Giant Robots Smashing Into Other Giant Robots

532: Building Trust and Community in Sustainable Business

July 3rd, 2024

In this episode of the Giant Robots Smashing into Other Giant Robots (On Tour!) podcast, hosts Sami Birnbaum and Jared Turner are joined by Ishani Behl, CEO and Founder of Skillopp and Sustainr. Ishani, an instructional designer by trade, began her journey by creating online courses and eventually moved into sustainability, inspired by her exposure to startups at the UNDP. She founded Sustainr, a platform that connects sustainable brands, and Skillopp, which simplifies learning using AI, aiming to reduce information overload.

Ishani discusses how her educational background and experiences shaped her desire to improve learning and sustainability. She emphasizes the importance of dejargonization and how Skillopp uses AI to make complex information more accessible. She also highlights Sustainr's role in connecting sustainable brands with resources and opportunities, fostering a community that emphasizes collaboration over competition. Her journey reflects a commitment to creating impactful, sustainable business practices and improving educational approaches through technology.

Throughout the conversation, Ishani shares her challenges in balancing multiple ventures, the importance of delegation, and her approach to building trust within her communities. She provides insights into the evolving landscape of e-learning and sustainability, emphasizing the need for personalized learning and effective communication.


SAMI: This is the Giant Robots Smashing into Other Giant Robots podcast, the Giant Robots on Tour series coming to you from Europe, West Asia, and Africa, where we explore the design, development, and business of great products. If you have no idea about this Giant Robots on Tour series, then please make sure you listen to our previous podcast, where we throw random icebreakers at each other and we have fun naming the new series. So, make sure you don't miss out on that one. I'm your host, Sami Birnbaum.

JARED: And I'm your other host, Jared Turner.

SAMI: And with us today is Ishani, CEO and Founder of Skillopp, which simplifies learning to amplify performance through AI, and Sustainr, the Fiverr for sustainable brands. We are so delighted to have you with us, Ishani, today. We're going to get more into depth and into detail exactly where you're at and what you're doing at present. But I always like to go back to the start with my guests because there's always a journey and a story about how they got to where they are. Would you give us some details about how you got to the place you are today?

ISHANI: Definitely. It's great to be on this. I'm delighted to also kind of share my story. It's been quite a journey. It all started a few years ago. I'm an instructional designer so that basically means that I design online courses for a living. So, if you see those ads on Instagram, "Hey, come to my masterclass," what I basically do is that I help in designing the whole course from the beginning but in a much better way.

I guess this whole journey of Sustainr and Skillopp really started after I graduated. So, I went to King's College, and I pursued a degree in liberal arts, after which I worked at UNDP. And I was exposed to this world of sustainability and all these really cool startups that were coming up in this space. And I thought to myself that this is such an interesting and innovative field to be in.

In every single startup that, you know, you would really do research around, you would just find these really interesting bits of information that you really didn't know. And I think that the business models per to se is also kind of like a way to emulate how you can live your own life in a much more efficient manner. That's why sustainability is called sustainability for a reason so that you can really sustain your livelihoods for a much longer amount of time.

I think just building upon that, when the pandemic started, I really thought of doing something around this. And we kind of created a community of practice, so to say, of just sustainable brands around the country, in the UK and India. We started connecting them with various opportunities, so it sort of became like a Fiverr [laughs] of sorts where we would kind of connect them to various kinds of opportunities that would help them grow.

I think when I went back to London for my master's, a lot of people in the faculty really liked the idea. And they were able to provide us with some funds, and we won a number of competitions. And that really led to the beginning of Sustainr, and we currently have around 40 brands on our platforms. We keep on having a lot of collaborations. We've also raised grants for a few startups as well. This idea of really merging learning with the community created impact, and I had no idea about that.

And I think when I started creating courses as well for other brands and other companies, this whole idea of Skillopp also emerged as well, where we really took into account one very important concept, which was dejargonization. Now, I'm not too sure if you're aware about this, but there's this very big problem that's happening in the world right now. It's called the information overload.

