Get ready to be inspired by the incredible story of Prateek Panda, a 19-year-old who faced the daunting challenge of steering a struggling company that had just started.
Instead of giving up, Prateek harnessed his confidence and strength to turn things around with a bold marketing plan.
Buckle up as we embark on a thrilling journey filled with trust, risks, and courage, witnessing Prateek's incredible transformation from corporate failure to monumental success. Don't miss out on this adrenaline-fueled roller coaster ride - it's a story you won't want to miss!
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The UnNoticed Entrepreneur is hosted & produced by Jim James.
Jim James (00:02.498)
Hello, and welcome to this episode of The Unnoticed Entrepreneur with me, Jim James, your host. Today we're going to actually to India to meet Prateek Panda who's normally in San Francisco, but right now is in India. Prateek, welcome to the show. Hello, and welcome to The Unnoticed Entrepreneur with me, Jim James, your host.
Prateek Panda (00:19.264)
Thank you so much Jim, it's a pleasure to be here.
Jim James (00:21.802)
Well Prateek it's a pleasure to have you here because you have built multiple businesses since the age of 19, I think you're saying as an entrepreneur. But we're also going to talk today about how you managed to take a business at NOx, which was really on its last throes and with a very brave publicity campaign that could have either ended or made the business. You took the risk and you went out and you're…
and you took a risk and it paid off and now that business is really successful. You're going to help us also to understand about Filla, which is a company that helps you to determine whether the influences that you're working with are adding value or not. And we're talking about nano influences in B2B. So we've got a number of things to talk about today. So Prateek Panda joining us. Tell us then first of all about this story you were sharing before we got talking about.
The business that you had, Apnox, was on its last legs and in the security business. And no one wanted to do business because you were a startup, but you had to get a client. How did you solve that problem?
Prateek Panda (01:35.536)
Yeah, so happy to talk about that, right? And it was an interesting part of the journey. And even just to give a little bit of background, App Knox is in its simplest form, mobile app security solution that helps developers detect and resolve security issues in their apps. Now with that context, what we were going through is like, we had a good time, a good early run, and we had a lot of initial early investor interest.
raised money for our seed round, got to a few first customers. And subsequently, we got to a phase about two, two and a half years when the product was getting matured. But we were struggling to add more customers. And it was a challenge. And we had a series of months of flat revenue. Couldn't grow new revenue. We were adding new customers, but we were also losing customers.
At that point, what we had noticed was that the segment that worked best for us for security was particularly finance apps, and that means like banks. But the challenge was that whenever we used to go to a bank, they would not want to work with a small startup. So it was this catch-22 sort of problem where we are like, okay, how do we get into one and then open up the doors? And we figured that one way to get there to the banks...
would be to get through some large, well-known tech companies, tech startups, who would be willing to work with us and therefore leverage on their momentum and their brand to establish ourselves as a strong player in the security space. Now, what happened is there was a particular app, which is an Uber competitor in India. It's a large app, millions of tens of millions of users, to be honest. And
My security team found a major security vulnerability in their app, which allowed people to take rides for free. So they had a digital wallet feature. You could load money into the wallet to pay for rides. But the security issue was allowing people to replicate the transaction multiple times. So you could only, you would pay once using your credit card, but you could repeat that transaction again and again to keep reloading your wallet with money, actually without paying for money. So...
Prateek Panda (03:56.692)
You know, my team was very excited. They were like, hey, we can all take free rides as much as we want. And I'm like, OK, we have a bigger purpose here. We don't worry about free cab rides right now. So we started reaching out to this company right from the CEO to product folks, CTO, and so on. And we really struggled to get responses. We kept getting thrown from one team to another and from one person to another. Like, hey, this person takes care of it. Go talk to him, whatever. Right?
