For the 5th episode of A New Normal we called up Nav Sangha – the Founder of Ambassador, a Toronto based startup helping brick and mortar retail businesses go digital with a turn-key integrated online ordering/eCommerce and customer support chatbot offering that can plug into any website infrastructure.
Nav’s rich entrepreneurial experience has seen him run Toronto’s most respected shop for DJ vinyl on Yonge St decades ago before founding live music venues at the forefront of new scenes emerging 10-15 years ago in the city’s edgy Parkdale neighbourhood. Since then he’s launched restaurant ventures (Otto’s Bierhalle, Miss Thing’s & Soso Food Club) and cofounded Turnstyle Solutions – a location based marketing solutions provider which sold to Yelp in 2017.
With so many restaurants facing closure in Toronto it was refreshing to catch up with Nav to hear why he’s so excited to offer local businesses a digital edge that can help them improve relationships with their customers and save margins through direct ordering/sales and payment solutions.
His take on working through the pandemic – “This is a real crucial moment… This is where the decisions you make, and the planning you do, and the new technologies that you adopt are really going to have an impact upon how things transpire when this is all over. You gotta equip yourself with a new set of tools to kinda weather a very new marketplace – new needs, new customer behaviour…”Podcast Transcript
impact of COVID-19 we all knew this was going to be a tough time. [intro music] 0:05
We need to wrap our minds around a painful truth. We’re in the early stages of what is going to become a series of cascading crises. This is the way it’s been. [intro music] 0:22
Getting back to the extraordinarily successful country and economy that we’ve had, that we built over so many generations however long it takes.
Qasim Virjee 0:40
I’m your host, Qasim Virjee. And today, I’ll be joined on camera and on the mic by nav singer, the founder of Ambassador, an app that uses artificial intelligence for restaurant clients.
Nav Sangha 0:53
You can look a little lonely, lonely over there a big room. empty room that yeah,
Qasim Virjee 1:01
this is our main event space on King Street. I’ve got another building around the corner on Niagara that’s twice as big as this. And I hope to shoot more lonely content in the
Nav Sangha 1:14
office used to be actually right down the street from you guys. So he used to walk by all the time. Great space. Yeah,
Qasim Virjee 1:20
it’s a cool space. I’ll have you by at some point and give you a cool walk around. There’s lots of interesting things on campus. You know, it’s like, there’s office space. I’ve built out a podcast studio. There’s like all these different rooms to do fun stuff when people are actually here. I mean, we do have some people on campus, but yeah, it’s it’s an interesting campus. It’s something very unique. And it’s definitely informed by my old school days and music. Doing DJ stuff all over the place.
Nav Sangha 1:50
Oh, really? Yeah. Because I actually go ahead.
Qasim Virjee 1:54
Well, I was gonna say I think that’s where we I your name first stuck in my head because I think way back, okay, really sharp used to own a record store, right?
Nav Sangha 2:02
Yeah, I used to own a place called play the record on on Yonge Street.
Qasim Virjee 2:07
So I’ve been there. But I was always like I used to I was based in Montreal. And then I was based in New York for a little bit when I wasn’t in Africa, and Nairobi. And so I was DJing all over the place. And then I think when I moved to Toronto, I was a I kind of gone digital, so I might have popped into the shop a couple times. I remember your shop. Yeah. ever be like jam packed little space of the backhoe convenience store or something, right? Yeah, yeah, it’s exactly what it was. Yeah, it was awesome. And then, but then also, there’s another thing because did you buy a place called Dragon Fly? in Parkville?
Nav Sangha 2:46
I did. Yeah. Yeah. So I took that place over in 2007. And opened it’s funny like I it was I was still at play to record at that point. But I kind of, you know, we were getting, you’re having our share of like disruption at that point. You know, like, first it was like Napster that it was final scratch and Serato that it was truck source and B port. And by the end of it we were like what what are we going to sell now like T shirts just getting crazy. So I was like, I was like, you know always looking for like, what business can I get into that won’t be you know, digitally disrupted and I thought that would be food and beverage haha Go figure. But I yeah, I opened wrong bar at that space on Queen West that used to be dragonfly. So before
Qasim Virjee 3:37
you open wrong bar, I had thrown a couple of parties at dragonfly throwing like my music festival. I had this thing called the Indian electronic music festival.