If you think about it, every single time you open, you know, some piece of content, or a reel, or anything, you see so many words that you just don't understand whether it's Web3, crypto, Bitcoin [chuckles], whatever it might be. So, what we basically did in that case through Skillopp, which was this new vertical that we created, we basically simplified content through using different AI tools. And that would really help automate digital learning and communication in organizations. And we've currently worked with the top MNCs in the world as well.

The whole idea, in a nutshell, in terms of my life so far, has really been around how exactly you can design content in the most simplest way possible. How do you dejargonize it? And also, how do you create impact in the sustainable space? Because that is one key area that I think can really teach us so much about our own lives and can create so much of impact given the current climate crisis as well.

JARED: That was a great intro. Thank you. You're working on two businesses. Are you still studying, or you finished studying now?

ISHANI: I finished studying.

JARED: You finished. So, I guess you were studying while you were working.

ISHANI: Mm-hmm.

JARED: But now you're working on two. So, how did you or how do you balance all of that? And how do you choose what to prioritize when they probably both seem just as important?

ISHANI: I think it took me some time to figure that out. It's not easy. I'm somewhat of an overthinker. So, it just so happens to be that when you think about several problems that your business is facing, you know, whether it's, you know, people; it's sales; it's operations, it just really makes you really flustered, and, you know, you're unable to figure out what do I exactly prioritize. One thing that really helped me was just reflecting on the business models and what I was up to, as well as what exactly deserved the amount of priority that it needed to.

So, what really ends up happening is that I think there's a lot of reflection on how do you delegate tasks, and that's how I exactly manage two businesses. I really believe in this whole concept that, as an entrepreneur, everybody looks at you and everyone's like, "Yeah, you must be doing it all," right? Like, the marketing, the sales, especially in the beginning.

But I believe that when you learn the art of delegation and just kind of letting go and surrendering that, okay, no, you know, I have a team who's handling this aspect of the business, and I should not worry about it, you automatically can start focusing on other aspects. And I think that's how I started prioritizing. I divided the tasks into whatever really received utmost importance in the beginning that was easier to do, and then, you know, you sort of get the hang of it.

I'd also like to add to the fact that I think we don't talk about this really often but look at, like, our moms, right? Like, they handle a household and their work at the same time, and they can do it. So, you know, I really think to myself, there are so many people who might be handling more than that, then why can't I do it? I think just setting that motivation really, really helps. And you can then start figuring out how to delegate, how to prioritize. But I think mindset is key because if you don't have the right mindset, you won't be able to do it.

SAMI: As a father of four, that analogy really resonates with me in terms of juggling all those different balls at the same time. But I can imagine it's exhausting as well. But you touched on this concept of dejargonization, which I love because I think there is such a barrier to learning sometimes because humans take simple things and make them complex. And it sounds like, through your e-learning platform, you're taking complex things and returning them back to being simple.

I've seen you describe yourself as a bad learner.

ISHANI: [laughs]

SAMI: What does that mean, and how exactly has that impacted you?

ISHANI: In the beginning, the reason why I pursued education, I guess, there was this very rebellious instinct that I had in mind. When I was in school, it was so different. I was told to especially memorize certain formulas in math. And there was this really gigantic physics book that I had to learn and, you know, kind of memorize the formulas and understand the concepts, no pictures at all. And, you know, you just had to be perceived as, hey, you know, if you can memorize them and you can get good grades, you are really, really smart, but if you can't, then that basically means that you don't have any future. And that was the kind of mindset that I grew up in.

And I think I had this rebellious instinct that if supposing I couldn't, like, especially because in science, I was really, really bad. I used to hate those horrible textbooks. I was just like, how can somebody learn through this? And I was just like, no, I want to change this. I want to change the way people approach education and learning. And I started seeing this and this started becoming so relevant.

A lot of us today might perceive that they know certain concepts. But when we start having a conversation around that concept, there are so many misconceptions that are created because of these preconceived notions of how they were taught earlier about a certain concept as well in school, right? I guess my mission is to kind of eliminate that barrier of questioning concepts right in the beginning when somebody is learning and not being like, hey, you know, if I don't understand this word, if I don't understand this concept, I'm really smart. I'm going to figure it out.

