Hi 👋


I'm Samraaj.

I'm an entrepreneur 🤩, a product person 🤔, and a developer 🔧.

Check out some of the products I've built!

Or, check out my hobbies.

About

I started my career by accepting an offer from Intuit when I was 18 years old - at the time I was their youngest employee worldwide. After spending some time moving between college and other software engineering roles, I found myself going through 500 Startups with a company called Studypool.

The incubator program made me discover my passion for Product and Growth. Going forward, I built my engineering and management skillset by working with startups, consulting companies, and Microsoft.

After I went back to college and finished my degree in Computer Engineering, I worked at Expensify in San Francisco. At Expensify, I enjoyed being my own boss and discovering where I could add value to the company through management and coding. I toured the world with Expensify - spending extended time in Portland, New Mexico, London, and Italy.

I left Expensify to pursue a career at a sales tech startup called Bravado, where I was their first PM. At Bravado, I helped grow our user base from 500 to over 50,000. During my time there, we raised our series A and more than tripled our headcount.

After leaving Bravado, I launched a chaa (also known as chai) flavored ice cream company that has grown to a successful business, and a birthday wishing website that has been growing very quickly. learn more about them here!

I also got into real estate - I started a holdings corporation that has a portfolio of condos and plots of land that are being developed.

Currently, I spend my time managing my portfolio and building out a no-code tool for product teams called Setsail.

Get in touch!

Products

I've professionally contributed to TurboTax, Expensify's mobile and web applications, Microsoft Dynamics, Studypool's tutoring platform, and much more.

BUT - I'd love to use this section to talk a bit about personal products I've more successfully taken from 0 to 1.

An application that lets you create the most unique, personal birthday gift you can give. Read the story >

Chaa club is an artisan D2C food & beverage business I started during the pandemic. We serve chaa (chai) flavored ice cream, chaa nitro cold brew, and much more. Read the story >

Prostruct

Prostruct is a tool for general contractors to manage their builds and project expenses. We were trying to collect data to build a contractor marketplace for GCs. Unfortunately, Prostruct wasn't successful - for many reasons. I took away a lot of key learnings from the project.

Coming soon 🤫👀

Check out the product >

Background

During the COVID-19 pandemic, I noticed people were starved for personal connection. Myself included. Time after time, my close friends' birthdays passed and I felt unable to ensure they had an amazing day.

So, I decided to do something about it.

I had the idea to create an online platform where you can carve out a space on the internet for your friend's special day. Like a permanent birthday card, but I wanted to fill it with something more meaningful. I also noticed a trend - people were manually collecting birthday wishes and editing together montage videos. This is cumbersome, requiring sophisticated software and hours of time.

I took the opportunity to automate that entire process. I registered a domain and got to work.

MVP

I scoped the MVP out to the following flow:

1. ADMIN comes to the website and creates a celebration for their friend. They receive a unique contribution link for their celebration through the web app and through text (/<name>/sign).
2. ADMIN distributes the link to the recipient's friends.
3. Each recipient opens the link and can film a video right in their mobile browser.
4. When everyone has contributed, the ADMIN can "publish" the final video. When the video is published, it is at itsyourbday.co/<name>.
5. The ADMIN sends the video to the recipient and they get super happy.

I started building.

I used next.js, with react and node.js to build out the web application. I did video processing using FFMPEG and text communication using Twilio. I styled everything with Material UI in the interest of speed. It was deployed on Heroku.

I got the MVP working end-to-end in about 4 days. It was pretty ugly, but it worked!

As soon as I finished, I tested it out with 2 friends' birthdays. It was an immediate success. It had about 50 contributors, 5 of whom reached out right afterward to use it again for their friend.

Overall, the MVP cost around $24. The domain name cost ~$22. Hosting and twilio usage was $2.

Monetization

Clearly, the MVP was successful. But, before I invested more energy and time in to building the product out I wanted to be sure I had a path to monetization.

