SaaS Founder Interview with Mohammad “Nash” Nasrullah, Co-Founder & CEO of Integry
Tony Zayas 0:05
Hey everybody, it’s Tony Zayas back with another episode of the SaaS founders show where we have fascinating conversations with incredible SaaS founders who share all the things they learn throughout the journey. Today, I’m excited we have someone who just informed me, you know, he’s been part of like a number of startups got a ton of experience. And I’m really interested to dive into this conversation. So our guest today is Muhammad Nasrullah, he’s better known simply as Nash. He’s the founder and CEO of Integry. And they’re an integration experience platform for SaaS companies. And they add great integrations that match your UI to your app. So really cool stuff for powering other SaaS companies out there. Hey, Nash, how you doing today?
Mohammad Nasrullah 0:48
Great, Tony. Great. Great to be here.
Tony Zayas 0:51
Yeah, thanks for thanks for joining, excited to have you here today. So real quick, I gave, you know, the real simple high level explanation of the company but tell us more.
Mohammad Nasrullah 1:04
Yeah, I like the intro that you gave. So at Integry, what we do is we help SaaS companies provide integrations to their end users. So imagine if you’re a CRM in 2022, you would need to give integrations to your users to their email or to the calendar. As a matter of fact, it’s so important that as a CRM, you won’t be able to get off the ground without them. But there’s just no simple easy way to provide these integrations to users inside your app. And so that’s where we come in, we help SaaS companies build, deploy and create those integrations for the end users, with a particular focus on making sure that the UI is fantastic. The user experience is fantastic, so that it has a really high conversion rate. So that’s the the 50,000 foot view. And then there’s a lot of interesting details that go under the hood.
Tony Zayas 1:53
That’s awesome. So before we dive into, you know more on integry, but I would like to hear about the evolution, you personally, your background, the businesses you were part of prior to this, just share a little bit about about your background.
Mohammad Nasrullah 2:10
So I’m originally from Pakistan, and the the very first companies that we started off, back all the way in 2005. So I’m an old hen, as you can tell with the lack of hair. And so this is actually my fourth startup. And the first one that is essentially global, like any business, SaaS company’s global, you can access it from anywhere in the world. But my previous companies were more focused more geographically. So for example, we build the country’s largest social network, which was on mobile, he sold that company. It was an interesting time over there. And then I’ve worked with in the telecom space in creating a company which would do balance sharing, or credit sharing, essentially, within low income groups, so I can share my phone credit with you, and so on. And then we did another one in computer based training. So essentially, if you were somebody who was getting into the workforce, and you want to know how to use Microsoft Office, we would sort of create this simulated office where you can, we will teach you how to print the document, how to resize or reformat it. And this is all of it back in 2005. So, so yeah, so it’s been a interesting journey. So I’ve mostly been in the B2C space in most of my career. And integry is obviously in the B2B world. And what I have felt is that a lot of the lessons that the B2C world has learned are now only making their way to the B2B world. So there’s this whole notion of product led growth. B2C is all product led growth, there is no guy teaching how to use Facebook, there is no sales guy to talk to for Instagram. And the business world just caught on to this. And they’re like, We should call this product lead growth, you know, and so it sounds like a new thing, but it’s really not. And so a lot of those lessons in hypergrowth, that happens in the B2C world, I think those lessons are really making it here. I like to think that I’m bringing those lessons into the B2B world, and so hopefully, make things better for our new user signing up or the experience for business users to be improved with that. I can talk a little bit about why this particular company delivers version, how did that come about? But up to you how you want to take it forward?
Tony Zayas 4:23
No, that’s fantastic. I just wanted to paint the picture. I think because you’re a really valuable person had on the show, because not only are you a SaaS founder but your company supports other SaaS’. And you’ve done this a number of times and so there’s a lot of great perspective that I think we’re going to hear from you. I guess yeah, if you want to dive into essentially the origin story of Integry, that would be fantastic.
Mohammad Nasrullah 4:50
Right so just briefly, I was VP of Engineering at a company called Convo which is essentially a Facebook for work like you’re on private Facebook forbidden your Team. And one of the things that we were doing was we were building integrations with Salesforce and so on. And like other companies, we, this is back in 2015-16. And so we build integrations with Zapier like most companies would do. And because our own customers were not that tech savvy, they were SMBs. These are people in HR, they’re people in sales. And they really wanted to do these integrations so that when there’s a new lead on Salesforce, they would see a new post pop up. And then they were this flurry of activity. And our customers love having those integrations. It’s like Slack, Slack works really well with these integrations. So it was similar concept back then. But what was interesting was that every time a customer said, Hey, do you have x integration, and we will say no, but you know, you can head over to this other site called Zapier, and you can build it through that, we would have this huge drop in conversion. And because our users weren’t very technical, and what we found out was that when we build the same integrations in house, we had a 20 to 40 times higher conversion rate. But by that I mean, I was users were successful in setting up those integrations. And when we looked into it, it was fairly obvious because if there’s a button inside your out that says, connect to Slack, you click on this, you authorize and maybe you fill in one, drop down or whatever, and you’re done. But if you have to leave your site to another platform to do all of that, it’s a much harder learning curve. And so we asked our customers what other integrations you guys need, and they had this list of 30-40 apps. And we knew we couldn’t build all those integrations in house. And we realized the value of having in app integrations. So we looked around, we couldn’t find a vendor or company which was doing this. And so I, as a VP of Engineering and the head of integrations, both of us quit to start the company with a couple of friends who we picked initial investment from. So that’s sort of like the pain story. So it was a SaaS company, like many of the people listening, and we realized that there’s going to be more people buying SaaS company, they’re going to have SaaS software, sorry, and they’re going to be buying more and more SaaS software integration is going to become more and more central. And so there has to be an easier way for the end users to integrate these apps without having to pull their hair. And that’s sort of the origin story of us providing SaaS companies integrations for the end users in such a way that it’s really easy for them to setup. So that’s sort of the backstory there.
