Imagine creating one of the country's biggest and most iconic businesses without a single group of VC money and Dyle bootstrap. That's the zero dollars story. There's a fintech that's financial technology revolution that's taking up the country. More and more people all over the country are choosing to invest their own money, bigger of their own personal finances through the medium of technology.
So this is an extremely detailed, extremely rich conversation with Nitin Gamete. In the first part, he's just going to take us through the story of zero about what happened before Xeloda. How did he educate himself? How did he make himself prepared in order to execute this kind of a business? And Part two will be much more about his personal side of things, as well as detailed personal finance, education. They're both fantastic episodes. In fact, I'm recording this intro right after I've done the episode with Nitin.
And trust me, guys, there's so much to learn from each podcast, but this is one of those podcast I'm extremely proud of that this kind of information, this kind of education, this kind of knowledge was put through the medium of the runway show once again.
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Follow us on Instagram. What are you doing? But for now, enjoy yourself. This is the Z with horror story like never before. Lots to learn. Lots of inspiration back into this one. It's a story telling finance and deep entrepreneurship based podcast, I've Got Nothing Gullit from Zero, the welcome to the runway show, brother.
Thanks. Thanks for having me on the team. What is the secret to creating a mammoth but bootstrapped organization, and I just want to give the viewers some context, is a lot of people who don't understand what the term bootstrap means. So there's two ways to make money for your company once you start. One is that you raise money through investors and the other is that you create a product, you play a basic profit and loss game. You accumulate profits and then put it back into the business and that's how you grow it out.
Coming back to the question. So that's that's your identity.
What is the biggest secret to playing this bootstrap game? Because it's not easy. The thing is, you know, you remember back in college, there was this girl who was to date No one and everyone wants to date that girl. So, you know, not raising easy money has made us into one of those kind of girls, like everyone in town is interested to figure. What is that if you do and everyone wants to date you. And I said, so now there's I don't know if I think, you know, this whole country has kind of gotten stuck into this success equal to raising money, which which isn't really true.
Successful businesses, you know, the business can make money or not, which is. And the thing is, because we didn't raise the money when we started the business, we were forced to go and find ways to be profitable. Right. And and once we started making some money without what's the point of raising the money? There is a lot of independence that comes along by just remaining bootstrapped and not having more then to raise a business. And we wonder where this mama.
I keep telling this to some of my guys know is that we are like an elephant that runs like a cheetah. And the reason for the nimbleness is not having all this professional investors whom you have to go and ask questions before your decisions are taken. So, like, I could be having this conversation with you, take an idea from you and on Monday morning, go and execute it. And and that nimbleness has been the success for the business.
And and. Yeah, so that's I mean, why bootstrapped when you started off? No one was really interested in giving money. And then when they started making money, then we saw no point in doing it. Right. And the other angle that I don't know, most people don't even the young folks don't understand in India, making profits and taking money from a company is a lot more expensive than getting a visa to invest and take money and explaining why.
Right. So you make a profit as a company, you know, you have to pay your twenty five percent taxes, then you have to pay a dividend distribution tax or 20 percent is now from last year onwards in the hands of the promoter. You still have to pay the tax on the dividends again. So you're essentially paying fifty five percent taxes before you take profit out of the company. Now compare this to say and the reason I say I say AVC invest into New Zealand and I get a I sell some of my stake to the ABC and I take money.
You pay long term or short term capital gains, which is between 15 to 20 percent. So the tax incentive in India is structured for promoters to sell stake and make money, then to make profits and make money. Right. And that's one of the reasons I think a lot of these companies I mean, promoters look at you when making money by selling the state, which is trying to make profitable companies out of dividends, you know, so it's not I keep bringing this up saying that, you know, we should maybe incentivize this right.
Otherwise know this will keep happening and people will always look at the easier way to make money, which is selling stakes. And selling stakes means you have to raise money, grow company, then try to make it bigger or get more investors in. So, yes, we are. We are for sure. And one of those times where, you know, it's easy to somehow create a company which seems to have a lot of valuation and in very good times.
So let's see how all of this plays out. What's the story, what's the actual story? What were you doing when you were 17? What were you doing when you were 22? What were you thinking? 11 or 12 years ago, when you were just figuring that this is what he wanted to do, what is going on in your head at those stages of life? So the thing is, it's 16, 17 started trading the markets and I used to live in this area dominated by majority summer Brahmin boy.
So unlike those, I'm probably the only businessman in our extended family, you know, so and so. Yes, I was in this place where there was a lot of this Moriarty's around and they introduced me, introduced stock markets. So I started buying and selling shares back in 97, 98. So it's almost like 22, 23 years now. And then by 2001, I had saved some money up. But in India, there was this new thing that was introduced in 2001 called Futures and Options.
Today, futures and options contribute to almost 90 percent of the exchange. Don't know. But it's a product where traders, you know, could you could you explain that?
Could you explain futures and options? And so thing is, a lot of people, when you talk stock markets, you know what they think is you buy a stock for the stock price to appreciate and then sell it after a while, which is, you know, wait for one month to month, three months. Now, what people don't understand is that turnover is just one percent of the exchange turnover rate that people buy, stock it for the stock price to appreciate and sell.
The rest of the turnover is actually the market is very speculative. And so there is a lot of this intraday trading that happens, which is, you know, you buy and sell shares within a day, know you buy in the morning and then you sell in some time. So that is 10 percent of on the remaining 90 percent comes from this product called futures of options. Right. And what futures and options is? OK, I think the simplest form of futures is a sale agreement.
You know, if you have a line and I am a real estate agent, I come to you and ask you, you know, you have this property for 50 like rupees. I will pay you one. Life will be premium. Keep this Sinosteel agreement with me. And my job is to go sell at whatever price. But the agreement between you and me is 50 rupees. And that one language I give you as a premium for signing that agreement not seem to mind if I don't find a buyer for it.
You get to keep the one little piece that's so typical. Real estate sale agreements work right now. That is a call option. OK, so you can do it exactly the same thing in other stock markets with. With stocks and a good thing about futures and options is that you can make money both on the left and on the way down. I mean, if you've seen the big shot, the movie. So this guy makes a lot of money in 2008 when the market crashes.
Now, how do you make money off? The only thing you can do in the market is buy stock, wait for it to go up it as a new. So, you know, the way to make money when markets go down is is using futures and options. It's a it's quite complex to kind of explain it in like one or two minutes. But you know what. But it is it is it is 90 percent of the exchange to know.
