Ep. 514 w/ Nihal Advani Founder & CEO at QualSights

QualSights is an immersive market research platform that provides brands, agencies and consulting firms the ability to generate deeper and more authentic insights from consumers anywhere in the world, in a dramatically faster and cost-effective way.

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Kevin Horek: Welcome back to the show today. We have Nihal Advani he's the founder and CEO of QualSights. Nihal. Welcome to the show.

Nihal Advani: Thanks Kevin. Happy to be here.

Kevin Horek: I'm excited to have you on the show. I think what you guys are doing is really innovative and cool, but before we get into that, let's get to know you better and start off with where you grew up.

Nihal Advani: Sherry. I grew up in Bombay india.

Kevin Horek: Oh, cool. Okay. So you went to university. What did you take and why?

Nihal Advani: Yeah, so I actually came to the U S for college, I used to play tennis for India as a, as a junior and came to us and a tennis scholarship and went to Arkansas for the first couple of years. I was, I was in business, ended up transferring and finishing up at Brook in long island. But yeah, I did. I did business and specialized in marketing. Why? Because yeah, that's just where my passion lies has always been in the marketing world. And so that's why.

Kevin Horek: Okay. Was there growing up? Like what got you passionate about that space?

Nihal Advani: No, it's interesting. Actually, growing up, all I cared about was tennis. I didn't even want to come to the U S for college I was. Inspired to do so because, we didn't have the money for me to go pro and at the time, obviously I wasn't too happy, but now I look back and it was the best decision ever. When I came to the U S and I was doing college, I didn't honestly really care too much about academics to begin with. Cause all I focused on was tennis, but my junior year when I was at Stony Brook, I had my first real cause before that I just got all the core courses out in there in the first two years. When I transferred to Stony Brook, I had my first real business course and that one, it really inspired me. I actually followed Google.

Nihal Advani: They make you follow like one company, through that course. And I followed Google. It was Google was like, you're not coming at the time. I was amazed by them and ended up, not only falling in love with Google on paper, ended up actually applying for an internship and getting an internship at Google as a result of that. That's what got me into the whole tech and media space.

Kevin Horek: Got you. Okay. Walk us through the rest of your career up until call sites.

Nihal Advani: Sure. Yeah. So often that Google internship super inspired. I ended up picking Microsoft though when I graduated. Ended up working there five years in a variety of roles, started off with, being on the live search side, which then of course, transitioned to Bing and then finished up as program manager of the Mike's a media network on the display advertising side. Always kind of, even in my college days was thinking about doing something entrepreneurial, but what can I learn the ropes first? Can I get be a part of the company first before I did that? In 2012 was actually when I made the leap and I transitioned to, into my own company.

Kevin Horek: Okay. How did you come up with the idea and what exactly is it?

Nihal Advani: Yeah, so, the original idea is very different from where we are now. It was quite an interesting journey, but what we do now as call sites is really where our software platform that allows companies to get deeper and more authentic insights from consumers, anywhere in the world, allowing them to essentially build better brands and parks. We have a platform that helps them understand human behavior and do that efficiently and authentically, but at scale, thanks to various capture methodologies that we offer as well as a great AI that helps them analyze this faster.

Kevin Horek: Okay. Before we dive deeper into that, what did the company start off as I'm always curious to learn about the journey of a company because you guys have been around a long time.

Nihal Advani: Yeah. It's actually, we just celebrated a ten-year anniversary. That's awesome. Yeah. It was a very interesting and very weird journey in some ways, cause I couldn't Microsoft to start a travel planning company, we will call geo Rama. We still legally are called Euro. My Inc we're doing business as coal sites ironically, but Jeremiah is essentially a child planning platform that helped consumers plan. We can share their trips. I was very much, I'm a big traveler. My family's a big family and kind of had a passion for travel and decided to build a platform that did that and recommended, destinations to go to. We had a whole recommendation engine to help you find where to go and then look and share your trip. We did that for a couple of years, have a decent amount of users, but we're struggling to make real money. That's why we decided to pivot the first time to virtual travel.

