05.23.22

Transcript of The Polestar Podcast: Defining success with Jayesh Parmar, Co-CEO/Founder at Gunkii

Listen to the Polestar Podcast here.

Podcast Transcript

Jason Boudreau:

Welcome back to another episode of the Polestar Podcast by VELA Wealth. Today we are honored to have my good friend and Co-Founder and CEO at Gunkii – Jay Parmar (full name Jayesh Parmar). How are you doing, Jay?

 

Jay Parmar:

Hey Jason! How are you doing? Good morning.

 

Jason Boudreau:

Good morning! It’s not often that we do these in the morning but it’s nice to start the day out with this kind of conversation. You and I have known each other a little while now, it’s going back not quite 10 years but feels pretty much close. I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to have a bit of a front-row seat to the stuff you’ve done over the last number of years–first in the tech space and now in a completely different consumer goods space and I’m looking forward to hearing all about it.

What I thought we would do to sort of kick things off a little bit is get you to share a bit about your journey – from where you started, even back as far as your first business, leading up into where you’re at today with Gunkii and why you’re doing what you’re doing.

 

Jay Parmar:

Sure! I’m not sure how far back will go. Effectively, I was born in southern Saskatchewan, I had these big ambitions and dreams to go out there and build a tech company that could penetrate the world. That was pretty audacious at the time if I could shed a bit of modesty because number one, I didn’t know what I was doing and had no real clue. There wasn’t a network for that. So, that was in 2008 and the idea at that time was an online ticketing event. I would put on a bunch of events and the problem that I wanted to solve at that time was how do I go up there and sell tickets without having to go to record stores and drop the tickets there. People didn’t know exactly how it worked back then. That was “pre-ecom-internet days” where it was extremely prevalent to come to a local record store and purchase concert tickets there. So, it was really tough to understand exactly how many tickets were sold, how many people were coming, and our cash flow.

The idea was to sell online tickets. At the time E-tickets was a novel, even a little bit crazy idea. At that time people often thought I was scamming them. I was like “Wait a second… Where’s the printed ticket?” – “Well, actually you print your own ticket” and it moved with the fact that you’d have to put on your credit card online which was a little bit gnarly at the time.

So fast forward, we moved, and we were relentless through all that uncertainty and we pushed forward. We were doing a ton of sales and the company at that time was called Picatic. It was quite evident that I plateaued in terms of the knowledge, and I need to go out there and raise capital and really grow.

Again, those are things I did not know how to do. So, I packed my bags, with my wife we got married and four days later we drove to San Francisco–right into the middle of the mecca. That was again, another really uncomfortable and gnarly situation. Fast forward a little bit later we raised money, grew a ticketing company that penetrated the world and then led it to acquisition in 2018 from a company called Eventbrite.

 

Jason Boudreau:

I remember that.

 

Jay Parmar:

So, I was able to go out there and start a company through a problem that I had and then go all the way through to an exit. Upon exit I was at home, and… it collided with Covid. So, like everybody else in the world, we’re sitting in our living room, and it gave me a refreshing opportunity. I think one benefit of Covid is that a lot of people got an opportunity to be introspective and really think.

 

Jason Boudreau:

Yes, totally.

 

Jay Parmar:

For me it was really introspective because this has been a life changer for me – I exited a company that I had spent a decade doing and invested a lot of blood, sweat and tears. But what happened was – I’m sitting there in my living room and we have it’s called Friday Movie Popcorn Night…

 

Jason Boudreau:

Yes, yes, you’ve told me about this.

 

Jay Parmar:

Yes, I know how much you love your children, and you are a family man. For me, I realized that Friday Movie Popcorn Night was the highlight of my life. It was absolutely thrilling. We would make some popcorn, get a couple of pies, and just sit there. The second sobering realization around that was that I realized I’d probably missed 90% of them and that was a gut-wrenching feeling. I decided that I never want to put myself in a position where I’m away from my family that much anymore if I could help it.