And so, yeah. So people who speculate would read the fine print as an options would be exciting. And the problem with leverage in life is that leverage is like weapons of mass destruction. You make money, you make money fast, you lose money, you lose it faster. Right. So you know, what leverage means is that with your one like piece, you're not buying one like rupee's of stocks. You're actually buying philanthropy's of stocks. Right.
Which means the stock goes up 10 percent. You're not making 10 percent, but you're actually making 50 percent of your capital. But the other problem is, you know, if it goes down 10 percent, you are losing 50 percent of your cash. And so it's it's it's everything multiplied it as in. So, yeah. So futures and options comes with leverage. And that's what is exciting for people, which is, you know, you can make money fast.
And so. Yeah. So 2001, I started trading the markets in futures and options and and the whole leverage was very, very inducing, tempting, whatever you can call. And I blew up my account and I borrowed money and tried to make up. And so I was you know, I was in one of those points in life that I was in minus another. I was owing a lot of people money. So I haven't found myself a job in a call center in two, one and two and and call center because, you know, I could trade during this and I and I could work in that thing.
And then back in 2001 and 2002 was the coolest place in town, by the way. You know, so it is in all the good looking girls is to work there. And it was all just I know it was almost like the airline industry and everyone wanted to work in airlines at one point to so seem to had that thing going for it in the first two or three years between 2001 to 2005. And then kind of you meet your wife there.
Yes, I did, actually. It's going so.
So, yes, I worked in a call center for three, four years. And in 2005, I met this gentleman at the gym and he was you know, he asked me to do what do you do? And I showed him my account performance. And I saw trade with the brokerage quality yesterday. And he saw my performance for those three, four years. And he said, what, can you do this for me? And I said, OK, why not?
So he cut me a check. So I was essentially managing his portfolio. I quit my job and I started this advisory portfolio advisory company in 2005. And I said, yeah, it's yeah. I mean, it's like a lot of random things in life and like, you know, every every story, you know, probably has this tipping point where I could have easily continued to work in a call center. You know, I've been doing I've been a telecommunications engineering college degree.
Know, if I got pumping screen, I would say, yes, I could have been an engineer if I'd studied well and all of that.
I mean, if the whole trading bug and I would say my dad was transferred to another city, he was working in a bank, you know, he was transferred to another city. I would probably have been never introduced to stock markets in my life. And so so, yes, I had done a lot of happenstances. And this person I met in 2005, he gave me a check. I quit my job. He introduced his friends, started making some money for these folks.
So then slowly that business started going up. Then I became a franchisee for a bigger brokerage firm. And Reliance had a brokerage firm as well because money became a franchisee for it in 2006. By then, my younger brother had joined me and and he, you know, you can call it evolution or whatever it is seven years younger to me. And he is a much sharper, greater than I am ever was. So in 2008, you know, you guys made some money when the markets fell and and then there was a realization that I don't know if he's a better trader.
Why should I trade in the sense it didn't really make sense?
Because, you know, including it's I like you know, it's not like manual work doesn't it's only, you know, two people can also I'm sorry I'm interrupting you in the middle, but I have an honest, curious question.
And before we get to the actual detail of our story, you know, I always have this theorem that if you wanna build a startup that deals with sweepers, if you're providing sweepers for the road, you need to be a sweeper yourself first and then therefore you'll make the better startup. So speaking specifically about creating. When you said that your brother was a better leader than you are, how do you actually become a better leader? Is it instinct to be?
Is it like studying based or is it numbers based? Like how do you become a wolf of Wall Street?
Kind of you know, I mean, the thing is trading is is like an art at the extreme level. Right. As you can be an average trader, you can learn, study and be an average trader, put some money on the table. And if you're trading for a living, you can put food on the table. But you want to really hit home, you have to have that little extra. And that is genetics. And I don't think you can really learn that stuff.
And it's like, can can I learn football and become messy? Right. I mean, it all happen right away. And you need to have the genes in you in some form. So I think, you know, you can only push yourself to a certain extent and over and above the genetics kind of lottery tickets. All right. And I mean it thing like you're does not everyone can do a podcast like you. I mean I mean, of course, you know, you can teach someone whatever, you know, but you might end up doing a decent job, but you may not be able to actually match your standard.
It's because you probably have some kind of a genetic lottery. And including the thing we're creating, right, is that there is no there's no gray areas. There is just black and white. Either you make money or you're not making money right now. Like for you a and of probably could be. How many people view your podcast exaggerated and how people view your podcast could be because of your persona and and so many factors. It doesn't. But including it's not that I mean everything boils down to did you make money today or you didn't make money.
I said, you know, because there could be a podcast. There was got a lot of use which doesn't make any money. Right. But so it's very tough to define success and failure. But in stock market, the thing is that it's you see what your business is, your you know, it's very black and white, you know, so you either make money or you don't make money.
But the way the way messy would you know that people all has a God given agility or whatever you want to call it specifically in a don't mind. What are genetic gifts that make you a better or is it just instinct? Is it like, OK, this stock? I believe in it.
And just having that sixth sense about certain stocks, is it that not it's not that actually that that's what a lot of people make it out in a lot of stock market movies that somehow, you know, the guy who take the most risk is the one who makes money. Well, actually the opposite. The people who make money trading the markets of people who are most conservative about risks, you know, because this is not you know, there's not something that you're not trading for one day.
Right. It's not one lottery you're going to hit know you're going to make a lot of money. And. Right. You are at a daily trade continuously over a long period of time. And being conservative is actually the most important thing when trading. And I think instinctively a lot of people like to be heroes. And so they want to hit that so they don't want to take six one runs right away. And that's the problem with most people.
And everyone's trying to be hero and they're trying to, you know, trade more than what they're supposed to treat. And a lot of times, you know, you end up becoming a compulsive you know, the best way into the market is when you don't read, because if you are not in a trade, you're rational enough to see an opportunity as an opportunity. And if you're stuck in something right, you can't even see it as an opportunity.
You kind of let go of a lot of opportunities. So so, you know, just to be wired like that is very tough. You know, it's you don't you can't just read and videos of that and that, you know, that whole thing. There's not a one day thing. This is a lifelong thing. You know, this is a lot of grinding. You know, it's a you know, if people play poker, you know, they will know what the grinder is.