Nihal Advani: About 2014 or so we did something really novel where we said, Hey, let's do something unique. Well, so being in travel and we kind of turned everything on its head and said, there's all these people that want to travel, but can't travel. What if we help them virtually travel through live video? This was pre Periscope, premier Capri instead of Facebook live and all that good stuff. It was quite novel and a lot of people to kind of see the world through somebody else's eyes who was on the ground, there started off with tourism, but did education, did virtual field trips. We even worked with NASA to help kids go to NASA, virtually and looked at several universities for campus tours and inspections and all kinds of different things, basically all over the place because we had this great library technology that helped people be where they couldn't be.

Nihal Advani: What we found is were trying to be Jack of all trades and we really wanted to kind of own one. In 2017 we decided to get into 500 startups out in the valley. We use that program with a singular focus to find the one vertical that we could really kind of get into and own. Ironically, after doing a whole bunch of research, we found that research and insights is where we should go. That's where we made in 2018, the hard pivot to call center.

Kevin Horek: Got it. Okay. How did you decide, like, okay, you said, but what made you gather enough data to say, this is where we need to go because that in itself can be really scary and challenging to make that pivot, right?

Nihal Advani: Absolutely. Absolutely. 100%. Yeah. We learned a lot of interesting techniques. One of which was, just, I mean, now it's so prevalent, but back then it was quite the early days of, sales sequencing, email sequencing for sales. We basically had, a few different verticals. We had some messaging and some sequences that we created, like email campaigns basically, that went out to a wide variety of, relevant individuals in a few different verticals to kind of see our open rates, to see our response rates and to see, who was more interested in, where were we kind of getting a lot of, better responses. And so that was one key way. We kind of use that scale to kind of really figure out, okay, well this is real value here, this industry, but we of course had, several conversations with potential clients as well as industry, executives and people who've been there done that showed them our technology.

Nihal Advani: It was kind of a variety of different, efforts that we did over a few months that then helped us, solidify that. Okay. Yes, it is. It is research and insights where we should fill it to.

Kevin Horek: Got it. Okay. Let's dive deeper into what the product is today. How do people actually use it from a company side and then from a user side?

Nihal Advani: Yeah. Yeah, we'll be to be in that, our clients are CPG companies, pharma, retail tech, and on their end, they basically get access to our web platform that helps them, set up projects to capture data in a variety of different ways. Analyze that data through a suite of BI tools we offer as well as present that data to their stakeholders all within the platform on the consumer side, because this is research on consumers. You could consumers who actually download an app. We have a mobile app for consumers who basically, raise their hands to take part in research studies and they are picked this selected based on demographic geographic, psychographic criteria, for every different project. There is a, what's called a recruiting screener. We use that to find the, prospective consumers for that project. They download an app and get in for that project and they have a series of tasks and questions that they tend to have to complete as part of finishing their project.

Nihal Advani: That's how it works on both sides.

Kevin Horek: Got it. Okay. Can you give us some examples of a campaign that you don't have to give company names, but how they use the platform and then what does the user actually have to do at the store or whatever it is?

Nihal Advani: Absolutely. Yeah, so we do a wide variety of things. A lot of work we do is around innovation and renovation. Whether it be early white stage kind of a light space or kind of exploration where, people, clients will do diary sentence where let's say for a certain category, they want to see how, just as an example, like how they feed their pets, on a daily basis, over the course, including treats and other things over the course of a week, let's say. That's like seeing what happens, seeing what they do, kind of figuring out gaps at a very kind of early stage there's other projects that we do at the concept stage. Let's say there is a concept for CRO that, a company is coming up with multiple concepts rather, and they'll test them where consumers are looking at those concepts, but react to them, reacting to them on video.

