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Vikram Chalana


 Vikram Chalana

@0:00 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Welcome to The Shades of Entrepreneurship, This is your host, Mr. Garbriel Flores. Today we welcome the Founder and CEO of Pitctory, Vikram. Vikram you are calling in from somehwer close where are you calling in from today? 

@0:50 - Vikram Chalana

In the Seattle area today so give us a little background who is absolutely so I've been in Seattle for many years over 30 years now and they came here as a grad student at the University Washington, beautiful UW campus where you can see my train here on a day like this.I have been working here for a few years, most people assume it's Microsoft or Amazon, but it's not. I've never worked at those who come to me.

And then I've been an entrepreneur for over 20 years now. And this is I'm on my second company, third company depending on how you count.

But the first company, the last company where I had the most success was a company called Wind Shuttle. It was in the enterprise software business.

And we built that, we scaled it to about 350 employees. Sold that a few years ago and then started the victory.

So yeah, Seattle based serial entrepreneur and with a beautiful wife and two grown kids. All of us went to U-Dub.

@1:40 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

There you go, there go. Now what did you take when you were going to U-Dub? Cause it sounds like you're doing a lot of like software tech stuff currently.

@1:47 - Vikram Chalana

I am, yes. So I was doing biomedical engineering at U-Dub. So I've always been fascinated by engineering and kind of its application to life sciences.

so I did my PhD. in biomedical engineering and some of my jobs were in that area. But then everything is software.

Everything in the last 20 years has moved to software. it was just a natural progression.

@2:13 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Yes, speaking of that, let's talk about your first company, the National Progression. How did you actually scale it to being one?

In fact, last night I was at the Oregon Entrepreneurship Network Event Award Ceremony. lot of these businesses started out with one entrepreneur.

How did you get it up to 350 employees?

@2:35 - Vikram Chalana

Yes, so it was a lot of luck, but a lot of great as well. One thing I learned in the process was actually having a co-founder really helped.

Having a co-founding team really helped. So I had two co-founders and the thing I heard this somewhere and I just have adopted it, you need a hacker.

a hustler and a visionary. If you have those three people, sometimes it's rare, but sometimes it's, it's, you can find all those three skills in one person, but often you need at least two or three different people who bring those skill sets.

So that was the first thing. The second thing was, we took a kind of bootstrap mentality in the very beginning is like, you know, we're going to put our own money and try to try to grow the business as much as possible as opposed to going, trying to raise VC money.

So we had fortunately a product that was able to find the product market fit very quickly. And, and we were able to find the customers and the customers were willing to spend money and we were able to discover that very, very early on.

And then after that scaling was just a matter of, okay, making sure we are investing strategically all the revenues we're getting and, and we bootstrapped it.

So pretty much like no, we were not taking salaries, we're just like putting everything into the business, adding salespeople, adding engineers, adding everything that we could.

And then we grew that to about $5 million in about five, six years, $5 million on rate. And then we got some outside capital, some VCs, because once you are at that size and you are somewhat profitable, you get a whole set of VCs approaching you, wanting to give you money as opposed to you going and making the rounds.

And so we got a VC at that stage and then it was just like we had capital, we were able to hire really good talent and grow the company.

again, the market was great, was enterprise big companies like Nike and Portland and we had Starbucks here in Seattle and Microsoft.

So all these were our customers, they all were running SAP. And they all had the nice thing about enterprise software is you can actually, once you're in there, it's very sticky.

They're not going to let go of you. And then then there was an expansion phase so every customer would expand and buy more software.

So yeah, there's no formula.

@5:18 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

It's it's luck. And you know, I'd love for you to explain, you know, you mentioned enterprise network, right? Explain it to the listeners what that means.

@5:29 - Vikram Chalana

So enterprise, the way I see market types, you could sell to consumers. You and I, we sell, we buy iPhones, we buy all kinds of products.

Then you could sell to, I call them prosumers. They're you know, individuals trying to create businesses. So entrepreneurs and really small companies and like the kind of

you mentioned that you met at your conference, a lot of solo entrepreneurs. Then you have small businesses that could be, know, maybe now you've scaled it up to say five people up to up to a few hundred people employees.

And then when you get like, then you have mid-size and then enterprises are the largest companies out there. So they're like, you know, 5,000 employees or more.