I hate the Superman complex that people have these days. I know it all. I really, really know it all. And I'm just like, well, do you? This is one of my favorite slogans, like, if you can't teach it, then don't preach it. And [laughs] I think that I keep on following that slogan all my life that if I really don't understand anything, I have to figure out a way to understand it, and that doesn't mean that I'm dumb or stupid. I have to figure out a way in terms of understanding that concept.

That's why I call myself a bad learner because I used to hate how I was taught in school. And I was just like, you know, I'm not going learn like this, either I have to change the way I think and I learn. That's the only way that I will do that. And that's why I got into education. I was just like, I really want to take some revenge on this [laughs].

SAMI: I love that. That really resonates with me. I would also, in that sense, I would describe myself as a bad learner, but someone with a good memory, especially when I didn't understand things. I'll never forget when I was studying for my degree. I actually wasn't far from you. I think you were in King's College.


SAMI: Well, I was down the road in LSE.

ISHANI: Oh, nice. Neighbor.

SAMI: Yes, I remember studying for my degree there, and there was one topic I was studying that I just couldn't understand and get my head around. But there's kind of a way to play the system, and that is memorizing things. So, I promise you, I memorized sentences. I could not tell you what they meant, but I used them in my exam. It was kind of cheating, in a way, but it was kind of also working with the system that I had in front of me. But it sounds like if I had something like an e-learning platform at that time, that is something which could have explained things properly and played into strengths that I might have had that I wasn't able to discover in the regular system.

Do you see e-learning platforms...and I've seen this actually from people who, let's say, are studying for their A levels in this country now, which is exams they do ages of, I think, 17 or 16. A lot of them are turning to YouTube, and they learn from YouTubers, and there's other platforms. Do you see e-learning as something which could replace more conventional education, either high schools, degrees? Is that where you see the industry heading?

ISHANI: Well, I wouldn't say that e-learning can replace educational systems. I think, at the end of the day, when it comes to e-learning platforms, as well, I really love them. But I wouldn't say that they're as personalized as you would think. They could be. And the number one element to learn well is to personalize learning because everybody is different. Everybody thinks differently. Everybody has a very different process of thinking. Some people learn in a very auditory way. Some people like listening to podcasts like the ones that you're conducting. Some people like learning visually. Some people like learning kinesthetically.

Sometimes what I believe is that not every single e-learning platform can do justice to every single style of learning or every single individual. And I'm pretty sure there are 500 more styles of learning that we in the L&D space still haven't discovered yet. I think what e-learning can do and how we can really benefit from e-learning is using it as a tool. We should not depend on e-learning platforms completely, like, in terms of even, like, just simplifying content or, like, figuring out a way in terms of writing an essay. That is something that perhaps we can use it as a tool to brainstorm upon, that it makes our lives much easier.

At the end of the day, AI, artificial intelligence, as well as all these e-learning platforms that are coming up, it's a way in terms of conducting the menial tasks that you really didn't want to do so that you can focus on the big stuff. I think if we start approaching e-learning in that way and, you know, also figure out how to set limitations in terms of how we don't depend on it; we will not have, like, a crisis in terms of how we're looking at social media today, where everybody is just addicted to their phones.

JARED: Ishani, I wanted to ask specifically about your product, Skillopp. Who's your target market? You know, we've talked a lot about sort of learners from an education perspective, like high school, university. Are you targeting them, or is it more business, commercial users? And how did you discover that market as well?

ISHANI: Great. So, I think, again, it really happened to be upon chance. So, like, a little bit more about Skillopp. It's not exactly how a product works. We work in a much more adaptable and flexible manner in terms of how you can use AI to simplify content as well. We started working with a number of corporates through word of mouth, I guess, and we created a lot of impact in that space.

And what we did was that we would figure out what would be the best platforms and tools that they can deploy. And we would put them onto one system, and we would develop that for them. So, how it would really end up working would be, like, this very flexible product that we would make as per the needs of the corporate itself, rather than making something of our own, which could not be flexible or adaptable to what the corporation wanted as well. It's really cool because we just end up building on various kinds of innovations.