Nihal Advani: Therefore being able to kind of have a really from a client perspective, being able to see they can cut instant reaction to the concept and hear them verbally and visually see them, react to that concept. That's another example or things like, even shopping, right. In store, so let's say you want to see how people shop for certain category consumers, will we then take our app into the store and show us, and, verbally kind of talk aloud as they're shopping for that carrier in terms of what they notice first and what they, what they value at its price. So, other kind of factors and they basically have a series of tasks and questions on their screen in the app that they proceed through almost like a self moderated video survey, if you may, that allows them to then, kind of follow along and kind of answer the questions while still showing what they see.

Kevin Horek: Got it. Okay. So I guess, okay. Okay. I run this campaign as a company, I get a bunch of users to go through and do the campaign, then what happens?

Nihal Advani: Yeah. The data is automatically units collected in real time uploaded in real time. Sometimes there's also live interviews by the way, they may be having a live conversation with the consumer. So, but it's a recorded video that then gets quickly uploaded over there. It's a live conversation. The first time that then gets saved all of that in our cloud clients get access to that. More importantly for every single video or audio, other kinds of media as well, we basically will take anything that has audio will basically transcribe if it's in a different language, other than English will also translate. We can do this in over a hundred languages where we'll transcribe and translate things. We then use natural language processing to basically generate relevant keywords and topics that our clients can kind of in a very quick way, leverage to kind of quickly find moments that matter.

Nihal Advani: Let's say, for example, clicking on the word healthy and being able to go to all the moments where people are talking about a healthy drink or healthy foods or whatever it may be in that project. To make it very easy for them using these, topics and keywords to quickly find moments that matter. We also do sentiment and emotion analysis, based on what said and how it was said, we do object and scene recognition. In terms of, if you want to click on the object shelf, it will go right to when they want a shelf in a store. Again, very quick and easy to use tools to allow our clients even say, looking at videos from, 30, 50, a hundred people being, allowing them to very quickly find the moments that are most relevant. That's what our AI kind of helps do. We also then have, of course the presentation capability where they can simply drag and drop the clips that they think are most relevant.

Nihal Advani: They curated themes because typically when doing qualitative research like this, you're basically the whole goal is to kind of come up with themes based on research and then present them somewhere in the past. This used to be based on coats, but of course, as the video platform. It's very powerful, compelling, story-based storytelling based presentations and video reels. Basically they can create using it, using our platform. It's just, you don't have to be professional video editor or anything. It's a very simple, easy to use drag drop, kind of system.

Kevin Horek: Got it. Okay. I'm the company I collected this research. I did what you just talked about. If I want to follow up with one of those users, do I have the ability to do that or sorry, the people that shot that video, for example.

Nihal Advani: Yes, you do. You do. As part of the platform, we have a messaging tool as well. They may have, let's say two or three activities that they complete. Let's say like an intro activity about themselves and they're using a selfie video to kind of answer some questions on their screen to then maybe going in store and shopping for product where it's not the rear camera. They're kind of capturing that process and then perhaps bringing a product home and unboxing and using it right. So they could have those two activities. The client is looking at those activities. They may have sometimes follow up questions for them. They can easily message them at any time with the app and ask them questions.

Kevin Horek: Got it. Okay. I'm curious then to dive deeper with maybe some more kind of concrete examples, just so if any companies are listening out there, like, can you maybe give some idea examples? Like, and I guess the simple one that I would think of is like, if they launch a new, I don't know, like drink, for example, in like a, can that, like you say, go find this in X store and tell me how quick it was or how quick it was to find it or how easy it was and then their thoughts on the packaging. That the kind of stuff that you guys are doing or give us some, maybe examples like that.

Nihal Advani: Yeah. All kinds of stuff. You know, that's definitely one example. I'll give you like a, kind of a, a case study, if you may, sharing names and everything, but there's basically a global manufacturer of shampoo, shampoo fighters, and for the anti-dandruff shampoo, they basically, way they had one product, right? They just had one product and they realized that there was perhaps potentially a need to diversify that product in that having like a version of flavor of that product for heavy dandruff sufferers. Also then to like dander suffers, but they, they always had just one product and it essentially had only one, one messaging, one packaging. They sought to use us to kind of figure out how do they, have the right messaging and the right concepts for those two different groups, the light dandruff suffers and the heavy Denver suburbs. What they did was they essentially recruited a bunch of consumers.