Just you wait for your good hands and then you try to you don't just, you know, try to keep betting every hand. And so so stuff like that. And a lot of that is people don't get it, you know. And and I think one of the challenges in India also is that the financial knowledge we never thought finance in school and college. Right. Like now, you come out of college, you end up either doing what your parents did or you end up picking it up from your friends and most likely all your friends are doing it wrong.
So, you know, what we have today is a country full of financial illiterates, not I mean, even though they understand finance, but they don't really understand how to really go about it. And that's one of the things, you know, we've been like it keeps bugging me. How do you fix this problem in this country?
Yeah, honestly, I don't think it's limited to just finance. I think it's limited to a host of other soft skills, including things like communication, including things like business. We're just not taught that in school, which is why the whole new education policy is fantastic.
But the other thing I really want to highlight, and this is what I get from you, and I'm not talking about the the entrepreneur, Nathan, the guy you know, you're a lot like Rahul Dravid and he's a lot like even even the kind of trading energy you describe in terms of, you know, that's what you need that you need to.
Be able to be consistent. It's a very Rahul Dravid esque, its historic approach to life. You know, you can't let you find, you know, it's the same. The stock market is like a roller coaster. OK, and if you keep getting excited every time it's up and down, you know, you can enjoy the roller coaster for five minutes and then you're going to get frustrated after that. Right. So if you want to if you want to kind of survive, you need to just be stoic about the whole thing.
I also feel that when you're running a bootstrap business and you're growing it gradually, the same kind of mentality of consistency as a Test match cricket that applies here to the ones and twos. And, you know, this is something I see with a lot of people from Bangalore in general, which is a whole section of the board, because I want to break down later that. Why does Bangalore breed people like you, people like Rahul Dravid with this calm, you know, ones and twos mentality, you know, the slow build up mentality you, your brother.
And why is it also the startup hub? But through your story, I want to know, like the holes you told us or how did you transition into saying, OK, you know what, let's build a massive company?
No, no, no. The thing is, I don't think you can really start you can really have that, you know, build a big company or I'll make this much money. You know, I don't I don't know. That stuff really works in my life. Doesn't you know, there's this really interesting thing. This friend who gave me the first check, you know, said about, you know, why what is Lakshmi sits on us for this.
And and so that's what he sits on a rock. I mean, there is a significance to this. I mean, you could call it some kind of bias that you're finding. The significance is. But history was in a lot of money is like is floating. It's never with you. You know, if you want to get to money, you can't swim to a lotus. You know, you have to kind of do the right things and hope she comes to you.
And and so that's what it is like education and what you learn, etc. It's rock. You know, it doesn't go anywhere. And and I think I think one of the learnings through my life being a traitor was that you can't focus on money because you make money as an objective or you make success as an objective in terms of how big you will get or how big a company you want to make you get distracted. That I think the focus has to be and just following doing the right thing, what do the right thing for your business.
Do the right thing for the people who work with you and and in in this business and in general in life and being right place, right time is extremely important. You can make the greatest career of your life. And there's no solid I mean, no one's going to eat that. So and, you know, that whole right place, right time is also extremely important. And what I realized I mean, I don't know if I end up sounding like a Guruji, but what I realized is that, you know, if the more good you do, the higher the odds of right place, right time happens and the sense not the more good you are to others.
And if you take care of your customers really well, you know, they will remember you and they will help you through the world. Right. I mean, until now for that, although we haven't spent a single European advertising, you know, not a single ad word campaign, not a single Google ad, whatever it is, it's so we are three million customers and we have done it without a single rupee. And that's happening because of the same approach that, you know, we are always constantly trying to help our customer the same way, you know, the top hundred people who will join the first hundred, they haven't quite delivered in a maybe two or three.
We've asked them to leave one or two. But, you know, so we probably have the highest retention of employees. Our tech team is a 30 member team know really tiny team. You know, it's like one of those Xman kind of a team and not a single person from our tech team is Quarterly's. I mean, so so when you ask for success rate as these are essential ingredients. Right. As it is, you know, because you need your people, you need your customer and you need your product.
And if people are happy, they'll build a good product. And if customers are happy, they will go and talk about you and help you grow the business. So, yes, I think I think that lesson was, you know, I think learning was from creating actually, I think my journey as a trader, I became a better trader when I stop focusing on money, because, you know, when I was younger every day, I was like, well, I need to make thousand rupees today.
I need to make five thousand rupees this week, you know, stuff like that. And and then you to get there, you become very aggressive and then you forget what are the rules to follow to get there. I mean, you can't you can't be messy. I didn't say I want to score a goal. Right. I mean in this match because then, you know, you're probably not going to pass it to, you know, your other players and you'll probably throw the game.
Right. So it's so I think that way, you know, that whole learning of creating, et cetera, helped me significantly. And also, I believe, like this is something I keep telling people who ask me, what should you do before you start, though? I think one of the things you need to do is build a core competency. You know, you can't just wake up one day and say, I am going to build this freaking great new business.
And now with having no idea of how it works or not having any exposure to the industry. And, you know, you can just. Wake up one day and be that, you know, and maybe, you know, one or two will get lucky. But the odds of you becoming lucky reduces significantly if we don't have an equal competence. I mean, like so so, yeah, I think now before we started in 2010 and so I started reading the markets in 97, 98.
So there was 13 years of experience before I actually I started to write and this was not like an overnight thing. Know, a lot of people ask, you know, and this is a 10 year old business today. I see that actually. Twenty three year old business, because it started the day I started trading the markets. And one of the things that I enjoy doing in my life is I'm not really comfortable in front of a camera. But no, I mean, I during my trading, during my calls into life, I used to sell on the phone for three and four years.
I sold almost everything possible to these people in the US with my sort of name was Ethan Hawke. So I enjoy selling on the and I. I used to run some of the largest communities for stock markets in India, you know, throughout the last four, 10, 15 years. And I don't even know not not really as me as in. So there were all these other not just Yahoo! Messenger group of traders. I had the biggest Archerd community and stuff like that.
So all of that was very critical in that being where it is today. So, yes, I don't think there is anything called no easy money as such. Ideas are easy. Success is something, you know, I mean, it's a you know, it's there is a lot of that goes into it. So. Yeah.
So 2010, like, how old were you when you thought of zero 08 or start up? Like, I didn't like when you were like, OK, I'm done with just reading and playing this game. Now let's play this game.
