In this episode, we sit down with Sabba Keynejad from Veed.io.
Veed.io is a rapidly growing tech startup, allowing entrepreneurs to create engaging videos for social media and marketing.
In under 12 months, Sabba and his team have scaled rapidly to over $40,000 in monthly recurring revenue.
In this interview, we discuss topics such as:
And so much more.
👉 To learn more about what Sabba and Veed, head to https://www.veed.io/
👉 If you’d like to explore any further training, then feel free to check out our range of free courses here: https://www.impactunltd.com/training
Ben Donovan 00:13
Welcome to the show today guys. I'm here with Sabba, the man. And I'm really interested to dive into a topic of conversation today, which I think you're going to find fascinating. Sabbia, welcome to the show today.
Sabba Keynejad 00:24
Thank you very much. Thanks for having me.
Ben Donovan 00:26
That's awesome. Sabba, you are a tech startup entrepreneur, which I don't know what you call yourself. But that's what I'm just labeling you for today. But I'm super excited to dive into it with you. What we tend to do on the show, though, is just dive into a couple of quick-fire icebreaker questions just to get the audience warmed up. So are you ready for that?
Sabba Keynejad 00:47
I'm ready when you are. Let's go.
Ben Donovan 00:49
What did you want to be when you're growing up?
Sabba Keynejad 00:53
I didn't know, I think. Yeah, I didn't know.
Ben Donovan 00:56
Fair answer. Any good book you're reading right now? Best book?
Sabba Keynejad 01:01
'Seven Powers' at the moment, which is a really great book. Yeah, 'Seven Powers'.
Ben Donovan 01:06
Sounds good. Have you got a favorite quote?
Sabba Keynejad 01:11
You know what I also don't have that either. I don't know I wouldn't be fair enough and I don't have a favorite quote.
Ben Donovan 01:16
No, it's fine you can break the mode, I like it, it's good. If you and this is the one I love to ask people right because this fascinates me how people answer. If you could time travel to any time period - in the past present, not present because that wouldn't be traveling, but or the future. Where would you go?
Sabba Keynejad 01:33
I would definitely go to the future and I'm not sure how far ahead but I would say about 70 years just to see out how far we've come and what those new interesting things and technology where we've got to you know.
Ben Donovan 01:48
Totally, I reckon it's going to be crazy in 70 years, hey crazy times.
Sabba Keynejad 01:52
I want now, I want the lenses, you know. That's what I really want and the flying car.
Ben Donovan 01:58
Yeah, absolutely. I'm sure it'll happen. So Sabba, amazing. Thanks for doing those and just letting the audience know a bit about yourself. But let's get into some serious stuff. Tell us a bit about what you do. Tell us a bit about the company you run. And then what it does as well.
Sabba Keynejad 02:12
Sure, so I'm the co-founder of Veed and Veed is a simple online video editing platform. And we have a lot of people using it to make entrepreneurial content for that Instagram. So that's like the Gary Vee style videos. We have a lot of podcasters using it to make videos as well. And just, you know, really powerful subtitling and simple editing in the browser. I started it with my friend Tim about a year and a half ago, but it only really got serious about a year ago when we started charging for the product. And so today we're about $40,000 in monthly recurring revenue, and we're growing a nice 40 to 50% every month.
Ben Donovan 02:52
Yeah, awesome. And that's how I asked you to be on the show because you know, we're a user of the product and I found the product is recommended to us by someone and you know, love the products. But what I love most about it was just your attentiveness to your customers. You know, honestly, it blew me away, because we wanted to work on it with our team - do some production of exactly like you're saying, take some videos, chop them up, post them on social media. We were using another tool but it wasn't really kind of hitting the bill. And so we found Veed and started using it. And I'm like, I'd love to have this feature to be able to work with my team on it. And I emailed you and you're like, Sure, I'll put it up. Yeah. And you changed it, you implemented it. I was like, that blew me away. And so I was like, I've got to get this guy on the show and ask him questions. Because, you know, you're a growing tech star, you got a bunch of things to do. But you made that happen. Like, talk to me about your mindset behind that. Because yeah, like I say, it blew me away.