Nihal Advani: I believe it was like 30 each in each group. A course of a week, they basically did a diary study with a platform where every day these consumers will ask anytime they had a flare up of that rough day, we'll ask to kind of record a video, kind of talking about what happened and how they're feeling. They also had very variety of other activities just to understand their homes and they own, behavior. They did actually like, show us all the products we currently use, for your hair care routine declined had. Any client for that matter is it's, you can't be in a shower friend with them, with consumers. The closest, next best thing was a app that allowed them to actually have just the audio on and actually talk about, their routine while they in the shower right before and right after. That got them as close as possible to being in the shower without being there without upsetting kind of video.

Nihal Advani: That was another example of an activity that they did to understand someone's routine. They then based on this data actually had a couple concepts that they quickly iterated on. For each group, they kind of gave them a few concepts in terms of what the product would do and what the messaging was. These consumers in reacting to that concept, they got the quick feedback from those consumers. Very quickly, again, we're able to integrate that and have a next set of concepts that they had them react to a couple of days later. Through that process, they essentially were able to not just understand the differences between these two user groups and what matters to them, but also be able to kind of really be able to fine tune the right messaging and the right packaging for their products to use. To better tailor them to those target consumers.

Nihal Advani: We're able to have a very successful launch in there often.

Kevin Horek: Got it. No, very cool. I think that's really fascinating to be able to see because you're right. Most brands can't get in somebody's home and get that kind of lie. Well, I guess when they probably consume it's not live, but it's live feedback while I'm using the product that can be watched later.

Nihal Advani: Exactly, exactly. Yeah. You, if you didn't have traditional quality research, it was always, getting people to a central location, like a focus group room essentially, and having them kind of talk about stuff. While that may be fine to understand perhaps your brand preferences or something high level, it's a really poor way to do behavior because you're basically relying on recall. It's like saying, Hey Kevin, when he went to the store last week to shop for groceries, what did you notice first? You have no idea because our mind doesn't save that kind of versus with our platform. What they're able to do is tap into consumers as they're doing things in the moment, whether that's cooking, cleaning, shopping, eating, whatever it may be, and truly get in the moment, insights, contextual insights and get a video of it happening in that consumer's natural environment, which is much more powerful than you're bringing them into a room in a focus group somewhere.

Nihal Advani: That's really what we are, helping our clients and just industry in general kind of move towards is to deeper, more authentic and more contextual research.

Kevin Horek: No, that's fascinating. I actually think the other thing that I just in user testing and stuff that I've done in the past, when you have the video of somebody shopping, for example, just because they're saying something doesn't mean they're actually doing the same thing. I always find that really useful could they could be like, yeah, I found your product right away. And they're like shooting it. You're like, that's not the product at all. We're or whatever. Right. It's fascinating to get that data because if they screw that up, other people are probably doing the same thing and then you can fix it right.

Nihal Advani: 100%. Absolutely. This happens all the time. Right. Having someone say something, someone may think they do something certain way, but when you actually watch them, they don't even realize that they're doing in some other way. Right. Being able to see there's no better way to do research than to actually see it happen. Yeah, there's many surprising, insights that can kind of come out of that where people say something, but when you see them do it's definitely different than, it's, that's, that's really, the whole point of research is to be able to kind of really get that real contextual stuff.

Kevin Horek: Nope. That that's very cool. I guess just quickly congrats on being a fastest growing company in Illinois and the fourth in the midwest region. I think that's awesome. Good, good job. That's awesome.