And some of the biggest brands that we all, you and I all know, they're all, I call them the enterprises, the large companies.

And that's the enterprise market you're going to sell. It's a whole different process selling to them, servicing them, the way the product needs to work.

@6:44 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

It's just, it's very different. How would you define like, how was it different than like an individual software? Because that enterprise is huge, right?

folks, we're talking like the Nike's, the Boeing's, right? The large organizations of the world. So you're trying to basically do the same thing you would be doing for individuals.

but on scale of 5,000 to 10,000 employees. think about rolling out some software.

@7:05 - Vikram Chalana

How difficult is that? So it's difficult in many different ways. the problems are very different. So you have to know the problems that you're trying to address.

Something that you're solving for individuals may or may not exist in a big organization. Or there may be very different problems that you don't even think about.

Like the product that we had built was based on top of a product called SAP. So a lot of these large companies run SAP as their accounting system.

And now consumers don't run SAP. run quick-end or something if we're lucky to keep track of our finances. businesses have to keep track of their finances.

SAP is kind of the big database that everything is tracked in. Now, for people who use SAP, have a lot of problems getting data in and out of SAP.

So we discovered some of those problems that we could build a product that solves that. And so the problems are different.

Then the solutions are different. And the solutions have to scale. They have to respect all the security concerns that people have.

They have to be able to run in 1,000 person organization and not disrupt anything. And of course, that's the problem, the solution.

And then of course, how you sell to them is very different. They expect there to be a salespeople. If you're selling to consumers, you generally don't expect to talk to a salesperson.

So everything is different selling to larger companies.

@8:50 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Yeah, I must admit, working in the health care industry, I work with larger organizations. The best way I can explain this is what you're

kind of dealing with from the healthcare perspective is like all the different hospitals we have each one has a different EMR Electronical medical record system none of those talk to each other right and then each one of your Radiology you know imaging departments they have their own systems none of those talk to each other right in fact I'm going to a dinner in a couple of weeks here in Oregon With a with a former CEO can be a to talk about What are what technologies are out there to kind of help bridge that communication gap because it's so needed it shouldn't matter if you go to you know Get care here in Oregon or care in New York.

@9:32 - Vikram Chalana

should have access to medical records Especially when they need not everyone but the providers right the individuals that need access to that information So yeah, it's kind of like you're bridging that gap Yeah, and that's I mean this is what we were doing for larger companies is is kind of this gap and in our case The what we found was excel was commonplace.

So everybody was using it So yeah, I mean so people would send a customer sometimes would send an order to Kellogg's.

Kellogg's was one of our customers. They had a lot of mom and pop stores as their suppliers. They would send the orders to Kellogg and in Excel sheets.

And then they had poor people entering all that into SAP. And we just automated that whole process. And healthcare is full of things like that.

mean, know Epic, everybody uses Epic. And one Epic instance doesn't talk to another Epic instance. It's just where healthcare records aren't portable.

And yeah, it's a major issue in the industry.

@10:35 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Yeah. Yeah. that's something I've been living with for some time now. Now, you mentioned you've actually scaled this and sold it.

And then you pivot over to a pictory. Let's talk about that transition you sell. And then why did you pivot over to a pictory?

@10:52 - Vikram Chalana

Yeah. So we got this business to a nice place where it was. had an entire leadership team set up.

And I was just getting bored. was not it. I'd been doing it for 15 years and not enough innovation for my taste.

And so as we were selling it, I was thinking about, OK, what's next? was too young to retire, I felt.

And I started thinking about the problems that I faced. And one of the problems that I had faced, myself.

So unrelated to this data management thing, one of the problem, I had become a thought leader. And I was trying to make a lot of webinars and whitepapers and create a lot of content for marketing to use and for salespeople to use.

And the thing that we all have noticed is there's been this shift of content. A content has exploded. There has been obviously a lot more written content.

Then what people like to consume now is podcasts and videos and different types of content. And you and I are comfortable in getting in front of the camera to create a video and and distribute it to our audience.

But most people in your organization weren't. And then further, even if you were comfortable in getting in front of the camera, editing those videos was painful.

I mean, I'm sure you have editors who spend a bunch of time to edit this podcast out. But so we found both those problems.