Like, recently, we would also be open to various forms of different tech partnerships in terms of building those systems as well. So, it just ended up creating this collaboration over competition mindset and where everything happened to be, like, this win-win formula when we would build products. And we would kind of go to these businesses as a service, and we would end up building a product for them. I think, that way, it was very interesting to see how that journey really happened. And I think it was just through experimentation, and I really experimented a lot.

We do also have, like, some developers who are working with us. And we would kind of go out of our way to figure out what the company or the corporate really wants. And we started building upon these products and then we were able to, like, deploy those particular needs of what that organization wanted in terms of what kind of product they really wanted and how they wanted to simplify content. So, it was, like, as if it was made by them, not by us. And it provided that sense of pride within the organization that, hey, you know, this is something that I really built.

This whole concept just got extended through word of mouth to various different organizations and institutions. But, like, through some random way, and I always thought that I'm going to work with an institution first, it just so happened to be working in the corporate space, which is very strange. But I guess that's how entrepreneurship, to a certain extent, works with so much of experimentation that went on.

JARED: You're using generative AI as part of that to identify, let's say, jargon and then simplify that language. And one of the problems that generative AI has is what they call the hallucination problem, where it sort of makes stuff up that's not true. Have you encountered that? And I'm curious of any ways you're trying to tackle it.

ISHANI: [laughs] So many times. I think AI it's like raising a baby, you know [laughs]. I always like to use that anecdote because [laughs], like, my experience in terms of, like, generative AI and AI, in general, it's always been, like, as if I'm bringing a baby up in terms of, you know, the machine learning aspect of it.

I think, yeah, we've encountered that quite a number of times. I think the best way in terms of also approaching this hallucination aspect is to kind of keep the task as specific as possible. If you want to teach somebody a little bit about sales and how do you exactly approach a customer in terms of closing in a deal, right? The way we can approach it. How do you simplify that process for, let's say, sales agents, right? It's to kind of really figure out what is that particular skill that the sales agent really needs help upon. So that if we try and specify it more, then the AI will really understand that, okay, I have to stick to this boundary. I really can't go out of that.

And making it as specific as possible really helped us in the process, and they were able to really upskill themselves in that one specific subskill. And we really, really worked on that conversation to such an extent that I even know the script of that conversation in terms of how a sales agent is supposed to negotiate and what would that script be for that particular industry and that organization. So, I think just specifying it as much as you can really helps. I think the hallucination effect happens so much, and that is one problem and also an area that I'd love to do more research in as well.

JARED: So, humans aren't going anywhere just yet.

ISHANI: Yeah, not going anywhere. Actually, I really don't think so. A lot of people just keep on talking about AI is going to be...and I would...actually, this is a question that I'd love to ask both of you as well that do you think AI is really going to replace human beings? And everybody just keeps on talking about it, and I don't really think so. But what do you think?

JARED: Oh, gosh, we could have a whole episode just on this.

ISHANI: [laughs]

JARED: There's a lot of parallels to the industrial revolution, where everyone said all of the machinery that was created was going to get people out of jobs, farming, and agriculture. And all it really did was shifted the demand for resources into different and slightly more specialized roles. I think we'll see a similar shift with AI. I do think, in time, there will be a significant portion of existing jobs that might go the way of AI overlords. But I'd like to think there'll always be a place for us little humans. What about you, Sami?

SAMI: I love this question. I think I've gone around the houses with this one. So, I've gone through different phases of like, oh my gosh, we're all going to die, and no one's going to have any more jobs, and we don't know what we're going to do. Even to the extent that I was really proud of myself that I learned on YouTube how to silicon my bathroom because I was adamant that AI could not do that. And so, if all else goes to pot, then at the very least, I have a skill that is valuable. And then, recently, I've seen the robots they're coming up with, so even that is not really going to work for me. It's really difficult to know. It's so difficult.

I find generative AI less compelling because of the hallucinations that we've spoken about. I see that as being far off, and a lot of it depends on the accuracy. Your baby analogy is great. Because the way we're used to interacting with computers is they give us responses that are kind of, like, binary. They're either right or they're wrong. It's like a green light, red light relationship. And when it comes to generative AI, you need to have that more personal relationship with the computer to have that conversation back and forward to get it where you want it to be.