Nihal Advani: Thanks so much, everyone really excited by the ink rankings we got recently and yeah, it turned out where the fourth fastest growing fastest going like first fastest growing company overall in Illinois, fastest growing software company in the Midwest and fourth fastest growing software company in the U S so were like super delighted. Just a few weeks after, in fact, a few days ago, we got a financial times ranking, America's fastest growing companies, less than that's across north central and south America. We ranked 57 across the entire Americas. One ahead of zoom, which blew my mind. It was a newly pumped with these recent markets.

Kevin Horek: That's awesome, man. Good. That's great. I want to dive into you guys also offer a video feedback kiosk. What exactly is that and how does that tie into everything we've talked about so far today?

Nihal Advani: Yeah, that's a kind of new thing. We actually kind of scaled that back during, COVID obviously seekers people don't want touch screens, but now we're bringing that back but it's a new thing. It's a right now just to kind of beta, but what it is kind of typically what we're doing of course is, mobile app based where consumers can take the app anywhere. Of course, therefore it's, whether it's in-home in store, wherever it may be. This is used by, CPG pharma, et cetera, but in the retail world, there's an interesting opportunity to actually piggyback off of the consumers that are already in the store, the foot traffic that already is there, where imagine like today, if you notice, like, sometimes you'll have these stores that will have on the receipt, maybe text us for feedback or some , simple way to kind of get feedback, which most people obviously don't even notice.

Nihal Advani: There's some other companies that are doing some text message based thing. They'll have a poster that says, okay, texts, XYZ for feedback, but it's all text-based versus with our platform and our kiosk, particularly what a retail outlet can choose to do is essentially placed this in an end cap or wherever they are, wherever they decide to in some strategic location and have a very quick video feedback kind of session from a consumer where they've just shopped for something and you can ask them, okay. How they felt about that experience, really getting that our customer experience in the moment and not requiring them to download an app or anything it's right there. An exchange align the consumers in the store to actually get a discount on their purchase. It's a kind of win-win situation where the retailer gets feedback that they can use and even share sometimes with their, their brands.

Nihal Advani: Also of course, the consumer gets a incentive for doing.

Kevin Horek: Very cool. Now I think that's really great. I'm curious then how do you monetize the platform?

Nihal Advani: Yeah. We're a SAS platform and clients pay for the platform, essentially either a subscription basis or a product basis. We have both options. The project base is a approach is something that allows, clients who are new to us to come in and try a few projects. They tend to typically, upgrade to a subscription. Sometimes you've got agencies, agencies get paid by projects. They prefer to stay being by project. So we leave that option for them. But, subscription of course has, the ability for them to kind of do research at any time of the year and, give them discounts for kind of having that subscription and so on.

Kevin Horek: No, I, I think that makes a lot of sense. I'm curious, you mentioned earlier, you celebrated 10 years as kind of being an entrepreneur. What have you learned along the way? Because you've had obviously to change some things around, you've tried some ideas and now you're one of the fastest growing companies in north America. Like what advice do you give to people? Because obviously we all know it's a bit of a rollercoaster ride sometimes.

Nihal Advani: Absolutely. No, it's going to so a lot of time and it's something where, I always gonna use this way. It's like the three-piece I call it right. It's passion, pivot, and persistence is what I think we've done really well. Passionate, of course you have to be super passionate about what you're doing. Otherwise can't last this long, with all the ups and downs you're going to have as an entrepreneur, if you don't have like some serious level of passion for what you're doing, it's gonna be very hard for you to stay the course. That's one pivot is something we obviously B this was our third, pivot. So, being flexible, being, having the willingness and the ability to pivot, whether it's small changes here and there, or massive changes, like we've had to make a couple of times completely switching industries and technologies and things like that.

Nihal Advani: Being able to kind of just stay on top of what, client needs are and what the macro trends are. Being able to kind of adjust is what allows you to kind of adapt and stay ahead. That's another important thing because most companies you'll find most startups, they start as something, but they almost always finish off with something else, whether it's a real big expansion of that idea, whether it's a complete change, like in our case. And then finally, of course, persistence, right. You just really got to just persevere and kind of stay on it because as you've seen in our case, right? Only the last three years, three and a half years now, I mean, we just had a really amazing growth, but it took a lot of time. That took a lot of energy, passion, persistence, and pivoting to finally get to the moment where, when asking very well.

