LAB Samar Malik Podcast Transcript

LAB Samar Malik Podcast TranscriptListen to episode here

Samar Malik: 0:00

The key, key element is the actual team. So who do you have in the team and why are they the right people to build this product?

Amareep Parmar: 0:13

We have with us our expert today Samar Malik, who's VC Partnerships Director at Grove SAP. She's also a mentor at Techstars, so during this process she's helped many different startups with their pitch decks and to get them pitch ready. I'm Amar and this is the BAE HQ, and this podcast is powered by HSBC Innovation Banking. So, Samar, great to have you on today and really incredible the different work you're doing with so many different startups, and one of the things you focus on a lot is helping people get pitch deck ready, right. So when they're about to do their pitch how to make sure they're telling their story effectively in order to help them get investment. Could you just give us a high level overview of what's the main things they need to be thinking about?

Samar Malik: 0:54

Yeah, cool. Thanks for that question, Amar. So I have been working with quite a few seed accelerators and um seed startups as well, um, in my previous role. So I would say, like you know, there's like the top of mind kind of main slides that you need to have are, like you know, like addressing your problem, the why, you know, why is this such a big problem? Uh, looking into your market, like how large is that market actually? Um, you know, will will that problem address enough people that you will have um a relevant enough product that can actually generate enough revenue? I would say so. These are like quite a few of like the simple points that a lot of investors look at as well.

Samar Malik: 1:37

As I would say, you know you've got your attraction at the same time. So, like, how much traction have you had? Um, how many customers have you had? And you know, ever since, from the moment of inception, like, have you been testing this out with customers? Have you been iterating um, and how has that been forming and changing um?

Samar Malik: 1:55

And then I would say, like one of like the key, key elements is the actual team. So, um, who do you have in the team and why are they the right people to build this product and build this out and, you know, push this out and scale it. So these are, these are, like I would say, like a couple of like the top elements. Then you've got, like you know, your roadmap and your financials and so on, core of where your you know what is your product, what is, like you know, going to be that problem that is so important that only you can solve and only your particular team can actually solve. And you know, those are like this is, these are the first elements that you have to address. I would say.

Amardeep Parmar: 2:40

So if we dive into those bits in more detail, so let's first look at the problem. Right? So what is the problem. There's also like how to make it showcase why it's so important, right, and I think I've seen lots of decks which just don't do this very well. What advice do you have for people to really showcase like this is the problem that needs to be solved that investors should care about?

Samar Malik: 3:03
Yeah, I mean you need to do your research, research, research for that um, you know, you can just sit next to your best friend or you know anyone, like next to your colleague and be like, oh, I think this is such a big problem and, like you know, I experience this on a daily basis and you, you are like that market size at that point and you and your friend are that market size. So, um, I would say, researching and validating that particular problem is the key, is key for um, a startup. And then also like testing your assumptions. So look at all of the assumptions and write all of them down, look at them and we test every single one of them. Okay, this is like the assumption that I'm making that everyone in the world has this problem, um, or everyone in the uk has this problem that I'm facing or I'm trying to build out um. So, first, like test, test your assumptions. So, if it's a yes, then keep on going and testing further and further. And, like going deeper down into it.Samar Malik: 4:04

I would say you have to look at, you know, like what the people are. Your customers would be thinking, feeling, you know what? Are they really experiencing this problem? Like uber? Um, there were. You know, the problem was that you have to like, go and call a taxi and then, if you wait for the taxi to come, you don't know when it's going to come, you're not in communication with that person. And then this app came and it solved those problems of like you having to have no visibility on, like that particular taxi that you're trying to get, and you can get one within minutes. So are you solving a big enough problem?

Samar Malik: 4:40

The other element I would say is, like you will, if you're solving an important and relevant enough problem, then you will definitely have competitors. So I've heard plenty of people saying we are new, we are doing like something so innovative and so, like you know, future driven, and you know nobody else is doing this. The question is, the question you have to ask is OK if you have no competitors in the space? Why is no one doing this? You know, why is no one addressing this problem? Is it even big enough? Is it relevant? Is this the right time to be looking at this problem? So I think it's always good to have competitors because that shows that there's kind of healthy competition.

Samar Malik: 5:24

This is a bit more of a developed market. This is probably maybe a growing market. You might not have a huge amount of competitors, but that's something you know, some of the elements that you have to evaluate, which you know will help you in further refining your idea and further refining your pitch as well. So, your research, you're testing your assumptions, you're looking at your competitors and, if there's no competitors, look for why there aren't as many competitors. Obviously, there are certain markets that are so fragmented as well. Uh, like you know, I would say, uh, the beauty market. There are so many players in the market, so you have to also test, like right now, where will I stand in against these other competitors in the market? And there's thousands, hundreds of thousands. I would say so, those are, those are the the kind of like if you, if you dive deeper into it, uh, those are the key points I would make.

