Don Bosco is the founder of Bhuman.ai, a technology company creating personalized videos that are indistinguishable from recorded videos by using a mixture of proprietary voice cloning, auto lip sync, and morphing technology. Bhuman.ai raised $885k for your pre-seed round.
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Let's do it. Let's do it. Broadcasting from around the world. You're listening to the first 100 a podcast on how founders acquired their first 100 paying customers. Here's your host, Hadi Rodwan. Welcome to the show, Budon. How are you doing today? Doing great. Thanks for having me. Absolutely. It's an exciting times these days with everything AI and we have a special guest as well. Don Bosco, you run Be Human, which is a platform that creates personalized videos, but it uses an interesting technology of voice cloning, auto lip syncing, morphing, just to help you become more effective and you've raised $885,000 in pre-seed round. And let me see if I get this right. So I have a number of investors I wanna reach out to, and I wanna send them a personalized video. Now, instead of going and recording for each person a separate video, I can record it once and I can send it to hundreds in a personalized way. Did I get that right? Exactly. And the key magic here personalizing each video so that when you send it to let's say James who's at point nine venture right he gets a video that says you know hey James it's you're at point nine capital you can show this website there and then if it's Mark at Sequoia he gets a video where you're saying Mark he says Sequoia, Sequoia's website so you can get as personalized and in-depth as you'd like. Amazing I've played around with it it's very useful it's easy to use you've done an amazing job in terms the user experience. I know you're still early. So tell me, when you start a company from scratch, where do you start? Do you start by finding the founder, the idea? Are you an engineer? Have you built the product yourself? What's the key success criteria here? Yeah, well, I founded the company because I had a need for it. Actually, like I think I started building our technology before I knew what the company, what I was doing, know it, and like what the company was even becoming. So four years ago now is running a lead generation agency and it became harder and harder to book meetings, right? The average cold email, the average LinkedIn outreach just wasn't working anymore. And so I had to improvise, started to play with video, realized that worked more and more. So I started to record this one by one. So I just kind of brute forced it or record a hundred videos a day. And it worked phenomenally, but it just wasn't scalable. So that's when I thought, all right, how could we scale this with technology? Because I knew the end result was amazing, scalability that I had to build. So I'm not an engineer, not a program, not a developer. And here I set out to build groundbreaking AI. So how did I get there? Well, I started off with a very, very, very crude and rudimentary MVP, which actually you should know AI back three years ago. It was like we would just personalize the website we'd show behind the screen. So all we were doing was taking a screenshot of a website, putting it behind But it still worked, right? It was still enough. Today it's probably not enough, but back through as good as it was. So that's when I started to deploy that. And then I came up with some other crafty ways to start to now modify speech and things like that. So it was just by being very, I'd say like, resourceful and clever with what I could do with the little understanding I had. I did invest some of my lead generation's earnings into hiring a junior developer that I could afford. people in healthcare and industries didn't expect. We got to reach out from the manager team with only fans of all people. And that's when I realized, all right, this is much bigger than just a tool for my regeneration agency. So that's when I said, all right, let's start the company that I'm now wearing the shirt for, be human, and I went all in for it. So I'd say, you know, how I got started, started with just what can I do with what I have, as simple as it may be, and just start there. Amazing, thank you for sharing this, Don. We were discussing before we went live, you have more than 33,000 users on your platform, but before that you didn't have any. So take us back to your first hundred customers. How did you reach out to them? What strategies work? What stretch did not work? We tried everything under the sun, including selling the technology before it was even rebuilt. Right? So before we had a platform, we had the technology working at a very, very basic level. back end level, but there was no interface to use it with. But we needed to fund that. And we were self funded at the time. So we started to go to larger companies where we could sell it more as like a service. Right. So that was the first approach we did. And it was tough. It was incredibly tough because it was such a new concept we had to sell. Not only that it was the right thing for them, but just the concept in general. So it was like a double sell, we'd call it. Right. 10 small deals, right? And talking under 10 grand a piece, where I was able to put that back into the technology to eventually come out with a very, very basic platform. But then the platform was basically unusable because it was so buggy because of how little we had to build it with. And then how we actually started to get those users, again, tried everything under the sun, tried using channel partners, which to a degree helped, but just wasn't really scalable. Channel usually at the end of their career, who has a lot of good connections and wants to make some passive revenue. So they would open doors for us. We'd cut them a check for anything they closed over time recurring. And while it was an attractive model, it just wasn't really scalable. What really, really did it for us was having content made about us. So after enough time, when our platform started to become usable, we got picked up and some and it never worked organically. It started to happen. And then in one month we went from, I think it was like a thousand users to 21,000. So the first 100 came from just grinding, grinding, grinding, knocking on doors. But then going from, you know, a hundred to a thousand was a different story. And then a thousand to 30,000, another different story. And today, what would be your, let's say, channel that if you were starting from scratch, you would go to immediately? That's a great question. I would say, so right now affiliates are number one channel. Amazing, right? The growth