I knew I could just charge upfront for the product, but I didn't want to for 2 main reasons:

1. The point of the product is to spread joy. If there's a barrier of entry to creating a celebration, I'm putting an artificial gate on who deserves the gift. I didn't want that.
2. The product had growth built in. Every contributor could become an admin. If I wanted to make it as likely as possible to spread, I had to keep it free - at least at the beginning.

So, I thought about it a bit more and started talking to people. I asked - who do you usually give a birthday gift to? When? And how do you pick a gift?

I learned some awesome stuff:

1. People are super willing to give small gifts - they just don't usually remember their friends' birthdays OR they don't know what they'll like.
2. If someone is attending a birthday party, they'll generally pick something up like a bottle or another small gift.
3. People like gifts that have been given some thought.
4. People have no idea where to send birthday gifts.

I consolidated these learnings and came up with an idea. After a user submits a birthday video, they'll be asked if they want to contribute to a gift for the birthday person. This solves most of the problems I outlined above - and only the admin would have to know their address.

I ran a test of this idea for 2 friends' birthdays. The group gift was a bottle of whiskey - and it was a success. I was able to pull in enough cash to buy the bottle, deliver it, AND charge a service fee.

I also ran another test, using a coffee mug with the recipients face on it in an embarrassing pose. That performed even better.

Polish and Public Launch

Now that I had validated out everything that I needed to, I decided to polish everything and do a public release.

I hired a designer to create a logo and an animation. I revamped the style of the website, and built out a landing page.

I made sure all of the screens were polished and ironed out all of the possible errors. I also made it fully self service by creating an admin panel where videos can be re-arranged and deleted.

I also added a few new features - like collage pictures built for instagram stories and reaction videos for recipients.

Once everything was done - I created marketing graphics and launched on Twitter, Product Hunt, and Instagram.

It performed well and I saw a new cohort of users on the product.

Since then, I've invested $0 in to marketing costs and I'm consistently seeing 60% MoM growth.

I've also hired two interns to take care of the code and built out new features.

Chaa Club

Check out the product >

Chaa Club is a food & lifestyle brand I started. Chaa is also known as chai, and is a central piece of Indian culture. I can barely go a day without making a cup of chaa. I started the brand to share my passion with the rest of my community.

Chaa club has sold a few different products - including chaa flavored ice cream, chaa scented candles, chaa gift baskets, chaa branded stickers, chaa apparel, and more. I've struck contracts with retail locations, and we're starting a subscription box next.

The idea

I'm a super passionate home cook. I've been cooking since I was about 8 years old, and I consider myself to be creative in the kitchen.

I once thought to myself - what if I cold-brewed chaa? I tried it, and it SUCKED.

One of the unique elements of chaa is that it is super flavorful and creamy. Boiling the milk introduces air pockets & foam in to the drink, which leads to the silky mouthfeel.

That element was lost with the cold brew. The milk was completely flat and the drink rendered boring. But it got me thinking - what's something cold and creamy with a lot of incorporated air?

Ice cream.

So I tried it. And it was incredible. I immediately got a vision of pints being sold at Trader Joe's. I took a video and posted it to instagram, offering samples to my friends in the area so I could narrow down the recipe to a more general palate.

I gave out 10 samples and got a ton of feedback. Most people gave a positive review, so I collected testimonials.

I thought of a name. Chaice cream. I formalized out the recipe and started putting together a website so I could start selling.

Launching

I wanted to launch for as little capital as possible. So, I put my mind to it.

I coded up a landing page myself and bought a domain for $8. I hosted it for free through GH pages as my "personal portfolio". I then proceeded to create a google sheet and expose a google power script. This allowed me to expose an external API - which let me create a fully functioning ordering and fulfillment system absolutely for free.

I created a logo and labels for my pints using Figma, and took glamour shots of the ice cream with construction paper and my iPhone camera.

I was all set to launch on Instagram and Twitter. I was expecting probably 15 orders in the first week. I posted the photos up with a link to the website.