The second thing was that I got an opportunity to really see and witness my wife’s success in the big business that she built. She has a performance marketing company and was recognized with the “Top 40 under 40” award. I shed modesty here, I married up in a big way–like absolutely big way, she has three master’s degrees, and she was  working on a doctorate at the time we got pregnant. So, the realization came that I want to work closely with her.

It sounds kind of a little funny and weird to say that I love tongue scraping. Growing up, my friends and I would talk about it all the time which is a little weird. The background around it is a very Indian thing as I am an Indo-Canadian. My parents have introduced me to these tongue scrappers. They’d been doing it for 50 years and now I’ve been doing it for 30 years.

There is a layer of this gunk on your tongue and when you scape it off, it’s disgusting and most people don’t know about it. So, I pitched my wife–“Hey, why don’t we go out there and build the world’s sexiest tongue scrapper?” and so, that’s what we have now. We’ve built the world’s sexiest tongue scraper that has been sold in over 50 countries around the world…and we’re having a blast doing it.

 

Jason Boudreau:

Wow, right on! I can tell you my friend as a frequent user of the Gunkii tongue scraper it’s become now for me such a ritual. I was up in Whistler on the weekend, and I forgot my Gunkii. I brushed my teeth on Thursday night, and I was like “What am I forgetting to do? I’m forgetting to do something…” and then, of course, I look in the drawer and realized that I didn’t bring my Gunkii.

 

Jay Parmar:

Yes.

 

Jason Boudreau:

It’s been amazing. An amazing tool. One of those little things – “if you know you know” and you don’t know what you don’t know until you try it.

 

Jay Parmar:

Yes, that’s exactly it! Most people don’t know about it and think that this is a gimmick. It’s been around for centuries with Ayurveda medicine so it’s not something that we invented.

I associated it with brushing. If you didn’t know what brushing was and all of a sudden somebody was trying to explain to you the hair on your teeth and you got a buzz on your teeth that you can feel and you know that is the difference between tongue scraping and not time scraping for me.

 

Jason Boudreau:

Yes (laughing).

 

Jay Parmar:

And many people like there’s this gunk on your tongue. So, once you know – you know.

 

Jason Boudreau:

Yes. So, one of the questions I have for you Jay is to share your journey and to tell us how you got to where you are. I’m wondering how you define success and maybe one little caveat might be pre-Covid and now. Would you look at success differently? So, sort of two-part question there. How do you define success, and would you look at it differently in this sort of post covid world as you did previous to it?

 

Jay Parmar:

That’s a really good question. The way I look at success right now is by living life on my terms. I mean if for example, I could have five “Lambos” (Lamborghinis) but if I have to drive to work and work 18 hours a day just so that I can take my “Lambo” there and back – I don’t necessarily think that’s a success. So, to do things on my terms and, on my schedule is how I defined success and that’s kind of where I work.

 

Moreover, it is being around my family in creating the memories that I want to create and that to me is extremely successful. So, in the past, there is no doubt that I had a lot of notoriety building up a tech company and there was a lot of business success around that piece that has allowed me to go wealth there and live my peace and have the true success that I’ve really driven towards. I don’t necessarily think that I would really have more awakeness around that unless Covid happened which is a unique situation and a blessing in disguise. So, if there’s anything beneficial to Covid it is the enforcement for you to slow down. That’s what it has done for me. So that’s how I define success on “my terms”.

 

Jason Boudreau:

It’s interesting to hear you share that because it’s very similar to me. For example, the Friday Movie Popcorn Nights – I remember sharing with my wife or my mom that the blessings of Covid have been that I have not missed a family dinner in close to two years. It’s been a little bit more sporadic lately just given kids’ activity, starting up a little bit of business travel here and there, but still at home lots. Previous to Covid, I could probably count on one hand the number of family dinners I can remember being at since our eldest Ben was born. He’s 11 now. So, I hear you there, Jay. That’s truly been a blessing in disguise.

 

Jay Parmar:

Yes. I just think of going through life and looking back and thinking about not having those moments and how much I would have cheated myself and by that time I think it would have been too little too late.