Something that has definitely come more to the forefront is discriminative AI, which is AI that can tell a difference between certain data sets. So, I see that taking off a lot more. So, for example, they're using it in, like, the medical sector where the AI can discriminate or tell the difference between certain brain scans in terms of understanding what might be an issue and what might not be an issue. So, that is very powerful. We've actually had that for quite a long time. But as computing power is becoming more affordable, as certain chips have become available, it's becoming more widespread, and we can harness that a lot more.

So, discriminative AI, I think, is being very disruptive, and I think it will continue to be. Degenerative AI, I'm not sure because of the difficulties you've spoken about. But worst-case scenario, I will personally come and silicon your bathroom.

So, the e-learning company that you have, that seems more familiar to me. And maybe it could be also potentially more familiar to some of our listeners because a lot of us have kind of grown up on YouTube. And I'm not comparing it to YouTube. I know it's a very different beast altogether. It's something which we could possibly identify with and understand more. The Sustainr aspect is a little bit more foreign to me. So, I'd love to get to understand more of what the Sustainr company that you have is all about and how it works.

ISHANI: Like I said, I think Sustainr is this very interesting community that we built over the pandemic kind of touching upon this whole aspect of...and I think I'll also, like, come to this point in terms of how Skillopp and Sustainr are also kind of interlinked. It all, actually, technically speaking, started with the same problem: dejargonization.

What really happened was that when you also start a startup, especially in the sustainable space, what a lot of people, and when I talked to a lot of founders, especially the 40 brands that we have on our platform, it's like, "Ishani, I just don't know who exactly to approach. I don't know what...supposing I'm trying to find sourcing materials related to my business, supposing I'm trying to find individuals who can create content that is based on the concept of my business, I just don't see the results. And I don't see that people are able to understand and comprehend what I'm trying to talk about."

And I feel like this is also perhaps a cultural problem as well. I mean, for example, this has been my experience as well as a number of people in India. Because India is currently growing at a massive rate with the economy, as well as the startup boom that's happening. If you think about it, every single person's mindset is like, I really need to get this done. And that's why a lot of us are also very impatient.

So, just thinking about how we're actually really thinking, we create, like, this impatience sort of situationship in our head. And we don't want to perhaps learn about new things. That stops us from learning and really digging deep because we're just like, no, no, no, we need to get this done, and we need to hustle. And there's a lot of that culture that's present over here because our economy is growing. Startups are booming. And there's lots of work to be done. Like, trust me, if you come to Bangalore or Bombay, you will actually feel that pressure [laughs].

So, really thinking about that mindset, what really happens is that when somebody, especially in Southeast Asian countries or especially in a country like India, are looking for stuff for their sustainable business, a lot of people are like, "But what is sustainability? What is ESG? Is it just environment-related?" And, you know, just this communication style, so to say, creates a lot of impatience between both the parties, and that leads to mistrust. Miscommunication takes place. Orders don't come on time. There's a lot of problem and havoc. This also leads to a lot of mental stress.

That's why we created this platform, so to say. And how it really works is like, it's like any form of connecting platform. We have various categories, as well, through which people can perhaps list their business on the platform in terms of that particular category, whether it's in sourcing, whether it's in fundraising, finance, or even marketing per se.

And we just kind of connect them just like how you would connect people over LinkedIn, like, through an intro. But we would be the ones who would be part of that whole connection scenario so that everybody knows that there is, like, this trusted platform being built between the two people and that they're not alone. There's somebody else who's also dejargonizing the communication flow.

And through that, what really happens, Sami, is that, like, the ideas of collaborations really grew because we would also have events. We would also have, like, these very interesting micro podcasts just for the community. And we would just post all of that content that would, A, build a lot of positivity amongst people in that space. And, you know, it would just kind of lead to more productivity in terms of different collaborations. Like, for example, we just tied up somebody who was creating straws using, I think, coconut or something like that to a chain of vegan cafes.