In the first day alone I got 120 orders.

And they kept on coming.

I had no idea how I would fulfill them. I didn't have the capacity to make that much ice cream. So I started hustling.

I pinged my customers and told them that deliveries would be coming out a bit later in the week (they had ordered knowing there was a few day delivery window). Everyone was understanding!

I then hit up every Indian aunty I knew in the area, asking who had an ice cream machine. I managed to borrow 4.

For the next week, I had an assembly line of 4 ice cream makers in line across the kitchen counter. It was pretty crazy, but it paid off. I managed to fulfill all of the orders - and I even included a handwritten note for the first 100 customers.

Everyone was LOVING the product. I got a bunch of raving testimonials, and I reinvested profits in to a better ice cream machine so I didn't have to deal with the production issues again.

And yes, I did return the ice cream machines.

Growing

Chaice cream grew quickly, so I started hiring roles and automated myself out of the process. But, ice cream had problems. Mainly - you can't deliver it and scaling production is expensive.

So I decided to create an overarching brand and that chaice cream would be a single product in that brand.

I started selling other chaa related items. Like nitro cold brews and stickers. I also made a line of chaa scented candles and chaa apparel that I sold in small runs to grow the following.

I built a cart for events - we served ice cream at a few Indian weddings and events.

Recently, I hired a business partner in Austin, Texas who now runs a small operation in that town.

We're in the process of creating the first proper D2C product that can be shipped anywhere. And after that, the plan is to start making subscription boxes.

Passions

Outside of work, I'm a dancer 🕺, a home cook 🍳, and an amateur motorcycle mechanic 🏍️.

Take a look at my recipe book if you're interested!

I've won Bhangra (traditional Punjabi dance) competitions across the United States and Internationally with multiple teams. I've also run a small academy where I taught ~30 kids in Rochester, New York. Here are some recent performances you can take a look at! In the first video, I'm in teal. In the second, I'm in pink.

I'm also an amateur motorcycle mechanic. I rebuilt a 40 year old motorcycle and spend time continually upgrading it. Here's a timelapse I made of one of the upgrades!

Cookbook

This is a collection of some of my favorite recipes and techniques in the kitchen. You'll notice that I don't normally list out ingredient quantities. I'm a firm believer that there's enough variance in the strength of produce & spices that recipes shouldn't be held to specific measurements. Rather, one should rely more on their senses of smell and taste. The exception to this is baking - for that measurements must be precise! If you need help, send me a message!

Shakshuka

Onion
Garlic
Chili
Eggs
Tomatoes (canned or fresh - crushed)
Herbs (whatever you have)
Toppings (whatever you have)

Thinly slice the onions, chili, and garlic. Heat oil in pan and add the onions and chili. Let them sauté for a few min and develop color. Then add garlic and spices - lal mirch (red chili flakes), jira (cumin), and a touch of salt.
Once the garlic gets golden, add crushed tomatoes. Let the mixture reduce for a while and ensure to taste for seasoning.
After the stew is a bit thick, make some dents and crack your eggs in to them. Spoon some of the stew over the whites of the eggs so they cook thru more easily. Cover the pan so the steam cooks the top of the eggs.
When eggs are half way done add some herbs - I use cilantro and basil. Also add toppings of choice - mozzarella, chorizo, olives, pickled peppers - basically whatever you want.
The shakshuka is ready when the egg whites are fully set and the yolks are still runny. Serve in the pan and spoon over some sourdough bread or pita.