Sabba Keynejad 03:46
Yeah. Now I'm really pleased. So I think there's a few things. One is we think that technology can be really impersonal sometimes. So whatever we can do to bridge that gap, whether it's to chat we have optional onboarding calls that we will do with as many users as we have to. And, you know, we just want to make it really personal, you know, let people know who really care. But it's not just about caring, it's just really useful for us to know what our customers want and what they know, what they need us to build for them. Because the only way we're going to be able to build a great product is by really understanding who our users are and what they want us to build.
Sabba Keynejad 04:22
So when you came to me and said, "Hey, we need this collaboration feature". I'm in a really good position to be like, "Alright, cool. We're pretty much done, we're going to put it live in the next couple of days." But then having that dialogue with yourself just makes it really good for you to then give me feedback to learn how we can then improve that for the future. So it's about learning from our customers and just building that relationship.
Ben Donovan 04:43
It's a massive lesson for so many entrepreneurs listeners, like get the input from your users because A that's like A - customer for life, you've got me there. And then B - you know, those are the people that are using it in their use case, and that's there's a reason why they want a certain feature and so now absolutely love that.
Sabba Keynejad 05:00
I just posted on my LinkedIn yesterday, about like a little milestone we hit when we just crossed 2000 paid users on monthly subscriptions. And there's a bunch of comments and 90% of them are users from the platform, whom I've then added on LinkedIn, or they're added on LinkedIn, and they're all rooting for us. So, you know, to get those hardcore fans, the people that love what you do, you have to do, you know, put the effort in and build that relationship and they will be the ones to tell their friends and the next lot about you know what you're doing.
Ben Donovan 05:38
Yeah, definitely. That's really good. There are a few areas I'd love to dive into, Sabba. I mean, I think first of all the product and then and then the journey because the two both fascinating for me and I think I'm sure they will be for our listeners. You know, a lot of the listeners will be entrepreneurs just starting up and I think there's a product that can really help them but understanding the product and then the journey you went on with it, I think could be some really good interesting learning. So, you know, talk to us a little bit about the product, because it's a great product, you know that the subtitle feature I think is, you know, really, really good. It's really accurate, really helpful. There are loads of features in it. They're great. But one of the things you said to me pre-record while we were just chatting. One of your philosophies is "Ship it as soon as you possibly can", you know, you want to get out there fast. So you can then iterate and learn, which I think is a fascinating mindset because there are so many entrepreneurs that want a product to be perfect before the world sees it. And no one ever sees it, right? So talk to us a bit about that tension, how you found that and yeah, speak to that a bit.
Sabba Keynejad 06:36
Yeah. So I think when it comes down to shipping products early and getting things out quickly, what we're trying to do here is improve the speed of learning. So if our development cycles were six months, right? And we only have a year's worth of money in the bank, we'd only be shipping two iterations of the product. And that's just not quick enough for us to learn. And for a technology company, we need to move really, really rapidly and really, really fast. And the way that we can do that is by reducing that speed of iteration.
Sabba Keynejad 07:08
So we try to then build a feature in a week or less, get it out to users, and then get that feedback. And then two, three days, we've got the next update, and then you know after we've got the next update. In that way, we can really start shaping how the product develops. And it's completely led by the users, not us. And I think an interesting example of where we previously went wrong with this is when the team built video effects and filters. And as you said, you think the subtitles were great, and that's where our focus should be. But at this point in time, we were focusing on the filters and the effects. Now, it's like, hardly used by anyone. And that was just a waste of a month's worth of work. So I think, you know, so it's just "what do people really want?", "what can we focus on?" and "where can we provide the most value?". And how can we iterate on that as quickly as possible?". So that's where the focus is.
Ben Donovan 07:59
Definitely, what some of the keys to like that speed because, you know, it's one thing to have an idea of making something happen, but I know I struggle in our business often is like, I've got all these ideas for the next 12 months, but it's actually making them happen quick enough. You know, there are some things that you can speak to about how you managed to make that happen.