Tony Zayas 7:27
That’s really interesting. And it sounds like you basically in the role you were at, you were solving the challenge that you had there. And so you were like, your target audience. Is that correct? Did you go out and look at like those first customers? Did you go out and look for other people that were basically in your shoes? It’s your old role?
Mohammad Nasrullah 7:46
Absolutely. And I’d like to say that whenever I hear, you know, new potential entrepreneurs come and talk about they want to start a company. And I like to discourage them. I like to say, Well, okay, well, what do you want to do? And they’ll tell me an idea or two. And I like to say, well, ideas are nice, but what you really want to start from is a problem. Because once you solve a problem, you automatically have the audience, the people who are suffering from the problem. And you absolutely need to be passionate enough about that problem to be able to solve that. And so and if I discourage you in that, and if you get discouraged, I would argue that maybe you didn’t have enough of that gumption to begin with so. But absolutely right, the best startups are those where you yourself face that problem, and you want to solve them. That might not always be the case. But if you are in that position, that is the best because it short circuits, the experimental loop. Otherwise, you have to create something, run it with your potential market, see if this works for them, and get get that feedback and go back. But if you are the market, you can very quickly just talk to yourself and say this is work, what do I need to do next? But if for example, you’re building software for real estate agents, you need to make sure you spend enough time with them to understand the what the problems are, what they’re facing, and so on. But absolutely, I was the target market. So the Curt Nash would have the fewest Nash as a customer, so to speak.
Tony Zayas 9:17
That’s awesome. So when did you you know, you have this problem? And I love that what you said, you know, start with the problem. I totally agree with that. I think that’s fantastic. And really good advice. You’re facing this problem. How did the idea come up? And when did you decide to make that leap to give up what sounds like probably a really nice role that you had at sounds like a successful organization, and to make the leap to dive into, you know, go after this in full force.
Mohammad Nasrullah 9:50
Yeah, so I mentioned that this is my fourth company, but after I did my third startup, I wanted to take a break. So I can’t Well, I was essentially an employee I was hired as a VP of engineering, and I wanted to take it easy, well, I thought I was going to take it easy, but at least I was not back into the field. And what happened here is. So I actually made a list, I want to get back into the fire, I want to get back into the field. It’s very funny that I made a list of all the things I wanted to do. And that list included all the outrageous ideas like a low cost electric car, Uber for farming, a distributed power grid. But ultimately, I picked a problem, which I was intimately familiar with. I knew integrations I’ve worked on that I’ve seen people who would benefit from that. And, and I was obviously the user there. I didn’t know anything about farming, I didn’t know anything about making manufacturing cars. And so it felt like an easier route to take. And, and so that’s sort of how I selected this idea. And I like to joke this is like internet, like internet plumbing. It’s like a very basic idea moving, you know, bits from one place to another. So that was one thing. Why did I make the leap? I think it’s a hard question to answer. I’ve always been in high school. While growing up, I always wanted to be an inventor, or at least to have a company building things. And that has always been a bit of the way I’ve sort of worked. And to me, it was like going back to my roots of building a company. But if you go all the way back to my first company, you’re like, Why did I start this to begin with? I wanted the highest amount of agency in what I was doing. So being able to make those decisions and, and to really drive the direction of where I’m going. That sort of really inspired me. And I do think there’s a certain risk profile that goes with that not everybody can take that risk. But just as an example, when I started Integry a few months, all the same year, I started Integry in June of 2017. In January, I had twin boys who came in. And then I quit my job two months after that, instead, I started Integry, two months after that, so I have a higher appetite for risk as well. I imagine. So if you have that combination, if you can stomach that risk. I think the benefits could be tremendous.
Tony Zayas 12:39
I love that. You mentioned gumption a little bit earlier, and kind of risk tolerance, all crucial things as a founder. Can you give us an example, maybe a story of a time where you faced a challenge that, you know, could have, you know, just taken out somebody who didn’t have that gumption, but you were ever able to overcome it. And whether that was a longer term problem you were facing that had to be solved or, you know, something smaller in the moment, I would just love to hear an example of that.
