, Gary forges it alone with the cleverest of guests, Founder of CleverX, the world's leading research tool, Sharekh Shaikh. They discuss the future of market research and how global companies are harnessing its power to inform their business operations and scale.



Submit Your Questions to:

OR comment on our YouTube videos! - Big Pixel, LLC - YouTube

Our Hosts

David Baxter - CEO of Big Pixel

Gary Voigt - Creative Director at Big Pixel

The Podcast

David Baxter has been designing, building, and advising startups and businesses for over ten years. His passion, knowledge, and brutal honesty have helped dozens of companies get their start.

In Biz/Dev, David and award-winning Creative Director Gary Voigt talk about current events and how they affect the world of startups, entrepreneurship, software development, and culture.

Contact Us


FB | IG | LI | TW | TT : @bigpixelNC

Big Pixel

1772 Heritage Center Dr

Suite 201

Wake Forest, NC 27587

Music by: BLXRR

Gary: [00:00:00] There were areas in the local shopping mall, where if you cross a certain area, someone would come out and offer you 10 dollars or a gift card to a certain restaurant to take a survey.

And when you're a teenager, you don't have much, you made time to do those surveys for the extra Chick fil A gift card.

Gary: Hello, and welcome to the BizDev podcast, the podcast about developing your business. And I'm your host today, Gary Voigt. David is not joining us today. He's out shopping for beanies and hats, but. We do have a very special guest joining us today is Sharekh Shaikh. He is the founder and CEO of a company called CleverX.

They are an AI powered audience discovery platform. And we'll get into that in just a moment. Uh, but first off, just let me say hello and thank you for joining us today.

Sharekh: Hey, thank you, Gary. It's a pleasure to be on the podcast here.

Gary: AI seems to be a very hot topic lately, not just in the news media, but with a lot of the guests that we've had on the podcast lately, people are either starting new companies. Revolving around AI [00:01:00] or finding out ways to interweave AI into their current products, and then kind of maybe create new features and things for their users.

Now I was just looking through your LinkedIn and through your website a bit. First of all, I love the name clever X is awesome. It's very catchy,

uh, audience discovery platform for market research. So just to kind of give everybody a. You know, very high end view of, of what that means. What does your company actually do?

What do you, what are you offering as the product?

Sharekh: Yeah, um, CleverX is built for market research teams. So market research teams need participants, human beings, not AI, right, for getting their experiences about business and, you know, work in general. And market researchers use our platform to find these right people and conduct research through them. So there are thousands of where you see new business professionals who have signed up on a platform to participate in paid research studies.

And researchers get a [00:02:00] direct access to them, which traditionally would be, would have been LinkedIn, which is very difficult to work with. Like people don't trust each other, so they use CleverX now. Um, and we power most of the top tech companies, research companies, Microsofts to TikToks and

Gary: Yeah. Looking through the website and seeing your client list was very, very impressive. So now I am not at all. Well versed on how AI works other than just what I've read. So I don't know the technical ins and outs, but I'm assuming that, um, you're calling either a language model or some point of reference or resource. Are you able to just kind of scan the web for any kind of market research surveys that people are participating in? Or is there a specific group set? Does someone have to kind of like give you permission to look at those surveys that they've acquired if they're for a specific company or product line?

Sharekh: Yeah, so the way traditionally market research industries work, and I'll [00:03:00] talk a little bit about how AI is coming into play. The way traditionally this industry has worked is people go to something called as panel providers. Panel providers are nothing but like databases of people's emails who have agreed to opt in to participate in research.

The problem with that approach is that hasn't changed for the last 30, 40 years, even though technology has moved forward. So market research as an industry is technologically that not that savvy, and because of that issue, a lot of people, when money is involved to get paid. Uh, so let's assume someone gets paid 100 to participate for 15 or 20 minutes of their time in a survey, there's gonna be, there's gonna be a lot of fraud.

So there are these black markets out there, which are creating 40 percent fraud on projects. That's the status quo of this industry. A lot of people don't know this, but 40 percent of data that is pulled into these online surveys, be it big or small, is very, very known 40 percent fraud. And what we're trying to do [00:04:00] is flip the model completely, where we are giving the researcher the ability to choose people before they invite them.

For a particular survey in traditional ways, you don't even know who's participating in a survey. Because of 

Gary: Oh, okay. 

Sharekh: Yeah. 

