Apr 2, 2023

Rajiv Nathan

Rajiv Nathan is a multifaceted professional with a diverse background in entrepreneurship, marketing, and storytelling. Currently serving as the Founder and CEO of Startup Hypeman, he helps startups and entrepreneurs craft compelling stories and pitches to attract investors and customers. Rajiv is known for his dynamic and engaging speaking style, which has earned him recognition as a top Nitin Bajajt various events and conferences. He is also a co-host of the “Sweathead” podcast, where he explores the intersection of creativity and strategy in marketing. Rajiv’s passion for helping others succeed and his innovative approach to storytelling make him a valuable asset to the startup community.

Episode Highlights

  • 0:00:00) – Nitin Bajaj welcomes Rajiv Nathan to the show
  • (0:00:15) – Everything in life comes down to this deep rooted belief in the power of expression
  • (0:01:49) – You go by Raj Nation on Twitter and Facebook
  • (0:03:12) – Startup hype Man, LLC helps startups stand out from the competition
  • (0:05:55) – So tell us more about the impact you’ve created working with startups
  • (0:10:43) – The challenge that’s in front of me is scaling with a freelance team
  • (0:13:55) – This is your personal brand that you’re now looking to franchise somewhat
  • (0:15:24) – Go to market club helps founders and go to market leaders grow and scale
  • (0:17:41) – Something that did not work out as expected can be a lesson, I think
  • (0:23:46) – Rajiv shares some of his one line life lessons with us
  • (0:24:12) – Daniel Burnham is considered the architect of modern Chicago

Show Transcript

Transcript - Full Episode

Nitin Bajaj (0:00:00) – Hey, everyone. Welcome to the industry show. I’m your host, Nitin Bajaj. And joining me today is Rajiv Nathan. Rajiv, welcome on the show.

Rajiv Nathan (0:00:09) – Thank you for having me.

Nitin Bajaj (0:00:10) – Pleasure to have you here. Let’s get started with who is Rajiv?

Rajiv Nathan (0:00:15) – All right, so, funny enough, I have put a lot of thought into, actually this question and figuring out who I am over the years. And it several years back. What I realized is that everything that I care about most in life comes down to this deep rooted belief in the power of expression. So my fundamental, core belief in life is that everyone deserves to express themselves. And the ways that I have found I can help people with that. Both being expressive myself and helping others with that is different forms of storytelling and helping give people a voice. So that has really been, whether it’s been conscious or subconscious over the years, that’s been the driving force between all the stuff that I do professionally and personally. So I am a hip hop artist, right, which is storytelling and expression. I’m a yoga instructor. And the approach that I take to constructing a class is constructing it almost like a story unfolding. And it’s very much a practice of expression as well. I am a ring announcer for MMA, combat sports. And that’s helping give the fighters inside the ring a voice, right? Helping the crowd get behind them. And then along with all of that, what takes up most of my time is running startup hype, man, which is around helping give startups a voice through their pitch.

Nitin Bajaj (0:01:48) – Absolutely. Love. You know, I’m curious to know, you go by Raj Nation. Is that an alter ego of yours? Is that just a pen name or a social media name? I’m very curious.

Rajiv Nathan (0:01:59) – Yeah, so it’s like my personal brand, let’s say, is Raj Nation. And it started because I created a Twitter account back in 2010, I think it was. And at that time, if you were following sports closely, at that time, everything was like, if you were a fan of something, it was like, you’re part of Red Sox Nation, you’re part of Cubs Nation, you’re part know, patriots Nation, whatever. Like, ESPN just kept doing that with everything. And so I was like, all right, if you follow me, you’re part of Raj Nation. And it worked. Know, it’s like, Rajiv Nathan. Raj Nathan. There’s a little bit of rhyming there, so it made sense, and then it just kind of stuck over the years to where now my wife, when she wants my attention, she’ll be like, raj Nation, let’s go.

Nitin Bajaj (0:02:49) – I love it. It is catchy. I love the name.

Rajiv Nathan (0:02:52) – And I like to know in a couple of my songs in the past, I’ve said Raj Nation, and you ain’t saying.

Nitin Bajaj (0:03:02) – You know, I get that a lot, right? My name is Nathan. Most people can’t pronounce it. It defaults to. So I can relate to it. Tell us about startup hype men. And as you tell us about that, I’m curious to know, is that the name you actually registered? Is that your incorporation, or is that just a DBA?