Mohammad Nasrullah 13:15
Yeah. And I would say, so this is my 15th. Well, this is my 17th year doing this, right. And the world has significantly changed, it was a lot harder to build a company 17 years ago than it is today. The funding is more readily available, the tolerance, and the understanding of failure is a lot better. You know, if you build a company and you feel everybody stands, that’s typically the process and there’s a lot of respect for that as well, as opposed to 17 years ago, and so on. And so I would argue that a lot of the pain that you’d feel would be stuff like what any small business faces, like for example, the highest thing has been you have to meet payroll, and you’re running out a runway and stuff like that. And that is obviously immensely a hard time for any entrepreneur, whether that is venture backed or whether that is you know, a typical cash paste small or medium business. And so, trying to figure out how to make things work during that time is is a hard thing to do. Because I’ve done this for a long time. I one of my investors I was talking to to him and we were just discussing a win and he’s like, Guys, you don’t sound excited. Now like I’ve done this four times, my excitement levels aren’t really usually high and my disappointment levels aren’t very low. So So So just thinking about a good example of what might take option so for example, a lot of there’s sometimes you really want a customer event and you will be going up against these large established players. And it’s a battle of you know, features and contracts and all that stuff. It can be nerve wracking, especially if a contract is large. And as a fairly fairly common cycle or story any entrepreneur will tell you and to do lose those contracts is also gutting, but to vendors is also you know, being ecstatic. So just generally speaking, things like that, I think the highs are really high, the lows are really low. And so just being able to stomach both ends of that is, is what you need to practice and build. And it’s not always enjoyable, the lows can be very painful. But you know, maybe the highest balance that out. For me, I know that every law is followed by a high, I also know that every high is followed by a low. So that sort of keeps me going, I know that this will pass. So I don’t know how useful is that. But that’s how I look at it.
Tony Zayas 15:50
That’s great. That’s, you know, I think our mentality that probably can only be developed from experience. So I appreciate you sharing. I noticed the mention of your involvement in the alchemist accelerator. Can you tell us a bit more about that often we talk to people that have been involved in some type of accelerator or other program? And how has that, you know, benefited you and the company?
Mohammad Nasrullah 16:17
Absolutely. So Alchemist is a San Francisco based startup accelerator that is focused on B2B SaaS companies. So if you’re a B2B SaaS to me, I highly encourage you to apply there. And if you’re someone wants to apply, I can, you reach out to me as at national tutor, I’m happy to recommend or review your application so on, it was one of the best decisions we took while starting the company. And the reason was, and I’m an international founder, I am not a native of the Bay Area. But if you’re someone who’s coming into that ecosystem, the fastest way to get integrated into the ecosystem is through an accelerator, because what these accelerators do is they will rapidly connect you with obviously, many of the startups but also many fantastic advisors and investors, which I estimate, it would have taken me about three to four years to build, but I got them within two months. So for example, any of these, Facebook has some sorry, Y Combinator has something called Book face. And every extractor has some version of an internal LinkedIn, where they give you access to all of these. So they have like thousands of investors and advisors. And you can just directly reach out to them. And what will happen is that they will make an introduction for you. So a really interesting story. I joined Alchemist. And they gave me like these 10 books and I joined in and one of the books was by Salesforce, it was called the SaaS, I think it’s called the SaaS manual, the SaaS founders, I’ll find the name of that book. And the foreword was written by someone called Leila, who was head of the AppExchange. Now AppExchange, if you know is one of the oldest integration platform in the SaaS world, and Salesforce invented SaaS, and she was someone who had worked there for like eight years. And I thought, boy, this would be a great person to talk to. And sure enough, she was in the company’s internal system, which is called the vault. So I sent her a message over there, and I was right next to her office in San Francisco. And she said, Great, let’s meet. And I met her the next month. And a couple of years later, she left Salesforce, she started off at our collective and our peer collector became one of our investors. And now she’s an adviser to the company. And she’s somebody who’s build up exchange, you know, scale it to a billion dollars. And so it’s a lot of serendipity as well, but that initial push, you get credibility. So if you’re nobody and you come in and Alchemist is there, the intro email is always sent by the founder of Alchemist. So it will be so if I request to connect to you, for example, it won’t be just me reaching out to you, we’ll be high on the sea of Alchemist. I’m Ravi and Robbie Milani and I here’s who we are and Nash would like to talk to you. And so that just gives you It lends you credibility in a quick way. And I think that’s really fantastic. And so I met a ton of investors, future investors, potential partners, employers, employees, sorry and advisors which I would have taken a really long time to build out. So if you are starting up a SaaS can be served as a really fantastic there are many others, like this 500 startups there is. Obviously there’s yc. But look at the aluminized look at the company that this company these exteriors have built, it really helps improve your journey, but also they put you in the class. So when you’re going through a tough time, there are 20 other startups which you can talk to are going to the same thing and you realize you’re not alone. These are common problems and you build this camaraderie, which I think is very helpful while you’re building something where you think is really hard and maybe you think you’re a little.
Tony Zayas 19:57
fantastic. We mentioned we’ll come back to some things related to that. But you mentioned, you know, funding investments. And I would just be curious to hear how many of including a tirade sounds like you guys are funded. So you had investors? How many of your past? You know, startups were also found that were they bootstrapped and combination of both?
Mohammad Nasrullah 20:22
Yes. 17 years ago, a lot of this was bootstrapped. Right, the venture. So I mentioned I started from Fox and Fox, and wasn’t venture funding and Fox and only became a big deal in 2021, just last year, right. And so back, then you would build a company the old fashioned way. So if you take adventure, and if you want to start anything, you would typically go to people who, you know, have done well in their life, and you’d build a personal connection, and you’d ask them to invest in you sort of like, you know, private equity or something like that. So the very first companies, so I’d say half the companies, I build with the help of people who were business people, but had made it and so they invested in the companies I build. And so you, I would classify all those as private equity. Integry is venture backed condo was also venture backed is venture backed. And so it sort of split is sort of like that. And this, the decision whether or not you want to be venture backed versus Bootstrap is essentially a personal decision. And how you want to take this forward, there are many businesses that will only make 2 or 3 million a year, throughout the or every year, maybe throughout the life of the business. And that’s perfectly fine. Every small business typically does like that. But if you feel like you can build something which can actually grow to something very large, and you would take that rocket fuel, and then you have to be a rocket, if you are a car, you wouldn’t want to put rocket fuel in a car. And so that’s sort of some of the decisions that you have to make in that. And what are great, and SMB is great, I’d love to help businesses create a venture backed Business is great, you just need to know, What type do you want to be, and you want to follow the advice of that craft thing. You don’t want to take the advice of a venture backed business and apply that to an SMB, and vice versa. That is a recipe for disaster.