Gary: So

you're just like buying a list traditionally, but you're actually giving them the insight to go through the list and filter out who they think is going to be a better target audience member for their survey. Okay.

Sharekh: Yeah. And not just that, you also have the ability to know if Gary was my research respondent and I can even chat with Gary on the platform. So if I found your question answer for your question number 10 on a survey, very interesting. I can literally go and chat with you and say, Gary, you answered this question very uniquely.

I want to explore more on this. Maybe you can hop on a video call. or a research paid interview call and flesh it out more. So that makes it super valuable for a researcher because they're very confident in their decisions because they know Gary gave me this answer. Not some random person that I'm [00:05:00] not aware of if they're even real or not.

Gary: Okay, that's going to make me think twice next time I do an Adobe product survey and I say, no, do not contact me. Maybe I should let him contact me.

Sharekh: So they're going to pay you money to contact you and probably pay you a little bit to to jump on a call with them. Yeah.

Gary: Yeah, that's funny when you were saying a lot of times when there's incentives for people to give surveys and reviews. I remember, um, older than I look, but I remember when I was younger, there were areas in the. local shopping mall, where if you kind of cross a certain area, someone would come out and offer you 10 dollars or a gift card to a certain restaurant to take a survey.

And when you're a teenager, you don't have much, you made time to do those surveys for the extra Chick fil A gift card.

Sharekh: Absolutely.

Gary: You mentioned that. Um, the reason I brought that up because you mentioned fraud and

Sharekh: Yeah.

Gary: that made me think, um, the rumors that you hear about product reviews online, whether it's through Amazon or just any kind of storefront whatsoever, when they kind of just [00:06:00] go out and grab all the reviews for a certain product and then filter them into their system.

Um, that also is pretty full of fraud if I'm not mistaken. Is that something that you're, so that's something that you're kind of offering to cut through and cut out of the actual information here.

Sharekh: Yeah. So

Gary: generate from your product.

Sharekh: a lot of books which are on like Amazon or, you know, other other platforms or books are sold. Authors buy,

Gary: use Amazon cause everybody knows Amazon and the

Sharekh: exactly. 

Gary: we're not trying to actually target Amazon.

Sharekh: yeah, exactly. So Amazon is still doing a decent job. I know everyone like Dislikes the reviews because there's like a bunch of reviews, which you know, are like what created or some human being sitting somewhere and gotten paid like a dollar or two to write an interview.

Um, we are, um, so that's, that's more like a product review, kind of like a feedback. So these are where I'll give you an example. Let's assume a company, a big tech [00:07:00] company is launching a product, an AI product, and they're spending a billion dollars in the launch of this product. They want to know how this would be priced in an enterprise.

So they want to, they want to interview CTOs and CIOs of large enterprises to know how they should price this product. That's very different research when it comes to like, Hey, I want to research. Um, you know, Ford owners in California, that could be, um, you know, that's, that's based on socioeconomic background or the person who buys the car is going to participate into that, uh, survey versus a CTO in 500, Fortune 500 company.

So those two researchers are very different and people use different methods to, to get that input or insight from people. Um, so you're right, like the more AI. Uh, generative AI becomes popular and goes to masses that problem will definitely increase. So companies like Google or, um, you know, there are new players that are [00:08:00] popping up in the AI space, which are more around compliance is they would look at content that's generated out there and flag it out, saying that this could potentially be, uh, Um, and that could include reviews or blog posts or Google might punish them and they're talking about it already where you can create like thousand blog posts in a day just by using a tool.

And that that could affect like legitimate, like copywriters and creative people who are researching and taking the time to write content. So those tools are coming in play. It's not perfect yet. It's just the beginning of everything. So there's a lot of hype. At the same time, there are a lot of people who will misuse this technology in the coming near future.

Gary: Yeah. It was just the tangent a little bit. Um, it reminds me one of the episodes previous, we were talking to another person, um, regarding how much content will be generated by AI And then I think David made the comment that, uh, he read in an article on The Verge [00:09:00] that pretty soon in the next five years, 78 of the internet's going to be bots talking to bots. And then the other like 20 something percent is going to be actually real people. So yeah, being able to decipher through that and kind of figure out what is real and what is not is one thing. The other thing I wanted to mention when it comes to like the blog posts and stuff like that, the SEO hijacking is becoming another thing that people are trying to sell.

So that's another important step for not just Google, but you know, trying to find and filter through information or rank products and companies online like SEO has to be done very differently now.