Kevin Horek: Sure. Did you bootstrap, did you raise some money? A bit of both walk us through that.

Nihal Advani: A bit about, when I first started, I bootstrapped it for a couple of years and then we raised some money, but just angel funds. So, later this year we'll probably go institutional, but otherwise we just had some angel funds over the course of the last 10 years in bits and pieces. We've been really fortunate to have some amazing angel investors, on our team here. A lot of the folks, in, in Chicago that are very prominent investors, but also in our industry as well. We've been really fortunate to have the, who we have.

Kevin Horek: Very cool. I'm curious, was there anything from your tennis playing days that you've been able to apply to being an entrepreneur.

Nihal Advani: 100%? I think a lot of the qualities I've been able to kind of benefit from comes from my discipline and my dedication and my passion and, persistence in the tennis days, where do you learn all those things, playing a sport compared, especially with playing sport competitively, I used to, play internationally all the time, play for India and stuff and the juniors. Of course what's even more interesting is when you come to the U S for college tennis, it becomes a team sport. You learn all kinds of team dynamics and, cause you're basically unlike, when you just going pro playing, yourself and the juniors, you're paying, singles and things like that. Oh, even if it's double just you and one more, but in college tennis, it's a whole team sport where it's a point system and you're all kind of working together to kind of cheer each other on and kind of, it's, there's a lot of strategy involved as well.

Nihal Advani: I think the college tennis part of things was a lot of the team dynamics and all of that. Whereas just in general, just having a competitive sport in my background allowed me to kind of really, my focus is very strong and just have been through a lot of ups and downs even in the tennis days, of course. Being able to kind of, you just kind of withstand those and just kind of keep going is definitely a trait I learned in those days.

Kevin Horek: Interesting. No, that's, it's fascinating. Right. Because I find so many things from an early in our life can really be helpful like down the road, especially being an entrepreneur.

Nihal Advani: Absolutely.

Kevin Horek: Very cool. I'm curious now that kind of, well, hopefully the pandemic is coming to an end. How has the pandemic kind of changed your business? Has it made it, obviously it's probably sped it up a bit because people are want more and more data from consumers and they weren't going in person as much, or how has the pandemic changed your business and how much do you think it'll go back to kind of pre pandemic or are we kind of, what are your predictions, I guess is the best?

Nihal Advani: Yeah, that's a great question. I think our industry in general, especially in the quality of Saturn, definitely got accelerated by the pandemic because there was all of the, what, in research until recently it's been kind of a legacy kind of, technology legacy kind of business industrial. And, a lot of the companies in this space were doing as mentioned, like in-person interviews and focus groups and those sorts of things. Weren't typically, some of them were of course, but like several of them weren't willing to kind of switch that to digital, even though digital was equally, powerful with the pandemic. Many of them got forced because there was not a way. At the same time the pandemic was, there was some companies, it was interesting to see some companies when the pandemic started, like they stopped research. They were like, oh my God, what's gonna happen. But it's a tide.

Nihal Advani: So and so forth. Other companies actually went on the offensive and it's those companies that have really come out on top because they really realized, Hey, this is a moment where we need to truly stay on the pulse of the consumer because human behavior and kind of really to adapt and, meet consumer needs to kind of get through this and, come out on top after it. That's been interesting thing, but what's from our perspective and just our industry as a whole, other companies like ours, it's been in a way almost fast-forwarding of sorts, which without the pandemic, it would probably taken a few more years for people to digitals versus what the people have digitized. Now that they've tried these digital platforms, whether it's simply doing your focus group or interview online, which is the basic stuff one can do or be doing the more advanced things like we promote, we offer both by the way, we do offer interviews and focus groups as well.