Nav Sangha 3:48
I remember you man. Fighting with you. That’s me coming together now. Yeah, yeah, it’s all coming together. Yeah,
Qasim Virjee 3:56
a couple a couple of careers and companies later yeah. I I’m thinking of reviving it actually indie electronica calm and bringing back not the whole like production of the events and stuff but at least the podcast series later this year. So you know, I
Nav Sangha 4:13
my partner, good friend of mine. Elope and I did a series of Toronto in the early 2000s called Massala and we did a whole like London sounds of the Asian underground we bought like Talvin C but Martian Sri so we were totally into that as well. Now all the dots are getting right told you remember you?
Qasim Virjee 4:33
Yeah. Nice and it’s so funny to to be reappointed through different means it’s still like it’s see us both move out of music and in a kind of technology and for me now in a real estate as well a little bit but because I did start up stuff for a while but also are you still so let’s I guess let’s do the like recap on the hospitality angle like okay, so then you were in hospitality from the kind of club operations like like nightclubs. You were you had the great hall as well? No.
Nav Sangha 5:04
Yeah, so um, yeah, I had a, I’ve had a load of spots like I did wrong there first, then open a place in the East End that was like, so random, but it was a country western bar called breadboarding. Okay, and then we, and then we had the great hall, we bought the great hall in 2011. I held on to it until 2015. I still have a space that I’m involved with on the main floor, the great hall called Otto’s beer hall. It’s great, pretty awesome German beer hall. And, yeah, so I’m still very much involved. With with, with the restaurant industry, I’ve got fortunate enough to have some incredible operating partners, who really know what it takes to like, you know, pay attention to the details that makes a makes like a restaurant or hospitality based business succeed. And that’s, of course, allowed me to focus on, on things like ambassador in the meantime, so and, you know, be involved in hospitality has been a really major part of, I think our ability as a platform to like, quickly develop, adapt, and like, and, you know, test and improve all parts of our platform.
Qasim Virjee 6:21
Yeah, no, it’s so important these days, man. I mean, even for us, like, operating 20,000 square feet with like, three staff wouldn’t be possible without crazy software that we’ve developed in house, you know, to automate as much as possible. So tell me a little bit about Ambassador because it seems like, I need to get a handle on all the things it does, because seems like it does a bunch of stuff. And wasn’t sure did you develop it to specifically to help your, your restaurants or bars first?
Nav Sangha 6:51
Um, well, kind of, I mean, a little bit of background, I was involved in another startup Toronto startup prior to this, it was called turnstile turnstile solutions. And we started in the beginning of 2013. It was a Wi Fi marketing, like hospitality marketing platform. And it was acquired in 2017, by Yelp. And throughout the course of that project in developing a product, I was always the guy like the co founder with like, you know, the crazy ideas like, why don’t you do this? Why don’t we do this? What about this goes, Hey, guys, what about this, right? And you’re just constantly like, I can pissing off my co founders, because it was very much at that time. You know, that era of startups was very much about focusing on the core, if you want it to succeed, you need to focus on the core, develop the core, define yourself, and that’s the only way you’re really going to stand out and gain traction. And that’s exactly what turnstyle did. And it was acquired in 2017, by Yelp. And, of course, afterwards, I still had all these crazy ideas. Yeah, I really thought would fill a gap in, in the not only hospitality, business, but, you know, across the board for like, small to mid sized retailers and like, independent, you know, just independent entrepreneurs. And I, I kind of like, called up another friend of mine who’s like a really talented hardware engineer, and, you know, started building. And it’s been, you know, coming up on like, three years now for this project. Oh, really? I didn’t realize Yeah, so, yeah, it’s a it’s that long, is, you know, stuff features in the platform were like, quite a long bill. We’ve been trialing the whole time at my own places, with, you know, handful of like, clients and use cases in different scenarios, kind of testing out different parts of what our platform can do. And, of course, you know, the current crisis we’re in, you know, unfortunately, has made a lot of what our platform can do extremely relevant. And a lot of the businesses that, you know, I was like banging on the door six months ago, trying to sell them on using ambassador, they kind of remembered us, they’re like, Wait a second. We know somebody who can solve this problem. They called us and we already had their demos spun up, ready to go, just like, here you go, guys. Let’s go live today, you know, so I’m definitely you know, the via the current crisis has definitely helped to define our product more than ever. So
Qasim Virjee 9:45
what Okay, so let’s, let’s talk about all the features because it seems like from my angle as someone who’s kind of like looked at the website a couple times over maybe the last six months, I don’t know No. I don’t want to compare you to someone that maybe in your space because you You’re perhaps more niched, and that you’re focused on hospitality. But it reminds me of the journey that that now Ambassador stuck in my head is the only chatbot in my brain. Intercom, he reminds me of kind of, like intercom. You know, I think they went beyond it. And in my opinion, as a customer, they kind of went into that feature creep madness, and got a little schizophrenic and ingredie. Late, and they robbing all of us who are Yeah. But to the, to the point I say this, and for anyone watching this after the fact, I see this, because, like, a month ago, or like, just as this crisis was hitting, I got an email from them saying that there’s some changes to my account, and they’re really excited by it. And they’re going to be rolling out some new stuff. And what it means is, the $99, a month that I’m paying now is going to be like $700 a month, it went up like this. And because they tacked LD that we didn’t need, and it wasn’t really functionality, and it wasn’t it’s kind of at odds with like, make your product better. Give your customers great value. Yeah, instead, they’re like, We give you so much you owe it to us to pay us. So without dissing them, tell me this the Chatbot functionality, there’s this kind of like, let businesses speak through their websites better to customers. And then there’s more apparently, so what does it do?