Sharekh: Yeah. Um,

Gary: it's a lot of new

Sharekh: as you,

Gary: up in that.

Sharekh: as you're still like, you know, a problem that needs to be fixed. But imagine that's happening on news, right? Like people can publish news articles, which probably are not true. That's a bigger impact on society than a blog post on a business topic.

Gary: for sure.

Sharekh: Right. So

Gary: But it kind of

gives us a glimpse of where, [00:10:00] where it can go


Sharekh: right.

You're right. Yeah. Um, medical like information, which is probably not true or scientifically proven, uh, or at least research very well gets like, and the products are built on top of it, which are sold to people saying like, Hey, this is what this product can offer you. FDA not FDA approved. So there's like a lot going on in that space.

Uh, so just being careful and understanding where that content is being generated and who is promoting that content makes a huge difference when it comes to like, and content is just the first part of this AI wave, which I wanted to touch upon. The next one is going to be agents who do tasks for you. I think that's where the future is.

The future is not just doing, generating content. I know everyone's really excited about it, but the real future is when it does things for you. And that is going to be very, very interesting. That's where real value will be created because you will save a lot of [00:11:00] time as a professional. Uh, and that becomes you become more productive.

That's the goal. I'm sure there are a lot of people who will be replaced from certain jobs, and they're not even aware of that happening to them today. But unfortunately, that will happen. Um, so companies which will create these. cross, um, learning mechanisms in organizations where people who might, whose jobs might get affected can move into different job roles.

They'll do well. Um, so there's a huge implications on the society in general, you know, with, with what's getting built right now.

Gary: So the way you guys are utilizing the AI technology, um, is it's specific to, I think something that is kind of niche and also kind of high end at the same time. Now, CleverX started, if I'm remembering correctly from reading LinkedIn, it was four years ago in 2020.

Sharekh: Yeah. Yeah. That's great.

Gary: And did you start this on your own [00:12:00] birth from an idea that you've had for a while, or was this something that you kind of just, um, I'm just going to ask sometimes founders said, you know, I was working for a bigger company that was doing this, but then I had a separate idea and they didn't, it just didn't match up.

So then it kind of split off and did my own thing, or was this something that you kind of had an idea on your own? It was just like, I'm doing this no matter what, and I'm just going to go all in. How did you start creating? Clever X.

Sharekh: Yeah, yeah. So my personal background is, uh, I'm a software engineer by trade. Uh, you know, so I come from the world of technology. Um, so I did that back in India, you know, almost 20 years back now. And then I moved and traveled a lot around Europe, Middle East, Asia for work. So U. S. would be the fourth country that I'm living in, uh, and I got exposed to very different ways of doing business and culture.

And I was lucky to work with some research teams, um, market research teams, uh, in my previous companies. [00:13:00] So Gartner Research was the last company. Yeah, so Gartner Research was 

Gary: research outside of the U. S. I have no idea. Well, other than maybe parts of the UK, but that's, that's something that I would be super

Sharekh: it changes, yeah, it changes dramatically because cultures are different, people react to different things differently. Products and services are different, even if it's the same company. So there's a lot of localization based on geographies and cultures, but I work for Gartner Research, which is the largest technology research company in the world.

And they sit at a very unique position in the world where they're sitting between the top vendors like the technology companies and the large enterprise customers in the world. They understand like how technology really operates between these two. massive industries. Um, and that's when I realized there was so many inefficiencies in market research in general, where millions of dollars are spent by each enterprise in conducting research.

And we wanted to fix that problem. That was the inception or that's where we started as a company. [00:14:00] And this would be like third or fourth iteration of a product with AI now in it. Um, and, um,

Gary: not in the initial concept

Sharekh: it wasn't, uh, no, it wasn't. We, we, we got into it in 2022 because the technology is so recent. Uh, the advancements in AI didn't exist three years back or two and a half, three years back, maximum. So the technology, the change in technology, change in regulations are really good reasons for companies to add those, you know, um, Or change, change the trajectory of a company in terms of the products and the features.

And I think that's what happened with AI, with OpenAI coming in, Anthropic, and now Google investing so much, NVIDIA, Apple. Um, this, this huge, uh, advancement in the technology in general. That is why everyone is investing in it. Either startups are popping up or large enterprises are putting money into AI initiatives.

Because they know the value they can get because the [00:15:00] technologies just reach a certain level of maturity. Yeah. Hmm.