I realized that, you know, video is going to be something that we're all going to use in the future.

We're all going to become it's going to become the standard form of communication. But very few people are empowered or know how to create or edit videos.

So in a 350 or a person organization, we had one video person. That's it. And everybody. would be lining up to her and like I need help with my product video or my sales video or my HR video or my Marketing video and and it's like, you know, if there is one problem I would like to focus on is that because we saw like all the stuff that early days of AI and Transformers were coming out we saw what Canva was doing around Design and making design really easy and it's like, okay, I think I know what I want to do I want to make Canva for video And that was kind of the story and and with a lot of AI in the mix So that's kind of how we came about this problem and it's unrelated to to data management and SAP and enterprise completely Again, I fell in love with the problem And I think that's an important thing as an entrepreneur.

@13:48 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Yeah, know, in fact, I think that is you know, victim I think you just unintentionally created the greatest story for people that really grab onto When you when you when you're working when you're doing things every day folks

And you identify a problem out there, like, you know, Vikram mentioned that you saw a line of people lining up trying to get the video editor's time.

That became an actual problem that could be solvable and profitable done right, right? So you can make a business case for it.

Just like we're talking about right now with the EHRs and their actually individuals currently right now trying to figure out how to solve that issue.

Because Vikram mentioned even Epic's EMR instances of Epic, they didn't even talk to each other. It's the same exact electronical medical records.

Yeah, it doesn't talk to each other, right? And I'm sure that's probably done for reasons, right? So now let's talk about pictorial because I think it's really cool what you're doing because I think it was a phenomenal job also linking it to Canva.

Everybody I think uses Canva at this point in time, at least a lot of folks do, at least in the creative world.

It's very easy, very, very user friendly. talk about like, what does your program do? How does it work? How can what's the value for the entrepreneur to use your program?

@15:04 - Vikram Chalana

Yeah, so it's really simple. The first use case that we built it for was text video. So script to video.

A lot of us are good at writing stuff. Now with charge GPT, he's good at writing stuff. And I just take the output from him and put it into a picture.

But but get that, get a script and put it into a picture. And picture will convert that to a video.

And now the way it works is actually pretty simple. It's not not magical, but it feels like magic when you see it.

What it's doing is it's trying to understand what you're trying to say in the script and the story. So that's that's one piece of AI that we've developed.

And then based on that understanding, we'll try to find stock content that matches. The story the best. And we try to find multiple pieces of stock videos.

So not just talking. images, but stalked videos and we stitch them together to tell you the whole story. We add captions to them.

We can add music to that. We can also add a narration to that, so a text-to-speech narration. That's again, third-party AI for that.

But we put it all together and then pretty much in a matter of minutes, you can have a video ready starting from a script.

@16:25 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Oh, man, folks. If you're watching this on YouTube, which is a quick plug for the Shades of Entrepreneurship YouTube channel, I am smiling from ear to ear because this is like a game changer.

You don't understand how long it takes for video editing. mean, you're putting the video down and then you're finding background music and then you're actually cutting out and you're putting still images versus video images and you're mushing it all together.

And then maybe you put a backdrop behind it, right, with your logo and it takes a lot of time.

right. To be able to have that your fingertip and click a button and you have video populated within minutes, within

But in a minute, that's pretty remarkable. know, now that's kind of where I think for me as an entrepreneur, the value comes in my time.

Right? Nothing is more valuable than our time, folks. And when you find tools and softwares like this, you use them as much as you possibly can, utilize them.

They're built by entrepreneurs who have also had the same issue, which I really truly like as well. Because it seems like this is an issue that you've also had, right?

@17:30 - Vikram Chalana

And you just wanted to solve, correct? Exactly. Yeah. And that's the best way is to find a problem that you have because you will find a way to solve that problem.

And one other problem that we actually ended up solving, because this was in the middle of the pandemic when we launched the product and everything was going to video.

So we all had video recordings. So what you talked about, like, you know, we're recording this session as a video, you're going to, like my wife was a teacher.

She was recording. her sessions over video. And we, I mean, everybody was struggling with video editing. And again, so one of the other things we solved at that point was we call it transcript based video editing.

Just make it very easy. So we just transcribe that, show you the text, and then you can just edit the text and it edits the video.