Tony Zayas 22:15
Yeah, great point there. You have any advice you’d give to founders who are a little bit earlier stage, and they’re considering and they really realize that they they need the investment they need the funding? What advice would you have for them just about the whole process of reaching out to investors, pitching so on and so forth?
Mohammad Nasrullah 22:38
Absolutely. Well, just in terms of the life’s the lifecycle of a company, the first thing I mentioned was start with a problem understand that as well as you can. And so your success with an investor is ho w much have you d risk the company. So for example, if you’re just starting off, you only have an idea on a paper or on the on the back of a napkin, right. And at that point that people will invest in your people who just know you, and just on the person who loves you, they’ll put money in you. And you know, that’s typically friends and family. If you are a serial entrepreneur, you have successes behind you, you institutional investors who put money in you because you have a track record. But if you don’t have a track record, you’ll typically start with friends, family and your own savings, right? What your job should be, what is the minimum amount of money slash effort I need to take in or do to get to the next milestone and at least as the milestone, do you have an idea? The very next milestone, is validation of that idea? And is this problem real? Will people pay money for that? And so if there’s one book I, if there’s only one book you read, as an entrepreneur that’s called Startup owners manual is by a doctor Steve Blank, is the canonical reference here is like the Bible or for this area, if you want to read through that. And so if you have just an idea on paper, that’s a harder sell. If you have a prototype design, that is better. If you have customers saying we are interested in this is even better. If you have a wait list of a thousand users, that’s even better. And so the more you do this, and select some, maybe you have some advanced paying customers and the product might not be great, that’s even better. And let’s say you are already in production and trial load and you have a few pages, that’s even great. So there’s like a great interior. What investors look for is clarity of thought. And here I said initially, it’s you start with the problem. But the really good best entrepreneurs have really great insights. They will talk about in their pitch, something to see or understand the market which other people might not have seen or might have missed or it’s still a vacuum in the market. And so in that whole pitch which is eight slides, you know, here’s the problem, here’s the solution, here’s what we’re going to do. And here’s how we’re very uniquely suited to do this. And this is what we need. And here’s our progress in just eight slides, very simple. So that’s in itself is enough to sort of get investors in fundraising, unfortunately, still remains heavily a whose you know, game. And it’s very interesting. If you reach out to somebody, at the early stage, like cold emails and investor, essentially, they should measure you or evaluate you on your own merits. In reality, that’s not the case, investor will argue in XIV League, are you at Stanford, this suddenly, you know, put you in a different bucket? Are you X sang? Did you work at Facebook, Google, etc. If you’re neither of those, they’re pattern matching doesn’t necessarily lever. And so it’s really hard to get funding at an idea stage, if you’re not going to have these common buckets. But eventually happen is eventually when your product shows metrics that this doesn’t matter. Because now Do you have something to show the look, I’ve done it. But I think this is one of the problems with venture that the a lot of people who don’t fit this pattern they get filtered out earlier on. And people who do fall in that pattern get earlier funding, and somebody else who was not within that could get, but the best thing to do is to get an intro. And what that does is that so for example, if you’re Tony, and you know, an investor, your good friend off, if you introduce me, I automatically inherit your level of trust with that investor. So as Tony is recommending me, and you know, this guy, I trust Johnny. So by extension, you know, the associated property, you would at least have some trust here. So that’s the other advice. So in summary, have a clear idea or vision for what you want to do, it has to be large enough, investors will not invest, if it’s not a 1 to 2 billion dollar opportunity, make sure you understand the problem. And so and then reach out to investors, ideally, to mutual contacts. And if you’re starting off, you don’t have any mutual contacts. That’s where accelerators are really, really good place to apply. And then talk to as many people as you can, in that area. There’s this very, like I mentioned, I’m from outside of the US, I’m outside of the Bay Area, but very has a very certain thing, which is a Youth Forum. It’s about helping people without any expectations in return. And that’s really refreshing to see. So anybody you reach out to talk to, they would be willing to help you if you have done your work in reaching out to them.
There are these essentially games, there are these games which have uncapped upsides. And for example, and there are games which have uncapped downsides, taking up a fight, but somebody in the parking lot can have unlimited downside, right, you might get really hurt or so on. And sending a cold email, for example, the head of Sony, or the head of Apple, whatever, isn’t a negative downside. But if that person responds back, the CEO responds by that unlimited upside, your career can change, your life can change. So a lot of new people are writing to him. And they don’t actually take the time to actually do that. So cold emails work, even if you don’t know anybody in between as well. But you should take that shot too. So you know, just shoot your shot. Don’t be shy, there’s no downside, like, what’s the worst that can happen to email goes to spam. Big deal, right. But if they respond, I mean, if it only makes sense to do so. So that’s just a bit of my advice. There’s a lot of stuff, which is obviously relevant to the context you’re in. But if you are successful, help other people aid forward, anybody asks you for help you make sure you help them again, without any expectations in return. And that’s what makes the value and the people they’re so fantastic and so great. I’ve had people help me, and put their reputations behind me. Just with very little, without, I sometimes even feel that I hadn’t earned any of that. I hadn’t earned that trust, because by default given to me that you’re here, you’re doing this, we believe you will do this because somebody trusted us when we start going 30 years ago. And so if you eventually get to a position where you can help somebody, I highly recommend encourage you to do that.