Jim James (04:04.706)
Prateek Panda (04:25.14)
And that went on for a few months. Like four months in, we are still there, not able to have a conversation. And at some point, we decided that, hey, let's go ahead and do a blog post about this. We will let the company know that we are going to do a blog post about this, give them 30 days to fix this issue or acknowledge the issue. If they do that, we will not publish the post. If they don't, we'll go ahead and publish the post. So we tried to give them as much heads up and kept getting ignored.
not actually ignored, they would respond back to our email saying that, hey, this is not a priority for us, it's not a real issue, nobody exploits this, and we used to keep sending over examples of, hey, we are still able to do the exploit. So at some point, this was a scary moment for me, particularly because I was the co-founder, but also leading marketing, and we were going to throw ourselves out there.
and make this big claim. Of course, we had all the data and examples to back it up. But it could have really gone either way. I was prepared that either it's going to give us a lot of visibility or bury us in a series of lawsuits. And I remember the next morning we were going to publish this blog post. And the previous night, I had given my investors a call. And I was like, hey, I'm worried about how this is going to go.
And what if all we have to deal with is lawsuit after lawsuit? And they were like, hey, we've given this company enough time. Let's go ahead and do this. Let's try it out. And if you guys need legal help in the future, we'll figure out a way to help you out. So I think as I was in my mid-20s at that point, and I don't think I had built enough confidence for myself as a leader back then as well, to be honest.
So this support from our investors definitely gave me more confidence. I mean, like, okay, let's do this. So next morning we published that blog through the day. It got carried in a lot of, you know, online publications. The morning after that, it was on the front page of every business daily in India, every business daily. So the top news, the top first fold was about this story. And that was big, right? For the next whole week, I did.
Prateek Panda (06:42.12)
No work, to be honest. I was only answering journalist calls and, as expected, lawyer calls from this particular company that wanted to sue us. So that was a particularly scary time, but it opened up doors for a lot of opportunity for us. The sales team got a lot of business out of it. We closed about 20 new accounts within the next week or 10 days, all of them excited to start working with us.
Jim James (06:43.546)
Prateek Panda (07:11.84)
And pretty much, although I was worried about the lawyer phone calls, that also died down in about three days. And I later found out through a buddy of mine who used to work for the same company that they were actually planning to do a major product release a month from that time. And they sort of moved their date in advance to launch something more quickly to create a positive spin on something else. And yes, they spent a time.
ton of money, buying ad space in all the newspapers to promote that particular product and so on. And I still remember all of us co-founders and we were a small team back then. I think we were less than 12 people. We had a tiny office on the top of a terrace building, which would technically not even qualify for an office. And we used to work out of that space. And we sat down there trying to think, imagine the amount of money these guys spent.
in this whole PR thing to cover up for all the bad press that they got because of our article. They could have just been more open about, yes, there is a security issue, we'll resolve it. Thanks for letting us know. But anyway, so that basically put us on the front page of business in India, Southeast Asia, and that kept the phone ringing for a fair amount of time. And it got us pretty much back out of the dead.
So, you know, yeah.
Jim James (08:40.13)
Yeah, that's very brave because I used to show clients in my PR firm, I'd show clients the coverage they were not getting and the things they were missing and the holes in their social media strategy. You'd always feel it's a double-edged sword because if the person inside the room that you were presenting to was responsible for that strategy, you knew you were insulting them, right? You played that out fantastically.
And so you will manage then to get App Knox, you know, it sounds like then it flew. Um, but you also then I think found that as a result of doing that, just how important in B2B especially one person can be inside a company, right? So you're now working at a company called, uh, Philo, uh, which is building, uh, it's an API platform for the creator industries.
measure influences. Do you want to just tell us then a little bit about influences and what you learned from that first publicity exercise and then how that's parlayed into this new business?
Prateek Panda (09:52.032)
You know, Jim, right now in today's day, this whole thing around influencers and creators has become very flashy and almost celebrity status-like. But honestly, the concept of influence has always existed. You look down in your families, and you might always have one person that somebody calls up to ask for tech advice or somebody who's great with the barbecue. And we all have.
that kind of person in our life. So the concept of influence has always existed. Influence of marketing as a channel is relatively new. Now, going back to the App Nock story as well, that particular publicity, I can call it publicity stunt now, was essentially something that opened up doors for us. But there was one person in particular, a security leader for one of the largest private banks in India.