So 2008 was 2008. I was twenty eight. Twenty twenty nine. Yeah. So I was twenty nine, twenty, twenty nine years old in 2008, 2009. So that's when this whole idea of the product came back. And also the whole zero idea came by was because there was another enabler in the stock exchange. And the largest stock exchange in India is called NASD, the National Stock Exchange. And they started giving you free software for people who became members of the stock exchange in a free trading software.
And so we didn't really have any technology background when you started a business. And so this technology came for free and we saw an opportunity to kind of offer technology for free, which was coming for free and see if we can disrupt on the pricing, if we can reduce the cost of both trade and brokerage ET. And that was essentially how the idea of the order came by, you know, back in two thousand eight nine.
So at that fees where you were just starting something new was then nervousness within your mind. Was there hope? Like what were you thinking on a very human level? Because I'm sure you had your games planned out from a product perspective, from a financial perspective.
But what were you thinking about the human aspect of things that your team.
I know I've got my brother. You know, I'm sure you had your career kind of figured out what was going on in the inner world right now.
The thing is, when we started the business, it was never really meant to be what it is today. Yeah. So this was all just taken different directions as we grew. So when we started the business back in 2010, we were trying to build a brokerage firm for a very active day, traders like us, that it was almost like, you know, like, you know, you see these people who like rock music. They'll set up a pub with rock music and stuff like that.
And just for you are really tight knit, you know, these kind of parties and stuff like that. And like I said, when we started the business, what we were trying to get after was the cost of creating. You know, when you buy and sell stocks in India, you pay a brokerage fees. And and the brokerage fees in India historically has been associated with. That means you buy for the like rupees. You say five hundred pieces.
Commissions you buy for ten likes will be five thousand rupees. But in an online world, the cost of executing a trade doesn't go up and it remains to remain same. The question was that why should the commissions go up? And and that was the question that we were trying to ask, you know, when we started the business. And so, yeah, so what we did was we came and said we are in charge of, like people irrespective of the size of the trade.
So. So, yeah. So when you started, it was, you know, we are trying to reduce the costs for the active traders and that's how this whole journey started. And and then we full for people who are working from before. So it was me, my brother and two others and. And I never really thought through so far that, you know, Anderson, I didn't I didn't I didn't really think that I'll have to lead teams, etc.
I had a plan and I had a plan for the first one year, which is your biggest brokerage firm for active traders like us. And if it doesn't work, I'll get back to trading. So that was a plan, you know, and then but in the first one year, we kind of realized that the opportunities is much bigger than than just trying to cater to the small bunch of customers. Now, the opportunity is probably because one of the things know, one of the things I was scared of before starting the business was seeing the business of money that people don't trust you easy.
That's what it means, is if you want to buy, find it. A piece of Chinese will go to Chinese dot com and Dubai will not care who was running the site, who was the promoter, or is all of that right? You like the kind you like, but if, say you want to see the final piece that you would not do it on a random aside, because, you know, as soon as the word goes from spend to save, now you start questioning of this person is going to be around for 20 years because my saving is supposed to be long term.
He's going to be the custodian of my assets. If you save something, the money is somehow in some form line with that business. So is he is a safe guy to be keep the money. So all those questions, you know, I never want started the business. I just really think people will so easily trust you with the money, you know? I mean, it took us a long time. You know, I think I've seen like, you know, if I look at our customer journey, you know, the journey of our customers, you know, most of our customers, the first one two years would never keep more than twenty five fifty thousand rupees with us, you know, because I think they were bothered about the credibility of the brand itself.
And but now we have customers who are 50 hundred course of security to cash along with us, you know. So so yeah. So like I said, I would be lying if I said I'd actually thought so far I had to think I could build a big theme of big business. And I think it just it started off as something else. It was meant to be very small. And then just it just took this direction that it ended up becoming like this.
I read the story of 09 in detail. And while it all started with this very traditional business model and I think there was this moment in your journey where you discovered opportunity. So specifically, did you figure that all by 2020, this younger generation that's kind of sprouting up in India, they will perceive money in a different way? Was that like a part of your realizations, like what was the thought process behind your brand that actually got a CDO or technical person or tech wasn't?
You are an engineer yourself, but you're my kind of not really on the Excite. You figure that you need an all out engineer or tech guy to go and now build something new. So what was the opportunity and what was your thought process behind building out back?
I mean, today is a challenge. You had thought that he joined us in 2013 and what happened in 2012? Was there a couple of new brokers who copy pasted whatever we were trying to see in the same platform, same kind of branding, which is IKEA for the customer and young, that boss and blah, blah, blah. Right. So and then. And then but then, you know, the realization was, you know, there was no more to the business for I think anyone starting up.
I think the most important thing to any business is to have a more say, which is what is it advantage you have over your competition. And if a competition can catch up on you very easily, then, you know, you can't really build a long term sustainable business. Right. And so so, yeah. So, you know, the question we had at that time was what is about that? And the only motive for a business like us was a product had to evolve into something which is not available with anyone else.
And so one of the other things that I've done through my life, I think, which has helped me significantly, is that knowing that, you know, so I think, you know, personally, I think people who can bring products today, you know, technologies like Xmen of today's world, I seriously think they are because that and by that you don't you don't mean just tech.
You mean even product designers or people who conceptualize or you're just talking about.
No, no. I mean, you guys have anyone who can take an idea from an idea to a product like it is, is I think it's like an experiment and like it or if it's in the X-Men movie, you know, if you're not the only ones who do well are people of friends of common sense like you make sure you're around some X-Men. So that's a I mean, I kind of I realized that quite early in my life. So what I started doing was I knew that I can't learn coding for not I mean, I tried it is just it's just going all over the place and.
So I said, you know, how do I get close to people for good coders and programs? So one of the things I started doing was investing small amounts of check now. So any time I found some someone who seemed like a good product guy, I can actually build products. We started seeing if I can somehow invest a small little check and be around. No intention of making money on the check. And I say check it out, invest in some form.
And just to add, and I was actually a co-founder of a company called Sensible and Sensible. As you know, it's relaunched in a different way to the original thought. He was to be a co-founder. And I was trying to bankroll that the company at that time and the product didn't fly because you didn't get regulatory approvals. But somehow we bought it off. You know, and I think one of the secrets for where we are as a business today is actually going and detecting that because you can do whatever you want as a business.
But if you don't have a great product, it's all that I take you too far ahead.
But and when you when you say you hit it off with your he's your CD or.