Tony Zayas 29:34
Really impressive stuff. And I’m just gonna pause right here and say if you’re watching this and you’re frustrated by not being able to not being part of the club, and feeling like an outsider, we’re hearing from Nash, who’s not from the US. He’s not from the Bay Area, and he’s giving you the tips on how to how to penetrate into those circles. So what I’m hearing Nash is that power of Association through both things like you know, incubators, other organizations, getting those warm introductions from someone who might have more influence. It sounds like it’s about being creative to get, you know, to get those stronger introductions than just trying to go direct and hoping you get lucky. So really good stuff that that’s fantastic. I love hearing it. I just wanted to emphasize that because I think you’re sharing some, some just absolute gold nuggets here, that can be really valuable. Just go ahead.
Mohammad Nasrullah 30:35
Yes, it just got to add to that. So I’m actually an engineer in my training and my background, and I am an introvert. And and you know, this sort of like this, this American ideal of like John Wayne, sort of, you know, gunslinger doing it on their own. There’s something else I learned very late, you cannot do it on your own, you have to have people helping you out doing that. And a very important function is going out, putting yourself out there meeting with people and building that network up. And so even for me this this did not come intuitively, like I said, as an engineer, you think you’re gonna put your head down and just work on this, but but the people element is undeniable, you have to meet and connect with people. And whatever you do, your success is hinged upon people, whether that is customers, whether that is employees, whether those of investors and so we forget about that, while group programming and HTML and CSS and all that stuff. We tend to put people sometimes on the backburner, but they’re really front and center. just important to keep that in mind.
Tony Zayas 31:43
It’s great. It’s some really good stuff I appreciate you sharing. I would. You know, I know you mentioned his connections you’ve made the ecosystem and kind of being in that space. Have you? You know, what would you say about mentors and mentorship? Have you? Do you have people out there you consider mentors, and how has that impacted you?
Mohammad Nasrullah 32:11
A 100%, I would not be where I am without great mentors. And, excuse me, when I say reach out to people, or just people, or reach out to an advisor, advisor ship capacity, there’s this old saying is a funny thing. If you ask for investment, you get advice, you ask for advice, you get investment. And so most conversations start up at, hey, here’s something interesting I’m doing. And I know you’ve done this. And so this would be interesting for you. And I would love to just get your advice on how I should, you know, market this if you’re a marketer, or how I would think about the technical problem if the person is technical. And people really like a well thought out message, even people who get a lot of message and get a lot of spam. A lot. The reason why people don’t like cold messages, because it’s just mass spamming. But if you take your time out and look at the person’s profile, and you really earnestly if you write an inauthentic email, which covers their background, and how it’s relevant here, and how this could be good for them. And maybe in some ways, I think that really helps. Mentorship is a hack in the sense, you can either learn things on your own standard time and get the scars or you can get a mentor. Smart people get mentors, smart people look at learn also from not so smart people, they look at the mistakes they made. And so they don’t do it in the people who don’t make mistakes, have great mentors, or they don’t do anything. And so if they’re doing something, they have good metrics to back them up with. You should have three or four mentors for every key area, like three mentors, around sales, three mentors around all of that, like Technical Marketing, all that. And I think people typically love giving mentorship, but then there’s a certain way that you approach mentors. And so here’s the typical process, if I approach you, Tony as a mentor on a marketing problem, and I explained that problem to you, and then you listen to me, and you give me your advice. And then I go and I implement that advice. And then I close the loop with you I say, Hey, Tony, remember we talked about this problem, I went ahead and did this. Here is the result. Now you’ve learned a few things that your input is listened to and is actually executed. This guy gets things done. And now you realize that this is a very powerful relationship. And that now is is solid, that relationship is no really solid. But if you’re if I’m the kind of guy who listens to you, and then you know, I just sort of totally act on that advice. I don’t really do much with that advice. You as a mentor will also start to get exhausted and tired and get fatigued. You know? Yeah, we talked about this Nash last last week or last week. You haven’t you know, either you’ve forgotten or haven’t you haven’t made progress on that but I I feel like I’m going in circles with you. So there’s a way to also manage mentors. And if you demonstrate to anybody that you listen to them, you executed what they said. And then you close circle with them, that relationship is really strong there. And that’s a hard, obviously, that’s a hard thing to do, right. So you also be careful who you take mentorship from, if you’re not really committed to taking their mentorship, you shouldn’t waste your time, obviously. And so if you are talking to a mentor, you want to make sure that you are in a position to accept, understand process, and then execute as you see fit. But at least you’re talking to them because you value their opinion and advice. And whether you implement it as is or based upon what is best for you, then only then you should talk to that to that person, and so on. So that’s sort of my take on mentors and mentorship.