I think what really happened was that through this trusted platform, through a community, I think it really, really bolsters a lot of positive mindset. At the end of the day, like I said in the beginning, I really think that it's all about mindset, which really helps you take that action. And that, in a nutshell, is what Sustainr really does in terms of just connecting resources.

And now because we work with corporates as well, if supposing there are companies who want to pursue, let's just say, corporate gifting or something like that, we kind of help and initiate that process as well. So, it just becomes, like, this interlinked network where you can really just harness as many collaborations as possible so that you can also grow your business. You have time for experimentation. You have the safe space as well. And I didn't get an opportunity to be a part of any such community. So, I was just like, why not try and see how I can create one?

JARED: That's great. It sounds like education and trust, a huge part of this marketplace. How do you ensure you find trusted partners, and how do you convince the people on the other side of that marketplace to trust you or to trust your marketplace?

ISHANI: So, I think in terms of building trust, it takes time. So, we're not a community, or we're not kind of, like, this platform; we're, like, telling everybody that, "Hey, you know, come on our platform. We'll ensure that your business will grow." I think, first of all, it's setting the right expectations in terms of what exactly you can really achieve out of this platform. B, I think what I really like to do is, like, a lot of phone calls, just talking to the founder in terms of how he started that particular idea of his. How did it really take place?

Our onboarding process is not like you have to fill in this very big, huge form, which will make you extremely bored, and you're just like, "Oh my God, this is, like, such a heavy task." Like, no, it's okay. There are some people in our team who also kind of talk to the founders and figure out what their story is all about. How did they really start that particular business? And if supposing what they're really looking for is something that we can really curtail to. Because we don't want to be also, like, a community where there's no value that we can add, then what's the whole point?

And I'm very hell-bent on setting those expectations so that when people actually join our platform, then, you know, it's not like, okay, like, this is going to be just spam coming on [laughs] your way in terms of all the other communities that we end up seeing. But it's so much more than that. I think it's kind of like when we establish that synergy that, all right, if this is what you're looking for, and these are the kind of people that we have, that's the only way that we kind of build that trust. And that trust-building, it takes time. It doesn't happen automatically; it takes a lot of time, and that's why we have a lot of events.

We share a lot of bits of content around, let's say, the investing market in the space of sustainability and ESG. What exactly is happening out there? We even link with other communities to build more trust. So, supposing there's a better community than Sustainr, I'd be like, yeah, 100%, you should definitely look at those communities. Like, that tagline has always been collaboration over competition, and I think it's always worked in our favor.

We would also end up collaborating with those communities around climate. In so many different aspects, that's helped us, and that's the way that you also kind of build trust, when you actually see those actionable steps being taken, and you see that taking place. But it's not something that I can, like, assure you, like, yeah, 100% the trust is built within that one day. It takes some time, but it happens over a period of time.

JARED: I love what you just said there about almost the long-term strategy of, you know what? If there's a better community, we're going to point you in that direction. That, to me, builds so much trust because the short-term option is to say, "Oh, okay, I've seen this. It's probably better for them, but that means they're not on our platform. So, that's not better for me." That is a tremendous way to build trust in a sort of long-term user base. So, I really love that.

SAMI: Yeah. I mean, we've only been, I don't know, we've been speaking for about half an hour, 40 minutes now, and I feel like I really trust you as well [laughter]. It's, like, rubbing off. This concept of, you know, demystification and simplifying things it shows this authenticity. And I think your personality comes across and the way that you run these businesses. And you're doing it in an incredibly genuine way. I think that really talks to people. I think people are looking, like, not for jargon. They really want authentic people they can relate to who are real human beings. And that's something which I think really comes across through speaking to you.

Obviously, as a consultancy, myself and Jared we work within thoughtbot, and we work with people like yourself to really try and solve their problems and understand what their pain points are. And we can come up with solutions through design or development. What would you say is your biggest challenge? In either one of these businesses or as a whole, where's your biggest challenge at the moment?

