SallyAI · Rinat Khatipov

Scaling new peaks in sales technology: How Rinat Khatipov’s bootstrapped startup SallyAI crafts AI-powered solutions to drive $250K ARR

April 17, 2024
Share this story

Table of contents

  • Rinat Khatipov
  • San Francisco, California
  • Started in 2022
  • $250K ARR
  • 15 Employees
  • 500 Subscribers
  • Bootstrapped

What's your backstory?

Throughout my life, I have been deeply immersed in snowboarding, including venturing into the backcountry. There is a sense of exhilaration in embarking on a ten-hour hike up an uncharted mountain, carving my way through deep snow and navigating avalanches. Conquering three peaks totalling approximately 5000 meters was a testament to my passion for pushing the limits.

Entrepreneurship is like scaling new heights for me, but this time in my life and business. During my time at university, I participated in hackathons where my team and I worked together to create innovative solutions. After one of the events, we were inspired to channel our creativity into launching startup ventures.

With a background in backend/ML development, I quickly transitioned from development to product management and eventually started my own business. I co-founded, a platform dedicated to connecting developers from my network with US startups. My role was primarily focused on client acquisition, mastering everything from outreach and working with SDRs to closing deals over two years. However, I found the existing sales technology tools inadequate, which led us to develop our lead generation system. This experience and my encounter with GPTs inspired me to create SallyAI, an AI-powered SDR.

What does your company do and how did you come up with the idea?

Our initiative grew out of the realization that available sales technology tools weren't meeting our needs, which led us to create our lead generation system. As we embarked on this project, we quickly realized its potential and decided to make it available to others. It was the start of the development of SallyAI. Generally, Sally is AI research-driven B2B outreach designed to close big deals.

We base our strategy on personalized outreach messages. These messages are crafted using in-depth AI research. During a recent demo, I showcased emails generated by SallyAI, which prompted one prospect to exclaim, "I want to hire your AI to be my first AI employee!". Our services cater to a wide range of audiences, making them valuable for

- Mature startups looking to boost their sales team with high-value prospects
- Early-stage startups looking to carve out a niche in the marketplace
- Venture funds and angels looking to expand and diversify their network

In a nutshell, Sally helps to book demo calls with zero effort :)

How did you get your first 10 customers/subscribers?

First of all, it was networking. I told the people I had worked with before about Sally's capabilities, and they wanted to work with us. Secondly, I started a blog. It helped me introduce myself to new customers and share just about anything that relates to my business. Although, one of the most effective ways was the usage of the conferences as a B2B sales tool. People who attend conferences are open to meeting new people and trying new products. Getting their attention is much easier than sending outreach to a cold audience. Of converting inquiries into deals depends on the product and the review, but intuitively, it's about twice as good. 

Recently, we started working with the first enterprise company in the US. We found this company at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference by doing an AI outreach to the conference attendees. So far, it's a paid pilot for 2 months, but from the initial feedback, the sales team is delighted with it. Sally is already saving SDRs 20% of their time! It seems like we're about to sign them to an annual contract.

How did you align your product or service with your target customers' needs?

How did I understand that our product was a good match? Big deals, period. Well, let's be honest, only money proves demand. Everything else is irrelevant. A large check confirms a high valuation for the client. Sales should always come first. I believe that creating a product without prioritizing sales can be a form of procrastination (except in the case of deep tech companies like OpenAI).

What distribution channels did you try that didn’t work?

We tried X (ex-Twitter) to develop brand awareness on social networks. Unfortunately, it did not work out. There is no need to say that X's algorithms are very difficult to approach. Now we are starting active engagement on other social media platforms.
Generally, the problem is not about the platforms or strategies. It is all about how you use it and whether you show product value or not.

What tools, software, or resources have been crucial in scaling your business?

- Make,  Airtable - to build an MVP
- Linkedin to find first clients

Who do you recommend to follow for business growth insights?

Lenny Rachitsky (his newsletter and community); Peter Thiel' s blog. It is noteworthy to say that the most important aspect of the business is practice, however useful experts' materials may be. Real business has little overlap with what is written about in books.

How did you shift from a side hustle to full-time entrepreneurship?

I took a risk and became a full-time entrepreneur with a two-month cushion. This allowed me to focus on the most important aspect of business: making money (a synonym for customer equity).

What drives you to do what you do?

To me, business is an adventure full of new challenges, ups, and downs. It motivates me to get up early every day. However, discipline is also crucial. Motivation alone won't make you successful. There are some days when I feel like giving up, but strict discipline helps me push forward!

Your links + socials

Telegram: @rinatkh

Share this story
Back to all stories