Hi Aayush, could you give us an introduction to yourself, please?
Absolutely, I am Aayush, CEO of Greendeck. I come from a biology background, I did my masters in biological sciences and then, for a year and a half I worked in an investment bank as an Index and ETF trader at Credit Suisse. Back in my college days, I, along with a few of my friends, created a very small project called TrueMD, which is a database for people to go and search for the medicine that they’re already using. The platform would help them find cheaper substitutes for those medicines and they can save up to 80 or 90% of their monthly medical bills. It was an idea that took off really well, we were getting a million page visits per month, but it was more of a personal project.
Then my friends and I took up different jobs. Almost a year into our jobs, we thought why don’t we take this project further? Right now we’re just helping people see what medicines they can buy. What if we even deliver those medicines for them? So that’s when the four of us quit our jobs to start working on this idea of an online pharmacy in India. We built a complete system around that, which would allow people to open an app, take a photo of the prescription, and get the medicines delivered to their doorstep within 24 hours.
Within one and a half years of its inception, that business got acquired by a giant company in India, which was already into the pharmacy domain and they had a lot of physical stores all across India.
After that, we started Greendeck.
Can you give us an introduction to Greendeck?
The thought behind Greendeck was how do we help online retailers and brands optimise their pricing using AI, and the journey with Greendeck has been amazing so far. Initially, we started out in Mumbai, the business was incorporated in India and in 2017 we got into the Techstars accelerator programme in Berlin, which was jointly sponsored by SAP and Techstars. So we moved to Berlin for a period of six months and that’s when we started to fine tune the messaging for our product, learned a lot about running growth experiments, and many other things. As part of the programme, Techstars and SAP took part in our initial pre-seed round.
So that’s when we set up our product engineering team here in India, and later opened our Business Development office in London, as we had a couple of customers over there. We set up our UK entity in late 2018. In early 2019, we closed our seed round of half a million pound with some amazing investors like for Force Over Mass Capital, Startup Funding Club, Lmarks, RLC ventures, and Ascension Ventures. We’re now a team of 25 people spread across India and UK.
You’ve had the healthcare startup before, however, the Greendeck concept is completely different, where did that idea come from?
Even though all four of us are from very different backgrounds, some of us have their Master’s in physics or mathematics, the common thing across all four of us is our love and passion for technology. Inherently we are developers, coders, and builders. When we started TrueMD it was never about starting a healthcare business, we thought of it as a technology business that solved a problem. Technology amazes us.
So after working on TrueMD we thought if we have to work on something, it has to have technology at the core. We were tinkering with a couple of ideas, there was a time where we were even exploring mobile gaming! It was more of a trial and error process until we found our fit in the retail and e-commerce industry.
How beneficial has it been for Greendeck to have a founding team that has successfully built something together previously?
All four of us have known each other for the past 10 years, we went to the same undergrad school, and lived in the same college hostel. Even in our college, we used to work on various projects together so we kind of became comfortable with each other in a way where we understand the strengths and weaknesses of each individual.
One of the key things for us is that we have an amazing understanding between each other. Yes, we have our differences, but the good thing is that we know how to solve our differences. This is something that has grown over time and I think that’s one of the key reasons we are where we are.
What has been one of the key successes so far at Greendeck?
The turning point where Greendeck evolved from a project to actually a business was around TechStars. The support, mentorship and the network that we leveraged made a huge difference, Greendeck wouldn’t have been where it is, had it not been for Techstars. We met a lot of amazing people, which has contributed to our growth so far.
What technology is Greendeck using at the moment?
We have our machine learning workloads being run entirely on Python, TensorFlow. Our front end is entirely on React JS our back end servers are on NodeJS.
What do you think your team would say was the best reason for working at Greendeck?
An interesting fact about us is that the average age of a team member at Greendeck is 23. Most of the people here were hired straight out of college and a few people we have hired while they still in college!
One of the key things that people like when they join us, is the learning curve that you see here in Greendeck. We have seen 18-year-olds who come in and within a week or two they are deploying changes to the production environment. So the mentorship that people get here in Greendeck is something that we are proud to have built into our culture. We don’t care how much knowledge they have, what we care about most is how much they are willing to learn. If we know that someone is trainable, and if someone is adaptable, we have the confidence and the capability to teach anyone anything. Our Head of ML made a comment that his last year would have been equivalent to a four year PhD in computer science, because that’s the kind of learning curve you’ll find here.
The benefit to the employee is clear when it comes to that hiring strategy, but what is the benefit to Greendeck to hiring such an inexperienced team?
We don’t have any restriction that if you are more senior you cannot apply, I think this is something that, we have seen as an evolution. What we’re seeing is that with this current boom in machine learning and artificial intelligence, people as young as 16 years have started to pick up machine learning and AI algorithms early in their career. And because of this, we’re seeing that the kind of people that apply for it are typically younger people. So it’s not that we are overly selective in terms of whom we are hiring. On average, for a typical job post, we get 250 to 270 applicants. Just recently a machine learning engineering posting and we got around to 280 applications, it was very hard to even select 10 of them.
Our typical interview process includes a tough problem to solve (machine learning, or full-stack development, whatever is relevant to the opening), in the form of a take-home assignment. For our recent opening, the project received more than 85 submission, and all of those submissions were amazing. We are seeing 18-year-old undergrads successfully solving those tough problems. We just hired someone who is just 17 years old he’s still in college, he could not work with us full time but we have hired him as an intern.
How has 2020 been for the business?
One of our primary customer segments is the retail vertical and we are seeing a lot of companies in the retail vertical being hit the hardest because of COVID-19. But the silver lining here is that our primary target market is online retailers. What we are seeing now is that most retailers are doubling or tripling down on their digital transformation strategy, which is something that foresee to happen even more aggressively over the next six to eight months. Now is the time where retailers need Greendeck more than ever. And so we want to work towards that direction, where if our customer needs it, we are ready for it.
At the same time, we are also launching a new product. This is something that is not out in the public domain but we have actually started working with a very big telecom customer, and we are helping them launch their 5G deployment in certain geographies. This new product is an automated business monitoring and forecasting tool, which allows business to monitor hundreds and thousands of their business metrics in a completely automated way. Instead of them having a set of dashboards and setting up thresholds and identifying any abnormal behaviour in those metrics. We are building a system that collects all of those metrics across various systems; marketing, customer, product, and groups them together to try and find any relational behaviour between them. So if one of your metric is down, we give you a complete and instant analysis, on why this is down and what is it that they can do to fix that. We have already received interest from telecom companies, retail industries, pharmaceutical companies to be able to track the supply chain operations so this is very interesting for us we are all excited for its launch next quarter.
This is one of the most exciting times for us, we are launching this new product and we are actively hiring, For the past couple of months we have been sending out one offer letter per week. We are cashflow positive, and we are fortunate to have that kind of our runway where we can support these hiring decisions.
The kind of data that we collect is something that these retailers are used to collecting, although they usually have been doing it manually in an Excel sheet. We have found a scalable, robust and automated way, saving hundreds of man-hours. What we’re enabling them to do collect and analyse a hundred thousand products that they have. So, to answer your question, our customers are already educated about this data and they are already collecting it in smaller formats.