there is just unparalleled. But the problem is, is affiliates when we talk about you, once you have something interesting. So it's like a chicken and the egg problem, right? Like how do you build something interesting without the traction to justify building it? So I think that our path was justified and that it helped us build as we go. We couldn't go from day one to go to affiliates because we didn't have anything to show for it. in the channel partner world because it can be a lot of talking and not lots of action. I would probably have gone for content marketing, making long-term investments in content marketing earlier on. So it's one of those things where you're at an early stage, you're just trying to get your first customer. It's the last thing you think about, but the sooner you start planting those seeds, the sooner they sprout. So I would have done that earlier on. Maybe number one during that day. Yeah. So give us your masterclass version of how to get there. How to get number one product on. Yeah. So prepare because you're going to war. I mean, I think the day we launched our product on, I didn't sleep for 24 hours. Every person I knew, I was talking to them, asking for them, hey, I know you like our product. Would you mind leaving us a comment, leaving us a review? And so everybody you know. Like, don't hold back. And especially, it was really close for us because there's another very, very, very large startup that launched that already had, I think, 50,000 GitHub stars. And we were going neck to neck and we were number one, they were number one. It was a really tight race. But ultimately, yeah, collect a big list of everyone, all your allies, all your friendlies. And there's also a timing aspect to it as well. You don't want to just blast everyone you have the second you're live. You want to time it so that there's like a surge, basically. I would say like the later part of the day, but not the last minute. You want you kind of want to do it in batches, right? Because that's how product hunt works in terms of their algorithm, in terms of ranking and showing recommendations. So for us, you know, we had a strategy and thankfully it worked, but it wasn't easy and it took everyone we knew. Yeah, that's very interesting. If you were able to crack the algorithm once, you would be able eventually to, you know, launch more successfully Which is also important to get it out because as you mentioned product hunt is a community So there's always people looking up for productivity hacks things that could boost their revenue and their company So I mean good is for you because it is really hard to go number one on such platform Another question that I'm very interested in is how do you break down your decision-making? How do you prioritize what to build what not to build? what you actually still do as a founder today? That's a really great question. So I think I'm still learning a lot of this. Early on, we tried to build everything for everyone. What I've learned at least in what we've implemented is try to do less and focus more. So if you have a pool, 100% of your users, well, maybe, you really only make 70% of them happy, million people or some extraordinary number. And just because you get every now and again someone complaining because they don't offer some feature that would represent their category, don't let that sway you. I'll give you an example. One of the things that we prioritized early on was representing all accents for our voice cloning. So whether you're learning English as a second language, whether you were born in the US, we wanted to have the perfect voice cloning for you. to do that, it took a lot of resources. And if you look at our user base, the distribution, especially those who are on pay plans, most are from the US, from Canada, they grew up speaking English. And therefore, it probably wasn't a wise decision to spend all those resources, at least early on at this point. So one piece of advice I would give to someone starting out is like, do as little as possible, but do it very, very well. And then in terms of a really chaotic, organized chaos sort of model, you can call it a model, it's more like a natural way that the system has formed and every culture is different, every company is different, we're like yourself and Tyler, we're mode happy and so based on what time zone people are in and just the different web of relationships, we all found a way to work together and natural system developed. Now I know it's not going to scale, you know, to 200 employees but for great. So there's a time and a place for everything to recognize this isn't something you can have forever. But in the meantime, I'm part of the decision need to be made. I make them. However, we work together and we share responsibility and share ownership as much as possible. Amazing. So acquisition is one part of a glass full, then you have the other part where it's retention. So how do you ensure today that someone who tries it comes back and uses it again? Yeah, fabulous question. that we're only now wrestling with and starting to understand. And this kind of comes back to try don't try to do everything for everyone because when you try to do, especially a product like us, like people in over 17 industries use us at probably over 50 countries around the world like where you have such a vast distribution of users that to make one flow that makes them all happy it's pretty much impossible. So focus on one flow or a couple flows that makes 70% of results. And if you lose 30%, so be it. That's just sort of the numbers. But the main thing is that you have to get at least some people to that repeatable, successful result. That's something that, again, we tried to create a system that can do everything. And therefore, in practice, for some people who weren't patient enough to learn how it works, could do nothing. So that was one sand trap we fell into. We're getting out of it. One really interesting tactic we've employed that's been working really well. I think this goes back to communication. If you're some sort of product. Communication is super important to tell people that you're improving things all the time and their feedback is taken into consideration. One thing we do is like when you go, probably shouldn't say this because now all of our paid users who hear this will do this. If you go to our platform and you try to downgrade, we give you an offer. We say, okay, you're on the growth plan, for example. We're going to give you the growth plan for free, indefinitely. It could be one month, it could be 12 months. Just first tell us what you're having isn't good enough or the platform is too hard to use the UI is