 

Jason Boudreau:

Yes, yes, totally hear you there. What about the things that really drive you such as what gets you out of bed in the morning? What makes you feel like this is a day I’m ready to take on?

 

Jay Parmar:

That is again a great question. I lived in an attitude of gratitude, Jason. I’m extremely grateful. So, what drives me is that I’m so grateful to be alive and grateful for my situation.

So, there’s nothing that really drives me – I’m just happy to be here.

What drives me as a human and to continue to go on is that I do have a fear. I would say fear of plateauing. I continually want to learn, and I continually want to be uncomfortable. What I’ve learned through the journey is that putting myself in an uncomfortable situation is my new comfort zone.

 

Jason Boudreau:

I love that.

 

Jay Parmar:

It takes work to get there and embrace that uncertainty and be comfortable with uncertainty around that place. So, what drives me is to really try and discover the stuff that I don’t know.

Again, the most important thing is my family. I’m up early, I’m in a morning guy. I get the kids and just see my family. I think my wife probably wants to shoot me some mornings because I’m just so ready to go.

So, those are things that drive me. The search for learning and also my family.

 

Jason Boudreau:

Right on, that’s awesome! I hear you. Maybe this is a trait of the entrepreneur. I just feel the same way. I have this insatiable thirst for knowledge. I feel like I’ve never had that.

For me, the learning that I love the most is learning about myself. I love discovering more and more about who I am and how I relate to humanity. Therefore, how do I like humanity, how does humanity like me?  This is a kind of existentialist kind of thinking that helps me learn and grow as a human, of course, and as an entrepreneur. When we’re in business – we’re in business with people and learning about people is something for sure that I love doing. Thank you for sharing. That’s really great.

 

Jay Parmar:

Also, Jason, that’s something that you’re very good at. It’s definitely something to admire about you.

 

Jason Boudreau:

Thank you, appreciate the plug.

So, just sort of to flip that a little on its head. We’re talking about successes and things that drive us and what about the things that keep you awake at night. When you’re lying there are you thinking about whether it’s the business or the family or the world? What are the things that are keeping you up?

 

Jay Parmar:

Yes, absolutely, there are things that keep me out at night. I mean it’s just my human nature. I’m extremely impatient. I continually want to get there faster. I just can’t get there faster. Can’t roll fast enough.  I can’t learn fast enough. And this is something I have to work on – the cross-section of reality versus my expectation.

I love thinking big. I have these absolutely grandiose visions. Getting after big things is just the way I want to be.  As a Prairie kid that thought he could build a tech company and penetrate the world.

 

Jason Boudreau:

Which you did by the way.

 

Jay Parmar:

Yes, we did it!

I think about Arnold Schwarzenegger in terms of this kid from Eastern Europe that wanted to go out there and be a big movie star. It was just a thing in his mind. It was the clip that was going on. My clips that are going on are big. I want to go there and do all these magnificent, wonderful things. Often, they are not moving as fast as I want them to go.

But when I look back there’ve been a lot of accomplishments. So, I struggle sometimes with patience and those are things that keep me awake. That’s one of the things that I am working on. The relationship between expectations and reality. Would I change it? Probably not, because it’s made me who I am.

 

Jason Boudreau:

Yes, it’s just more about your awareness around it and how it might impact decisions you make or how you react to certain situations or things. It’s a motivator. It’s an internal driver. It’s a catalyst for your success and having that awareness around it and not saying “this is something I want to change, it’s just something that is part of me and therefore I’m going to make certain decisions about it that maybe I didn’t make before because I have an awareness now that I didn’t have previously”. I think is the key there.

 

Jay Parmar:

Yes, as well as focus and in the cross-relationship with the delta of relentlessness. I think that is what it does.

Meditation has really brought this in as I’ve got older it’s given me an opportunity to really understand that I have to really calm my thoughts to understand exactly what is going to move the needle, where do I want to focus, you know the Jackhammer around that, and use the tools that I have and be extremely relentless because my emotions around it are just my emotions.