Kashmiri Pink Cha

Green tea leaves
Baking soda
Sugar
Salt (optional)
Eliche (Green Cardomom)
Laung (Cloves)
Star anise (optional)

Put 3 cups of water on ice to chill. Meanwhile, add 3 spoons of green tea in a pot with 10-14 eliche pods and 6 pieces laung. Add the 3 cups of chilled ice water and turn on the heat to medium high. In the meantime, start chilling about 5 cups of water.
Bring the tea to a boil and add a pinch of baking soda - about a half teaspoon. As the mixture boils, aerate the tea with a ladle by bringing it up and pouring it back in. Keep boiling and aerating until only 1 cup of super concentrated tea remains.
Now add two cups of ice cold water, bringing the amount of water in the pot back up to 3 cups. Bing this up to a boil. The foam when it boils should now have small hints of the crimson color. Boil until only 1 cup remains, aerating it with a ladle the entire time.
Once you have 1 cup left, add 3 more cups of iced water. Bring this to a boil and you should see it turns a deep red color. Add sugar to taste and boil briefly to ensure everything is dissolved.
Strain the liquid, and this should serve as your "Cha base" That you can keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks airtight. The entire process should take 40 minutes to an hour.
To finish a cup of cha, take 3/4 of a cup of milk and add it to a saucepan. Once that is brought to a boil, add a half cup of "cha base", or until the desired color is reached. It should be pink!
Now you can pour the mixture in to a cup and serve.
How it works - There's a certain compound or alkaloid in green tea that has the red color. Baking soda reacts with the tea to do 2 things - it makes the tea thicker and it brings out the red compound. This red compound steeps better in to the tea through cold extraction - hence the ice water. It also deepens through air exposure, which is why we aerate.

Tandoori chicken

Dahi, sour cream, or greek yoghurt
Garlic
Ginger
Onions
Cilantro
Oil (mustard oil is optional)
Lime (don't be shy!)
“Garam” masala (Dry roasted cumin and coriander)
Lal Mirch (red chili flakes)
Green chilis
Chicken thighs and drumsticks
Green red orange pepper and onion (optional)
Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
Salt
Black pepper

Create "garam masala" by toasting whole cumin and coriander seeds on a medium flame. After aromatic, grind the spices.
Mince garlic, ginger, onions, and green chilis.
Add all spices, aromatics, lime, and oil to the yoghurt. Make sure to season well with salt. Try the yoghurt to check for balance - keep in mind that it should be very strong.
Once you're confident the marinade tastes good, score your chicken and add them to the marinade. Place in plastic bags and leave overnight. If you're doing veggies, add them to the marinade and soak skewers in water overnight.
When it's time to grill, make sure the grill isn't too hot and you don't agitate the meat too often.

Chipotle Adobo Chicken

Chicken breast
Chipotles in adobo (canned)
Oil
Onion
Garlic
Salt
Pepper
Cumin
Lime

Score or tenderize chicken breasts beforehand. Alternatively, chop in to cubes.
Make the marinade by chopping the chipotle peppers in the adobo sauce, and adding chopped onions, garlic, cumin, salt, pepper, and a bit of oil. Add lime juice at the end to tenderize, and fill plastic bags with the marinade.
Add chicken to the plastic bags, and marinate overnight. This will last about 5 days in the fridge.
When ready to cook, heat a pan to medium heat with a bit of oil and add the chicken. Try not to agitate too often so you develop crust.
This chicken is best enjoyed in mexican style dishes - salads and tacos.

Tzatziki Sauce

Persian cucumber
Greek yoghurt
Minced garlic cloves
Extra virgin olive oil
White vinegar
Salt
Fresh dill

Grate cucumber and squeeze out moisture lightly with a cloth, be careful as it can stick to the cloth and cause waste. After this, let the cucumber set in a strained for at least a half hour, so it drains out all excess moisture. The more moisture is released, the thicker your result will be.
After this, just combine all ingredients.