Nav Sangha 11:25
Yeah, so I can, I can basically break down Ambassador into like, two key products. Our core products are on one on one side, we’ve got what we call Smart Cart, which is a super agile, like E commerce cart that can essentially live as a widget on your website, live across social channels, excuse me live in the link out of your, you know, Google Business Listing, you know, basically go anywhere you needed to go like just quickly out of wherever your business has mentioned, into this really OP, like, consumer experience with really, you know, user friendly checkout. And, you know, I think we’ve we’ve solved a lot of like, the friction of creating a cart instance like that for small businesses and restaurants, especially restaurants, because we’ve really hit this like, every you know, with a restaurant, every kind of modifier and varying invariant and all that we’ve made it far, far less frictionless than a lot of the other products that are out there. And so on one hand, that’s what Ambassador is. Okay. On the other hand, I didn’t think that was enough. Because I, you know, the gap we’re trying to fill is for those businesses that couldn’t necessarily transact in within the native app ecosystem. You know, like, if you go to like Vinnies pizzeria down the street. I mean, Vinnie is going to try to make an app for his customers to download to use to order from him, but no one’s gonna download that.
Qasim Virjee 13:04
Yeah, there’s their phone.
Nav Sangha 13:07
Yeah, there’s gonna be a VDS pizzeria tombstone on their device for forever now, and they’re gonna not only are they not going to use it, but they’re going to look at it as just like waste of time on their, on their phone. Right? Who wants to be that? Right? So I was like, we have to solve this problem. Because, you know, and I’m a, you know, I’m a bit of a, I’m a rabid soapbox, or when it comes to this, because I actually feel that Apple largely, largely failed and, like, negatively impact impacted a lot of like, small to midsize businesses, and allowed for what is effectively been like a major like aggregation and like sweeping monopolization of the marketplace, by like the early adopters who are able to, you know, adopt and get on board and build these powerful apps and aggregate individual retailers. So, you know, I quickly, you know, realize we need to solve this problem for small businesses. That’s what Smart Cart is. On the other side of that, is, I see, like, I see this whole opportunity with AI and bots and intercom and drift and these great companies, and I’m like, Yeah, this stuff’s awesome. You know, this is like, you know, it’s like, it allows you to, like silo inbounds allows you to do all this creative stuff with managing, like, your, you know, it’s, it’s a really agile CRM, and whether you’re a company of like, two or a company of like, 200 I mean, there’s something in there for you. So I was like, you know, if someone doesn’t take this and make it, you know, usable and understandable and viable for small business, this is going to be a whole other opportunity missed, right. And so that’s why it sits there. As like, you know, a core part of the ambassador. her, you know, offering in the in the ambassador platform, and you know, I’ll be honest, a lot of the businesses that use us, they’re like, Oh, that’s cute. Wow, that’s cute. All this little bot pops in, and it’s automated and whatever. And they might not fully understand the value that I believe that that part of our platform is eventually going to have for their business.
