With Locale's public launch a few days away, I reminiscing about the time when we first set foot in this completely alien city of Bangalore about 15 months ago. We had a very limited time to figure things out, given the meager runaway we were running on. We have definitely come a long way from that day and being able to launch is like a dream come true!
Just like how a ship with winds in its sails needs a rudder for direction, a business which is hatching out of the eggs also requires close attention. It needs mentorship from someone who has been through the same process, fallen lots of times and gotten up as many times, at least until it learns to fly on it own.
In this blog, we share with the world, Locale's stories through the eyes of our investors– our treasuries and general counsels in this journey. We wouldn't have been here if not for their support through thick and thin despite all the hindrances that came our way.
Here's Locale's narrative through the lens of all our investors:
- Vaibhav Domkundwar (CEO, Better Capital)
- Pallav Nadhani (ex-Founder, Fusion Charts)
- Raveen Sastry (Founding Partner, Multiply Ventures)
- Nachiketas Ramanujam (Co-founder, CreatorStack)
First Meetings and Lasting Impressions
(1) You have been involved in Locale from the very beginning. What did you think was unique about the founders?
Nachiketas: "What I saw in the founders (Rishabh and Aditi) is what I see in a lot of entrepreneurs. A genuine curiosity, passion toward solving what they saw as a problem, the confidence to imagine a better world, and the audacity to start up without having the protective railings. As an angel investor in the past and in the VC world now, I have come to understand this as a people business.
We can’t predict the future, but we invest in people we believe can build it. As an entrepreneur you have to be resilient to rejection, and perseverance to achieve your goals. That’s what I saw the first time I met Rishabh and Aditi. They were passionate about the problem and wouldn’t take no for an answer.
I spent weeks studying GIS industry and location intelligence to see its far-reaching potential. The jury is still out on how well me or the industry at large understands this. But I am willing to bet that the Locale team can make it happen."
(2) What was your impression of the founders when you first met them?
Raveen: "When I first met Aditi, my impression was that she is someone who I want to partner with. She had the conviction, openness and a quiet confidence that I haven't seen in many entrepreneurs. I remember this moment very vividly after she finished pitching, I turned to my partner and said, "Basically, they want to create area cohorts for location-sensitive companies just like we create user cohorts for marketing promotions".
Meeting Rishabh was a similar experience as well. With deep knowledge about the industry, competitor products and geospatial technology, he came through as a guy who understands what he is building. It was a no-brainer because I also understand and resonate with their vision deeply."
(3) You invested very early in Locale. What about Locale stood out to you?
Steve: "Quite frankly, it was the passion and commitment of the founders– how they were equally driven and dedicated. I remember when I came across the company's blog and the founders' social media profiles and was quite impressed. Rishabh and Aditi were fearless and relentless. The product and the vision also had an important role to play into my decision but the first hook was the pure drive of the founders for me."
The Problem and Locale's Premise
(4) What made you lead Locale's pre-seed round as the investor?
Vaibhav: "I belong to the pre-Twilio world when telephony was an island of its own and software people had tied together painful hardware to send an SMS via their program. Can you believe that now? Twilio made it 2 lines of code - it made telephony (text and call) accessible to software engineers in just 2 lines of code.
Location data is in a similar state right now. It's coming at us at an unprecedented speed but we just don't know how to use it to improve our business metrics. I could see how Locale could do to location data what Twilio did to telephony. It is that powerful of an opportunity.”
A good part of the world's businesses has moving assets - supply and/or demand - and these assets are constantly pinging their location data. Businesses can improve on a wide range of metrics by harnessing the “knowledge” inside this location data - user behavior, demand-supply gaps, choke points, bad behavior and so much more.
I still remember my first conversation with Rishabh and Aditi - and I remember that it was an immediate YES for me. I led the round and have been thrilled with how well the Locale team has executed so far. It is not easy to build a new category product but Locale has led with educating which is key. It will be a product that will be used across an organization including sales, marketing, operations and finance teams - all collaborating on this “Figma for Location Analytics” platform.”
(5) What problems do you potentially see in companies building internal tools for their analysis of location data?