Sabba Keynejad 08:17
Yeah. So I mean, I have to confess I am like, the biggest daydream of wonder and new idea person. And you know, during this journey, I've had multiple different ideas that I'm like, it's just something simple, we could just spin it off, and it was just, like, take care of itself. But unfortunately, like, that just doesn't exist. Like you can't have a side project that will just run itself. And I don't think there's any sort of thing like passive income. So, you know, it's just having that focus. And I think the reason why I'd now have that focus is because I can see what happens when you just put all your energy into one thing and one thing alone
Sabba Keynejad 09:00
And, you know, I've previously had done many other projects in the past that none of them really got anywhere. But it was only when I really doubled down, went full time, and put all my energy into one thing. So I think that's really important when it comes to focus. And then in terms of getting, you know, things out really, really quickly. It's I think that's all about just lowering your expectations, right? And being relatively comfortable with that sort of like failure. And I think once you once you're comfortable with it not being great, and just getting it out, then, you know, you kind of just get used to it, the ball gets rolling a bit better. I think a really, really good example is like as you see our platform now, you'd be like, "oh, wow, this is amazing". If someone wants to compete with us, they'd probably think that they have to get to where we were as a level to then compete with us. But actually you know, if you wanted to compete with us, all you need to do is build a crop tool that is just better than our crop tool. Right? Just do one thing and do it really, really well. So, you know, just get it. Just get that stuff out. Tell the world about it, put the next thing in, tell the world about it, and just keep that cycle going.
Ben Donovan 10:19
Yeah, I love it, man. I love that mentality. Because I think, for me, especially, it's something that I struggle with, you know, often, I'm a recovering perfectionist, and it's like, it's not to say that I put out perfect work or it's anything amazing. It's just, you know if it's not as good as I feel it possibly can be I struggled to put it out there and it's something that I've had to work on so much because as an entrepreneur, that's the thing is gonna hold you back. People think you've got great work and yes, of course, aspire to that but you've got to be willing to put stuff out there like you say, and so I love that so much. I think obviously it's been one of the keys to that quick growth because like you say in a year to really sort of grow to that level I think is a great achievement and testament to your mentality and the product itself, obviously.
Sabba Keynejad 11:02
Thank you. I mean, it's, as you said, it's the same content, right? Like you could have this comes also back to what we talked about of speed of iteration. And that is, if, like, the recording that we're having now is going to be relatively easy for you to then edit, and then put on YouTube. And you know, that will reach your audience. And yes, there's some time setting this up, and then there'll be some post-production, but it's a lot, it's going to be a lot easier to produce this piece of content and get it out and do this sort of format regularly than it would be making, for example, a travel video because you need to book flights go there, record for a week, come back. So you know, also think about what you're making and the format of what you're making and how quickly you can reproduce that format.
Ben Donovan 11:48
No, it's so good. I mean, that's a big thing. We've got training on marketing, like mastering marketing and one of the big things I teach my philosophy that we've grown into, not I've got a perfect as we're on a journey. Anyone but is rather than spending, you know, 10 hours on 10 pieces of average content, spend 10 hours on one piece of great content that then can flow down into other mediums. You know, whether that's a video or a blog, really invest something. So it's really high quality for your audience. But then you repurpose that, syndicate that out. And I think, obviously, that's why your tool is creating so many possibilities with so yeah, there's really a lot of alignment there. So yeah, it's exciting.
Sabba Keynejad 12:27
Yeah, I mean, like this video alone, you could then cut it up into 10 small pieces, and that's 10 days of Instagram content. And then maybe there's a blog topic that you can take out of this or transcript. So it's just using that content again and again, and making it work for yourself.
Ben Donovan 12:49
So talk to us a bit about the journey then obviously, the product is where it's at now, and it's as much as we sit here and say and I sit here and say it's great and well done. I'm sure your life is so much so far from it to go and you've got a lot of time to run on it. But talk to us about how you got so far, you know, because that's what's exciting, right in 2020 is that, you know, young punks like us can just start these businesses and build brands and it's exciting. It's an exciting time to be alive. But you've got to still make an idea happen. So talk to us about, you know, the early days, how you've gone that journey, building team, I'd love to dig into some of that kind of stuff.
Sabba Keynejad 13:24
Sure. So my background is in design. I went to an art school, graduated and I was working creative technology. So building kind of like basic websites, doing a lot of design work in agencies. And then when I was working at a creative agency once, a Social Media Manager asked me to add text to a video, and this social media manager was more than capable of doing it with just photos alone, but when it came to video, it was just like she couldn't do it like her laptop was Marrakech so premiere didn't want to know how to use it. Didn't know what he up to six for men, you know, all of these sorts of things. And so it kind of got me thinking, like, hang on, I think there could be some idea here. You know, and iMovie even today doesn't let you actually click and move text around the screen. Which is, which is crazy, right? Yeah. And so, you know, it just got me thinking that the world has changed quite a lot when it comes to producing content. And, you know, there should be some video tools that were specifically designed for making content, right? Though, feature films and TV shows just, you know, content social.
