Office Hours: My startup was acquired by Brex for $50 Million. I'm Ambika Acharya, Co-founder & CTO at Weav and an early Elpha member. AMA!Featured

Hi Elphas!

I’m Ambika Acharya.

I founded Weav just over a year and a half ago alongside my cofounders, Nadav and Avikam. Weav is a fintech infrastructure company on a mission to help small businesses access financial services faster through our unified API for commerce platforms. In August, we were acquired by Brex for $50 million in their first significant acquisition.

Before co-founding Weav, I was a Machine Learning Engineer at Apple, where I built predictive and personalized features for iOS. I graduated from Stanford University where I did research in deep learning, computational biology and computer vision, and earned my B.S. and M.S. in Computer Science.

Starting a company during a global pandemic had its share of ups and downs and I’m grateful to Elpha for being a community I could rely on to help motivate and inspire me to push through the tough times. Over the past two years I’ve built many prototypes, had to pivot ideas multiple times, learned how to pitch our product to both customers and investors and figure out how to hire the best team to execute our mission - all while running, biking and playing basketball when I can to stay sane! :)

Ask me anything about the founder journey, hiring teams & scaling a startup, building data-centric products, recommendations for bike rides in the Bay Area or something else!

Thanks so much for joining us @ambika14!Elphas – please ask @ambika14 your questions before Friday, November 5th. @ambika14 may not have time to answer every questions, so emoji upvote your favorites πŸ”₯πŸ‘πŸΎβž•
Thanks for having me!!
Thank you @krissymashinsky!
Thank you @ambika14 for doing this session!What was the moment you decided to leave your job and start a company? What triggered that moment?
Thanks for your question @tanmayisai! Having a founding team that you trust and enjoy working with makes all the difference when starting a company. The moment I realized that I had found co-founders who balanced me out so well (in terms of skills, personality, etc.) I decided it was the right time to take the plunge! It's rare to find a team you work well with so I capitalized on the opportunity when it presented itself. I also made sure I felt secure financially to make such a decision.
Thank you for sharing!
Quite a journey Ambika.
Thank you @pswoman!
Hi Ambika, kudos to you! What do you do to decompress?
Thanks for the question @techbagels! Doing anything active helps me decompress - I love running, biking, playing basketball and backpacking. I also love spending time with friends or watching TV with my roommates :)
Congratulations on your exit!I would love to know where to start with finding developers. I have a unique e-commerce platform that I want to function differently than other platforms. I need to find a developer to talk to, to find out if my idea is even feasible but not sure where to even start! I've been working with a website company that doesn't really understand how to get me to my full vision. I'm an accidental tech founder so in search of a community I'm not yet a part of!
Thank you @LadyChangeMakers! Awesome to hear that you're working on your own idea and immersing yourself in the tech. If you're looking for a technical co-founder, I'd recommend looking at communities like AngelList, IndieHackers and attending tech meetups (and Elpha of course!) I'd also try . It can be a long process, but finding someone you work well with will be critical to the success of your platform. Best of luck!
Hi @LadyChangeMakers, check out my Free webinar On how to build an MVP without a technical cofounder this coming Wednesday:
I enjoyed @DigitalWoman β€˜s content -TechSpeak for Entrpreneurs. Gave me some foundation knowledge and confidence to β€˜talk the talk’ until I found the right people.
Thank you @ThereseLCanares!
I have no questions (atm) I just love seeing women create companies, scale, and exit. Immediate inspo. Brava!
Thank you @Itskellie!
Kudos to you
@ambika14 thanks so much for your time!Hoping you can share your machine learning / computer vision experience here. I’m building a company as a university spin out , based on tech I’m developing as faculty. The premise is making a diagnosis (like strep throat) from a cellphone image. When we spin out we will not have access to patient images owned by the university, but we will be able to license the algorithm. In order to build on the algorithm and iterate it (balancing time and costs) , build up a company gain FDA approval etc … how would you strategize with spinning out later (building within the university, lower costs with CS grad students/post docs; access to the university image database) vs spinning out sooner - but having to boot strap or raise funds and attract talent and rebuild a new image database?Maybe the better question is what should I look for in advisors who understand deep learning, computer vision, startups and healthcare?Thanks so much-Therese