Rajiv Nathan (0:03:24) – No, it’s startup hype Man, LLC.

Nitin Bajaj (0:03:27) – Nice.

Rajiv Nathan (0:03:27) – Love it. It didn’t start as that, but I changed it to that about two years. I’ll come back to that in a second. The ethos and the genesis of startup hype man is I think there’s probably nothing more frustrating if you are running a company than having a particular vision for what you think the world is supposed to be. And then at the same time, on a day to day level, it seems like nobody can understand what you do. And that gets in the way when you’re raising capital. That gets in the way when you are trying to go to market and acquire customers, as you’re building out a sales team, as you’re trying to figure out marketing, messaging. And that ultimately is the delta between where a company is today and where they’re trying to go and grow. You’ve got this vision for being the next big thing, the next great thing, and then how are you going to be great if no one understands what you do? So where we come in is in. We want to help these companies become, as we say, the goat to market, right, the greatest of all time to market. And the way we do that is by helping them stand out and stand apart in how they pitch and how they tell their story so that their audience recognizes them not as the best, but as the only. And companies who can establish themselves as the only get to shape the rest of the market in their image instead of being compared to what else is out there. And don’t get pointed at and say, what do they do? I don’t get it. So that’s where we come in. And it’s funny because the original name for the business was Raj Nation Innovation LlC, which was just a mouthful. And I never felt comfortable saying it out. Know, I’d always be, you know, you’re working with my business, you’re working with Raj, you’re working with Raj Nation. But Raj Nation Innovation always felt so weird to say, and then one day someone was like, you’re kind of like a hype man for these startups. And I was like, yeah, that’s it. And then that’s how it started. So that tax season, I officially changed the name.

Nitin Bajaj (0:05:42) – I love the name, I love the pitch. And the thing I love the most is the go to market.

Rajiv Nathan (0:05:49) – Right?

Nitin Bajaj (0:05:50) – That’s such an awesome catchphrase. So super, love that. So tell us more about the impact you’ve created working with these startups. Whether it’s in terms of revenues, the number of startups you’ve helped raise or.

Rajiv Nathan (0:06:07) – Grow over the years, it’s been a cool journey. So this is now the 7th year, I believe we started officially in 2017, and it’s 2023 now. So I think this is what, year seven? We completed year six. Yeah. So over the years, it’s been definitely an interesting journey in getting this off the ground. A lot of time in the first two, three years wondering if the next month is it something I can still keep doing. But you make it through those troughs and ultimately you start to hit more peaks along the way. And we’ve had a lot of cool success with different startups. We’ve helped one company, we’ve supported them with their pitch, and they ended up raising a $25 million round. We’ve had some companies raise 5 million, 3 million, 2 million. We’ve had a lot of pitch competition winners, which is so cool and so fun. One of my favorite stories is this company, Cyber pop up. The founder, Christine, she won, over the course of a year, five pitch competitions that totaled $250,000.

Nitin Bajaj (0:07:10) – Nice.

Rajiv Nathan (0:07:10) – And she posted this retrospective online where she was like, high school me, worked minimum wage at McDonald’s, and then it was like, got a phd, then it was like six figure salary per year at United, and then six figures in five minutes on a stage. So I think those kinds of growth stories are really cool. And then we’ve also had a good impact on some of the companies will help with their sales narrative and their sales team and improving their close rates. We had one guy go from like a 30% close rate to he had like a three month stretch where he was closing like 120% or he was not closing, he was doing 120% of his quota for a full quarter. So those kinds of wins are just awesome to see. And what I like too, is startups win in public. You don’t raise a bunch of money, you don’t win a pitch competition and tell no one about it. It’s something you want to tell people about. So it’s nice because you get to see their victories in public.

Nitin Bajaj (0:08:19) – Love that. And I’m imagining you almost kind of going in and helping them with coming up with a cool rap song and then using your energy from the hosting the mmas and just kind of making it super entertaining and maybe for some, even exhausting.