So, yoga and as well as meditation have really helped me as a tool to go out there and help me get to sleep when I have those moments.

 

Jason Boudreau:

Good for you. I think that’s one thing that as a fellow entrepreneur I’ve really tried to implement into my life as some kind of mental stillness. Whether it’s meditating which I don’t do a lot, but I started practicing qigong not too long ago. It’s a bit of moving meditation. But even just things like going for walks and paying attention to my breathing even if I’m exercising. Little things like that just help to calm the mind. It is something that has been a welcome skill to develop even though I haven’t been obviously on top of it as much as I should be. That’s the whole entrepreneurial expectation thing, right? It is something that I should be doing more and the joke is to try not to shoot all over yourself, right? It’s just one of those things that is a bit of a human thing.

So, we’ve talked a lot about things you have accomplished. One of the things I want to know is what are some things inside that brain of yours that you haven’t accomplished yet that you want to.

 

Jay Parmar:

Well, there are two things. I’ll bring this down to family and business. In terms of family, I have a son and he’s eight years old. I look at that child as a 20-year experiment in terms of how well we did as parents in 20 years.  Do we get them moral values and ethics? Are they going to be happy within their own skin or are they able to go out there and live with joy and add value to the world and etc.

The thing I want to accomplish first and foremost without a doubt is to make sure that I help grow the best human that I possibly can.

So, that is definitely it. Then in my own personal life, I want to make sure that I’m becoming the best version of myself and that is the first and foremost actually. So, I can be a better dad, a better husband, and better anything else to everyone that is within my sphere. So, those are things I want to accomplish. I don’t necessarily and I hope I never accomplish that because I always continually want to be chasing the best version of myself and never plateau.

From a business standpoint, I do have that big ambition that Gunkii is the world’s sexiest tongue scrapper…

 

Jason Boudreau:

It really is by the way. The design thinking and the prototyping and all that you’ve shared with me, how can it not be? I look and think “I don’t know what all the other tongue scrapers out there look like, but this has got to be the world’s sexiest one!”. It’s a happy place in my drawer. That’s for sure.

 

Jay Parmar:

Well, I appreciate that. There’s a great team that spent countless hours making sure that it comes to life. So, I’m sure that they’re going to be happy to hear that.

The thing that I want to do from a business standpoint is to make Gunkii a household name. It’s to really penetrate the world. It will become a household thing. It will be something that people understand and know.

Saying that my wife and I started it as a for-profit enterprise with a shared value. Partial proceeds of every Gunkii that is sold go to help children with cleft lip and cleft palate. So, we want to create a sustainable but for-profit business that goes and continually helps people and makes a net positive to the world. That’s really important. We haven’t quite hit that goal yet in terms of penetrating the world and becoming a household brand name. But it’s something that we are working every day on accomplishing and that goes back to being impatient.

 

Jason Boudreau:

No doubt! Thanks for sharing about the contributions that the business is making to help children with these cleft lip and cleft palate because I was going to ask you about that. I’ll just pull on that thread a little bit. Business with a purpose, right? Back to your point earlier about Picatic – there was a problem with event ticketing and you use technology to solve it. This is a little bit different. The problem you are solving is getting rid of the gunk on the tongue. And the business is contributing part of its revenue towards a cause that’s meaningful to you guys. Can you just share a little bit about that because I love this integration of shared values. Can you just share a little bit about how you guys came to that decision, which I’m sure was a natural one. Why you choose the cleft lip and cleft palate children as that focus cause for the business.

 

Jay Parmar:

Sure. In the past life, I spent some time in the Harvard Business Executive program.  One of the learnings was a shared values paper in HPR. It’s absolutely a genius piece of writing and there are a lot of studies and cases around that piece. Effectively it’s been the foundation in terms of how I think about business, and we did this with Picatic.

Picatic is to bring people together and create memories, create experiences, maybe meet the love of your life, meet your business partner or enjoy this experience with a best friend. That’s what events do – they connect people and create experiences.