Amardeep Parmar: 6:19

So, looking at that, there's a couple different points to come up. I think about ones about the team which come into afterwards, but first of all, you mentioned about the market sizing right and about is this a problem that's big enough to attract investors or not? And I think one of the classic things I see a lot of the time, right is you get obviously my LinkedIn DM box is full of this right. Some people are like we're disrupting the global healthcare market, which is worth $500 trillion, and it's like, well, actually you're addressing a tiny tiny bit of that, but you're using these big headline numbers to try and draw attention, which it just kind of becomes a turnoff for someone like me, right? How do you advise people to try and work out, like, what is the correct market size to be using? Because there's obviously for some people listening will understand, like Sam and Som and Tam is but others won't really understand the difference. So if you could run throught that, that would be amazing.

Samar Malik: 7:
Yeah, and that's a that's a great question because I have dealt with, uh, startups and founders looking at exactly this particular problem. Like you know, we have a market size of, you know, five trillion and so, um, you know, our like serviceable addressable market will be 300 billion and then we're going to target like 1 billion of it, but you have no customer attraction, you have no validation of your product. Um, you know, are you generating you know as much revenue in the millions because you're, you need to be there to even be thinking about the billions. So I would say, whenever you do come across, yes, I would say it would be the complete opposite, I would rearrange it to the complete total addressable market. Could be in the trillions, yes, but that is not even like. And then I would add, like another kind of like, like a segment underneath, which would be the total addressable market for you, and then the serviceable addressable market, and then there's the share of the market, or the serviceable obtainable market, Um, you need to look at like, really like, realistically. Just, you know, don't think about anything except for reality. Don't think about like, how, like your investors will see, because the investors will see right through you. They see like hundreds and thousands of pitch decks every week, every month. You know um, they will see right through the numbers that you're pitching and especially if you have industry focused investors, your numbers should match up with everyone else who's pitching to them at the same time.Samar Malik: 8:50

So I would say, you know, first, your research is really really key. You can either start like top down or bottom up, I would say from like first looking at your product and then, you know, testing it out, getting. Once you have customer traction, you see, like, how your market is going and then who are the potential customers in that space. Then you start building out, ok, right, well, these are the customers that we have right now and most probably we'll be able to get it from you. Xyz, industries, um, or spaces, or you know, these are going to be the particular personas that we're going to have, um, and these are, these are the people we can and we are able to target. So then that's your kind of share of the market. Then your serviceable, obtainable market is like, you know, the larger industries, what other industries you could go into potentially, um, and that's your, you know, like the obtainable market and why it's called the obtainable market is because, um, you know you're trying to get like a share of that market from the other competitors, so you need to include your competitor research.

Samar Malik: 9:52

Like you know, this is not just a slide by itself with like like five, six numbers on it. It's a very key outcome of all of the research you've done and it might just keep on iterating. The time is never going to be accurate. I would say so that time you can always make it smaller. You know it can always be smaller to that smaller total addressable market for you. So not that complete total one right. So when you maybe become like into a hundred million dollar business or, you know, go further than that, perhaps that's where you can start thinking. Or, like you're at a point where you're scaling, you can start thinking about, like, how to increase that market share and you will probably be at a point where you're adding more products, more services, expanding into new geographies and um so on. You know, becoming a scale up. So I would say, like this is not the time, is not the the problem, um, or the point that you should focus on. It's start with bottom up and you'll be able to get more accurate results from that

Amardeep Parmar: 10:53

You mentioned as well about competition, right, and this is one of the things undefined learned very rapidly over the last year from at the beginning. You're as well about competition, right, and this is one of the things I've learned very rapidly over the last year from at the beginning. You're so excited about everybody. You see it's like, oh wow, there's such a new idea. And then you realize you see 10 other decks with the exact same idea and you feel a bit silly, right, and like I said, is, ideas in some ways are cheap, right, unless it's, say, biotech or some kind of science behind what they're doing. A lot of the time, the idea is something that other people can execute too, and this way, you like, as you mentioned, the team side is so important. So how do you get across that you're the right team to be building this when maybe that investor has seen a similar idea from multiple different people?