Rajiv Nathan (0:08:40) – Funny enough, one of our product offerings is making a company rap song on your behalf. We’ve had a few companies purchase that in the past, which has been really fun, but in our process, it’s influenced by all these different sources, like entertainment, primarily from entertainment, I should say. But any client who works with us, they’re like, wow, this is a very clean process we’re going through. And all these steps make sense and break it down in such a simple and easy to understand way. So it’s like the energy that’s happening up front and on an everyday basis, once you’re actually sitting down and working with us, it’s like, all right, let’s get down to business and see how we actually do this. And I think aside from the capital raise or the revenue wins that these companies have, I just think what’s so cool is them being like, the moment you see their face when they’re like, when you give them, hey, here’s what we think your pitch should be. And they’re like, oh, holy crap, that’s cool. Oh, I can’t wait to start telling people that. Right? They get remoteivated on their own company.

Nitin Bajaj (0:09:49) – That’s so cool. And I would imagine sometimes it might be the process you go through with them helps them clarify what that story, what that pitch and what their customer or prospect should be wanting to listen to that clarity is so extremely important. And we as entrepreneurs and startup founders, kind of get wound up in our own challenges, issues, or kind of get too deep into the weeds. So bringing that out and portraying it for the listener is so extremely important.

Rajiv Nathan (0:10:28) – Of course. I mean, the listener is everything, right? If you can’t make sense to your audience, what do you have? So, yeah, that ability to start connecting with your target audience, it’s a total game changer for so many.

Nitin Bajaj (0:10:43) – So as you’re helping other startups and other companies realize their own best potential, what’s the one big challenge you’re facing.

Rajiv Nathan (0:10:53) – As a business right now? The challenge that’s in front of me is scaling with a freelance team. That’s my big focus right now. I’ve been able to build out a team of project based freelancers over the last two years, but really in the last eight months, because I’ve started over the last eight months to remove myself from all of the pitch development with clients, and I’m training other, the title is pitch artist. So I’m the chief pitch artist, and now I’m training other pitch artists.

Nitin Bajaj (0:11:29) – I like that you’re a CPA.

Rajiv Nathan (0:11:31) – Yeah. Never thought of it in that acronym before. For a long time. Beyond that, we’ve had other people on the team who are the designers of the graphic designers of the presentation who help write some supporting documentation. But I’ve always been the person who’s their pitch artist. And so now handing that off over the last eight months has been, I think that’s the challenge. And it’s a challenge because for better or worse, what I have built is a personality driven business, and it’s great in a lot of ways where it can be a drawback is needing to tell them, hey, you’re not going to work with me, though. You’re going to work with so and so on our team. And so it’s that challenge combined with what I’m learning is that this particular skill set and the way we execute it is very specialized. So figuring out who are the right people for this and then how do I best equip and train them, it’s proving a lot more difficult than I thought it was, but it’s a good teacher in the process. And I also think what’s interesting when you’re scaling in a freelance model is it’s different if it’s a salaried employee. Right. It’s weird to say, but you kind of have final say in how they spend all hours of their day, more or less, when it’s freelance team, you don’t have that. So also, navigating, how do you be mindful that they are your employee for a project and, yeah, they need to interact with you and stuff, and you need to be able to communicate with them while still respecting the boundaries that are there. And the way I’m trying to approach that is through making them feel as much like an employee, a salaried employee of the company, as I possibly can. So that includes every month sending a company update email of like, here’s how we did last month. Here’s where we struggled. Here’s what’s next, here’s where we need to focus on all that kind of stuff. So I literally treat it as if every employee is like my board of advisors that I’m having to give an update to.

Nitin Bajaj (0:13:47) – I love that transparency, that faith, and also that sense of ownership, and I can relate to that challenge. This is your personal brand that you’re now kind of looking to franchise somewhat.

Rajiv Nathan (0:14:01) – Yeah. To an extent, yeah. It is almost like you’re trying to franchise it. The reality is, I realized about a year and a half ago is when I started to think about, I need to start training other people. And then about eight months ago is when I finally did an interview process and hired some people. And the reason I was like, I need to hire some people is because I looked at my calendar and I did the math on the revenue number that the business tops out at, and it’s good. But I was like, that’s so limiting, though, right? And I was like, okay, so this has to grow beyond me. Otherwise I’ll never be able to go and do these other things that I want to do on behalf of the business. Right. If I need to be meeting with every client all the time, that impacts the ability to go travel to this conference, to go speak at this thing, to do stuff like this, right? To do podcasts like this. So it’s hard to be kind of like the poster boy, if you will, and also be the operator of the whole thing, too. So having to delegate and distribute was by necessity. I like the direction that we’re headed in.