Qasim Virjee 15:25
So like, in terms of right now, the functionality of your chatbot feature right now, what is it pretty much just a conversational UI? You kind of anticipate the question and answers that customers would ask and just pre programmed that in. And that’s pretty much it or,
Nav Sangha 15:43
yeah, sure. I mean, it’s, it’s, uh, it has NLP built into it. I mean, we can parse tags, and, you know, subjects. And, you know, we focus more on particular, particular verticals and others, we have a whole kind of like, wine AI, functionality built into, into embosser, which is really fun. I mean, I was really passionate about spinning this up where all the wine varietals are in there, you can ask questions about wine, it’ll like spit out, you know, it’ll help you like, I mean, I don’t want to like oversell this and have everybody go on there and try and break it, because that’s exactly what everyone’s gonna do. And they’re gonna be like, Ah, you guys are full of it. But you know, it’s early days. Yeah. But essentially, that’ll show you kind of, like, where we’re going with it. And more importantly, though, I mean, that, to me, is the easy part. I mean, it’s not easy, but like, building out the natural language processing and, you know, parsing intent and all those things that go into AI and machine learning. That’s, that’s fine. I mean, that can be done for, like enterprise level use cases. But what about like, businesses that don’t have that team that can go in and program these interfaces and program every use case and use a lot like, you know, flowchart editor for like, every scenario and AB this, that and the other, like, manage these conversations? What about the little guy who can’t do that? So that’s another thing that Ambassador is really, you know, hell bent on solving. And if you look at the limited conversations that we can manage for retailers, when you do go on the dashboard, our our interface for programming, the AI and programming the, the conversations that a business would choose, like, you know, the FAQs. Um, if you were like, the approach we take to programming, the conversational interface is really unique, super user friendly, very easy to use survey based, and like, you know, at the end of it, you can you can have a small business have, like, you know, a little bank of like, 20 to 30, like FAQ, Knowledge Base items handled by auto response.
Qasim Virjee 17:59
So, okay, so the product that we’ve talked about two main kind of functionalities that it has, what else is under threat? I’m guessing there’s, there’s more coming or there’s more that is already? Yeah, I
Nav Sangha 18:09
mean, there’s, there’s definitely more coming. But I mean, I, as my advisors will often say, like, shut up, stop that stuff. And focus like so. Yeah, I mean, we, we definitely have a lot of other things that are, are in beta and but for now, I mean, those are the two most the two most critical items that I think make Ambassador super relevant product today. So I think, go ahead.
Qasim Virjee 18:38
Well, I was just gonna say so today, like in the last few weeks, what has been where have the kind of like asks, Have Ambassador been that may not have been there, aside from just implementation straight up? But what are the functionalities people are looking for? And specifically, what are they trying to get out of the product to help them in this time in the last few weeks of this kind of COVID? Zombie Apocalypse?
Nav Sangha 19:03
Yeah, I think they just really want you know, ways to to serve their customers, we’re talking about a lot of businesses who have prior to the crisis, have not really relied on like, on on digital for transacting, right, they didn’t really have an online presence. And we have some some customers that we’ve on boarded some restaurants that didn’t even have websites like contact us they didn’t even have a website and we gave them a whole 360 solution like you know, built them a website through ambassador on it and spun them up in like, you know, 24 to 48 hours and had them like you know, I take a lot of joy my wife’s like, Would you shut up those notifications but I personally take a lot of joy in like every little notification coming in for like, those companies when we onboard them, like taking someone from like, zero no digital presence. So like, all of a sudden, they’re like spinning up orders watching come in from their loyal customers, and then maybe, you know, calling in, like, their staff or family member to, like, help them do deliveries, or like, what is that it’s
Qasim Virjee 20:17
this is the thing where everyone’s feeling kind of cut off. Because what we’ve seen, I think, is in the last few weeks of isolation, and people kind of like staying at home, of course, the retail level experience, pedestrian traffic has gone to like nothing for most of these small businesses that are at retail. So if you don’t speak digital, you feel muted, you feel like you can’t communicate with your potential customers, even your existing ones, you know, so, yeah, it’s definitely been a huge need, I think, for people to be able to sell online. And then how does like, I guess, how does Uber Eats and foodora and DoorDash, and all the food delivery ordering? interfaces work with or are at odds with or interrelate with what you guys are doing for people in that segment in restaurants?