So you can delete a section, delete a sentence, delete a word, remove filler words, remove pauses gaps. So, so that's another piece that we've added since then again, solving problems for for ourselves in the process building something very interesting.

@18:39 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Yeah, you know, one thing I love about being an entrepreneur is to you know, to be honest with you, we're a little selfish because we basically try to solve problems that we have and that we see other people have.

And then we try to solve it and like, hey, no, we solve it. try to go and make money.

But then let's just go ahead and sell it and something else and try to solve another problem. Because there's so many other problems that I think we're constantly trying to solve.

Now, with that said, what's the future look like for Pictory? How are you moving forward?

@19:06 - Vikram Chalana

What's your plan? First, let's come back to what you just said because that's actually a really interesting thing because there is a skill set to then saying, okay, we've solved this problem.

It's good enough. I found a product market fit. Let's scale it. So that bit actually is a chasm. lot of great solutions fall in that chasm because they can't find either the product market fit or they can't find a way to scale it.

@19:37 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Yes, very true.

@19:38 - Vikram Chalana

yeah. Anyway, so I think we're past that. We've found a product market fit for both our solutions here, video editing, video creation.

But where we have right now is where it's being solved for is very small businesses. the pros and the small businesses and the very small businesses, they're using our product and they're loving it because

They don't have the budget to hire agencies to make videos. don't have, and the problems are different. Now, when we go talk to the larger companies, when we go talk to the Nike's of the world and the Boeing's of the world, they're telling us that their video problems are slightly different.

They don't have, they have budgets so they can spend more money. have a lot of content that they have internally, and they wanna leverage some of that content rather than stock content.

Their branding requirements are very different from a branding requirement of a very small startup. So there, like now we're trying to think about, how can we take this up market?

How can we make this product up market? The other thing that people are telling us, again, part of it is discovering from customers, part of it is against solving that problem for yourself and having that vision.

But one of the things that people are telling us is, how do you know that this video is gonna perform well on YouTube?

@21:00 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)


@21:01 - Vikram Chalana

Yeah. Can you predict? And so we have some really good AI people working on that and trying to figure it out, okay, we predict in advance of you posting video that this is gonna perform?

What can you make to change it? What can you do to change it? What kind of title, description, thumbnails you can use?

That kind of thing. those are the other things that we're working on.

@21:25 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Nice. know, one of the thing I really like what you mentioned was product market fit because I think what you just organically said to the folks is, hey, your product currently fits the small business and entrepreneurs.

It doesn't fit the enterprise yet. So we have the right product, but it's not the right product market fit for this market.

So that's why you're starting to look at, okay, the enterprise uses, like you mentioned, you use a stock photos.

How can we actually import all of these Nike branded photos? Because again, folks, Nike, so if you work for a large organization, you work for an corporation, you're gonna have a brand strategy, you're gonna have brand guidelines, you're gonna have to use certain fonts,

and colors, certain color schemes, right? And the brands, especially like Nike, I mean, truly Nike doesn't make anything, right?

is a brand, everything that is made for Nike, and they put their logo on it. And so their brand is really everything, right?

And so that's really interesting. And that's another thing, folks, that kind of understand like, Hey, solution might be great for a small set of market.

But if you actually tweak it a little bit, you might have had that vertical integration to go into a new market to continue to scale, simply because you tweaked a few things and you identified.

now one of things you also mentioned, Victor, is talking to folks and the information you receive back. How do you go out and receive information back about your product?

How do you get feedback?

@22:46 - Vikram Chalana

Yeah, so you have to put various mechanisms in place. And as you're growing, when you're small, you just pick up the phone and try to have as many conversations as possible with customers or potential customers.

However, that doesn't scale when you have like we have 20 over 20,000 customers paying customers. It's not easy to pick up the phone and talk to all of them.

So we have a community site where a lot of people will interact, tell us what they're facing, what are some of the challenges we've saw the sit feedback from them.

We put out a roadmap publicly where on our website so people can vote on features that they're looking for or add new features that they want to see in the product.


@23:30 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)


@23:31 - Vikram Chalana

various ways through support channel, support is our front line. They're constantly talking to customers and so they share some of the feedback with the product team and everybody else.

it's like you have to find various ways but that's an important part of being an entrepreneur is actually to be in touch with your users because things change.

mean, market conditions change, new things come out and you want to make sure that. You're on top of it.