Gary: there's, um, I'm not going to say a lot of people that we've talked to, but in our conversations with other guests, we've discussed that, uh, when AI first came out before open AI really allowed you to kind of play with it and see what was going on. Uh, but it was in the background and, you know, people were hearing about it, but a lot of people were skeptical thinking that it was going to be the next like Bitcoin, crypto or NFT thing where everybody's going to go all in and then it's going to fall flat because it'll get maybe like.

60 to 70 percent of what we expect, and then just kind of plateau and do nothing for a while. But it seems like recently the trajectory of not just open AI, but just large language models. And now with Sora creating videos and stuff like this, isn't going to go away. This is not going to be just a fad like NFTs.

This is going to be something where everybody's going to have to adapt to.

Sharekh: Yeah, yeah, you're absolutely 

Gary: sense to [00:16:00] incorporate it into a product, especially when you're growing. Yeah,

Sharekh: was always a skeptic of like the whole NFT crypto thing. I never invested and I live, yeah, I live, I live in Silicon Valley. So, um, very much aware of like, um, More than like anything else from an application standpoint, it was about making money for most of the people.

So there were people who didn't even know why this crypto should exist. And they're just investing, it was just going up in price. And unfortunately that is where it all went wrong, um, for that industry. Also, I could never like get a, I could get, I could never get around the fact that I couldn't find a single great use case of crypto apart

Gary: no, it was all, it's

Sharekh: Store of value. Yeah,

Gary: what was it that the, the contracts, like you could have enough smart contracts and this and that, and

it all sounds good, but if they're never actually applied or in place or even tangible enough to be used,

Sharekh: yeah,

Gary: [00:17:00] kind of jumped off topic there for a second, but my point was basically, uh, starting the company in 2000, when AI was not around and watching AI grow and then incorporating that into your product, it

Sharekh: Yeah,

Gary: very, very beneficial for you guys, I'm assuming, because now with the client list that you guys are working with, it seems to be a perfect fit.


do you, do you attribute that to just like good timing or just a lot of good research and hard work?

Sharekh: I think AI existed, you know, Gary, like, AI has been there, like, there have been conversations from 1980s about AI, but the, the The advancement that we saw in the last two, three years is just incredible because investment flow came in, the technology became better, the hardware became better because AI is like a bunch of calculations, mathematical calculations, right?

At the highest amount of speeds and, you know, that a human being cannot perform as even as a humanity, we cannot. These computers are that strong. [00:18:00] So that didn't exist. And that foundational layer of that hardware becoming so Uh, you know, becoming so strong and getting adopted by the industry made that revolution in the eye.

So yeah, I existed like IBM Watson existed. I remember in 2020 we were testing it out to. There was something called as Louis from Microsoft. People don't even know about this. There's something called as IBM Watson, which still exists. And IBM was, yeah, yeah. And people were trying to work on those things, but the results are not great.

Um, so we tested it out even at that time. Um, but recently with these changes, I think that was the right move. So it always was there for us. Like we wanted to make our, make our users job. As easy as possible and give them that those superpowers to get the job done in the most effective way possible by with the new technology.

Absolutely. That that has given us like amazing things to do with on the product. Um, but I think more than startups. I feel [00:19:00] like large enterprises are going to get more value out of these AI products if they can have the right technological teams and products built within these companies because they are sitting on huge amount of data that startups don't have.

So, um, like a private company whose data is private to itself can build its own AI tool because they've generated 30, 40, 50 years old of data like that's what they have, which is what. What's so valuable about these products? Um, so more than startups, I feel like enterprises have a better shot at like doing amazing things with this technology.

AD: BigPixel builds world class custom software and amazing apps. Our team of pros puts passion into every one of our projects. Our design infused development leans heavily on delivering a great experience for our clients and their clients. From startups to enterprises, we can help craft your ideas into real world products that help your business do better business. 

Gary: Your company is still generally [00:20:00] young, um, but being that you're from Silicon Valley, I'm. Going to guess that you were able to secure some funding to start from maybe some VCs, or did you just bootstrap it on your own?

Sharekh: So initially I bootstrapped it on my own. I was doing okay, you know, at my job in Gartner and I wanted to test this idea out. So initially I, I just started it out as a As a bootstrapped company and, uh, uh, we were lucky. We got some amazing angel investors in the beginning from, uh, from our own industry, like company, people from their source, uh, Qualtrics, um, you know, SAP, um, and Anderson Horowitz, uh, scout Fund invested in us.