Nav Sangha 21:05
Yeah, so for sure. So obviously, when it comes to the restaurant, vertical, like, a large part of what motivated me was, you know, the, the clear understanding of the fact that, that the, the commission, structure of these third party platforms was very unsustainable for restaurants, you know, aside from a handful of restaurants that are thriving on UberEATS, because they’re largely takeout based bottles, and they’ve tweaked their numbers and your food costs or whatever to really make, you know, the third party platforms work for them to make perfectly good business sense. For your, for your typical restaurant, the numbers just do not add up, like 30% of gross revenue to a third party platform for what is essentially, you know, not to sound simplistic, but lead gen. I know, there’s obviously infrastructure and like delivery, logistics, and everything else that goes into it. But, you know, that was definitely a big part of our motivation with Ambassador, and just allowing businesses to like, take back some of that market share, not only in terms of commission, but also knowing their customer, owning their customer, you know, like having that Clear Channel. I like to think that Ambassador as much as it is like an E commerce tool, it’s very much a CRM tool, you can communicate message chat, like have ongoing correspondence with your customer base, something that you can’t really do with those other platforms. And and so yeah, I mean, right now, a lot of our the customers that we take on board the businesses, hey, I got, I mean, I even have some businesses that use sort of third party delivery, we use Ubers and adore dashes. And we, we suck it up, you know, but like, Ambassador can very much work with offering both self manage pick up solution. And also, you know, integrating those third party platforms into what we do. Long term, is that something that I want to do? Probably not. But for now, I mean, we probably make we make it more effective for the businesses to you that use us to like show people Yeah, you can order for pickup with us to your ambassador, or if you want to delivery, here’s our Here’s our third party partners, and it’s all housed in like one very clean interface. Wow. So yeah.
Qasim Virjee 23:42
So walk us through real quick, the, the kind of customer story, if I’m a little restaurant, I’ve never kind of gone digital. Let’s say I have a website that I can embed your widget into. And I’m like, Okay, I want to start using this magic thing that I found, what’s it gonna do for me? And how do I do it? Or how do I do it? And what can I expect?
Nav Sangha 24:01
So, yeah, I mean, how you do it is you contact us and we set you up, do a little usually we can spin up accounts, smaller accounts with not too complex menus and single locations, we can spend them up in like, usually 24 to 48 hours. And then I it’s usually followed by a call, like very much like this, with either myself or someone from our team, doing a zoom or hangout demo, and walking them through having already set up maybe so preliminary items from their menu and showing them how you know the programming works and the tags structure. And the CRM works and then setting up payment. If they require one, we have a printer, a chip printer that they can use a piece of hardware and we’ll drop that off with them and they’re pretty well ready to go.
Qasim Virjee 24:55
So it’s not entirely like a SAS kind of hands free onboarding process. The product requires a little bit of interaction with you guys to get going with.
Nav Sangha 25:05
It does it depends. It really depends on, you know how, how savvy, the user is the businesses, we’ve got businesses, you can move on boarded themselves. And then like, at the end come in with a few little questions and want to go live. That happens too. We also another part of like, what we’re doing is like working with other web developers. So we’ve had loads of calls from web devs. Interesting left, we we’ve had web devs, who’ve read about our story, and what we’ve been doing over the last month to help restaurants and we’ve had like web devs come out of the woodwork willing to volunteer, being like, this is awesome. We believe in this. We want to help you and offer to your the businesses we work with. And so they’ve helped a lot in the onboarding as well. I mean, we’re our platform might be pretty robust. But we’re leading team, you know, so we are pretty, you know, it’s managing all the inbounds and requests we’re getting, you know, it’s having that kind of help come come at us has been really useful. And we’ve also, you know, long term, I think we probably we’ll get to the point where we are much more SAS oriented. But at this point, that’s not really our focus. And we we actually shut that off, where we were doing a lot of like, SAS inbound from other cities. For right now, we’re really dedicated to like helping our city. And our focus is on Toronto. So, you know, that’s, that’s where we’re gonna focus. I’ve no doubt that when we, we prove what we can do in this city. I mean, we do have some accounts in like Calgary and Vancouver and stuff. But we’re, we’re very much about Toronto in this moment.