Tony Zayas 35:54
Really cool. I’ve never heard it quite, quite articulated like that. But it makes a lot of sense. It’s almost like a coaching relationship where, you know, if I’m giving, you’re giving me feedback, and I keep showing up to practice to listen, but I’m not changing the way you know what I’m doing, it’s going to, it’s going to wear you out, and you’re probably going to spend time with the people that actually implement what you’re suggesting and give you that feedback. So pretty obvious. But again, I’ve never heard a quite articulated that way. And I think that can be very valuable for a lot of people out there. I love to shift gears just a little bit. And he to hear about the team and Integry and hear about you know, how are they divided up different divisions and groups and kind of some of the some of the players and how your, your, your your setup?
Mohammad Nasrullah 36:47
Yeah, so it’s interesting when we start the current company Integry, I had worked remote for two years before that. And based on the lessons I learned from that, I decided that when we started this company, it was going to be distributed from day one. So we’ve been distributed since the very beginning. And then we push the envelope on that even more. So now as a company. And this is again, back in 2017. You’re not just distributed in space, we’re also distributed in time. And what that means is that everybody can work at at any time that they want. There, we have unlimited vacation. So if you work and Integry, you can take whatever time you want off, and you don’t want to, and there is no permission. So they’re permissionless unlimited vacations. And so we like to think that the old way of working is focusing on the input, like how many how many hours you’re putting in and what time are you putting in those hours, the newer mode and the epidemic has the pandemic is accelerated that is that you focus on the outputs. And as long as we have an understanding on these outputs, how you manage your time on the inputs, like what time you work on what time you don’t work on that should be within your purview. And so that’s how we sort of work. And as a result we are we’ve been distributed, we’ve been able to hire people from across different. So from the US to my co founder of works out of Berlin, and then we work out of 12 different cities within Pakistan that because a lot of my network was started from. And so that’s sort of essentially where we, we’ve distributed divided and we work async. And the reason we do we learn how to do async very early on. And we put in processes on how to do that before the pandemic came along. And when it did, we did no change, it was no change in the way we work. Everything was business as usual for us. And so that’s sort of how it worked. We also believe in hiring the very best people. And one of the benefits of being a venture backed companies, you can do this, I don’t think you can do it as if you were bootstrapped. But one of the benefits we have is we like to hire the very best in the field, like the top 1%. And then we like to back them up with the top one person’s salary as well. So we pay really high than salary. And we have like the highest band expectations from you as well. And so yeah, in 2021, we grew really fast, we move from 12 people to 49. And so we had a lot of growth happening in that area. And a lot of this is across functions from customer success to doing to support to engineering, and then various functions of engineering, and DevOps and integration and during different sort of fields and factions that we have. And we are still aggressively looking for a really great marketer, somebody who can actually lead our marketing, this is actually a human sized hole in marketing at the very top. And so that’s one of the things which I’m focused on right now in Q1 Finding somebody who’s a really great product marketer or platform marketer. But yeah, so but that’s sort of how the teams are structured and I can talk a lot about async and distributed and how that works. But that’s essentially, more or less, are we are.
Tony Zayas 40:03
Straight. What has, I would just ask where do you spend most of your time nowadays? And to add to that, how has your role changed over time?
Mohammad Nasrullah 40:13
Yeah, I currently don’t like the change in my role. I like to think that companies early on should just do two things, talk to customers build product, talk to customers build product, that’s what should happen. We’ve now introduced a third type of problem, which I’m not a fan of, which is management, right? So when you’re 49, people need to have middle managers. And so it feels like beyond these two problems, that the third problem is, how do you make sure that your managers are good managers? You know, how are they you know, doing one on ones and making sure the teams are well oiled and, and taken care of. So that’s sort of, and for me, a lot of my role has shifted to that essentially empowering people. And I’m a doer, like I mentioned, I like getting in the nitty gritty. So a key way my role has changed is that I no longer code. And I do miss that horribly. And one thing I do like about my role is that I now spend more time thinking, rather than individually, like contributing or doing something, when I was programming myself, or like individually working on things myself, and we were small, I would spend about a day per week on things which are non operational, so to speak. Now, what I’m trying to do here is have four days a week in which I’m thinking, and sort of, on a strategic level, if that makes sense. And then one day where I’m actually sort of operational stuff and things like that, if I’ve done my job, right. So I think, when the company is growing, a key thing in my role is thinking about the big picture, thinking about bigger things. And the execution goes down to the people we’ve hired and sort of working with them. It’s still a balance, I don’t have this figured out, I’m also not entirely convinced is the best way to run the company as well. I like to keep my ears close to their grow, like I said, talk to customers and build product. And so as the company grows, you get further away from that, just by the nature of the people you are. So if you have somebody who’s, you know, there’s a head of support, and then there’s support agents, so you’ll get information for three levels removed or something like that, eventually. And so I think that’s where larger companies become slow to react, slow to respond. And it’s something which every company does eventually evolve into, and I’m fighting my best against that, how do I not become like a large company? Do you there are a few companies that have done a good job of that one of them was this, Steve Jobs stole this of Apple in a very strange way. He uses culture of complete abject secrecy. So you’d have a team of four people, and nobody was allowed to know what they were doing. They weren’t allowed to talk to anybody else. So while the company’s like 10,000 employees, those four people were essentially like a startup. And because they couldn’t discuss them, so nobody could button. And that’s how those guys moved really fast. There are four people, they’re gonna talk to Steve Jobs, and maybe you know, Greg Federighi, or Donnie, or whoever’s there line, the head of that function. And only two people in America knew about them. And so that’s how they isolated and made this work. But it’s an interesting problem to solve. So I don’t have a really good answer here. But I’m fighting through it. I’ll let you know if I find a good model here.