So that was amazing for us. Um, and, uh, we were lucky to have these people in the early days because what we were building was very novel and things of that sort, but. More than that, we were lucky that we made the company profitable in 2022 itself. And we, our customers, yeah, uh, that was pretty quick. And in [00:21:00] 2023, we grew like 5X from January to December.

Um, although that year wasn't great for startups last year. Uh, but I think we have product market fit, which means like what we build, our users and our customers care about it. And, um, they're getting value out of it. Yeah.

Gary: And you're able to use your own UI or your own AI to find your exact target audience.

Sharekh: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah,

Gary: So you say we, um, how many employees or how many members of your team are there?

Sharekh: Yeah, we have 15 now, 15 full time employees and a few

Gary: 15 or

Sharekh: 5 15.

Gary: Oh, okay. Are you all in Silicon Valley or is it

Sharekh: Um, some of them, yeah, it's a remote group. Some of them are in the U. S. and some of them are back in India. So we have a tech team which is based in India. And, uh, a few people who are on the customer side, the community side, are based in the U.


Gary: And you mentioned you're profitable after only two years. So are you still working off a runway or have you already kind of like [00:22:00] settled your investors and now just moving forward on your own?

Sharekh: Yeah, we are not in a rush to raise any money because I mean it comes with other strings attached, uh, and

Gary: Yeah. That's what I was basically

Sharekh: Yeah, 

Gary: any obligations. 

Sharekh: yeah, and we have Many years of runway now just because of our customers. I can't be more grateful to our customers Uh because they've trusted us and they use our products so much.

Um, so that was that was very very Comforting as a founder, frankly. Um, so we having that optionality as a founder to Decide if you want to take money not for survival, but for growth is the most amazing feeling Uh, because you're not dying as a company, you're growing really fast, but at the same time you don't need an investor, an external person to come in and put money into your company to, to survive or grow.

And I think that's a very, very powerful position to be in. Uh, I always recommend to, to young founders to be very careful when you take money from people [00:23:00] and funds. I've seen a lot in the last few years. How it can impact founders where good companies would collapse because they just took money from wrong people.

Gary: Yeah. Um, company, it's a small, uh, custom software development crew and we're based in North Carolina in the triangle, like Raleigh, North Carolina area. And so recently we've noticed that the startup scene is kind of growing back because it did die down for a few years and investors kind of just dried out, especially if you're not in the area, like if you're in

Sharekh: Yeah. New York, Bay Area. Yeah. Yeah.

Gary: Um, But we're seeing it come back a little bit. And there is one thing to be said that, um, David, our host, who's not with us today, but he does a lot of mentoring and, uh, does meet with some startup groups and stuff like that. And one of the pieces of advice that he likes to give everybody is. One, you're never too old to start your own company.

Typically, um, once you've already had like a, a pretty long career and some [00:24:00] stabilized savings or whatever, that's probably the best time to start a company where you don't have to borrow a lot from an investor. And if you can bootstrap just to get something at least just to Prove your market viability and, and prove your concept and see if you can somehow attain a client or two without spending a lot on building the product out is probably the better idea.

So even though you're in the thick of it where you did say you probably had access to all kinds of funds going in and not taking what you didn't need is the better option and yeah, I can see how that definitely helps in the long run.

Sharekh: Yeah. I would also suggest like people to, you know, think of this. Investors are like credit card companies. If your credit score is down, no one's going to give you a credit card. If your credit score is good, they're going to give you a credit card. In this case, the analogy of credit score would be, does your company have the product that has the potential to be this incredible billion dollar company?

Uh, [00:25:00] or, you know, does it have a product market fit that really customers are banging on your door? To, to want your product, right? But if you have that, then, then everyone would want to be associated with you and invest in you and all sorts of things. But unfortunately, a lot of people, which I would blame media for it, where they put these stories out that raising a round is a success of a company.

It's not. It comes with a lot of strings attached. So be careful when you do that. And also. Uh, raising money doesn't mean anything. It's just that one investor feels you could be a big company, but market is the right validator, not the investor. 

Gary: Yeah,

And the unicorn story. You know, as, as awesome as it may seem, and I don't mean to, you know, bring anybody down here, but they're called unicorns for a reason. Cause that's not 99 percent of the businesses. The startup don't end up with, you know, hundreds of millions or a billion dollar valuation after a couple of years.