Qasim Virjee 26:45
Yeah, no, it makes sense. Makes sense? What, so what do you think the next few weeks or even months look like in terms of as you get more, we’re talking specifically about restaurants. But as you get more kind of customers, hopefully being able to access their customers through digital channels more effectively, and keep enough business that they can stay afloat? And so on. What do you think the whole restaurant sector? Do you have any kind of crystal ball predictions for the restaurant
Nav Sangha 27:15
sector? Sure, I mean, it’s not going to be easy. By by no means even when we when we get past this, and businesses, you know, start to open up again, I would argue that like, you know, restaurants were largely largely some of the first businesses impacted negatively, negatively impacted, right, by the crisis, and we will continue to be negatively negatively impacted, I think for for longer than anyone else. You know, I mean, like, it’s gonna take a long time for consumers to, you know, trust in like, you know, feel comfortable in public spaces. Yeah. A lot of us, like, so much of what we do in our brands is like, you know, here I am with my hots, like us, we, you know, me, like, because I have very much of that industry, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s like, it’s everything we build for ambassadors about helping me to at the end of the day, right, right, with what I do in the restaurant industry, but like, you know, we’re, we’re definitely going to have a battle to fight and, like, so much of what we do, in like, the sit down restaurant, you know, space is, has to do with setting that environment in that atmosphere. And that’s going to be so hard to get back after this happens, you know, Yeah, you too, right? How do we, how do we, how do we make people feel safe in our spaces? Again, how do we make, you know, you know, make them feel like, it’s gonna be okay. There’s gonna be continuing challenge for a while. And that’s why like, right now as much as like, there’s those businesses calling us or like, yeah, we want to get out, we want to sell now. We want to do kick out ordering, delivery, all that help. And we’re like, yeah, sure, we can do that. But like, you know, I very much hope that the other businesses that aren’t doing that right now, and for sure, some of my restaurants aren’t doing that. This is a real crucial moment, you know, like, you know, it as well like, this is where the decisions you make and the planning you do, and the new technologies that you adopt, are really gonna have an impact upon how things you know, transpire once this is over, you know, you got to equip yourself with a new set of tools to, to kind of weather a very new marketplace. New needs new customer behavior. And, you know, I hope most most operators I mean, you know, yourself, right, like, on an average day when you’re busy. How much time do you really have to like take on you know, New innovate new innovative products, how many people call, you know, like, you can’t do it, you don’t have the bandwidth. This is a unique time where I feel like business owners and restaurant tours, you know, you know, like workshare spaces, you know, everybody should be taking that extra the liberty of extra time and have right now to kind of like, really seriously entertain some of the new technologies that are emerging. And by, by any means we’re just like a drop in the bucket of everything that’s going on right now. Right, there’s so much creativity coming out of this crisis, and people who are like pivoting and, you know, basically trying to do whatever they can to help businesses. You know, I would just say, take a moment to really look at what’s out there and see what’s going to help you adapt for once we can all you know, so to speak, turn the lights back on and open our doors again.
Qasim Virjee 30:54
I agree, I think the initial response a lot of businesses had, and my myself included was like, as soon as cashflow went to nothing, it was kind of like oh my god, because if you’re an entrepreneur, what are you used to for the most part, especially if you bend towards the sales side of things, you’re trying to turn on multiple tabs wherever you can to bring in cash. And I think that was the first couple of weeks was people figuring out that they can’t necessarily do that this time around, because the marketplace itself has changed. So dealing with this, this kind of time as an opportunity of embracing downtime, absolutely, totally agree that it’s an opportunity to kind of look around at the business that, you know, everyone operates and say, How can I make it better in a way that is more sustainable? And also like for us, I’ve looked at things to improve our operations that definitely I would not have been able to with the headspace that I was in being active. You know, and with staff to reporting to me, yeah. 400 people to 500 people a day on campus. Yeah, you’re busy operating. So yeah, it’s like the opportunity if you know, everyone, whoever’s watching this if they had the good fortune to be able to finance through massive amounts of debt, this downtime, or otherwise, and stay open. Yeah, I’m looking at it like starting from scratch, but with the business intact, which is kind of an exciting place to be if you can get in that headspace for sure. Yeah. So anything else that you want to kind of add to this for people that may be watching? You mentioned, web developers type people, you know, techies have been reaching out? Are there any specific hires that you’re looking to make? Or otherwise any type of talent you’d like to add your team? And the next little while?
Nav Sangha 32:47
Yeah, I mean, we’re definitely going to need to work. We need we need like, sales slash more people to do like sales slash onboarding. For, for our team? Yeah, I would say, you know, large points, kind of like, right now. I mean, my focus is just on like, helping people come out of this in a way that they’re going to be able to rebound very quickly. We’ve really kind of, like thrown a lot of what were our concerns before, like, you know, how do we show, you know, paid paid users and subscriptions and like, you know, getting, getting those like, you know, monthly recurring kind of like, users on our platform. Through that all over the shoulder is this thing unfolded. And we’re just really dedicated on like, helping people now in the moment, because I don’t think we’re alone with this. I really believe that all the businesses that we’re like helping right now are, as we succeed in helping them to go to be our customers for life, you know, and they’re gonna want to invest in what we’re doing. They’re not going to question. I mean, our fees, are our subscription fee model is super approachable, very, very, you know? It’s not cost prohibitive at all. Yeah. And I don’t think they’ll ever question how much you’re paying for our services. And so yeah, I mean, at this point, that’s all we’re focused on helping as many businesses as we possibly can, and helping them get through this, helping them prepare, even the ones that aren’t necessarily going to, you know, be operating with our platform right now. You know, we’ve got we’ve got BIA is approaching us now who see the value and are like, Yeah, okay, let’s help get our businesses prepared. Right. And I think we’re in a pretty interesting time, because so many of us start out whether it’s startups, companies, existing companies are like really taking this approach to helping right now. So there’s no shortage of shortage of resources out there.