Sabba Keynejad 14:38
So, meet my friend Tim, he just graduated from university I was a few years out. We decided to get going and start building this thing. So we applied for his university's accelerator, which was basically just that space. And we got in and then we spent a few months building the product. And this is kind of one of the biggest mistakes that we made. Actually, this time was, kind of diverging from the story a bit here, but we, you know, we applied to a pitch competition to try and win some money. And during that process to win the pitch competition, we changed our idea to make it more in line with winning and getting the money. So we kind of like made it into these AI products that did all this, you know, stupid stuff. Fortunately, we won the money, but it kind of took us massively off track. So it wasn't until we run out of that money again, and went back to the original idea of just building this simple online video editor that, you know, things really started getting into gear. So, at the end of this accelerator, we ran out of money and had to both go back to our contract jobs, but we had the basic product out and it was online. And it was getting like 50-50 hits a day to the site, not that much. And just for some context, the tool could I think trim videos, you can draw on them, add text and crop. So it was very, very basic, no signup, no accounts, just upload, edit, download. And instead, while we were contracting, trying to save up some money for runway again, we could see those user numbers just go a little bit higher every day. And before we looked around, we had some pretty good momentum. You know, it went from 100 users a day to 200, a couple of months later. And then after four months, we're about 30,000 monthly users. Yeah, and so at this point, it was a free product. And then, you know, we quit our jobs, again, had a bit of money in the bank, hide a couple of people to help us and then just kind of got down working super hard on building out more of that functionality growing the product. And then, I suppose to rewind a little bit further in June last year, went to Silicon Valley to meet Y Combinator which is a startup accelerator, based in Silicon Valley. And we got rejected from the program on the reason that we weren't charging our users. And I mean, I was in the mindset that Silicon Valley was all about, don't charge your users, just grow really quickly. I think the mentality has changed quite a lot. So just literally that we got rejected, and then 40 hours after that. We already had our pay will bill, we had our first customers paying for the product at just $5 a month. And yeah, at that point, everything kind of changed. Like everything just got real. All of a sudden, we had paid users we had a product, we were still growing. And then it was just like hitting the ground running. And then from nine months ago to now, we went from 0 to 40,000 in monthly recurring revenue. And we've got a pretty good growth rate and, you know, hope to continue this year and plan To hit the 1 million era mark in August. Amazing.
Ben Donovan 18:04
That is, yeah, it's not just a good growth rate. That's an incredible growth rate. What a journey. Now I think, you know, it's like me, I think you put in a lot of work and you got a good product. And you know, like I say, the interaction that we just had initially made me think like, oh, there's something special about these guys. So, you know, there are not many companies in the world that kind of like that.
Sabba Keynejad 18:28
Thank you. I mean, I think somebody I'll just quickly add to that is like, when I tell that story, it looks like a very clear journey. But like, when you're on that journey, and you run out of money, it's like the worst thing in the world. You know, it's when you build the wrong product. It's like, terrible. And connecting the dots when you look backward is so easy, but like, when you look forwards, it's so unclear what journey you should take.
Ben Donovan 18:58
it's the case of the entrepreneurs, isn't it? You think, well, I just wish we had this or we're doing that. And my wife's always saying to me like, "Ben, look what you've done. Look back, stop looking so far forward, look back", you know. And it's a very real challenge. But yeah, I mean, like you said, I think there are so many things we could dig into in that journey as well if you had the time, but even what you're talking about in terms of the funding and changing, like the product you're doing, I think, man, if there ever there's a lesson, you know, for entrepreneurs in that it's like, do what you're passionate about, stick to your values, you know, and I think, you know, again, if you would agree, and, you know, but I'm sure that's something that you've thought about in terms of that change of direction.