Tony Zayas 43:42
Yeah, it sounds like, you know, an obvious part of that growth curve. And, you know, that kind of stuff is never easy, easy for for anybody talking about, you know, you spending more time to start thinking, you know, high level, you know, strategy and planning. How do you articulate especially given that you want to try to keep that smaller company feel right, where you’re, you’re communicating directly with kind of the entire team, but as you grow? How, what have you done to really convey that vision that you have, when you’re developing, you know, the strategic plan? How do you convey that to the whole team, so people really understand what you know, the big picture goal is, and they can really feel part of it.
Mohammad Nasrullah 44:28
Yeah, and the, I guess the right answer here is that you never stop communicating that even if so, what are the key things a CEO or as founders that every week, every time you get an opportunity you reinforce for why you exist again, and again. And again. There’s a test for this, you just stop any employee of any company and say, Hey, why does your company exist? Like, what are your core values? And if they can articulate it, great, but you’ll find 90% of what employees just don’t know. And so, the way we work is so as an async company, we are very heavy, right? First, we will. So for example, what our values are, how we work, why we work, the way we work, why we build a company, what’s our background story. Any person who joins integrity joins our internal knowledge base. And anything we do is around a document. So it’s all there. And everybody sort of goes through that and reads through that. But in every meeting, every weekly. This is something you have to constantly reinforce, is not enough for somebody to maybe you know, when you start the company, join the company read and forget, there’s something you have to constantly reinforce. And it is actually surprising just how much you have to reinforce this stuff, and how easy it is for people to lose sight of the bigger picture in the in the day to day, rumble of the day. And so it’s, it’s something you have to constantly communicate. And like, in the 90s, and the early 2000s, there was this whole Enron scandal, which gave us the Sarbanes Oxley act, if you went to their, you know, the, the lobby of the building, they had these five values, and the movement was integrity, and modesty. And so it really doesn’t come down to culture as well, which is a whole different topic. But culture is not what is written is what you do. And a lot of that comes from how you exemplify culture, and, and who’s your rewards. So you reward those, when you see those cultural things happening, you reward those and, and what you discourage as things which you don’t want in your culture. So it sort of is a bit of both as a cost communication and building the right culture and making sure people have people know what they’re doing and why they’re here and why they’re showing up every day.
Tony Zayas 46:48
I love it. I love that line. I just wrote it down culture is not what’s written. It’s what you do. And that’s so true. I think often, you know, when companies have, you know, values, you know, that they list, you know, if if those aren’t real things, it’s really easy to spot that. But I think they’re very powerful. And something that attracts and keeps talent when you know, they are real things and people watching with those those core values. So really good stuff there on culture. I would love to hear just kind of before we wrap up here, just a couple more questions. But given kind of all that you have going on, how do you maintain kind of a work life harmony, we like to say it’s not a balanced because we realize that that really never happens. But you said you got the twin boys? And how do you know the family life and everything else? And probably involved in mentoring others and all that kind of stuff with the business? What does that look like? How do you keep you know, how do you stay sane?
Mohammad Nasrullah 47:55
Yeah, so it’s funny. So I actually have my oldest son, then I have a daughter. And then I’d like to joke that, you know, me and my wife, we were happy. I had a job. And one day I asked my wife, hey, how do we make our life harder? And we thought we have twins. And it’s not hard enough? Why don’t I quit my job and start a company. So you know, I’m playing life on hardmode right now. And so one of the things that really pushes you as a parent is you have to get efficient with your time. A few hours ago, I was just having a a head of engineering, well, engineering leads call and I had five people on call. And I had to excuse myself for five minutes, I had to quickly go change a dirty diaper, change clothes of a kid and then come back and the call. So you learn to multitask as a parent, you learn to use your time efficiently. I truly believe most people are not as efficient with their time. And this is not entirely our fault. You have huge companies, multibillion dollar trillion dollar companies, whichever, you know, like an army of PhD scientist, getting you to stay on longer getting you to click longer getting you to watch another video. And so especially in in Corona, where you crave human connection, these things became essential. And so your attention is in is under a state of attack, constant attack, every company is trying to keep you longer and they’re all fighting for your attention. So it is not just you, you become less efficient per hour than you were 10 to 20 years ago, is because the environment has drastically changed and you are in the middle of that. And so that takes an a discipline to just sort of realizing that your focus and doing work on this. I consider myself more efficient than on average, like an hour of my time I feel I’d get more done than the average person does. And I’m I’m a huge fan of reducing the hours people work, basically doing more things efficiently. But a lot of people, it is a hard thing to do that requires more focus and you’re more exhausted per hour. So I think that’s one of the things. The other thing is that, again, thanks to these companies, you end up wasting a lot of time, I say wasting, but depending upon how you want to frame this, if you’re spending four to six hours on your phone and stuff like that, I tend to feel it’s like, you know, nobody likes to admit the McDonald’s. But we all love McDonald’s, I mean, 3 billion burgers, right. So but at the after you eat it, you still feel like crap. And so it’s like your phone, like, if you, nobody admit, wants to admit that, you know, they have a maybe there were phone usage from but if at the end of the day, you look at United spend six hours on the phone, you also have nothing to show for it, as opposed to maybe reading a book or something like that. And so I like