Thanks for your question @ThereseLCanares. Sounds like a very exciting product! Since this product is highly dependent on access to data, I'd suggest going down the path where you have the ability to work closely with data on fine-tuning your algorithm until you have something ready to go to market with. Additionally, since your technology will be used by hospitals, I'd recommend staying as close to the customer as you can. You'll learn the most from the iteration process (develop algorithm, share with hospital, get feedback, repeat) and having customers (universities/hospitals) using your product will be the best case for fundraising. Once you have the product being used consistently in the university and have an algorithm you're confident with, I think spinning out will make more sense and fundraising will be easier given the traction you've had. Best of luck!
Thanks so much @ambika14! Great food for thought.
Hi Ambika, Thanks for sharing and hosting office hours! I'm curious about the inception of your founder journey, how did you come up the idea to build a unified api for commerce platform? More specifically, how did you choose to build parts of the product, such as function that analyzes health of a commerce?
Thanks for your question @yihuang! When we initially started the founder journey we were working on an adjacent product in the fintech space. After iterating on that product and having conversations with potential customers we found that a commerce API was something many of them would plug into if we built it tomorrow. This was a strong signal from the market which we listened to and used to quickly sign on customers as we rushed to build an MVP. As to your second question - when we had customers using our API, we continued to have conversations with them and get feedback from them. We found that our customers were using the data from our API in similar ways (to analyze business health.) Doing this ourselves would be a value add for them (increasing the stickiness of our API) and also a feature which could help us acquire more customers.
Hi Ambika, Congrats on your acquisition, that is no small feat! Curious to hear more about the process of how an acquisition came about. For how long was a potential acquisition on your mind? How did you know Brex was the right company to acquire your company? Did most of your employees transition to Brex employees with you? Thanks!Sara
Thank you for your question @sarapprobst! When we were first approached with a potential acquisition we had many discussions as founders about the future of Weav, how our product could have the biggest impact and what would be best for our team. We had the chance to have many discussions with the team at Brex which helped us realize our company values aligned very well with those at Brex. We were (and continue to be!) impressed by Brex's success, founders & leadership team and the company's impact on fintech. Ultimately we believed Weav could have the largest impact as part of Brex and were happy that our employees were excited to join Brex as well!
Hi Ambika, congrats on selling your startup. You're the few female founders who have an amazing exit. When selling your startup Weav, what's your experience with the M&A process? How did you select who to work with as your M&A Advisors? How big was your M&A team and how long was the whole process? Is any earn-out part of the deal?Thanks!
Thanks for the kind words and for your question @MinaFung! The M&A process can really vary depending on the acquiring company, acquired company and many other factors. It can take anywhere from a few weeks to multiple months with negotiations, due-diligence, etc. Having good M&A advisors was really helpful and we were lucky enough to tap into our Y-Combinator community and founder friends to get recommendations. When building a company I found that building out my network of other founders helped me in numerous ways, getting recommendations for advisors, lawyers, etc. being one of them.
Hi Ambika, thank you for sharing your stories. :) What would be your top tips for scaling a startup, making sure your people stay connected when the team get bigger? Thank you!Pauline
Thanks for your question @paulineleung! Scaling a company, and in our case remotely, was definitiely one of the most challenging parts of the startup journey. With regards to keeping our team connected and motivated, these are three things I found to have the biggest impact on our success: 1. Make sure there are clear channels of communication. As a remote team we found that honing in on the best ways to communicate as a team helped reduce confusion and kept us connected while working on large cross-functional projects.2. Be intentional about planning social activities for your team and invite everyone to contribute. We did bi-weekly game nights as a company (scaled to sub-teams as we grew), virtual cooking classes and other activities which allowed everyone to feel closer to their co-workers and have fun at work :)3. Encourage 1:1s. When new employees started we recommended that they have 1:1s with people across the company and continue having those throughout their tenure. We found this helped people form deeper connections.
πŸ‘πŸ™Œ congrats 🎊 such great news
Thank you @PamelaNorton!