Samar Malik: 11:39

Yeah, great question. I mean, know you have to kind of look into, you have to really highlight the strengths of your team. Unfortunately, like the way this whole, like the whole investor ecosystem, like the startup ecosystem works, is that it really depends on, you know, perhaps those people who have previously built a startup might be favored more than those who haven't. You know, it's more like how much experience you have as a founder. Then you've got like industry expertise, so like if you are someone who's coming from fashion but you try and build out like a health tech company, you know you will not be favored over someone who comes from like more of a buyer background. So those are other elements and then I would say, like your developer, your CTO, is so important, so very, very crucial in like the things that you've built. And I think like the way that you can stand out from other people who have a similar idea is actually by showing traction and by showing results and showing like you know you've generated revenue you have, you know how many customers you've bought in, how you're growing, how you're expanding, what's your roadmap. Feel like you can stand out because you know it's and there's just like an instinct as well.

Samar Malik: 13:06

I would say uh of uh, that investors are looking for their gut instinct that helps them select the right team, because, essentially, it will be the team that builds out the product and the startup and the company. There is no, there is no startup without that team and the team is probably beginning with there's only two people. So you guys have to have like the most amazing chemistry, the most amazing alignment on, like your partnership and how you're going to work together, how you're going to complement each other. There might be someone who's more like sales focused and like more people focused, whereas, like you're basically every single role in um a whole startup, your hr, your uh, your tech, your you know compliance and security and um product, everything, marketing, and so you need to divide those particular roles between both of you.

Samar Malik: 13:56

Uh, but again, like key is like experience, like that kind of founder mentality, uh, showing that you've gone through like some level of resilience through your life, taking risks, um, and you know, been able to like come up on top, you know I think can help as well. Um, but again, like, if you can show that you have evidence and you have results, then really, like, I think there must be something you know fully, inherently wrong with, like your partnership as two different people, for an investor to not invest in you. So I'm sure, like you know, and there's always feedback I mean, like, always getting feedback from investors is really important or from, like other people but then again, like it's, it's tricky because you need to see exactly which feedback is relevant for you, um, and which people are giving you the feedback and how, how, like lightly, how you put that on the scales as well.

Amardeep Parmar: 14:57

We hope you're enjoying the episode so far. We just want to give a quick shout out to our headline partners, HSBC Innovation Banking. One of the biggest challenges for so many startups is finding the right bank to support them, because you might start off and try to use a traditional bank, but they don't understand what you're doing. You're just talking to an AI assistant or you're talking to somebody who doesn't really understand what it is you've been trying to do. HSBC have got the team they've built out over years to make sure they understand what you're doing. They've got the deep sector expertise and they can help connect you with the right people to make your dreams come true. So if you want to learn more, check out hsbcinnovationbanking. com.

Amardeep Parmar: 15:33

You brought up traction just now as well, and I think this is sometimes a sticking point for OCH founders, where some of them think like, oh, I can just do it without having done anything. That's how everybody else raises. Founders where some of them think like, oh, I can just do it without having done anything. That's how everybody else raises and they see, obviously, the outlier story sometimes in the news and say, like people who did on the back of a napkin, but that's not the general situation and how do you think about that in terms of, like, how much traction, or when's the right time for people to start looking at doing that like fundraising? Because should they try to get what?

Amardeep Parmar: 16:02

kind of level of traction should they get?

Samar Malik: 16:04

Yeah, I mean, I mean it really depends for, like what type of how much you're trying to raise at the same time um. So I I think, like you need, you need like your solid first 10 customers, I would say like just to begin with um, and then you need to show that you're showing like, at least like you're generating a bit of revenue, at least in regards to like how you know you've built up your startup and you know what is kind of the return on investment from your own side. I do believe that if you can stay bootstrapped as long as possible, it's kind of like an ideal situation because you have more control of like a lot of the elements of your own company, um. But I, I think, like you know, it really depends um you will, you will know if you're having enough traction um, definitely as a company and depending on which industry you're in um, because you need to have like key milestones um that you're hitting within within your startup, within your kind of goals of like the next six months or the next three months um, and if you are growing exponentially, you know like, are you growing 10x, then are you going like 10x that and you know, within a year are you? Have you grown 100x?

Samar Malik: 17:23

Um, you know, you have to look at. You have to look at those things and that's what the investors will also look at is like, how quickly are you getting traction? Um, depending on, like you know, how large your company is and how large you, your startup, is growing at the same time and so, like, traction is difficult, I would say for you know everyone, to kind of measure it. But I would say, like, if you can show that 10x like, or if you can show like 100 times growth, that is awesome. And if you can stay bootstrapped, then stay bootstrapped as much as possible. At some point you do need to go and get investment from the investors, from VCs or angel investors, just because their expertise is really important and key there as well and they can help you with, like you know, pushing you to scale at the same time. So, yeah, I would say those are a few of the elements.

Amardeep Parmar: 18:24

So we've covered a few different of the major areas, of a lot of pitch decks and a lot of pitches at the moment. Is there anything that we haven't covered yet that you think is really important and you want to make sure that you get it across to the audience?