Nitin Bajaj (0:15:23) – Love it. On the flip side of challenges come opportunities. What’s the most exciting one?

Rajiv Nathan (0:15:30) – I think the launch recently of our goat to market club. This is a new home. We’ve built an online community for founders and go to market leaders designed to help them grow and scale through. The focus of the club is every month we have what we call a strategy drop. And that’s like a highly specific hands on workshop on a particular go to market strategy that we’re able to teach to the community. And with, like, here’s your action items coming out of this. And we want them to put those into play so they can start picking up some traction, growing and scaling. And what I think is so cool is we’re pulling this off for a membership fee of $9 a month. So it’s less than Netflix. And originally, when I was concepting this last year, I was like, maybe we make it 200, 300, $400 a month, because it’s really like advanced coaching they’re getting. And then I sussed that out with a few people, and the response was kind of like, mixed. It was like, this seems like it would be a great thing, but not for me right now. Like, oh, I would like to join that at some point in the future, or people who were not saying that and they were interested, they were like, okay, but I’d need to know, what all am I getting for that money every month? And then I was like, this is going to create its own separate sales funnel that’s actually going to take away from the main thing that we do, which is pitch development. And then when you’re charging 300, $400 a month, there’s all this rely. You got to make sure you’re hitting on every exact thing every single time. Otherwise people will get mad. And so then I was like, no, you know what? Let’s just make it $9 a month. So it’s like, stupidly low price. And let’s make a sponsor supported model. So that’s what’s helping fund the operation, helping allow us to bring these strategies basically for free to this community is the support and the help of sponsors.

Nitin Bajaj (0:17:32) – That’s really smart. And we’ll be sure to include the link how people can join it as we post this. Now, let’s take a step back and go back in history. I would love for you to share two examples. One of a success that blew your own expectations. And on the other side, something that did not work out as you had expected and became a lesson, I think.

Rajiv Nathan (0:18:04) – Let me start with the quote unquote failure. And the lesson learned. I had a business before this that did not succeed. And I thought it was going to be the thing. It was called idea. Lemon started it with a friend from college. We were doing, like, personal brand development for others, but not really. And the problem was we couldn’t really figure out what we were doing. And we toiled away at that full time for almost two years, part time for, like, two years prior to that. And the reality is, I just, like, wasn’t. When I look back now, I just wasn’t mature enough yet to have successfully run a business because I was still in this need to get ideas out of my system kind of mode. And that really got in the way of trying to be like, well, this business represents one thing that’s doing this. I wanted it to be the, but let’s try this. And let’s try this. And let’s try this. Right. At one point, we were like, oh, we’re going to be almost like a record label to help sponsor people’s ideas. But then it was like, but nothing we were doing day to day would speak to that, right? So it was just this constant internal conflict of, what are we, how are we talking about ourselves? What do we want to be? We couldn’t figure out an answer. And I think the important thing is here, I’m sure you’ve heard people say, like, there’s no such thing as failure. It’s just learning. Here’s my thing. I call BS on that, and here’s why. If I don’t take an honest look at ideallm in that venture and I say that failed, then I am not going to learn from it.

Nitin Bajaj (0:19:50) – Exactly.

Rajiv Nathan (0:19:51) – If I’m just like, oh, no, it was fine because we learned these things, I’m going to make the same mistakes again. But the fact that I look at that and I say, no, that was a failure. It points me in the direction of what not to do again. And that’s the lesson. Right. But the fact that I label it a failure allows me to learn from it. And that’s at least how my brain works. And I have to imagine others brains may also work that way. So I just want to let people know it’s okay to call the thing a failure, because then it tells your brain, don’t do that thing again.

Nitin Bajaj (0:20:20) – Put that label on it.