Sabba Keynejad 19:38
Oh massively. I think, you know, the best validation you can get is of your users. And if your users are paying you, that's something that they want. If you're getting money from an investor from the competition, your incentives aren't aligned with your customers, right? You are doing it you know, you're getting money from investors. So you're inflating those numbers. You're making it look better than it is, but you're not actually solving the problem for your users, you know, and it's the same with like winning a competition. It's just a vanity metric, which all you should be doing is focusing your time on making products better your users speaking to them listening to them. And I think that experience that we had winning that competition money, which was great at the time, you know, is what kind of made us fail. But also, that's where we learn our lesson really hard. And then just double down the complete opposite way.
We were like, okay, we know the mistake. Let's fix this. Let's talk to our users. And that's why we have this culture now. Where if you buy the product, you get an email from it, you can just book a call, right? And we just make ourselves very available.
Ben Donovan 20:44
So the question I would have is how you're going to scale it?
Sabba Keynejad 20:48
Yeah, I mean, like, so you know, I'm superhuman, actually. So we have optional onboarding, and they have mandatory onboarding and I think it is scalable. So okay, so think about this at the moment, our lifetime value is about $120 per user. If one person onboards, let's say 10 people a day that's $1,000 in annual recurring revenue divided in that one day, and that, you know, and say that person gets paid $200 a day, I would argue that scalable.
Sabba Keynejad 21:25
But what I've noticed is that the onboarding calls that I do, those users are A - more likely to tell other people about it, because I mean, this interaction alone, B - they're more likely to give me better feedback and tell them what they need, which helps us build a better product, you know, and C - I think they're less likely to churn. They're worth more to us over the long term. So I would argue it's beneficial and I'd actually like to do more of it.
Ben Donovan 21:54
Yes, great points. And I think you're, you know, I think in a world where there's like, You sound a lot of entrepreneurs trying to reach this passive income holy grail and step away from the business to sit on a beach and drink cocktails, you know, to find entrepreneurs that invested in their business and, you know, passionate about that user experience is what's gonna make it grow. So, yeah, case in point me right here, you know, because I think, you know, if you turn around A - not reply to an email or B - Yeah, we'll try and get it out in six months, we probably would have found something else because we need to work on something as a team, you know, and but you did it. And it was. Yeah, that's, that's just one small example of how that works in a product.
Sabba Keynejad 22:32
Yeah. And really, you know, also like, I could sit on a beach if I wanted to right now. But like, if you want us to sit on a beach, you were in it for the wrong reasons, like I should either. I don't want to I do not have any interest in sitting on a beach. And even if I was sitting on a beach, I'd be on my laptop, right? Like, I think people are successful in what they do because they love what they do. And that end user knows that they love it too. Yeah. And you know, if your passion, like if you just want to make passive income, you might as well just get a job at a bar, right? So you can have time off and not think but if you want to be an entrepreneur, you want to do it properly, you need to be so, so invested, and maybe in 5 years, or 10 years from now, you know, that is the time that you might be able to sit on a beach. But I mean, I know for a fact the second that, you know, the designer sold or passed on to someone else. I will be on my next project. I'm you know, I love this so much, you know.
Ben Donovan 23:30
Totally. And I think that was a big part of my journey is initially thinking I want to build a business I can do what I'm passionate about. And these two things that were separate and, you know, the business side of it never really took off. But when I realized that actually those could coexist, you know, do what you're passionate about and get an income from it. It's the best combo.
Sabba Keynejad 23:47
Yeah, I had a very similar experience when I was leaving University. I was like, I kind of wanted to be more of like a featured artist at the time and I was like, "Oh no, but I'll work in design and technology to make the money to fund this more artistic endeavor that I want to do." And like you know, I think those can sometimes get misaligned. But then also you can bring them back together. And like, I might not be directly an artist right now, but I am giving other people the control and the power to make whatever they want. And that is so rewarding. So I think sometimes you need to look at what you're passionate about for a few different lenses to really understand where you know how you can make that into a viable business.
Ben Donovan 24:34
Yes, good, man. Really good. I know, conscious constitute of time. But just one more aspect that I'd love just to ask you about is your team. I know you have a remote team and there'd be a lot of people listening, that either have that or have visions of doing that themselves. Our team is fully remote. We don't have offices. I'm in a bedroom right now. You know, and so and it's something that I love and think is a really you know, especially now as we are recording in the midst of this Coronavirus situation is kind of enforced on a lot of people. How is there anything, you know of advice you give to people how you've made that work successfully in growing that team remotely?