Samar Malik: 18:36

Okay. So I think that the value proposition is an an element that I think comes together in all of the the pitch deck and it is really, really important because you're looking at what is your unique selling point, so what makes you unique and where are you fitting that gap in the market that the other competitors in that market are not filling? So it's like you know that 1% or 2% or like 3% edge that you have over other competitors. That makes you as a company, as a startup, hold your product relevant. Your problem you know big enough and your market site market you know large enough for you to target, I would say, at the same time. So, like your value proposition, you know your ethos, your your passion for your startup. You should not let go of that passion. Um, however, take feedback and iterate and change when you are given feedback from someone who is relevant and who has been working in this space for a very long time and, if you do, if you're not fully feeling comfortable.

Samar Malik: 19:43

So I mean, I started my own company quite a few years ago. It was called Table Tassels I. It was a luxury design company focused on bespoke table and chair linen. Um I I kind of like looked at an idea that was happening in US and and I saw that no one else in the UK was providing any kind of service like this, like absolutely no one that I could find, maybe like one or two other people and so I thought, okay, well, I think everyone needs chair covers in the UK. So what I did was I invested like my own money, took some money from my parents and, uh, invested and put it into, like creating all these beautiful designs for chair covers, uh, like put a lot of money in and then found out that no one was interested. So I made like probably around 300 different types of chair covers, and then I made like five different table covers, and what people were interested in were my table covers.

Samar Malik: 20:42

And so, you know, I went and I assumed that if this is working in the US, it's obviously going to work in the UK, and I can just replicate this without even having to, you know, do any proper market research, because I think I've done enough, and what I should have done was created like five different varieties of both, then gone out, tested it, checked what the reaction from the market was, come back, iterated, and then, you know, like fully, like developed my idea and so most of my revenue and most of my profits came from like actually 100 of profits came from uh, table covers and like being at those events and bespoke designing from that side. So you know, I definitely learned my lesson from that um, that you know you should, you should not assume and your assumptions are so important because don't ask your mom, you know, like if your idea is great, she's gonna always tell you that it's great. So, like, move out of your friends and family circle, move out to people that you don't know and who don't know. You ask them and just you know. Just like contact them on LinkedIn or like reach out randomly and just you know.

Samar Malik: 21:57

I've had people reach out to me and give, ask me for feedback on their pitch and their um product and I have, you know, just because it helps them with their development. And that's what you need to focus on. Is like, if you want to win and you want to grow and you want to scale, then you have to change a lot of the ways that you work and some may work and some may not work, and some things that you do will be fine and others won't, and you have to deal with like people kind of calling your baby ugly, that kind of situation. So I would say, like you know, these are some of the important things that you need to ensure when you're putting your heart and soul into your pitch and ensure and remember that you know like always, stay humble.

Amardeep Parmar: 22:45

We're gonna have to move on to quick fire questions now. First one, who are three British Asians you

Samar Malik: 22:54

I would say Walid Al-Saqqaf. So he is the co-founder of Rebalance Earth, a startup in the UK focused on sustainability and putting a lot of money into local projects focused on sustainability. Initially, it was an idea driven towards carbon offsetting through the African forests of Gabon. So he's doing fantastic work. He's so passionate. You should definitely have him on the show. The second person I would say is Taz Latif. So she has been a huge kind of global D&I expert, a good friend of mine, and you know she has been doing such fantastic work in our community and in, like you know, pushing out work for charity as well. She was, like the global head of D&I at Saatchi and Saatchi and you know she really speaks out about humanitarian causes such as, you know, everything that's happening in Palestine as well. So you know, like a big, big shout out to her. And the last one is Reem Wyndham. So she is the partner at PactVC, a VC focused on pushing money into impactful causes and important startups as well.

Amardeep Parmar: 24:18

So thanks for checking us out. If people want to get in touch with you or learn more about you, where should they go to?

Samar Malik: 24:23

LinkedIn. They can get in touch with me on LinkedIn.

Amardeep Parmar: 24:27

And is there anything that anybody could help you with? That's listening today.

Samar Malik: 24:29

Yeah, I'd love to connect with anyone I could support with helping with their ideas, maybe like pushing, you know, further developing their pitches, as well as you know any scale-ups and founders that are looking to meet with new investors and I love meeting investors as well so all of anyone in the startup ecosystem happy to meet.

Amardeep Parmar: 24:49

So thank you so much for coming in today. Any final words?

Samar Malik: 24:52

No, thank you so much. Shout out to you, Amar, as well. You're my fourth shout out, I would say, for bringing me on this show and all the amazing work that you're doing in the ecosystem. So hats off to you.

Amardeep Parmar: 25:05

Thank you for watching. Don't forget to subscribe. See you next time.