No, I mean, he's I mean, is as good as the co-founder and he doesn't like to be called the co-founder, but in all sense, he's along with, you know, this situation where as an entrepreneur you figured, OK, my business needs a tech element and you're trying to go out and find a tech person other than the actual craft, like how you're good with your numbers and your money. And he's good with coding and building a product.
Do you also have to vibe on like an internal human level?
That's that's what you look for, because there's a lot of people who can work on the craft, become good coders, but there's few people who will be able to connect with as a human.
Absolutely. I mean, I think I think and that's why it's important to keep interacting with as many people as possible. And especially in this, you know, you can't just go to a coffee shop and find a co founder or find someone whom you can trust to build a product. And then and the thing is, I think one of the things I've seen in my life now I've invested in a lot of startups is, you know, a lot of startups don't really work because the team doesn't work together, you know, forget about the product and, you know, et cetera.
But just the fact that the team is currently born and be together, a different kind of personalities trying to come together. And about this, you know, how do you get the right person, it's them. Look, I don't think that is you know, it's like asking someone, how do you find the right person to get married today? Doesn't you just know, you just have to and you just have to wish that you are lucky, you know?
So what what about Kalasz made you think that, OK, he owes me. He was my brother. We're good with our shit. How do we get a guy who matches our values? What were those values? And they were like, OK, this is working. I mean, Stephanie is one of the most skilled programmers that I know that I know personally. So he had that skill going. And second thing was, he's almost like an idealist in the sense money doesn't drive him right.
So, know, there were there were those kind of similar kind of personalities in there. And we support this book. And I don't think we're ever in the business, not just him or anyone in the team, whoever he's spoken about, revenue targets and stuff like that. Not a lot of money has never been a focus at all. Right now, in this kind of a mix, if you suddenly bring one guy who wants just talk about money all the time, you know, he's going to stand out as it has to.
I think the important thing here is assuming, you know, you're one of those kind of companies which was focused on generating revenue. You wanted a CTO who was similar to that. Right? You don't want someone who's going to screw money, you know, that. Just build upon it. And so so the team has to kind of bond and especially with your product. Right. Because, you know you know, like I keep telling them I'm replaceable in the business, but maybe he is not so bad because it's very tough to replace the person who's built the product, you know?
And so I think I think this goes back to the original point I was trying to make, which is, you know, you try to be good. You know, it's like karma doesn't, you know, so you're good to people. You end up meeting people who might think that, oh, this guy is good, is passionate. You know, I should be around him because, you know, you kind of let that kind of aura around you, like when you're passionate.
And I'm extremely passionate about stock markets. I mean, I don't know anything other than stock markets in my life. And so also when someone's really passionate and is genuinely trying to help as many people. So, you know, it's easier to attract good talent to come to you. If I was one of those douche and I was going to be arrogant and I don't think, you know, it's so. Yeah, but the thing again is I don't think there's a of people that would work.
I mean, I don't think someone listening can say only things like this. I'll be like this and I don't you have to be true to yourself. And that's you know, you just have to be the best form of you. I don't think you can just copy someone else, you know.
So I you know, I just want to add this one quick nugget, which is that a lot of successful people will will definitely see that luck has been a part of my journey and right place. Right time has been a part of my journey.
And the obvious response to that is people say, oh, no, but it's all your hard work. And then the successful person will say, no, no. But you don't understand how much luck is involved.
And I feel that luck is definitely a huge part of everyone's journeys. Like what are the chances that you make the exact correct product and the exact character you who built this out with you? And honestly, your luck is totally decided by what you say about how you treat people, how attractive you are as someone to work with. You don't do so. Would you would you like a creative outlet like Luckies is a big part of it?
No, I mean, the thing is, it's about putting yourself in places where the odds of getting are higher and the way to put yourself in a situation where the odds of getting higher is through stuff like what is it? Not good karma. It doesn't it just so you do that, you know, you automatically put yourself in situations where everyone's thinking about you to say, oh, he did something good to me, I need to reciprocate. And so if you have one hundred people, things like that about, you know, your chances of getting lucky increases doesn't guarantee luck.
It doesn't. But there is a way, I think, you know, to and I just, you know, just be in the best situation for the highest chances of getting, you know, so soon. I completely agree on that.
We can't actually start something like just having strong ethics in life is very likely to actually create generational wealth. You will create that generational wealth slow as compared to someone who actually breaks ethics and gets fast money, but it'll be larger in the long term. Again, that's very that's very test match cricket kind of thing, that you just go 300 runs, but do it slowly. Do it nicely.
No, I think I know I said and I think the core of all of this is that don't make money as the objective because you keep money as an objective and you just you know, you just end up derailing, you know, so your objective has to be what potentially can generate money, which is take care of the people around you, you know, take care of your customers and just be focused on improving on a daily basis, you know?
So it's the reason I highlight money in this conversation is that my observation is, OK, now, as someone who's running Xeloda, you have a bird's eye view of your customers and generally the stock market because you're passionate about it. When you do well, you get a bird's eye view of the youth in general, your audience, as well as what is the youth of the country thinking.
While they are excited by the concept of entrepreneurship, money is a very big personal driving factor for a lot of them because they want to provide a better life for their own families. And I feel the nature of Indians is such that when they actually go down journeys, there are character changes that happen. But early on, when they're like 17, 18 money, well, you know, the glam is a driving factor, which eventually changes into OK, product design is a beautiful concept of impact.
Creation is a beautiful concept.
But right now I think a lot of young kids need to be seduced into this world and then kind of develop into something else. But that's just what I think when you go on with your story.
Yeah. So, yeah. So 2010 is when we started 2013, when we started our product journey. Then in 2015, we did a very interesting thing, know me and Kalush and PR guy, we were going to Cotchin for a press conference. A flight got delayed and and we were having a drink and I said, dude, we haven't done anything for a while, you know, which is which. And I said, why not go zero brokerage for equity investing.
It just it just out of the blue and you could invest. OK, so like I said, 90 percent of the people in the stock markets don't invest. They actively trade. And and ninety nine percent, one percent of the people actually invest, which is buy a stock, wait for it to go up and sell it. So we said, you know, what is happening with zero? That was we were looked upon as a brand only for active traders and not for investors.