Having this in mind we test pilot with Picatic. How do we go out there and help non-profits changemakers and… we were able to go there in with the software. It helped raise about $10,000,000 for a non-profit cheerful organization while still running a sustainable business. In fact, it actually helped us generate more profit.

That was the first test. And we saw it worked. We were able to create change, purpose, and value for society and also make profits. It actually can help you make a profit and how great is it to create a sustainable business that does that where effectively the customer gets to vote with their dollar.

So, with Gunkii it was the number one foundational striving force. What were we going to do next with our business?  We need to make sure that there are shared values that we were going to help society in some way.

My wife and I both have a teaching background. We love children. As indicated that this is the Ayurveda system of medicine. So, rather than appropriating the culture even though it is my heritage we wanted to make sure that we’re paying homage to it. So, a full circle is bringing in this great education in the system of business which is the Western practice of business that created sustainability and mixed with the fact that we love children. The fact that we are pushing back funds to developing areas or unserved areas where they can use funds. So, that’s where the idea came from and how we’ve been penetrating it and why we do what we do. It is called Project Smile. If you take a look at the logo and if you throw it upside down the logo makes a smile.

 

Jason Boudreau:

Project Smile! Okay, right! Totally, I see the connection now. For all the listeners out there, check that out.

 

Jay Parmar:

Yes, I encourage everybody to get a read about it. It’s a very fast read.

 

Jason Boudreau:

Yes, I love that one. It’s it was a very impactful paper. When I read it back in 2012 or 2013 and it made so much sense. It’s just you know when you bring the right design thinking around it, and you really contemplate on how this business is going to impact stakeholders, not just the shareholders. Come at it from that broader lens and then put your mind to how you’re going to deliver that shared value. It’s one of those things where you can feel really good about what you’re up to in the business because you know you’re doing well.

As a business and you’re contributing to the planet at the same time. It’s interwoven into the fabric of what you do. It’s not like when we make some money, we’ll make some donations or something like that. It’s just built into that DNA.

We’ve got a couple more questions for you. When people are looking at the outside in at you and saying “Wow, Jay built this incredible company, had this exit to Eventbrite. He’s been all kinds of stages talking about tech and exits, his expertise and now he and Nic are out there building this incredible consumer goods company”. They’re looking on the outside in and probably saying “this guy is so successful; I want to be like him or I strive to be like him”. But I always love to hear from the entrepreneur themselves. Do you feel like you’re successful?

 

Jay Parmar:

I absolutely feel extremely successful. I feel accomplished in business in terms of being able to build a company, scale it, penetrate it, create employment and etc., all these aspects feel good, Success for me now, especially now, in today’s age, is being able to spend time with my family. I get to do drop-offs, I get to do pickups, and I get to work with my wife. I’m not enamored by the fancy things or the shiny things.

I am enamored by the opportunity and the experiences. Yesterday my wife and I drove our son to lacrosse and we both got to sit there in the stands. To me, there is nothing more successful than that. To me, the defined success is being able to be in those moments and share that with my family. So, I absolutely do feel successful. I feel that I have my health, I feel that I have my family, I feel that I have nothing, but opportunity, and I feel I have an opportunity to go out there and create goodwill for other people. Those are things that put a real big smile on my face giving me a lot of internal gratitude for success.

 

Jason Boudreau:

Right on. That’s fantastic. Thank you for sharing that. I appreciate you putting that context to success. First of all, of course, your definition of success is fulfillment. It sounds like you’re really fulfilled in your life and obviously, there’s a business success there. But the underpinning of it is the family side, right? Being connected to what you believe is truly important in your life and I appreciate you sharing that because I think that there’s even for myself. I think a lot about it when I first started building VELA and watching its evolution over time and it’s like part of the family, right? The business is part of the family. It’s like another child that requires nurturing, focus and attention. I think that a lot of entrepreneurs out there look at their business and say that this is taking up so much of my time, focus, and energy, and I really want to spend more time with my kids and my family. Then you look at the last couple of years… I know we keep going back to Covid being this silver lining and a hidden blessing. It just really forced a lot of people including myself to think differently about the way we approach business in our lives and having the business facilitate a life versus being our lives. It is great to hear that you’ve taken that thinking into building this next company and, of course, acknowledging that family remains at the center of it through.