He got really interested and he was like, hey, I understand you guys are a small player, a small startup. We'll find a way to engage with you for a couple of projects and let's see how that works. And he was supremely impressed by our tech and what we could do that he was the one who started talking to other CIOs of banks and telling them that, hey, talk to these guys. They're great. We are using them. And you know.
That's where the whole concept of influence also started making sense for us, because it also opened up doors to something called as the National Payments Corporation of India, which was basically a regulatory body defining certain rules around payments and for interfaces and new payments interfaces. And then they mandated that every company that launches an app conforming to this new payment interface needs to go through App Knox for a security audit and they will cover the expense for it.
the banks don't have to pay or the app builders don't have to pay. So it sort of gave everybody a easy way to experience App Knox and that opened up even doors further, right? So essentially one action led to so many and then one person and their influence sort of opened up so many more doors for us, right? We could have pretty much been a dead business by then, right? And that's what we are trying to extrapolate at Philo as well. And I think every business owner has had
Prateek Panda (12:14.256)
some of these experience, we just don't realize that, you know, what's happening behind the scenes. So at Philo, what we are essentially trying to do is establish influencer marketing and the creator economy as a legit industry. And at the same time, you know, there is a ton of data in this space and a lot of brands, at least in the recent past, big ones like,
the Coca-Cola's and the Chanel's of the world have used influencers and more importantly, celebrity influencers to propagate their brand. What we are trying to say is that you could also focus more on the ROI part. And I personally think that as a marketer, influencer marketing is going to become part of the performance marketing piece pretty soon because it has all the elements to be a ROI-driven channel. And what we are...
doing with Philo is providing these APIs to companies who are building influencer marketing tools, who are building creator economy tools to really leverage all this data that is there on social platforms for influencers. And therefore, focus more on ROI, return, success, and explore this as a legit channel for growth.
Jim James (13:35.174)
When you say influencer marketing, and we used to call them evangelists, right? Often in the software, early days, we called them a product evangelist, for example. When you say now there can be an ROI attached to an influence, especially in the B2B space where it's not about fashion, you know, it's about trust and it's about longevity and integration.
Jim James (14:04.034)
demonstrated by the influencers and using a platform like Filo to do that.
Prateek Panda (14:11.288)
Yeah, so, you know, this is like a tip to all B2B entrepreneurs as well as B2B marketers. The competition is pretty low on the influencer channel as far as B2B products is concerned because people are still figuring out the way to do it. Or a lot of people still think that it's a very B2C sort of channel, right? Because like you said, it's not a fashion product, it's not a beauty product, it's not somebody that you can, you know,
just quickly send some product samples to, and they will show it around. It's tougher in the B2B space. But that also makes it a more collaborative effort, which means even the influencer is trying to put in more effort to go try your product, experience it, and therefore talk about it in a better way. And going back to your question, it's essentially one of those examples where it's a
Jim James (14:43.66)
Prateek Panda (15:09.144)
fairly less leveraged channel in today's date and therefore gives you an opportunity to, you know, lead from the front. And with products like Philo now in existence, which really enable you to track things more effectively, tracking that ROI part becomes relatively easier, right? A few years ago, that was just not possible because you couldn't trace that path.
unless it's a very pure play. You put a tracking URL, give a link to a Shopify store or a product, and therefore are able to track it. But the thing with influencers, and this is a big challenge in the marketing space even today, and that is the challenge of attribution. We recently did a big campaign for Philo, and we worked with a TikTok influencer who made this post about our platform, and he was amazed by what we were building.
And his audience is largely other marketers who were also pretty excited. Now, we didn't put any sort of tracking URLs on that promotion. People saw the video, came onto the website, saw the signed up. We got more than 100 sign ups in a matter of days, and a lot of them becoming paid customers subsequently. Now, if you go to the attribution data for that, it's going to show up as direct traffic or something because we didn't really provide a link on that post.
But as marketers, we need to go figure out these methods of measurement also. And that's what also we are trying to do on the fellow side, right? So you might collaborate with influencers where there are clear tracking links, but there might be times when you're not providing tracking URLs for whatever reason. And it can still attribute. You can still attribute that growth to this particular effort, right? So I think all in all, that enables us to drive more ROI out of this channel.