Sabba Keynejad 25:11
So I think the first thing and maybe the biggest thing is like the people that you decide that you want to work with, the people that you hire, make sure that you come away from that interview being like, "Oh, my God we're so so so lucky." Right? And to like, have them as a candidate. And if we come out of an interview, and we're like, yeah, I think they could do it. That's that for us is a no, right? We need to come away and be like, yes, a hundred times. And that is actually a really painful process. Because often when you're hiring, you need someone and you're willing to kind of make sacrifices. So we just you know, sometimes it takes us two months to find someone, but we put the time in to finding the right person. So that's number one. I think because of that we've got, you know, great people who have a great culture fit. Second is trust, like we have a lot of trust. And it's very common that someone will be like, "Hey, I'm taking the morning off, because it's nice weather." Or like, "I'm going to the beach", or you know, and that's completely cool with us. And we don't track hours, we don't track time, we have so much trust. But that is because I know that like, at the weekends, you see the little green on Slack, like they're making up the time, right? And like they are as invested as we are. So I think having that trust works completely both ways. And just makes a great, you know, environment for us to work in. And I think the final thing is, I mean, we spoke briefly before the call about how we manage work with the team. And I think that comes down to ownership, right? Just like giving someone a project and the autonomy to just like take that project and deliver it and not being micromanaged is also a massive key to this as well. Yeah. So yeah, I think I'm still learning and I probably have a different answer a year from now, but that's kind of working for us right now.
Ben Donovan 27:07
Yeah, definitely not so much truth what you're saying I think, yeah, the big thing that has helped us is that idea of responsibilities over tasks, because tasks you have to continue to update his new tasks and new tasks, but areas of responsibility is "hey, manage this" and you get it done in six hours instead of eight great you know, like you we're very much trying to lean into that it's about overall responsibilities not checking off these amount of hours work. So I love that. So same for you guys.
Sabba Keynejad 27:32
Ben Donovan 27:36
Just to wrap up in terms of anybody sort of thinking out about their about starting a business, start a new project, if you could kind of give you know, one bit of parting advice before you know, encouragement, what would you say?
Sabba Keynejad 27:51
Just do it, right? It's so much fun. I mean, I think no, my advice from mistakes that I've made in the past is just like ship early. Get out there super, super quick, right? Number one. Yeah. And, you know, don't worry that it doesn't look bad. It doesn't look great, right? Just lose that ego, just get out. Second is just like, constantly updated, iterate it and you know, tell the world about what you're doing, update what you made, post on Reddit the new feature you added, tell people about how you're developing your business. And I think it's, you know, we have a blog where we talk about how we're developing our journey. And I think that's so like, a lot of our users really resonate with that because of the entrepreneurs themselves. So I think, you know, don't be afraid to be very public about what you're doing. And I think finally, like, you know, what I said about talking to users and caring and being involved, I think that is massively overlooked in so many businesses. So, definitely, you know, send a handwritten thank-you note to one of your users who bought something from you because there's a very good chance they're going to take a photo of it and put it on their Instagram, right? Or their LinkedIn. And then that just in turn helps you grow and makes you feel good as well. So yeah, ship fast, tell the world about what you're doing and be very thankful and talk to users as much as possible.
Ben Donovan 29:16
That's gold, absolute gold. Appreciate it. Sabba, you're an inspiration, appreciate your product, and appreciate what you're doing with your with customers. I know, I'm making, you know, some improvements in our business just based on our interactions. And so yeah, like I really, really appreciate your time today.
Sabba Keynejad 29:32
Ben Donovan 29:34
I want to obviously send anybody that's interested in the product to the website is just veed.io
Sabba Keynejad 29:41
That's it. Yeah.
Ben Donovan 29:42
Super easy to remember. And then like I say, you know, personal testimony from us. We're using it, great tool. And again, going to continue to use it more and more. This podcast will have clips from it on social media that have been made from veed.io. So the proof is in the pudding. It's a great tool. So yeah, thanks for building it and really looking forward to seeing where it goes, man.
Sabba Keynejad 30:03
Cool. Thanks so much. It's been a really good chat.
Ben Donovan 30:08
Awesome buddy. Thanks so much for that.