Rajiv Nathan (0:20:21) – Right, exactly. That’s the failure. Which, it’s funny, I think it’s way easier to call to mind what’s the failure or failures than it is what are the successes? I think, I don’t know. There’s like cool things that I’ve done before. I’ve given a TEDx talk. I’ve been on national television doing ring announcing for MMA. All things that I’m like, wow, that’s cool that happened, right? I don’t know, but I really feel like the things that are coolest is just like the little stuff. Like when someone is like, hey, I’ve been following your content for the last year, and it’s helped me in these ways. Or we give someone a pitch and they go and they crush it, right? They go and these win these competitions, they go and raise money, or even just yesterday, training one of our new team members, training to be a pitch artist, and they do like, a really good job in that training session. It’s just one of those, like, yes, the system is working. And I think that’s what’s interesting is when I was younger, I’d look at quote unquote successful people and I’d be like, man, do they ever think it’s crazy that one day they were selling out, they were performing in a basement, and then all of a sudden they’re performing Madison Square Garden. And I’m not saying I’ve done that, but I’ve had different versions of that in this landscape. Anyway, just recently I keynoted a company’s conference by rapping like, I performed for them, right? So stuff like that. But the thing is, everything happens in steps along the way. So it’s not like, oh, one day I was here, and then the next day, all of a sudden, I was on stage in front of 20,000 fans. It’s like there’s all these little steps in between. And that’s really what I think is the fun part of it, as difficult as it can be, is the journey to get there, because to the outside, it looks like you went from here to here all of a sudden. But, you know, you never even think to think of it like that because you’re like, no, I didn’t go from here to here. It was Madison Square Garden. But right before that, I had to meet with these people, and before that, I had to do this show that no one showed up to. Right. Or that it was slightly smaller and all these things. So I think it’s just like, I try to be good about stepping back to reflect, and I feel like every time I do, it’s not like, oh, I won this award. That’s what I’m sleeping happy at night. It’s like, I don’t know. I’m doing something that people value, that I enjoy. And again, the journey is challenging, but it’s also really fun, and I don’t think there’s anything else I would want to be doing.

Nitin Bajaj (0:23:22) – So true. It’s that ten year long overnight success.

Rajiv Nathan (0:23:27) – Yeah, exactly.

Nitin Bajaj (0:23:28) – And it’s those small moments. And I was really hoping for you to say my biggest success. As I was rapping, I knocked out this MMA player. But it’s the little things.

Rajiv Nathan (0:23:40) – That’s where I’m getting my ass whooped if I try and take a swing at them.

Nitin Bajaj (0:23:46) – Rajiv, this helps us transition into my favorite part of the show, which we call the one line life lessons. I’d love for you to share some of your life lessons with us.

Rajiv Nathan (0:23:58) – All right. So you can wrap them to us.

Nitin Bajaj (0:24:02) – Okay. That’s totally cool.

Rajiv Nathan (0:24:06) – I wonder if I could wrap this out. It doesn’t rhyme, unfortunately. So, one that I always enjoy is the person who’s considered, like, the founding father, architect of modern Chicago after the great Chicago fire in the late 18 hundreds, is Daniel Burnham. And he said, make no little plans. The full quote is, make no little plans. They have no something to stir a man’s blood. Like, they have no emotion or something like that. To stir a man’s blood, but make no little plans. I like that my high school track coach would always say, practice doesn’t make perfect, but it damn sure makes permanent, which I’ve always liked. One of my high school track teammates who’s still a friend. He told me when he was a few years older, I was, like, complaining one day. I was like, oh, how come this event, they’re not giving out awards? And he was like, no. He was like, that doesn’t matter. You just got to do it to do it like you’re here for the sake of the competition. Everything else is secondary. It’s not about the award. One of the guiding questions that I ask myself, which I’ll phrase instead as a statement, is take the meaningful path, not the easy path. And the last thing I’ll say, which is the guiding point of view of startup hype, man, is don’t be the best, be the only.

Nitin Bajaj (0:25:41) – Love them. Love every single one of them. And, yeah, the first one is my favorite, right, which I have translated into go big or go home.

Rajiv Nathan (0:25:51) – Yeah.

Nitin Bajaj (0:25:54) – I love that. It really rhymes with the spirit. You bring on the hypeman philosophy to it and ties really nicely well with be the only. Thank you so much for making time to share your story and your journey with us. We really appreciate it. And congratulations for all the successes so far, and best wishes for your continued success.

Rajiv Nathan (0:26:22) – Thank you for having me. I enjoyed this.

Nitin Bajaj (0:26:25) – So did I. Thanks a lot.


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