Warehouse Native

Acquiring our initial customers in a highly saturated market

Arun Thulasidharan

Jun 21, 2023

clock3 mins read

I am Arun, one of the co-founders of I am writing today to share our struggles & learnings from acquiring our initial customers in a highly competitive marketing space — knowledge we wish we had possessed a year ago.

For context, is a CEP built on top of customers’ cloud data warehouses like BigQuery, Snowflake, Redshift, and Postgres. So, In essence, we are identical to tools like Braze, Iterable, CustomerIO, etc., with a crucial difference — we don’t keep a copy of the customer data and hence do not share the data limitations of the existing solutions.

Phase 1 — Hope

We were on cloud nine when we got selected for the Winter 22 batch of YCombinator. I still remember waiting sleeplessly the entire night after the interview for the confirmation call. And the call finally came from Dalton at 7 AM, when we had almost given up hope.

We were overjoyed. Our small startup had just gotten the biggest stage of our life. The three-month batch was a life-changing experience for first-time founders like us. It taught us everything we needed to know about startups. We even pivoted to our current positioning of Castled during the batch.

We came out of the batch with a lot of hope & optimism and a hunger to make it big.

Phase 2 — Desperation

After the batch, we were completely confident that Castled was the future(we still believe we are!), and it was just a matter of time before companies started adopting us. But the reality at hand was different.

Larger companies with good “clean” data warehouses had a well-established marketing stack. They were unwilling to accommodate a “newbie” like us — at least not without relevant case studies from other large companies. On the other hand, a few startups we talked to liked our product and were ready to collaborate with us. But they either did not possess a cloud data warehouse or at least not one with quality customer data to be used for marketing.

So we waited the next few months for that “perfect” customer to come along, but it never happened. This was a phase of desperation and self-doubt.

Phase 3 — Hustle

But as they say, founders are hustlers. One day, we were talking to a YC batch mate, who mentioned that Castled would actually solve all their marketing pain points. But, again, their data warehouse did not contain all the customer data required for marketing. We immediately agreed to jump in and complete their data stack.

After all, having one customer is better than none, right?

So our team spent the entire next week migrating all the required data to the customer’s data warehouse. We even self-hosted open-source ETL solutions ourselves to do these migrations and wrote dozens of scripts. One week later, we had our first paying customer!

This became a recurring theme for us. Not having a mature data warehouse was no longer a barrier to acquiring customers. We went from completing the data stack to setting up new ones for companies that did not have a data warehouse — for free. I mean, setting up a BigQuery is more cost-effective than setting up a Postgres instance. So why would they mind?

We were offering 20x more value than what they were paying us.

Phase 4— Reconciliation

With more incoming customers, our product started growing more stable, and we reached a stage where engaging with our initial ICP — ones with a decent data warehouse in the first place — became more accessible. And last month, we landed our biggest account yet!

We understand that it’s still day one for us, and we are not even close to calling ourselves a successful company. We are also fully aware that more phases of desperation await us on our journey. But we now know we will overcome those hurdles as long as we are ready to “do whatever it takes”.

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