Nihal Advani: We of course urge our clients to do the more contextual behavioral stuff with, mobile than at the moment technologies. They now have a taste for that and they realize whether it's even the simple interviews or whether it's the deeper stuff, it's great, they, and the fact that these digital platforms give them all the AI capabilities and things like that. I think now they're kind of stuck. And so we don't believe people. Yeah. Maybe for certain types of projects, occasionally there will be some in-person work, but otherwise for the most part, I think the industry has had a fast forwarding of sorts to digital and it's here to stay.

Kevin Horek: No, I, I agree with you. I'm curious. Do you have any other predictions for kind of the future of retail in the space? Because I know a number of years ago, obviously everybody thought that brick and mortar was going totally disappear because everybody was ordering things online and it maybe was heading that direction. I think it's kind of settled down a bit, but do you have any other predictions of kind of the future of retail or anything else related to that?

Nihal Advani: Yeah, retail's interesting, right? It's a it's it's yeah, it's always been kind of, especially even, I mean, even pre pandemic, right. Pandemic as well, but somehow managed to kind of stay around and it's here to stay too. It's just different. Right. I think as time goes on for retailers to, you see, you always see a pre pandemic and then during the course, so many stores cut back and reduced, the Montessori's they add a note, those sorts of things, which makes sense. On the flip side, you'll also start to see, I believe, more experiential retail, cause the more they can make, the one thing that is hard on the digital, like it's just for example, like impulse purchase or other kinds of things, like just the ability to kind of walk through something and like see things around and kind of explore new products is much easier typically in the physical world and much more, perhaps exciting then in the digital world at least today.

Nihal Advani: I think the retailers that kind of really focus on that and tailor the experience, to cater to that, I think would be the ones that will continue to kind of stick around and go,

Kevin Horek: Yeah, that's fair. I think even just something as simple as an example is like, I'm just like buying jeans for me, for example, it's once I have like a brand and I know my waist and length size of that brand, I I'm happy to order online, but I need to go to that physical store, at least once to figure out what that is. Right. I might go back just because I'm at the mall or whatever, but I think in a lot of cases, people still need to at least visit your physical location, once or maybe a few times a year just to kind of get, make sure their sizing's is right in the clothing space. We can give examples in different other re vertical retail space. Right. I think sometimes too is just like, I need shampoo, for example, it's like, oh, I need to go now to the store because I need it now for, to shower later.

Kevin Horek: Right. Like where you sure you can get sometimes like our later delivery, but I think sometimes it's just like, people just need to go. Right. I think that kind of got lost in translation when everybody was like, let's just get rid of retail for.

Nihal Advani: Exactly. In fact, getting back to even your genes example right. On one end. Okay. It's sizing is one piece, but I mean, jeans, for example, it's so hard and I know this is just me, but like these colors are so similar. Right. And it's super hard to tell. I can imagine versus in person, at least you go, you can touch and feel and they may have new fix, cute fabrics. Being able to truly kind of experience those is sometimes essential. Of course, once you like X, Y, Z, then of course you can keep reordering online. Having that blend I agree is, is great.

Kevin Horek: Nope. Very cool. I'm also kind of curious to get your thoughts on you. You've been in this in different spaces as an entrepreneur, and you've obviously been able to pivot like we've covered throughout the show, but how did or what advice did you give to people to actually go for that pivot? Because you have this idea and you love it and you want to keep working on it and you might have a bit of traction, but it's just not enough to keep kind of going. And, but it can be really hard to basically just, turn the ship around and go a different direction instead of kind of keep trying to force that, like you kind of have traction, do what I'm getting at? Yeah.

Nihal Advani: 100% have faced this a lot. I mean, it's a very challenging thing, right? Like if hindsight's 20 looking back and we're like, oh yeah, we've got to cut this short on this thing gone here, gone you're faster. In reality, when you're actually in there, like it's these learnings over time that eventually, get you ready here. We wouldn't have been here if it weren't for all the learnings and the ups and downs that we had and the way we did it, I mean, it was hard. I mean, so let me start off that travel planning platform. Right? Super cool platform. Till today there's still nothing like it. It was really cool product, but, and we had great, we had, we won tech crunch multiple times. I mean, people really love the product, but at the same time weren't making money, but because people love the product, we will hope for them.