Jim James (17:00.73)
So just to be clear with Philo, you can either as an influencer, build, if you like, an API that enables you to demonstrate your value to a brand. Right. And also if you're a company that wants to employ an influencer, you could be building the API and tracking, I guess you could have multiple influencers, right? Or within your dashboard to see how your army of influencers are working out for
with their, either their videos or their podcast performances and so on. Is that right, Prateek? So actually you're solving problems at both sides of the equation, the buyer and the seller.
Prateek Panda (17:35.256)
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. And we enable a lot of these influencer marketing platforms as well as influencer marketing agencies do a better job with finding the right influencers, running effective campaigns, measuring success better, and then reporting them better also, right? Through the use of all of the APIs that we provide because our APIs give you more knowledge and data real time about
engagement, income, demographic information, and so much more about every influencer and their audience on pretty much every social platform. And that includes hundreds of social platforms. We tend to think that, OK, the world is limited to Instagram and YouTube and TikTok. But there are so many others. Shopify is also a platform like that, which enables people to make money. OnlyFans.
You know or so many, you know be high sort of newsletter platforms all of the podcasts, right? So Spotify if you're running a podcast on Spotify and you're monetizing that you're still a creator You're still an influencer, but there are so many platforms that we try to cover And and therefore get all the data together
Jim James (18:48.578)
I think that is so liberating. Actually, you're going to help creators and influencers to monetize their value, right? You're going to help all those people that are looking to hire influencers to have the accountability, right? Which has been really missing, especially there are so many stories of influencers just charging wild amounts of money and they're not actually delivering. That's fantastic, Prateek. Prateek, we'll put a link to…
Prateek Panda (19:07.84)
Jim James (19:15.362)
Philo in the show notes, of course, as well. And I guess coupled with a platform like Analytica, where there's kind of a marketplace of influencers, you're really solving the complete problem for both B2B and B2C influencers. Prateek you've had an illustrious career. You started App Knox. I love that story, by the way, of really taking a risk and calling out a flaw and prompting the market to move. And what you do with Philo as well.
Is there something that you've experienced or tried from a marketing perspective that you wouldn't recommend that really hasn't worked out quite as you'd like?
Prateek Panda (19:55.928)
I mean, so many things, Jim. I mean, as a marketer, I think the honest thing that I can tell you is you might think something works today and the same thing doesn't work tomorrow. So what the advice I would give at least is there are a lot of things that work and don't work, but it's mostly on the timing part of it, as well as whether you really know whether that's a good channel for you or not, right? And I'll give you an example. I've spent more than a decade running paid ads on all sorts of platforms, right?
LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Google search, all of them. I've spent millions over the years running ads across all of these platforms. Now, the thing is that we've learned early on in my startup day as well that in the first year or two, our ads were just not performing for us. And there's a reason for that. It's not that the ads are not a great way for you to acquire customers.
But the challenge at that point was that we didn't really have a trustworthy brand established at that point. And you have to understand that buyers have evolved as well, and everybody does their own research. And especially in today's day, people have all sorts of ad blockers on and so many other things as well. So the efficiency or the viability of performance or paid marketing ads.
has really dwindled over time. And that doesn't mean that it's a bad channel. You just have to know that, OK, it doesn't work for me right now. I'm going to focus on something else and come back to it when we have a better brand and things like that. So as we acquired more known logos on the website, we got a bunch of G2 crowd batches and all that. That built trust and faith. And now putting that onto your ads immediately builds that trust factor.
people want to now interact with that ad, it makes sense. OK, this company looks interesting and it's not going to scam me out of money or whatever. And therefore, I'll go spend time with them. So there are numerous such experiments that we've run. Something works, something doesn't. You just have to take that as a learning. And always, I would suggest, revisit it. Never make a channel not worthy of your time at all. It might not work today. But it's worth it.
Jim James (21:58.722)
Prateek Panda (22:17.236)
It might be something to visit in six months time or 12 months time or more.