Right. The problem is with a business that is a 99 percent of the people you know around your investing, that means the trading community, even though they contribute a lot of the order on the stock exchange, a very small number of people. So in India, you probably have five to 10 like traders are active traders who generate revenues for people like us. But there is 70, 80 like Indians who invest in the markets. But those 70, 80 like Indians who invest contribute only one percent of the exchange total.
And so so we said if we cannot build a business only for traders, we will never be able to go after that 70, 80 like Indians who invest in the market. So we said we want to change our kind of branding. So we said, why not for this car? We go zero brokerage, you know, let's take away all the brokerage charges. And that's when we're already hit for the first time with the business, you know, like in 2016.
I remember the first I that we took the decision on a Saturday and then by Monday we were zero brokerage and and then economic times that this whole thing was then businessmen to watch for in 2016. And there was Mukesh Ambani. And next to it was that put my name right. And then I was like, due to the location Montevideo. And then God was around and said, you know, and but what happened was that the PR that we got at that time, plus the low cost, you know, suddenly just became almost got vitality as a business, you know, because like I said, right in this business, credibility is very important.
And people associate credibility with the people that are newspapers, Isela, TV sets. And so, yeah, our real trajectory shift happened in 2016. And in 2015, we had also launched our in-house product. You know what he and his team were building? You know, it's called Caite, which is a web and trading up. And we had launched that. So 2016 is when we started not doing well. But the biggest challenge for us as a business was onboarding a customer.
They we had like this 30 page document which had to be signed. I don't know how many prusak to be attached. Like, imagine if we were to have happened before sitting in a gorilla, you had to sign a three page document, right? I mean, you know, so so, uh, Demonetization changed that for us because. What Demonetization did was people started using other then people started using Ardha for other use cases, which is KYC for signature and all of that and.
So 2017 is when it really started taking off, because we could now onboard a customer completely online and during this journey between 2015 16, etc., we also did a few very interesting things. We launched in 2014 our education initiative called Varsity, which is probably in the top two or three in the world on capital markets. And if you want to learn anything about stuff, it's completely free. There is no zero branding, nothing. You know, we just we just do it out of love.
And it's almost like a way to give back to the society. So we all spend a lot of time, you know, not just it's like the format is where do we keep this quarter? And in the sense you read an article, there's a lot of you in the article that did really well in all this investment in startups that I said I was trying to do. We we formalized it and we started an incubator called Remodel. So we took like 40, 50 kilos of what we had put it as a fund.
And we said we will now enable new startups to come build on these experiences to grow the capital market ecosystem in the country.
And so it's all it's all primarily in the world of finance that you're trying to expand for. Yeah, because there are a lot of people who will write a check. I mean, there's no there's not a lot of money writers. And I think what we bring on the table is essentially all the knowledge of the markets, the all these compliance issues. You know, we kind of take care of all of that. And more importantly, we give the initial audience to validate your product.
The biggest challenge in the business of money is just to get your first few customers to trust you with the money. And and with that is what we've done is all of the startups we have showcased to our customers saying, you know, this is almost like us. Why don't you give it a shot and tell us what do you think of it? And us doing that has helped these startups know they're all on their own, very successful and all making money today.
So, yes, that's one of those things that I feel very excited about, the fact that we've been somehow a part of this enabling all of these new startups and ideas to become businesses of their own. So that's what really mattered, that 12 startups that I mean, we have done nine fintech as well. But it is more, you know, just out of fashion something that I don't know. But but the core, the passionate things that we are funded are all stock market related products and companies.
Two thousand more. So in 2020, you know, this whole covid suddenly changed the world for us completely. So till January, we were two million customers. You know, we were still the largest broker in the country, you know, by but early on. But then from fab till now, we've added another million customers. So it took us nine and a half years to have two million customers.
And it took us like six months to add the next million, because you have this bird's eye view of your audience, your consumer, what is going on, or why are people suddenly getting more interested in financial education and fintech? Is it that young people again, is it that same concept of young people are choosing wealth somewhere? And, you know, that's why people are like latching onto this. What's your opinion on that?
No, I mean, see, the thing is, there are multiple enablers here, right? As in so I think the first thing what has happened in this country is the interest rates are really low in the bank. Fixed deposit is giving you five and a half percent and stuff like that. So automatically people are looking for alternate ways in alternate places to invest into where it can yield higher than the fixed deposit. You know, the other thing is this all work from home is enable people to think about personal finances, because this whole other world, when people go to work and are continuously working 18 hours a day, by the time they come home, they're already tired and they don't really have too much to think about.
Now, I think now people sitting at home, they're like in or, you know, there is something on the stock market. Maybe it's you. We should look at it. The third enabler, and this was the markets had fallen. So a lot of stocks were available for cheap that, you know, if you if you if you if you think of it right, every time there's a sale, people go queue up. Right. You know, the big boys had this big bazaar like that is one kilometre of queue outside because people get attracted to discounts.
And that happened also. And suddenly you had stocks, you know, available at 50, 60 percent of the cost. And then those stocks bounced back in April, May, June, stock market did well. So so people who invested then certainly saw a lot of money and which meant, you know, they started speaking about it to defense. So they let go in order to make money in the markets. So all of this happened together. And and then fourth was on boarding yesterday online.
It's not offline like before, so. All of this put together the fact that we can instantly open an account, I think is just, you know, created this whole rush of people coming to the markets and also, you know, seeing India, there are four hundred retail brokerage firms, the retail broking stockbroking stockbroking's probably the oldest industries in the country because the Bombay Stock Exchange, the oldest stock exchange in Asia. So so India actually has had a past, you know, to the stock markets in relation to the stock markets for a long time in this whole last five, six months, a lot of these brokers were offline.
They have lost out because all their business models were wired around offline processes. I'll send someone to pick up a check after you buy a stock and stuff like that. I mean, that has got collapsed. So the top five, 10 online brokers have kind of gained a lot of market share from them. And and what are you seeing in the last six months is that our average age of customers was 32 before covid, it's 23. And so it's just so it's a lot of, you know, 20 to 30 year olds who are coming in.
I think the big challenge of this, like I was just recently tweeting about this, you know, where this car doesn't have the money, unfortunately. And also, you know, the money in India. You know, like there was this thing, which is data that Goldman Sachs was put out recently saying seventy five percent of all wealth is with people or more than 50 years of age, you know, so so. Yeah. So the problem challenge of building a business for the 20 to 30 year olds in the business of money is that even though you have a lot of customers and all these customers together don't really add up to a lot of money right now, which is the you know, because it is the one place where we haven't done very well, which is we haven't done very well in this audience of 50 year old plus crowd because this audience needs, you know, relationship managers.