Qasim Virjee 34:50
Yeah, it’s a great time to be building relationships and strengthen them and making sure that that you know, it’s a good time to test people’s kind of how you work with people. as well, yeah, yeah. Awesome, man. So yeah,
Nav Sangha 35:04
hopefully, some of what we do, and I hope I kind of like, help define our product a little more.
Qasim Virjee 35:12
I think definitely no, it sounds like I mean, it’s a pretty compelling product, from what I heard, you know, for small sized businesses, small, medium size, really, anyone who’s kind of struggling with that, like, you know, how do we talk to people? How do we reach people, especially if there’s inbound, I think this is a big problem, right? It’s like, you, you might have a lot of inbound, because you’ve got a brand, you’re an old company, but you’ve never really embraced the new digital era. So you don’t have all these, like followers and fans that, you know, the names of it sounds like, critical time to be like roll indexing them? And for sure, and having a way to like just chat with them. Yeah,
Nav Sangha 35:55
I would say the most unique thing that’s emerged for us is like, you know, we used to, prior to this, the crisis, we were very much focused on like, single unit, you know, businesses. And what’s emerged now is a lot of multi unit businesses that are able to really quickly like, quickly been able to, like build out some pretty robust, like, solutions, where it’s like, a marketplace for multiple users, like whether it’s like a franchise with like 30 locations, you know, all the individual retailers within that franchise, schema can all US ambassador and kind of live in this one marketplace, but yet silo off into their individual, like respective instances. So there’s an opportunity there as well. Like I mentioned, we’ve got some big guys approaching us like small cities that are like, Hey, we can use this for all the retailers in our Main Street and kind of use use your technology to kind of create a hub for all of these businesses to kind of like, create this, this ecosystem and marketplace for what they’re doing on your RBI ban. Yeah. So pretty overnight like that.
Qasim Virjee 37:09
When I saw that city hall, here in Toronto, rolled out that weird kind of donate to your favorite restaurant portal. I don’t know if you saw that, or your favorite neighborhood business, I was confused, because I was like, No, something like using the ambassador for every business and paying for it for six months as the city and setting it up, would have been perhaps a lot more compelling. Because the idea is we want to build sustainability for these businesses and not treat them like charities.
Nav Sangha 37:38
Yeah, well, there’s been no, there’s been no shortage of our team, like, talking to the CIP talking with the city. And they’ve been very supportive. Tourism, Toronto, EDC, like, lots and lots of branches, and people at the city have been super supportive of what we’re doing. But you know, they also have their priorities, right. And they have to prioritize where they support, and they’ve got a, you know, a map of objectives to satisfy, I have no doubt that, that, you know, once the dust settles on some of the most more pressing issues they’re dealing with, they’re gonna, they’re going to be very helpful in like, in helping us through what we’re doing. They have some pretty awesome called Toronto to go, which is the built a portal, we’re kind of highlighting all the businesses that are currently operating. And, and giving consumers you know, an easy way to find options and to support restaurants. So that was a great, a great initiative they took Well, yeah, for sure. I mean, we, you know, in a perfect world, we would onboard anybody, and like, you know, open up anyone who approached us, you know, but we have been reaching out to the city and other other organizations to help us with managing some of the inbounds and, and maybe assisting with onboarding businesses, you need our help. So hopefully, that will happen.
Qasim Virjee 39:03
Yeah, that’d be great. Well, for anyone watching, I mean, anyone who wants to help out on this initiative, this company, I think, it sounds it sounds really, like an opportune time for people to, to embrace technology through a platform like yours. So all of a sudden, all we can do is spread the word. And I’ll let people in our neighborhood know, to check it out and do some email introductions. That’s great, man. Appreciate it. Awesome.