Jim James (22:21.934)
I love that idea that you're experimenting rather than trying and failing. And there's this book called Think Again by Adam Grant that I just finished. He really talks about trying to think like a scientist. He tried something, analyzed the data and picked apart the data rather than just wholesale say, yes, that worked, it didn't. So that's great that you go back into Google Ads, but when the product and the company is more mature and then the...
The same platform is productive for you, Prateek. That's fantastic. Prateek Panda, you're on here, but as one of the founders of App Knox, now you're the Vice President of Marketing at Philo. You've had, I think, multiple businesses started and exits, and I'm sure you're gonna have more in the future. If there was one piece of advice that you'd give my fellow unnoticed entrepreneurs on getting noticed, what would that be?
Prateek Panda (23:18.148)
That's an interesting one. I think, you know, one of the things that basically stops us the most as entrepreneurs is just as Reluctant to put ourselves out there it is very comforting to stay within the four walls of your house sitting in front of your machine or within the cozy atmosphere of your office and Continuing to just go build without putting yourself out there and you know, you can still be in that environment but you really have to
put yourself out there. And a great example is even this podcast. I mean, I started being more active, putting out content on LinkedIn around product marketing, around influencer marketing, things that I'm learning myself, but things that I have gotten better at over time. I'm purely trying to share my learnings and experiences with others. And that got both of us, I think, interacted on some posts together. And then
we got connected and you helped me get connected to some other folks as well. And so that's how it happens right now. Imagine if I would never even put myself out there, right? It's not going to move the needle. So the simplest way, and it doesn't take much effort, we might feel very conscious about doing it, but the simplest way I think to get noticed as an entrepreneur is to do just that, put yourself out there and you will get noticed. You might feel demotivated at first, but just keep doing it.
people will start noticing you.
Jim James (24:44.514)
Prateek Panda, I love that. Essentially, that's a very positive humanistic approach and a low tech one, right? It's not about using AI, it's just about being yourself. And yeah, I reached out to you because I love what you opposed to on LinkedIn. And you kindly agreed to come on the show. If people would like to find out more about you, Prateek Panda, where can they do that?
Prateek Panda (25:03.688)
LinkedIn is the best way. I think I would appreciate, Jim, if you drop a link to my LinkedIn profile and people can reach out. I think my contact details are in there as well. But I'm very responsive on LinkedIn. So that's the best way to get in touch with me.
Jim James (25:19.69)
We'll definitely do that. Prateek Panda, thank you so much for joining me. I know that you're in a temporary location in India, normally back in the US. So thank you for taking the time while you're off site to join me today on the Unnoticed Entrepreneur Show.
Prateek Panda (25:30.784)
Thank you so much, Jim. It was great being on the show and it was an amazing experience sharing my side of the story.
Jim James (25:37.97)
Yeah, it's lovely because I know Prateek has his own podcast as well. And it's wonderful. We'll put a link to his show as well. Prateek, what's your show called?
Prateek Panda (25:47.208)
It's called Impulse. It's like a influencer marketing pulse check. So therefore Impulse, it's a podcast where I talk to influencer marketers from around the world, B2B, B2C, get to know about how they are doing influencer marketing, what's working for them, what's not working for them. You know, and it's the first time I'm doing the podcast as well and I'm having a lot of fun hosting it.
Jim James (26:13.678)
there we go. He's got a chance to be on the mic with me and then other people on the mic with him. Podcasting is another great platform of reaching out. Thank you for listening, as always, to me having a guest. Wonderful to have had to critique on the show today. This idea that he's taking a risk of calling out the floor in his potential customers' services and products, it took a lot
Prateek Panda (26:20.06)
Jim James (26:43.202)
and ultimately yielded a great benefit. So maybe that's a strategy for you, but do, as he did, think about the due diligence in advance and make sure that the customer doesn't feel as though they're being held hostage. So thanks for listening to this episode of the Unnoticed Entrepreneur. If you've enjoyed it, please do share it, follow the show. And if you can leave a review, that would be fantastic on whatever player it is that you've got. And until we meet again, I just encourage you to keep on communicating.
Thanks for listening.