They need someone to call up and say, good, good morning, sir. Good afternoon. I mean, you know, they're used to a certain way of life and they don't really appreciate they don't really care for product experience as much as the younger, you know, like a 20 to 30 year old guy. You know, like my dad likes this old Android phone. And every time I try to give him a new phone, he's like, no, no, I like this better.
And he doesn't, you know, he doesn't it isn't one of you. And shift out of that because he's just used to that product. And and. Yeah, so that's that's one place where we've not been very successful, which is attracting the forty five plus crowd to come open accounts with us.
So the way I look at it, I mean, personally, I feel like you're sitting on this volcano of growth eventually because I just feel that younger people now, like in their early 20s, there's a lot of entrepreneurial energy. There's a lot of energy when it comes to, again, personal finances. There's a lot of hard to be energy. How do I grow to that next level? Because honestly, considering the fact that I'm guessing a big chunk of your audience is still in cities in India, like and therefore, I mean, your consumers are still NZD in India and therefore.
They are very influenced by the West. They're very influenced by America. They're very influenced by the negatives of the war. I don't know how familiar you are with Guy TV, but he's this is this entrepreneur from America who does a lot of social media content. He promotes the idea of growth, challenging yourself. And even when we hire people for money entertainment, which is our media company. So when we're hiring 22 year olds, the extremely different from what even I was when I was 22 and I'm just five years older than them, but the whole thought process is completely different.
So is that something that I'll think about a lot?
Because I'm assuming you do, considering the fact that you've designed a minimalist app, you're not considering the fact that that is a big chunk of your audience that animals don't lend to and used online is where you'll really see the growth of zero. The. No, no, I mean, I think every single thing that we build today is for that crowd and I understand the 20 to 30 year old crowd. I think what's also changed this crowd is just the risk taking appetite.
I think that's dramatically changed. I can because we've started the business from 2010 to lowriders in like five years. By the way, people used to respond to the younger crowd, to stock markets, to what they're doing today. There's a drastic change in that. And I think why risk risk appetite? Because I think it's capitalism, capitalism. It's it's playing a playwright. And it's people know that they have to make their money work. Just, you know, earning a salary isn't enough.
And, you know, whatever is saved, you know, that has to work for them, you know, and you can't you know, and also, I think there's this whole insecurity in terms of, you know, I think today's world you come to the retirement ages has come down from 60 to 55 and etc. I don't know if a lot of people know about it, but then when the retirement age is reducing, that means forced retirement where you don't earn a salary, you have a lot of time to spend, which means that you have to start saving for your retirement as early as possible.
And while you know the while, there is a lot of concern, excessive consumerism, consumerism is a problem in this country. That is people spending, you know, like swiping on the credit card on the first day of the month and then trying to make up an A. But there is this whole chunk of audience, a new bunch of people who understand that, you know, saving for retirement is a is an important concept. Right. And I think we need to find a way to make sure the entire crowd thinks like that.
And you can just have a small portion of this, 20 to 30 year old saying, you know what, my dad retired at 60, but I might retire at fifty two or 50. Right. That means I have 10 years less to save for my retirement. And so, you know, see if you start earning a 20 and so you save 250. And so you have 30 years of earning and you have maybe another 20, 30 years of living off your savings.
And so how much do you need to save? You know, and the cost of living is continuously going up. And I don't think it's going to reduce ever. And so. So, yeah. So I can see that, you know, people thinking of it, you know, like a big section of the 20 to 30 year old. But there's also a big section, 20 to 30 year old who wants to buy just I mean, if a person wants fifty thousand rupees, wants to go spend one like rupees on an iPhone, which is ridiculous.
I mean, it's the most awkward thing someone can do. Right. But but people get caught by this consumerism. And I think other marketers and advertisers just make it also, you know, it's almost like a must have today. Right. As in like the latest form on the latest news, the latest whatever. I think what what has also happened in this covid error rate is people have not been spending on this, you know, discretionary stuff, which means they've suddenly got access to this money which was getting spent otherwise, which is also the reason, I think, why people like us in other businesses like us have done well, because that money, which is in the bank, instead of going in finding its way to an issue, that iPhone has probably gone into Reliance Industries or State Bank of India or some stock like that.
So which is good. I mean, it's I think, you know, excessive consumerism. Consumerism is the one which is killing the climate. It's killing the planet. And it's a problem for the climate change.
So on one on multiple levels, dude, it's not just climate change. It's it's probably I think over time I've begun to look at it as a very minor part of self-harm also, because the more you own, you know, the more prone to misery. But that's just that's a deep spiritual theory. More on that later. Go on.
Yeah. So. So even the education we've launched is like a mobile app for education. It's called Varsity's The Education, the Web, and it's also on the mobile. So so we've seen a lot of you know, and I think what we've done in that financial education, it's we've broken it down into small, little, non intimidating kind of ways to teach people finance. And that's that's also doing quite well, you know, with the with the audience and the startup ecosystem that we're working with.
They've built a lot of very cool products for the 20 to 30 year olds. And, you know, that's also kind of done well. So, yes, the Focus's is 20 to 30 year old. I think India has the highest number of 20 to 30 year olds in the world. I think the way we are looking at our business is that you sit with them, teach them good habits and wait for them to get richer in their lives so they automatically start generating more revenue for the business as well, you know, as this progresses.
So when it comes to financial behavior now, you're someone who's an expert in terms of the world of finance and there would be good agreed financial behavior and then there would be the obvious trend in financial behavior that happens after covid over the next 10 years. So let's dig this phase after covid or the next 10 years. What is good financial behavior? Well, this is what do you think will happen or will they actually merge? Will people actually get so educated financially that the trend you're predicting will be the actual best case scenario?
No, I personally, I am currently not kind of pessimistic about the world. I don't think this whole covid situation is just going to disappear. And I think stock markets are currently misleading. I don't think not, because stock markets around the world have bounced back, which seem to say that not we are all back to normal. I don't think so. I mean, because, you know, like I come out to a resort this weekend and and there are three people in this beautiful resort.
And I was going to have 100 families or so. And this is a listed company, you know, so and I like my friends who run gyms and et cetera, like they're all saying, you know, even if they're open, I think they're opening tomorrow. I don't think they're not expecting people to walk in there. Don't no inquiries coming in just because it's opening tomorrow. So I think there's like a big behavioral change that's going to happen.