Nav Sangha 39:33
Maybe, maybe, maybe, maybe start well, can we can spin up a little instance for start? Well,
Qasim Virjee 39:39
yeah, I mean, I’m game for it. You know, like what size from the Chatbot which is the only reason we’re using intercom we’re not using it for any CRM functionality at this point, because I use streak we pretty much have. We’re Gmail organization. So everything’s just bedded in my browser.
Nav Sangha 39:57
But they will totally hook you up to OB 690 $9 a month Oh my god. These guys are crazy man. I can’t believe that email.
Qasim Virjee 40:11
Yeah, it’s shocking man. You expect the opposite, especially going into March, you know, like due to COVID. We want everyone to be able to use our product for free for three months, you know?
Nav Sangha 40:24
I mean, I got some I got some, like, ridiculously tone deaf emails. Through the early days of this crisis, I think. I mean, I’m usually pretty good at responding. If someone sends something like that out, I’m not going to let it pass. Yeah, I’ll take five minutes to let it be known. Like, you’re out of line. Right. Right. Right. And, and sure enough, I mean, some of the companies that have called on that I’ve watched him switch, like, you know, there’s definitely some tone deaf tone deaf messaging early days, I think everybody’s like, you know, switch their MO. More recently, though, and, and realize it’s hard times for everyone. So
Qasim Virjee 41:02
I think initially, everyone just freaked out. And then we saw all sorts of character flaws in brands, you know, because of this, and kind of like ever being sent home, I think there was another cultural shift in organizations where, you know, typically, most organizations who are used to having everyone in an office physically together, didn’t necessarily have the blueprint for how to let’s call it manage or, you know, organize their teams and new work flows that are digital. So that’s been a whole learning curve. And I think in the midst Yeah, absolutely weird. Personal issues may have may have blurted out over company lines all over the place, we’ve got a bunch of emails. And unfortunately, a lot of landlords, commercial landlords in the city left holding the bag on, on mortgages and their obligations haven’t been necessarily to communicative with their tenants in a way that yeah, help. So that’s a whole nother angle. Yeah. But
Nav Sangha 42:03
that’s not the case for you guys. Because, you know,
Qasim Virjee 42:06
well, it’s been difficult. But the thing is, we’re trying to honor all commitments that we’ve made, and treat this, like, it’s a regular operating day, even though we have no revenue, which is scary. But it’s, it’s, it’s part of my whole, like, you know, startup Agile methodology is like, let’s assume that there’s, for whatever reason, no clients for the next three months, because of stuff we’re not doing, right, you know, like, what, and then treat it like an opportunity to learn from the worst case scenario. financing the debt aside, the idea was, you know, minimal operations, how do we get better at everything that we do and what our product offering is for the new market paradigm that’s emerging, whether it’s a socially, socially distance, you know, kind of reality, which I don’t really buy into, I don’t think in in six months from now, you know, all these seats behind me are going to be a third of their capacity, I really don’t buy that at a bar, you’ll have one or two people sitting instead of four, or five, or six. But you know, that’s TBD. Instead, I’ve focused on our pricing tiers, you know, changes we can make to the actual infrastructure to make it better for when people return. And figuring out more flexible ways for people to use space, because that’s something that I think Stark has been really good at. I’ve been trading since day one in 2017. On is how do we blend offices, meetings and events into a single campus in a way that’s all monetizable. And ideally, working towards a 24 hour revenue cycle. So that’s we’re already ahead of the curve on some thinking of that compared to like, large REITs. And, and property companies that are looking at, you know, retooling office space by decreasing density alone. I don’t think that’s a solution. I think it’s more about thinking about how people can use space in ways that are more intimate, you know, and impossibly spreading that throughout the shedule of months, years, hours, whatever the time period is, and all this stuff. So I think it’s an interesting time to think, you know, and just spend a lot of time kind of testing everything that you know, is true and questioning and so it’s been fun for me so far.
Nav Sangha 44:32
You got to keep the chin up. And, you know, just saw, just keep going.
Qasim Virjee 44:37
Well, what’s the worst case bankruptcy?
Nav Sangha 44:40
Yeah, that’s not gonna happen. We’re not gonna let that happen, right.
Qasim Virjee 44:44
Yeah, no, no, no, we’re here for a while.
Nav Sangha 44:47
Yeah, looks great. I really appreciate you taking the time to find out. You know, what we’re up to over here.
Qasim Virjee 44:54
And Absolutely. Great chatting. I’m hoping we can get together soon. walk you through the whole campus and we’ll do a proper hangout and fingers crossed this sooner than later
Nav Sangha 45:06
yeah same here flick me your credit card details at the end we’ll get your subscription filled out