ISHANI: There are so many [laughs]. But I guess to start off with, kind of scaling it to a considerable level. But at the same time, you know, scaling requires investment, and scaling also requires some amount of time in terms of figuring out how exactly you want to grow your team, which also takes time. So, sometimes I feel like I'm in this catch-22 situation where I'm just like, if I do need investment, right? For example, scale or if I need investment to grow my team even further to get more clients so that I can target more projects, let's say for Skillopp; again, finding the right people it takes time. And I think that's something that I really also kind of struggle with. It took me a lot of time to find the right people for the projects that we're doing right now.

I think any tips would be great in terms of how exactly I can really do that so that even if supposing I want to raise investment and I know what I want to raise investment in, which is to grow the team, how exactly would I really approach that? Because I always feel like it's like this catch-22 situation.

JARED: Well, it sounds like you already have some clients, which is an infinite step up on most businesses that are starting out and trying to get investment. Like, the fact that you can prove you have revenue coming in is amazing. I mean, the typical things that investors want, like the investor deck, right? They're going to want to see your vision for the business. They're going to want to see your financials and the forecast. And then, it's a matter of finding the right investors as well because I guess there are so many out there. But I think you probably want to find one that matches your values around sustainability and dejargonization as well.

SAMI: Yeah, that's a great answer, Jared, actually. And, I think, just to add on top of that, this is where sometimes using a consultancy actually really helps. We see this a lot within thoughtbot, where someone is looking to get investment and wants to scale their team. But when you do that in-house, that comes with a lot of overheads.

So, for example, you might need an extra person, your HR team, to handle new people, you know, being directly employed. Going to a consultancy and getting a third-party delivery partner allows you to kind of scale your team quickly, but also, descale that team quickly as well, so that it gives you that flexibility whilst you're in that more turbulent zone of, "Oh, I'm trying to scale, and I'm trying to get investment. And I'm not sure where my budgets are." Until you, you know, complete that scaling that you want to do, you get to a place where you're more stable. And then, actually, what thoughtbot does is helps people to then hire their own in-person team. But yeah, something like a consultancy can give that flexibility.

But the way you describe this catch-22 situation is so common because what do I do first? I've got all these levers I could pull. So, I could pull the investment lever, or I could pull the, you know, extra resources lever. And then, there's like, you know, extra revenue lever as well. So, it's a really difficult problem. But definitely, we found, as a consultancy, that having that flexibility using third-party partners can be something which helps.

JARED: And I wanted to just ask, because I remember you were saying you're working with some developers, are they developers you've hired, or is that a third-party team you're working with?

ISHANI: It's very similar to what you really mentioned. It's like a strategic partnership with a third-party team. But, again, I think finding the third-party team also, like, it takes a long time to find. But I think that I really liked the thought that you were really talking about as well earlier, where you were kind of mentioning that that whole catch-22 situation is super, super important to understand.

And I feel that instead of kind of going on LinkedIn and, like, posting so many, like, you know, these job descriptions with the overhead costs...I started learning that once I made that mistake. I think I learned so much about that. And I think that what you said it's also, like, reflecting on the fact that, okay, you really can see this through the strategic partnerships. And I think I'd love to be somebody or, like, you know, aspire to be someone who can, like, master that whole art of finding the third-party consultancies like you were mentioning, especially what you're doing as well. So, I think it's great, and thank you so much for the feedback and as well as answering question.

SAMI: It's been great to have you on. And doing a podcast like this it just gives us the opportunity to speak to people like yourself. If people want to reach out to you, do you have any specific place you'd like them to reach out?

ISHANI: You can go on my LinkedIn, where you'll find a lot of stuff and links to what I do.

SAMI: Cool. So, I highly recommend our listeners to take a look at Skillopp, and take a look at Sustainr, and get to know all the great work that Ishani is doing.

For our listeners, we're going to bring you lots more content like this. This was the first one in the Giant Robots on Tour series. Your only challenge before the next one is to hit the subscribe button to make sure you get this content directly as soon as it comes out because we've got some incredible guests lined up for you.

You can find notes and a complete transcript for this episode at If you have questions or comments, you can email us at

This podcast is brought to you by thoughtbot and produced and edited by Mandy Moore.

Thanks for listening. See ya.

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