Nihal Advani: We're like, Hey, let's just keep going. Let's keep going. We have more users and now keep in mind. We also a Chicago based company and Chicago, VC's a much more conservative on like the valley in terms of kind of taking only bats. And so we didn't raise big money. We just raised some angel money. So, it was not that we could have just, had a boatload of cash and just kind of kept going. We had to be, building a real business, and in a way that kind of worked out for us because being in the Midwest forced us to think like, Hey, let's focus on fundamentals of the business. When the fundamentals weren't working long enough, that's an way to make the tough calls. I mean, I remember talking to my team and telling them, Hey guys, yeah, we're just going to scrap all of this.

Nihal Advani: Obviously didn't say it that way by like, I'm going to scrap all of this and then switch to virtual travel and, people lost their minds. I mean, for the first few minutes, at least they're like, wait, what? Of course, once you explained to them like, okay, this is why, and this new thing is much more exciting. It's much more normal. We can do this one, this, and then people get on board and they realize that, yes, while they've done all this work. Especially in the texts I read, a lot of that work will get lost. It was a great learning experience to get us to the next part. We've been fortunate to have a very amazingly flexible and, supportive team that has kind of been able to kind of get behind us even through all these periods.

Kevin Horek: No, I think that's actually really good advice. I'm curious then now do you think GE being in a geographic region matters because what you just said, obviously the Valley's more they're there they're willing to take more of a risk, right? Where maybe other parts of the world aren't, but do you think it really matters this day and age where you're located geographically?

Nihal Advani: Not anymore. If you asked me even 10 years ago, it didn't right, but he sees it did. It's interesting when you tell me the common like thesis, there was exceptions, but most VCs out west, the common thing was like, Hey, are you going to be here for investing in early? We want you to be close by. That was just the traditional way of thinking. And that was going on for years. There was some exceptions, but for the most part, that was the consensus with the pandemic. That's another thing that changed, right? Because everyone again was forced virtual people, weren't meeting each other in person anyway. They realize, yeah, this, the zoom thing is not so bad. Right. With that, I think more and more funds are starting to realize, Hey, I mean, even just the macro trends with globalization and things that, they'd have in China funds and India funds and kind of doing all of that.

Nihal Advani: Of course they have teams there, but in general, I think they've also started to realize, the valley is bloated valuations and in the Midwest that, as much more reasonable evaluations yet great companies. And so there's talent everywhere. Even now the talent pools I'm moving right earlier. They were all flocking to, the key tech hubs. Now they're wanting, being able to work remote and therefore can be anywhere and now can work from anywhere for any company. All of these things have changed during the pandemic that now I truly I've always believed, but now I think many others also believe that location is no longer important. Therefore you see funds investing a lot more all over.

Kevin Horek: No, I agree with you. I think it's, I I'd never thought it mattered, but I think now it just doesn't really matter. You can build anything great. I think having access to a global talent pool, because we all know how hard it is to find good tech talent. Right. You know, anywhere, nevermind locally. So, but we're kind of coming to the end of the show. How about we close with mentioning where people can get more information about yourself, the company in any other links you want to mention?

Nihal Advani: Sure, absolutely. Coming up outside of school said, comments, Q U a L S I G H T s.com. They can find me on LinkedIn. I'm the Harvard money and L last name's ADV. I, but yeah, those are perhaps the two key ways to find us.

Kevin Horek: Perfectly hall while I really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to be on the show. I look forward to keeping in touch with you and have a good rest of your day.

Nihal Advani: Thanks so much, Kevin. Thanks for having me.

Kevin Horek: Thanks very much. Okay.

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Ep. 514 w/ Nihal Advani Founder & CEO at QualSights
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