Crepes

1 cup flour (whole wheat or white)
1.5 cup whole milk
2 eggs
Big pinch of salt
Big pitch of sugar

Blend together all ingredients. Start by adding the milk - otherwise you may end up with clumped flour at the bottom of the blender.
Once everything is blended together, keep it in the fridge overnight to help the gluten develop. The batter will last for about a week in the fridge. If the mixture separates, just re-blend it a little bit.
Cook over medium high heat and a touch of oil or butter. Simply add the batter to the pan while rolling your wrist to form a circular crepe. When cooking, flip once!
Pro tip - Oster blenders fit standard sized mason jars. So you can fill up mason jars with crepe batter to easily store them in the fridge.
Crepes can be enjoyed with many things. Here are some combinations I particularly enjoy:
Scrambled eggs, cheddar, and avocado with a touch of hot sauceBlueberry goat cheeseHam and swiss cheeseNutella and BananaApple pie crepes (caramelize thinly sliced apple with butter and sugar)Strawberry, honey, lavender, and dark chocolate

Penne al Arrabiata

High quality penne
Garlic
San Marzano tomatoes (canned)
Parsley
Red/green chilli
High quality olive oil

Cut parsley leaves from stems and mince the leaves. Reserve some stems. Mince garlic by finely chopping and running through your knife with a pinch of salt. Thinly slice chillis.
While this cooks, add cold oil to a separate pan where the pasta will finish. Add garlic, chilis, and parsley stems. Turn on the heat and slowly bring the oil to medium heat - just barely bubbling. Once it starts to barely bubble, take the pan off the heat and let it cool. Repeat this process 3 times, each time removing the pan from the heat when the oil starts bubbling.
Once this heating and cooling process has been repeated, remove the parsley stems. Add the san marzano tomatoes, and slowly bring to a simmer for ~10 minutes while the pasta cooks.
Finish by adding the pasta to the pot of tomato sauce with a touch of pasta water to help with the emulsification. Finish with parsley and optionally grated parmesan cheese.
This process works by bringing out the mellow flavors of garlic and parsley. Different flavor compounds are extracted from garlic and parsley at different temperatures, so by keeping the oil to a low you're bringing out the softer flavors of garlic in to the dish.

Chive compund oil

Chives (homemade preffered)
Neutral oil (not olive!)

Start by dicing chives moderately small. Doesn't have to be crazy. Heat up oil in a pot and add all of your chives. Let that bubble away for a minute before adding the entire mixture to a blender and blitzing it.

Alternatively, if you use a high powered blender, that will heat up the oil itself and cook in the chive flavor.

After the oil is blitzed, strain it through a steel filter, then a coffee filter or cheesecloth. The chive mash that gets filtered out can be mixed in to new oil and kept for a few days in the fridge, then joined back to the main oil after straining again.

Store in the fridge and use as a finishing oil. It should be super green.

Ratatouille

Top:
1 eggplant
1 jugni (zuchinni)
1 yellow squash
a few tomatoes
(ensure the above are of similar diameter)

Base:
bell peppers
onion
tomato puré
garlic
optional - celery and carrot
Spcies

Start by chopping everything. For the top, slice in to disks of similar diameter. Salt the disks. For the base, dice everything. Optionally roast the bell peppers first.

Make tharka out of the stuff in the base. Start with onion and garlic then add bell peppers and mirepoux stuff. After that, cook till soft and flavors render out. Add tomatoes puré and cook for a while. Salt, pepper, and add european spices like basil thyme oregeno rosemary sage whatever you want.

Blitz the base in a blender to make a puré. This base can be used for many things and only vaguely resembles baby food. It should be forward on the bell pepper flavor.

Once ready, get out an oven safe pan or dish and add a layer of your base puré to the bottom. It shouldn't be too thick, just enough to impart flavor and prevent veggies from burning.

Then, shingle on the vaggies in a repeating pattern. the more vertical you layer the veggies, the more you'll be able to fit in the pan. Top with a flavoring oil made by mixing the above spices with olive oil, salt, pepper, and chili.

Cover the pan with foil and bake at 320 F for 45-50 minutes. Then uncover and cook for an additional 20 minutes.

Serve with a slice of bread!

Contact

Contact me for anything you may need.

Seattle, WA & San Francisco, CA

425-802-9195
samraaj100@gmail.com