And which means that you see, firstly, what I'm pessimistic about is that I don't know how jobs will be created. I mean, how do you create new jobs in this country that if you if it is all a bunch of jobs are getting lost because of, you know, generally less money being spent by people? How do you create new jobs if there is no new job? I mean, no new jobs. I mean, the only other option for government is to increase taxes or find other ways to take money from people who make money.
And so it's so. Yeah. So I don't really know what is the right I don't know what's the right solution to get out of this problem. I think the first thing we all hope, I think should hope and pray that there is a vaccine out soon because you know, we are. We are. We are. We're all in such you know, I think capitalism is a proper religion for this world right now. And suddenly, you know, in this religion, if people stop spending money, right, religion can't survive.
It's almost like, you know, like how going to temple, going to a mosque, etc. It's almost important for that religion to survive in capitalism. I think you need like people to be spending money for it to survive. And and now suddenly this situation where people have stopped. You know, I think so. I'm kind of bearish for the next few years. So, you know, unfortunately, the problem is, no, I'm in a business where I can't do anything much by being bearish in the sense I'm you know, it's a conflict of interest as a business.
And I can't it's not like a stall. I can sell goods and then buy back after three years. You have to you know, we are just preparing ourselves to survive out this. You know what? We think the next two, three years are going to be tough periods. The behaviour of the 20 to 30 year olds, I think, to the last six months is been, I think the most I think most people in the world have gotten lucky in the last six, five, six months with the financials, because seven March is when across the world a maximum of number of new investors came to the market.
They bought stock in. The stocks have gone up 20, 30, 40 percent. Right. I don't think stuff like that will happen. You know, I mean, there is a saying that, you know, in a bull market, even the most stupid guy certainly thinks he's a financial genius. Right. And so and so right now, we are in that period where people who bought stock and have made some money is anything that they're so super sharp and now they can keep getting it right like this forever.
And which is which is which is tough. And I mean, I don't think like I said, stock markets are probably the toughest place in the world to make easy money. You know, so there is there are other ways, you know, you probably have easier ways to make money is by going and playing a lottery than I know then trying to make money of stock markets. It's tough. Darfur. So so I think, you know, whenever there's, you know, reality hits that covid is not a it's not all this problem is not what the stock market was a factor in that.
And it'll probably come down when it comes down, whatever the behavior of all those people who thought they were these financial geniuses. And suddenly, you know, you're sitting on stocks which have lost in value. What do you do with that time? And historically, what I've seen in the last twenty, twenty five years is when stocks don't do well and they lose some money, people become not passive and they become they say, let the stock recover and then I'll invest more money.
So, you know, so which is again, not good for us, for business. And we've been trying as a company to inculcate some good habits on the trading platform. So, for example, you know, buying a penny stock, a penny stock is a stock which really doesn't have a real business behind it. It's just a paper. It's a company where there is like there is interesting trivia. There is one address in Calcutta where there are 200 listed companies in one address in a SO and these are all companies that are trading on the stock exchange.
And so it's so. Yeah. So people end up buying such stocks. So you buy a stock at. And you think it'll become 10 rupees, but this one would be stock really has no inherent value at all. So what we've done is that we don't allow penny stocks to be purchased on the platform and we are saying let us protect the people from doing those kind of mistakes. But that still said, you know, there are so many of these behaviours of people, you know, which are know, which is very tough to change.
And I think like like, you know, if I took I don't know how this will play out over the next six months, one year. But I think when markets come down, a lot of these new first time investors who came to the market, they will say, oh, let's let's wait it out, let's wait for the stock market to recover before we invest more money, which is just not the right way to play it. The right way to play the stock market is not to try timing it because no one can time it.
I think the right way to do this is allocate a certain portion of your income to income or savings to the stock markets and then do it over a period of time and don't try to put all of it at one time and say, you know what, markets, come on, let me buy or let the market one of let me. So I don't think that's the right way to do it. The idea is to be systematic, invest small amounts of money over time, because, you know, when you do that dollar cost averaging, as they call it, which is you buy, you know, they say 5000 businessmen, they start next month like a sip or whatever you call it.
So over a long period of time, you know, your average costs, you know, tend to come down. Right. And that's a much better way for someone to play, you know, for someone like me. And I've done this for twenty, twenty five years so I can take risks. I mean, if if I were to walk on a tightrope and offer a profession, I would have practiced for 10, 15 years. And then I'm doing the tightrope walk.
You know, a person who has no knowledge about stock markets, et cetera. I think, you know, the right way to play it also is that if someone in listening thinks that they want to be treated like, you know, and I can tell you, after blowing up my account and struggling for, like, I don't know, like five to seven years, the lesson I learned is that don't risk more than you can borrow more than what you can afford to lose.
There is, as you know, so so today when I'm doing anything, you know, I wouldn't turn more than one to two percent of my personal network on anything because I know that if it blows out, I lose one to two percent. It's not going to kill me. I can I can always bounce back, you know, so people don't think like that. And a lot of people have smaller amounts of money. So you have one little piece in savings.
How do you take a one thousand people to know what they think or say, 5000 thousand rupees? And so people want to put one life into one stock and buy, you know, buy everything with their own stock and hope to get lucky. And and I don't think in the stock market, hope is really a strategy, you know. So it's. Yeah, if someone's listening, the plan is if you have a little piece, find 10 stocks from different sectors and industries distribute across it.
Now, if you want to become a speculator, take ten, 10000 rupees in this one little piece and speculate. You leverage whatever, but keep make sure that you blow out the ten thousand rupees. Don't add more right now if you make money. You know, you're one of those guys who enjoys trading and makes ten thousand, ten thousand becomes fifteen thousand, then probably slowly increase the ten thousand but never got to a point where more than 20 30 percent of your savings are being used for very active clearing because an activity active trading were leveraging, you can blow up very easily.
And yeah, that's essentially all the stuff that I try to teach people or starting the markets in. Hey, guys, so that was part of one of our mega episode with Xeloda founder and then gamete, it was all about the Zettl, the story, and we all got some inspiration. But keep in mind, part two is a lot more about personal finance. It's a kind of financial education for you. Very, very powerful episode. You guys are going to enjoy it.
I also asked him a lot about his mindset, what goes on in his head outside of the world of Z order. I think you guys are going to enjoy part two as well. It's coming up next.