About Vivek: He is an enterprising professional determined to succeed. He is a go-getter. An expert gambler who seeks out challenges, to proceed or work rapidly or energetically; to be aggressive, especially in business and financial matters.
Vivek Bhaskaran exemplifies everything about true entrepreneurship - sharp, innovative, hard-working, a risk-taker with a nose for how the dice will roll. He is the James Brown of the MR SaaS industry.
Vivek started his company from his garage in Seattle to what is now a multimillion-dollar research software enterprise, with offices in 4 continents. However, there are a few who have had the pleasure to experience the other side of Vivek Bhaskaran. I’m one of them. We met a few years after he launched QuestionPro. At the time, the company was in the embryonic stage. I was consulting for a client who wanted to acquire a small research software firm. Unfortunately, the deal fell through, and we lost touch.
Almost 4 years later, fate would connect us again. Only this time, QuestionPro was the leading DIY survey tool in the industry. It was like a Formula-1 car going from 0-60 in under 3 seconds. He made the Inc. 5000 for the best new startup in Seattle; VC offers were falling from the sky. Blogs, videos, articles, and interviews galore. The man was busier than a one-armed bricklayer in Baghdad. I sent him a quick email to connect, thinking it would be one of the 300 that lands in his daily inbox and gets screened by some gatekeeper. My short email began with, “Hey Vivek, Not sure if you remember me…”. He responded within minutes: “Of course I remember you, bro…”. That day, I met Vivek. The family man, the social animal; He’s more than a hustler, baby.
What has COVID-19 taught you so far?
People can work remotely without a problem. There’s this whole storyline that everybody has to meet every day, which is clearly not true. Yeah, we all need to meet each other, but we don't need to meet each other every day. It can have all kinds of downside effects, but it comes down to, can you function?
Here’s my theory on Covid, people are always saying, I want to get back to X. There’s no getting back to X, there’s only moving forward to Y. I look at Covid as an opportunity. You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. If you’re not agile, you’re screwed.
What do you see as the next big thing?
There’s an entire Covid economy of products and services. People need to figure that out. Covid is a short-term anomaly, but I’m fully convinced that borders are gone. I’m hiring from all over. All people need is a Zoom link and an internet connection.
How were you able to build QuestionPro’s culture?
You don’t have to build a culture; the culture just gets built. The key thing is collaborating around the key things you want to get done. Over the years, I’ve learned that collaborating is more important than anything else. Culture isn’t good or bad; it’s strong or weak. Three people believing in the same thing are better than five people believing in five different things.
What keeps you up at night?
A lack of growth. It doesn’t matter where I start. If I start with $10, I should be making $20. If growth is not there, I get nervous because something is not right.
I heard you took up coding during Covid. What drove you to do that?
It’s not an economic opportunity. It’s more of a gratifying thing. At some point, you’re like, I just want to get this done. I’ve loved doing it since high school.
Have you always been so high energy?
No, actually. Here is what changed my life. I used to be a consultant in Seattle. I would show up, do my job, and move on. If somebody asked a question, I was the last guy to raise their hand. Unless I was spoken to, I didn’t speak.
Three months into the job, I asked my boss, who was also the CEO of the company, for feedback on what I could do better. He looks at me and goes, you’re a really smart guy. We like you, but you’re a consultant. We’re charging a ton of money for you, and the clients need to hear you. The more you speak, the more money you make. Since that day, I have not stopped talking.
How are you at home compared to work?
Short talk and jokes are super easy for me. In conversations about tech or the hustle, I can talk forever. If you put me in the spotlight, if the conversation is more esoteric or emotional, I can’t talk for too long about anything like that. I like to make jokes. It’s hard to do with those topics.
How do you relax?
I did a ten-day meditation course for a few years. Every time I’ve done it, it’s been a tremendous benefit. It’s a big commitment, but if you think about it in the grand scheme of things, it’s ten days out of a year, a ten-day investment into your mental health. Don’t tell me you don’t have ten days to invest in yourself.
The one thing I’ve learned through meditation is that nothing matters as much as you think it does, don’t freak out over stupid things. If you win something, it doesn’t mean you’re going to conquer the world. If you lose something, it doesn’t mean you’re dead in the water.
What would you do differently 15 years ago?
Back then, I spread myself too thin. I’d probably focus on 2-3 ideas and just go for it. I would also not care as much about what other people think. When I was at BYU in 1997, I built a chat system for customer support. When I showed it to a bunch of other guys, they said it was the dumbest thing they’ve ever seen, so I shut it down. It was a good idea, but I listened to a bunch of other people. Now, I would just go ahead and do it no matter what someone else says.
What do you think people don’t do enough of in the industry?
People don’t think big. They’re always saying this is what I can do. You have to think bigger and push harder to break the barriers. More people ask why than why not.
Where do you see your industry headed?
The shift is 100% technology-oriented. With Covid, people can run an entire company or even buy companies without meeting. It’s a huge change.
Do you think you’re in the right industry?
Yes, I do. I would also love to be a lobbyist.
Are you in favor of automation?
Yes, absolutely. It’s optimization. For example, DocuSign versus sending a contract. Do you want to DocuSign, or do you want to sign it, put it in an envelope, find stamps, put it in the mailbox- you can do all that work, but it will take you 40 minutes. Or, you can DocuSign, and it will take you 40 seconds.
What is it that lights you up about technology?
Getting things done and coming up with new ideas.
What was your 'Aha!' moment?
Going back to the story I told you about my first job, I could be the smartest person on the planet, but if I don’t communicate, it doesn’t matter. I was not dumber or smarter before or after that conversation with my boss. It made me realize, if you have an opinion or something to say, you got to go for it.
What do you think people can count on you for?
If you are ever in jail, I can bail you out. If you’re ever in trouble, you can count on me. No questions asked. I will always come.
What’s missing, that if it were present, would blow the roof off?
A group of guys around me that can hustle as hard as I can.
What do you say you’re going to do but never get to?
I often tell people I’m going to connect with them, but I sometimes drop the ball on it.
What do others expect you to do, even though you haven’t said you’re going to do it?
Be a mentor.
What do you know for sure?
That I will survive.
Who are you?
I am a hustler.