Nachi: "The last decade has seen companies shift towards a model of hyper local management of their businesses. Henceforth, companies need to get visibility into their ground operations very granularly with location data. Presently, they try to tackle this in two ways:
- Internal tools: Companies often try to ask their engineering teams to build dashboards to crunch their location data and create insights to help decision makers take calls on various issues. The major problems with this approach is that it often takes engineering teams weeks to build dashboards, and these are not always scalable. Additionally, this extra pressure deviates the engineering team from their purpose of focusing singularly on building a world-class product.
- Outsourcing: Sometimes, companies hire external data consultants to solve these problems and build their dashboards for them. This saves time for the engineering teams, but it ends up costing a large sum of money, and the dashboards have to be rebuilt every time some new metric has to be measured.
The “build instead of buy” culture often tries to overlook the value that a SaaS product brings to the company in terms of saving time and effort of all members of the company. This is especially true for companies working in India, but the focus is slowly shifting towards an impact oriented approach, instead of a short term cost oriented one.
Hopefully, Locale will succeed in doing that for geolocation and operations similar to what tools such as Mixpanel and Amplitude did for product and marketing teams."
(6) Since you come from a data and analytics background, what do you think is the most important challenge that analytics teams still face?
Raveen: "In analytics the most important challenge is data. Most customers still don't have the data in the format that is usable. So, as a platform, collecting and cleaning the data becomes incredibly important. The other large problem I've found is the company's ability to define what they are looking for from the data. Which is why for a platform it's incredibly important to build for specific use cases that actually answers the question for organizations.
We have engineered Locale in a way that you get the best of both worlds: It helps you get all your raw lat-long data from across databases and sources into one place so that you don't need to code or write any queries to get any insights. It also shows you the top use cases for your industry giving you a head start in terms of what you need to start measuring from the point of view of location analytics."
The Journey Along with its Final Lap: The Launch!
(7) What are the defining aspects about Locale that makes it exciting? What makes you look forward to Locale's launch?
Pallav: "A very under-practiced facet of entrepreneurship is storytelling. As a startup, you have a story regarding your selves and the problem that you plan to solve. That story not only helps you sell, but also shows investors that you, as a good storyteller, care about the problem enough to solve it. That is something I have always appreciated about Locale. Aditi, Rishabh and the entire Locale team have a tremendous story to tell- something that is visible from their blog and their social media.
Another aspect which I find quite exciting is their product-first approach– orienting a culture that ensures that most of their efforts have gone towards creating a product that fits the needs of companies all over the world through deep user research.
What makes me very excited as an investor is to see people use data wisely and not relying on gut or archaic processes or models to take decisions. I am looking forward to see all the decisions and strategies where people will deploy Locale. I have closely seen Locale's journey since the start, and I am convinced they will have a significant impact on next-generation mobility and logistics companies. We have already seen promising results with some early customers and pilots."
(8) With Locale's launch coming soon, how do you think their journey has evolved? Where do you see Locale in the next few years?
Nachi: "If I have to say in one word, Tremendous. The progress has been tremendous. I am quite happy to see how they have evolved over time as founders, as a team, and with the product. They have built a wonderful culture centered on learning and execution. While they started out in India, I think enterprises here are still to attain maturity in enterprises when adopting SaaS products. There is still a reluctance towards buy and reliance on build culture.
Hence, I call this phase of Locale, the baptism by fire. But global markets (US, EU) are different where products that impact capital as well as business efficiency find it easier to get traction. I am glad Locale is heading into international waters and are prepared for it.
(9) Why do you think companies with ground operations need to use a product like this?
Vaibhav: "Where has become the most important questions of our times and more so amidst the global pandemic. Where do we have more infections? Where do we have the most demand surge? Where are we constantly failing behind delivery times? Where are my trucks not utilized efficiently? Where are we losing the most amount of money? Locale aims help business teams get real-time localized insights without relying on their engineering teams or data analysts.
If you are looking to become operationally efficient and increase user conversions and asset utilization, Locale is the fastest way to convert location data into easily searchable intelligence and the right insights."
One of the most understated reasons behind any successful business is a group of people who place their trust in the idea, the vision of the founders, and help them work through their blind spots. We would like to thank all our investors for their support and mentorship in building Locale.
Side Note: We are launching our product publicly soon. With this launch, you would be able to choose your industry and experience all the use cases Locale can help with. Hence, we are constantly looking for people who would like an early access. Get in touch with me on Twitter in case you want the access or if you would like to discuss more!