@24:01 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

That's very, very true. That's really good advice. In fact, that's very good advice for those users thinking about what advice would you have for aspiring entrepreneurs that are just starting their journey?

Maybe some things that you wish you knew, things you know today that you wish you would have known when you started.

@24:18 - Vikram Chalana

So I'll give you a few things. So I sometimes teach an entrepreneurship class that you dub here and I'll talk about few things that I'll mention it here because I think it's important.

Great products are not built in the lab. They're built in the market. So that's one. That's really important because you can continue to ideate and build, build, build and prototype, prototype, prototype, but unless somebody sees it and buys it more importantly gives you their credit card or cash that you haven't validated it, no matter how.

Like even. And this even now I see it like I have I can tell people that this is what I'm building even show them a demo and they'll say this is cool.

This is good. They're just responding to what what you want to hear. But but until they're actually made that the purchase you don't know that it's it's real.

So so that's one really important advice that that I would give is just get it out there. Take the lean lean startup approach, get the product out, get an MVP out.

Minimum Bible product get it out get it in front of the customers. And I think that's I think that's the most important.

There's many other things, but that's probably the most important thing.

@25:40 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

You know folks I hope you're starting to hear a trend on this podcast. minimal vile product product market fit network network like hell right get out there and meet with folks.

Tell them about your product. Tell them about your idea share your thoughts and ideas. I hear a lot of people I don't want to share my thoughts because what if somebody else takes it.

If you're new I'm always going to take your thought and idea because it takes a lot of time and effort to do it.

You have to have the passion to do it. If you have the true passion to do it, and even if somebody else does it, do it better.

Come out and do it better than them. Right. I mean, it's, it's, it's kind of that kind of a world.

Now, speaking of how can you have, you know, pictorial, you have all these other things going on? How can folks get in contact with you if they want to learn more about you?

They want to maybe connect with you, find more information, learn from you kind of, you know, how you grew your companies.

@26:29 - Vikram Chalana

How can they contact you? Yeah, I'm happy to be a mentor to entrepreneurs. I'm really happy because I've done it multiple times now.

And by the way, not that I'm an expert because every journey is different. And as you know, well, being an entrepreneur.

So LinkedIn is probably the best way I get, you could reach out to me or Just look it up and.

But yeah, LinkedIn is probably the best way to contact me.

@26:57 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Perfect. In fact, after this show, we're going a check because I think I might have a mentoring opportunity for you right now with an entrepreneur here in Oregon who's actually scaling a video app here in Oregon.

It's basically like, it's kind of like TikTok, but the videos go away within like a week or two and it's usually only like videos around your community.

and there's no friends in it. It's just kind of, it's pretty unique. So we'll touch base with that. So folks, again, if you want this information, this is a good opportunity for you to subscribe to the Shades of Entrepreneurship newsletter at

I will have victims information as well as the links to Victoria. So you can find that information. Again, I'm going to totally dive in your thing as well because it might be very beneficial to the podcast, making podcast editing, things of that nature.

@27:46 - Vikram Chalana

victims, is there anything else you'd like to say before we head out? I think the thing I love about, we've talked about Nike so many times.

And the thing I really love about Nike is they're slogan of just do it. it. And I think it applies to so many things in life, but particularly to entrepreneurship.

So a lot of people are on the fence are like, you know, hey, have this idea, should I do it?

And and you said, you said something completely true. Ideas are a dime a dozen. They're just not like, don't don't protect an idea.

Go talk, do it. Doing it is more important. So just do it. That's that's the main. Yeah.

@28:24 - Gabriel Flores (The Shades of Entrepreneurship)

Yeah. And don't don't be afraid of people poke holes in your idea. They're doing it because they they want to really help you and say, hey, does it truly is there truly a market for the problem that you're solving?

So you have a solution, but is there an actual problem in the market for it? Right. So, Vikram, thank you again so much for your time.

I really do appreciate it. Pictory. I'm going to dive into it. Folks listening, you can follow me at or you can also check us out on social media, the Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, and our new YouTube page.

Please check out the Shades of Entrepreneurship. You can also support the show by visiting patron the shades of e again that's five dollars a month to support the show.

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