bad, right? You tell us what it is. We'll fix that. When we fix that, we'll tell you. You get one more free month to evaluate the product, see if we've fixed it to your satisfaction. If not, you're downgrade, no problem. If you feel we have, then you continue on the active plan again. So we know that we can't retain everyone right now, but at least we want to communicate as much as possible and build safety nets to catch people because even though they might not be a paid four months down the line, they're going to be easier to convert than a new customer who's never heard of us. This is a great strategy. I had a guest that runs a company that exactly does this. They have a platform and a technology that helps you optimize retention for the churned customers. So they're leaving. You don't want to use that. I think I came across the same strategy with ClassPass, which are very famous with this. You don't want to leave. at this console, that's a very interesting way to look at it. Another question for you, Don, is what's a principle that, or multiple principles that you live by that has helped you successfully launch your company? I would say the first thing is be utility focused. So I think I see a lot of this, and I have to guide even our own team back to this, is like, always have the user utility as your North Star. What are people here to do? What is the end result they want to achieve? dictate what you build, that has to dictate what the engineering is. So the classic business story about this is general magic. I think they were out in the 90s, early 2000s building really, really cool technology that's 20 years ahead of its time, but too far ahead of its time that it doesn't get adopted and it's not really practical and doesn't really solve people's problems, which is what we're here to do. So follow your North Star, which is customer utility. Listen as much as possible. I'd say over communicate. Like I host live streams three times a week. Sometimes two people show up. Sometimes 30 people show up. But just the fact that people see that we are as transparent as, you know, communicative as possible gives a really good image of a brand that we're not some flash in the pan thing that's kind of, maybe it will be there in two months. Maybe it won't. It shows that we really, really care about what we're doing. Almost like a craftsman cares about what he's building. So yeah, that's what I would say. And being at the top is sometimes lonely, and it brings this, what we call entrepreneurs anxiety. How have you dealt with this? If you have any strategies to cope with any form of anxiety that comes with a job? Yeah, that's a good question. Of course, disconnecting is important every now and again. I would say that I'm in the trenches a lot. I'm working with the team, oftentimes doing work that I think is beneath the rest of the team. So I'll take care of it right? Because you're an engineer, you're an AI researcher, I'll take care of this more manual task. And I think being involved in even the small things can give you a sense of connection to all parts of the company. I think anxiety can come from feeling like you're not in control of what's happening. And when you have more visibility by actually doing things that maybe you shouldn't do, right, classically, but it gives you a sense of connection to all aspects of the business. I think that's been unintentionally, that's been very helpful to me. Aside from that, I'd say just like have fun with it. Like be weird, be funny, enjoy yourself because why are we here anyways? You know what I mean? So I all the times like I'll joke around with our customers, like we'll just send funny gifts in the chat. Like, and people love us for that because they feel like they can have fun with us too. But we also are sharp in what we're doing. Right. So I think that combination has been helpful. Don't take it too seriously. Thank you for sharing this, Don. in 12 months. Sure. So we're raising a seed right now, hoping to close that out in the next two or three months. And then from there, doubling down on our technology. And there's a moonshot project as well we've been working on, which has been in stealth for about over a year now, but we're releasing an alpha version. And I see this as the evolution of the company. So right now we're all about, hey, you only have a list of people, whether it's a 10,000 BCs you want to talk to, or it's all your Shopify customers whenever they abandon car and you want to reach out to them. Oh, we can reach out with personalized video. It looks like you're actually saying these words and you just made a video for them and your rates are going to skyrocket. Right. What we're moving towards on top of that is the ability to actually clone yourself in a more meaningful way. So working on a protocol persona, which basically will learn everything about you and create a knowledge base of you. And it will be able to then create in our video technology, which has been our focus, then recreate you in conversation. So, Hattie, I can collect everything you know by listening into all your meetings, by listening to all your emails, anywhere that you have communication that you can be permissioned to, build a knowledge base for Hattie, then recreate Hattie into a video form where he's blinking and moving and talking and it sounds like him and looks like him, the same prostate that he uses, and then be able to deploy that into conversations. towards is essentially a digital twin that can do as much work for you as possible so you can focus on the creative new tasks, new things that you knew, not just repeating the same information over and over again, but actually process of creation. That for us is the long-term vision and step by step, it's where we're headed. This is amazing and we wish you the best of luck. Where can people reach you Don? just the letter B and then human.ai, or on LinkedIn, Instagram, TikTok, everywhere, every social media platform you can find us. I have live streams three times a week where I go through the platform answering questions. So yeah, we're always around. You can find us anywhere and we'd love to hear from you. Amazing, Don. We wish you the best of luck. Be human, we'll put everything in the show notes. Thank you for coming to our show and sharing your startup story. Excellent questions. Thank you so much for listening to the first 100. We hope it inspired you in your journey. If you're enjoying the podcast, please subscribe to our podcast on Apple iTunes, Stitcher, Google Play, or Spotify, and share it with a friend starting their entrepreneurship journey. Leave us a five-star review. Your support will help spread our podcast to more viewers.