to monitor my usage of things that I’m doing. I like to be efficient in what I do in what I do. And so a few things. For example, I try not to have any apps on my phone. And the reason is a phone is really good for consuming stuff, it’s not very good for acting on stuff. So for example, anything you do on the phone is twice as slow as you can do on a computer, then just by the sheer, you know, using both hands, and a keyboard and all that stuff, you can look up things quicker, and all that. And so my idea is that I will touch anything what so if it’s an email, I will only open it if my intention is to act on an email, if it’s only to read it, it will allow, you know, buzz in my head. And so I it’s a task or a Slack message, I will only open it, if I with the intention, I’m going to get get done with it. Because what I noticed was in last few years was if I open an email on my phone, I’m like, Oh, this is something I will need to do when I get on my desktop. And I keep it there. And when I come back to it, if I still don’t process for whatever reason, the task size in my head grows, it seems more daunting. So the more you snooze a task, it becomes bigger in your head. Anyway, so. So I like to just address things head on, just take the action move on, there’s a really great system by David Allen is called GTD getting things done. It’s a really good way of just working all the things you do some of that as well. And so I also think that working from home has really helped. I save a lot of time on commute, I’m able to take breaks whenever I want, I’m able to and I’m brought my family around my kids. They’re sleeping right now, because right now it’s 10pm here almost about to be but they will walk in calls. And as you’re all working from home, it’s expected. And it’s fun. So I actually like working from home. And what I’ve done to help with that is also I’ve done a bit of investment. So right I’m in my home office, but it’s a shared office. So it makes it work for Home or I guess more convenient, and also maybe a little bit more pleasurable. But I highly recommend anybody who’s listening in if you care about your time and attention. There’s a really good book by Cal Newport called deep work, where he talks about how to do deep work or some of the strategies that you can use. He has a couple of other books as well. And which is, I think, the end of email or how email is destroying your attention. And he’s fairly poor as sort of the authority in the space of attention and how he does not have an email address. So you know, it’s interesting.
Tony Zayas 53:40
Some really good stuff. I appreciate Sure. I’m a big fan of that idea of touch at once as well. I can’t say I always live by that. I, this is a good reminder for me to really kind of commit to that, but totally agree that that’s a one to one really solid tactic for sure. Before I ask you our last question in the wrap up, where can people find out more about you more about Integry? I know the easy one is finding you on Twitter, you’re just at Nash, which I think is really cool. You got such a simple, easy to remember usernames, so that’s very cool. But where else can people find out and learn more and connect with you?
Mohammad Nasrullah 54:18
So at Nash and Integry.io, that’s I-N-T-E-G-R-Y.io You can just sign up over there or drop me an email on [email protected]. And the reason I have a cool user handle on Twitter is because I mentioned rebuild Pakistan’s largest social network. And around the same time these three or four guys build something called Twitter. Just TW T TR it was on it was a texting service. And I signed up very early on I thought this is interesting. So I’m like user 800 on Twitter. And so I could have taken any domain any name but Nash was it so I get a lot of fun I get a lot of messages which are meant for either Nash Bridges or Nash the scale on tiktok or next is Canadian ice hockey player. So I got a ton of messages over there. So email is still better. But if what a Twitter also works?
Tony Zayas 55:16
Yeah, that’s great. So last question, we like to wrap up our interviews with this question. So in your case, having you know, had multiple ventures gone through this process of, you know, being a founder or launching a business, if you could go back in time and have a cup of coffee with your younger self? What’s the one piece of advice that you’d give?
Mohammad Nasrullah 55:39
And I can’t say invest in Bitcoin? That would be too obvious.
Tony Zayas 55:46
Aside from invest from bitcoin, what would be your advice?
Mohammad Nasrullah 55:51
I stock up on and 95 masks. So every year I do a post mortem of the year. And in 2021, I did a post mortem. And I learned three or four key lessons or mistakes. And that’s, again, that’s relevant to 2021. But I guess the biggest thing I would say is to think bigger, be braver. And so as a funny story, two years before, actually, in 2002, I actually created Facebook, it was called yearbook, and I build it for my own university, I build it for my campus, right. But the internet wasn’t really that big of a thing in my country, I was exactly what you’d imagine it like you have profiles and stuff like that. And if I if you if you’re a little bit more brave, you would have taken that idea further out, maybe, you know, find investors in other parts of the world, but you, we tend to live in our comfort zone, you know, we tend to stay within the, you know, the places where you’re born, and so on. And in many ways, it’s good that our dreams don’t come true, because you don’t even know what your dreams are capable of. I mean, imagine if your dream was, you know, if you ask the kid in a remote place, like I want to be the manager of my local McDonald’s, because that’s the biggest thing in that town, but the world is bigger, and you’re too where you’re young, you don’t really recognize that but so the biggest advice I would give is that, you know, life is short. and dream big. Don’t be afraid of dreaming big. And you know, and and for that, just find out the people who can help you in doing that. And, and so yeah, I think that would be my biggest advice, besides the Bitcoin and N95 mask and so on.
Tony Zayas 57:46
Yeah, now, that’s, that’s fantastic. Well, Nash, this was awesome. I really appreciate your time. And I’m sure that people who are tuned in have gotten a lot of great stuff out of this. So really appreciate it. Thank you for everyone tuning in. Be sure to check us out again next time next week, same time. And Nash again, thank you and hope to keep in touch maybe have you back on when you figure out that little growth you know challenge you’re going through, but really good stuff here today. So thanks again and take care.
Mohammad Nasrullah 58:18
This is a lot of fun. Thanks for having me, Tony.
Tony Zayas 58:21
Awesome, for sure. Take care everybody.