 

Jay Parmar:

Yes, yes, I appreciate that, Jason.

 

Jason Boudreau:

The last question that I have for you, and I love getting this insight because we’re at this interesting life stage. We’re around the same age, we’re not young anymore but we’re not old. We’re in this mid-stage whether it’s mid-career or mid-life. We’ve got kids. We’ve got businesses and there’s this generation coming up, our kids, for example, but even the older ones. And I’d like for you to share some words of wisdom or things to think about. Some pieces or some tidbits or things that people could take away that you believe would help them as they’re on their journey in life and business.

 

Jay Parmar:

Sure. What I’ll do is I’ll phrase it as if I was speaking to my own son.  His name is Jai. The one thing that I would encourage him is to redevelop his relationship with failure and understand that failure is just a data point.

 

Jason Boudreau:

Failure is a data point. I love that.

 

Jay Parmar:

It is an absolute data point and it’s a pathway to success. Well, I don’t want us to celebrate it. I want us to fail fast. I want us to fail cheaply. But we have to suck at something first in order to be good or great at something. Along that pathway, it’s going to be laid with bricks of failure and that’s something that for me, especially coming from a small handshake community was really difficult because failure was highlighted when we moved to the valley and really got to understand what failure was and how people wore their failure with a badge of honor in the sense that they went out there and they swung.

One thing that I’m proud of is that I can go to my son, and I will tell him that he can do anything that he wants to do. But will I model that? I have modeled, I think I have. That’s a very proud thing as a dad to stand up and I went out there and I swung, and I kept on swinging, and guess what I strike out and hit the ball. I got up enough to the plateau that one time I actually hit a home run. So that relationship with failure is something that I would definitely work on and then embrace uncertainty in this world. As I mentioned it early it took me a while for me to understand how to be comfortable with “uncomfortability” and moving from a small town to San Francisco. When I jumped into that pool there it was absolutely gut-wrenching. I had panic attacks. I was extremely uncertain. I definitely was out of my depth.

 

Jason Boudreau:

Wow.

 

Jay Parmar:

When I look back at it that’s where I did my most significant learning. It’s a condition. It’s a muscle that needs to be really flexed on. When we come into this educational system and being a past teachers going through this program, we see that there are not a lot of opportunities to go there input yourself in positions to go and be uncertain. It’s often easy not to go out there and dive in. I think the muscle that really needs to go up there in order to embrace failure and understand it, understand your relationship with that, and embrace uncertainty, is to understand relentlessness. It’s the recipe to really get out and absolutely be relentless at what you’re going after. I always think back to the young kids. When I was first starting Picatic people thought I was crazy. Often ideas generally are a little bit nuts when they sound out there.

I think about the first person who talked to their friends and said why don’t we sell our spare bedroom and let strangers live in it. Airbnb derived from that. We’re always taught not to pick up strangers. Obviously, Uber came out of that. Imagine explaining to their friends “…we will use our car and we will pick up strangers that we don’t know and we’ll give them right to go to wherever they want to go even if it’s in a back alley”

And there is uncertainty and failure around all that. The one thing that they had is being extremely relentless in order to go through that process. So, those are some things that I encourage people to think about. Those are the recipes or the things within the recipes that have given me my success in life.

So, for whatever that’s worth, those are the things that I would mention to generations coming out and definitely things that I am teaching my son.

 

Jason Boudreau:

That’s amazing! Thank you. Well, I think we’ll end it on this high note, Jay. This interview’s been a long time coming and I certainly appreciate you and our friendship and the time you’ve taken today. It’s a privilege and a pleasure to be connected to you, my friend.

 

Jay Parmar:

My pleasure. Thanks for having me.

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