I mean, [00:26:00] for a lot of smaller businesses and people that are starting out, it's, it's just a grind and you have to. Really kind of just stick with it and hustle and work as much as you absolutely need to work without losing your passion for that idea

Sharekh: yeah,

Gary: it going. And if you don't get investors that are funding you for the next five or 10 years, can you go for three?

Do you think it's going to work for three? And then just, you know, you don't always have to just put all your hopes into that. Well, if I don't have investors, then I'm not even going to give it a try.

Sharekh: yeah, yeah, yeah, absolutely. So, um, yeah, just finding the I think the holy grail is getting your product market fit in line. Uh, and product market fit is not the easiest thing because if that would have been the case, most of the startups would have survived. Um, and it's a moving target. So it changes every few months when you reach a certain milestone or goal that the target moves in a different direction and you've got to find it again.

Uh, so I, I, my [00:27:00] recommendation to You know, people I invest in as an angel investor or just like mentor them on these conversations. It's like always be very very careful about Finding product market fit as your top priority. There's nothing more important than that. Everything else falls into place once you have it.


Gary: Yeah. And sometimes you don't even need an actual, like. Technical application. You don't need an app or a software product to do that. Sometimes you could just find your product market fit, which is, you know, a spreadsheet and some phone calls depending on what your actual product is. Now, um, one question I had the market research part of, of your company, and you were mentioning to our, like.

CTOs and stuff. Are you only applying this to more high level aid, like enterprise companies, or is this like a, maybe a second sister product for smaller businesses to use kind of like as a part of their marketing team or marketing tool?

Sharekh: Yeah, so we have [00:28:00] customers on the customer side we have People coming in from like small startups, a team of two people or three people using the product as well. And then there are these really large, massive organizations with

Gary: Okay. So it's not limited to just the

Sharekh: It's not, yeah, it's not limited because everyone needs research in certain stage of a product or a company's launch.

Uh, on the other side of the marketplace or the platform are senior business professionals. So we only work with like on the supply side of the marketplace, it's manager or above to C suite. So if you're doing a product or a service, um, which requires you to connect with these kind of individuals, then CleverX is a great, you know, platform to use.

Um, and we are mostly into B2B, not B2C.

Gary: Yeah. It just made my, uh, wheels start turning because for us. We used to market a lot to startups and try to get startup clients. Um, the weird thing is you can't really find [00:29:00] startup clients as a target audience because. They don't exist yet. They're a startup. So then trying to find marketing, I guess, teams, or even like companies that would do sales and lead generations and stuff, they would constantly kind of give us the spin and, and tell us like, we'll get you 10, 000 qualified leads in this amount of time and blah, blah, blah.

But when you're in the industry of ours, which is custom software development and custom software design, I mean, yeah, you can get 10, 000 leads, but. Nobody's actually going to buy anything from

Sharekh: Yeah. Yeah. The competition is 

Gary: someone might be interested in a little bit. So I was thinking a company, our size, a smaller group, like if we can use CleverX to kind of actually find people who might be literally in the market at either this point in time or within the next six months to a year, specifically looking for software development or custom software, that would be a huge advantage for us.

Sharekh: Yeah, [00:30:00] um, yeah, so, um, I do think about it and we've gotten so many such requests where people want to do like business development like a sales navigator activities on a platform Where you can find leads of people who are in the market for a particular service or a product Um, and we we might look into that very very soon Uh, that's something that's on coming on my radar all the time.

But when you have

Gary: need beta testers.

Sharekh: Definitely, we will, 

Gary: Okay. 

Sharekh: you know, we will talk Gary for sure, but yeah, this, this comes a lot because at the end of the day, everyone's trying to grow their business, you know, and if you can be the catalyst to, to connect the buyer and the seller for a particular service, and it works out for both of them, that's a win for us as a company as well, um, and it's a very interesting thing that, that I keep hearing about.


Gary: That's awesome. Yeah. So, okay. Let me ask you this now

Sharekh: Yeah.

Gary: coming from the background you had traveling around the world for large tech companies, you've probably seen a lot of businesses [00:31:00] operate very differently than the ones here in the U S but, um, it kind of puts you in a unique position to answer this question.

What would you say would be your top three pieces of advice for a startup or a new company in order to set themselves up for success? Now,

Sharekh: I think people should stop seeking external validation as a founder. Um, You should only trust your customers who are willing to pay you the money to use your product or service. Everything else is irrelevant. That's how, like, you know, I would ask people to think of it with that kind of, like, clarity. No investors, no friends, no people who are, like, on the sidelines saying, like, you're building something amazing.

