Startup Interview Series – Xeno

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Source: Xeno

Looking to delight your customers at scale? Forest Essentials sends out 3 M unique campaigns to 3 M existing customers using Xeno while increasing conversion by 150% and saving time by 95%. Startup Dunya in conversation with Ashad U. Hassan, Marketing Head, Xeno.

Xeno is an interesting name. What does it mean?

Xeno means unknown, new, foreign.  We embrace the unknown and constantly experiment with “Intelligence” – intelligence that can help solve the core problems of the industry.

Who are the founding members of Xeno?

Pranav Ahuja is the Founder and Ayushmaan Kapoor is the Co-Founder.

Ayushmaan Kapoor & Pranav Ahuja, Co-Founders Source: Xeno

How did the Founders come together to start this venture?

Pranav and Ayushmaan were roommates at VIT University way back in 2008. They’ve known each other for 11 years now. Both share a common passion to solve marketing-related problems for businesses around them. That’s how they got together to start Xeno in May 2015.

Who gave you the initial launchpad?

We were initially self-financed and got guidance from our board member, Umang Bedi in the early days, who was then the MD of Adobe South Asia.

How would you describe your company?

We are an AI-powered marketing platform to know consumers, engage them and personalize their experience across multiple channels.

Who is your target group?

Any large B2C brands retailers, Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs), Dine-in Restaurants, salons and insurance companies.

Which problem is Xeno trying to solve?

Brands today spam customers to increase sales versus engaging customers. We’re changing that, one step at a time.

Spamming happens because there is just the wrong message at the wrong time. While engaging their customers in multiple channels with many new coming up every year, brands tend to forget one basic thing, Customer Delight.

According to the Walker Study, 65% of buyers believe that a brand that focuses on ‘customer delight‘ to be more influential than great advertising.

Xeno’s mission?

Xeno’s mission is to enable brands to delight their customers at scale and grow their business by increasing their marketing conversions by 150%.

What kind of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are you looking for the business?

At the highest level, we look at 4 metrics:

– Annual Revenue Rate

– Revenue booked/ month

– Avg. Conversion Uplift % (the uplift in marketing conversions our algorithm generates vs. a customer’s earlier way of marketing)

– Incremental revenue generated/ month (for our customers vs. their earlier way of marketing)

Can you describe the key differentiators that set Xeno apart from other companies offering similar services?

We are the only company in the industry that converts personalized consumer analytics into marketing campaigns across Facebook, SMS, Instagram, email, Twitter, Google search and 10 other marketing channels.

We also guarantee a 150% uplift in marketing revenue. If not, we are committed to refunding this marketing cost to our clients.

Our AI/ML driven campaigner is deeply focused on generating more revenue for businesses.

The ‘aha’ moment which impacted Xeno‘s business?

The ‘aha’ moment was when we realized that our friends & family who owned businesses were struggling with marketing as it transitioned into the digital era. After further research, we understood that most agencies focus on customer acquisition & branding. Customer retention was a problem that only had marketing automation tools, yet no single product was providing solutions for end-to-end customer retention. This provided us the base to start building Xeno.

Pranav’s mom is actually our first customer. This set the momentum for Xeno and we could not have got a better start :).

What spells success to your team?

“Delivering incremental revenue to our customers!”

Our sales & marketing team sells incremental revenue. Our success & technology teams deliver incremental revenue. Everything that we do at Xeno is defined by delivering that impact to our customers.

Any specific milestones in Xeno’s journey that you wish to highlight?

Xeno is one of the 9 startups that has been selected for the 2018 METRO Accelerator for Retail, powered by TechStars.

The pivot for the company?

The period from April 2017 to March 2018, when we attempted multiple solutions, but couldn’t figure out the right way to scale our business while selling to SMBs despite having a net negative churn.

Ultimately, we realized that the SMB business lacked market-product-channel-model fit. We pivoted our business accordingly in April 2018 to build a solution that delivers multi-channel personalization at scale to large B2C brands. This pivot has the 4 critical fits and has changed Xeno’s growth trajectory completely. We’re now on the path to $100M in revenue 🙂

Where do you see Xeno 3 years from now?

Our guiding light at Xeno is always the same, “How can we deliver more impact for the brands we work with while making their marketing more delightful?”

Following our guiding light, we’ve enabled retailers and restaurant chains to increase their marketing campaign conversions by over 100% so far.  The Xeno marketing cloud has become the de-facto marketing software for the restaurant industry and used by brands like Dunkin Donuts, Taco Bell, Nandos, Copper Chimney, Nandhana Palace & Billion Smiles.

We’re aggressively closing retailers in the enterprise space. We currently have 410 customers.

By the end of 2020, we’re looking to take our product to the next level by using artificial intelligence (AI) to make marketing personalization, even more, easier. We’re also working on enabling new marketing channels like Whatsapp, Google search, Facebook messenger, YouTube & Twitter for our customers.

The end result, businesses will even earn more money using Xeno 🙂

What stage of funding is Xeno in?

Pre-Series A.

What kind of support system will help launch the company to the next level?

One area that we are actively seeking support is connecting to the influencers in the industry, the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) who believe in our concept and can help us take our marketing efforts to the next level.

Can you sum up Xeno’s journey so far?

From 2015 to 2017, we kept growing a business profitably & then we realized it won’t scale anymore. The following year was insanely hard & ultimately we realized that to build a $100M revenue business you need a good market-product-channel-model fit.

Finding that fit in April 2018, we joined the Techstars accelerator, learned to become better entrepreneurs and started building a new business that’s making us feel like we’re on a rocket ship.

How big is the current team?

We are a team of 23 full-time members. We also have a couple of consultants on-board.

The connecting thread that keeps all of you together as a team?

At Xeno, we have a strong belief that companies are built by people and run by people. Employees come together as strangers but connect to share the same passion and conviction towards a common cause. Products and services are mere yields of such an association.

All companies have a culture – a set of principles, beliefs, and values. At Xeno, we have a set of 6 values: Honest, Humble,  Audacious, Positivity, Passionate and the Yearn to Learn.

What is the secret sauce for an employee’s emotional quotient at Xeno?

Happiness is one’s ultimate destiny!

Being HAPPY is what we evangelize at Xeno. We help each other in reaching it collectively.

Our startup has amongst the best company cultures in India, with an employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) of +85 (vs. -9 for an average company & +20 for a good company).

Our Glassdoor reviews are also 100% 5 out of 5. This’s just the start of our journey to create a super happy and enjoyable workplace.

Ashad U. Hassan Source: Xeno

How has working with a startup impacted your life?

Before joining Xeno, I worked as a Product Head in an MMT funded startup for 4 years and was introduced to the essence of working in a startup culture.

But, at Xeno, the whole experience of a startup culture went to the next level. I became more decisive, positive and audacious while learning to be more humble about my work. I head the Marketing team in Xeno. This gives me an opportunity to contribute to and enjoy my work every single day.

“Each day is a period of discovery and learning!”

Founders’ advice to other startups who are just setting off on their journey?

“Be Stupid & Just Ask!”

As an entrepreneur, you’ll face 100s of challenges that you’ve never solved before but someone else has already solved them. Go find those people & just ask them what to do. Talking to customers, mentors and consultants has enabled us to solve problems 10x faster.

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