That doesn't matter. Unless your customer is willing to put the credit card on the file and buy your product and service. That should be the number one priority. The second one would be how, you know, of a great experience you [00:32:00] can give them that differentiates your product or service by leaps and bounds compared to what's out there.

So just to make them come back again, that would be the second biggest advice I would give to people. So the first one is getting those right customers, finding that early product market fit, and then scaling it based on the repeated reviews of your customers. Everything else is. And the third advice I would give is, which is, which is more to the founder on their personality is like managing your emotions really well.

Uh, the journey is like way up and down and it's not just for one individual. That's just the way it is. So you've chosen to. To, to, to live this life or build something or create something is going to come with these kind of obstacles, which are more than physical work. It's like the emotional instability of things like in the morning.

You're on a high in the afternoon. You're on a low in the evening. You're on a high again that changes people because you're constantly moving between different [00:33:00] opposite, you know, uh, emotions. So I think just figuring out your own personal way of managing emotions. Well, yeah. and not letting them affect both the highs and the lows will make the journey more easier.

Uh, that would be one of the most important things that I've learned personally.

Gary: as the founder, um, were you involved in a lot of the technical application in the beginning? And is that something you still do now

Sharekh: Yeah, that's a good question. Um, in the beginning years I was Um, where, you know, our first few, you know, people that we hired were all technical people because we started building the product by trying to validate, you know, if people need this or not. So that was my job along with the technical work that was going on.

But now we have an incredible team. Their leader who manages engineering and product is amazing. So I have a really good team that manages things. So it's mostly more about Me trying to have conversations and discussions with them on certain products and features, uh, rather than me actually coding things [00:34:00] Uh, so now I spend more time like with customers, you know, and Meeting prospective customers and things of that sort.


Gary: was, was the building part, something you were passionate about that kind of was a little bit weird to give away? Or was it something you were kind of happy to give away to then move up and just

Sharekh: I I haven't still Yeah, I haven't still given it up 100 percent. So i'm still involved 

Gary: Okay. That's what I guessed.

Sharekh: Yeah, so I'm still involved in design, UI, UX conversations. I love building products. So building is, like, is the reason you get into all of this, like, because you enjoy building something that people will use and appreciate and it solves a problem for them.

So I'm still very much, like, hands on involved. I just don't write code or, you know, design a page, right? There are people who are way better than me who can do that. But I do give a lot of input on what the user should experience when they're doing a certain thing on the product, uh, or a feature. So I'm, I'm very much involved on the product side.

[00:35:00] And, but if I have to split my time, another 30, 35 to 40 percent would be on the product and the other 60 percent would be mostly customers, um, existing and new. Yeah.

Gary: Wow, man. It seems like the, the product you guys created at clever X has, uh, That's a very, very good potential for trajectory going forward. And it seems like you just, you hit the spot and perfect timing. So

Sharekh: Yeah. We'll, we'll 

Gary: good luck and all the success in the future. If anybody wants to learn more about, um, clever extra product or yourself, how can they get in touch?

Sharekh: Yeah. I think the, the easiest way is like to, to go on the platform and just sign up. Signing up on the platform is very easy. And it's free for everyone, uh, both for customers and people who want to earn money by participating in research, uh, or market research initiatives. And, uh, if they want to reach out to me, LinkedIn would be the best.

Uh, so my name is Sharekh, S H A R I K H. If you look for that name on, on LinkedIn, hopefully I'll be in the first three hits, um, as [00:36:00] a founder of CleverX. So reach out to me. I'm happy to, you know, answer any questions or help people out. We're starting the journey, you know, as, as being an entrepreneur.

Gary: Cool. Yeah. And, uh, the website is clever X. com. We're going to put the links in the show notes and the description. So anybody could just click them once they see it. Uh, but I just want to say again, thank you for spending some time with us today, share and wish you all the best of luck in the future.

Sharekh: Yeah. Thank you so much, Gary. It was a pleasure talking to you.

OUTRO: Hi, I'm Christy Pronto, Content Marketing Director here at BigPixel. Thank you for listening to this episode of the BizDev Podcast. We'd love to hear from you. Shoot us an email, hello at thebigpixel. net. The BizDev Podcast is produced and presented by BigPixel. See you next week. Until then, follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Threads, YouTube, and LinkedIn.