Episode 12: Sahil Mansuri and Kamal Ahluwalia

In our 12th episode, Gil talks about category creation with two leaders from the sales community and AI talent management categories.

Panelists for this episode include:

  • Sahil Mansuri, CEO of Bravado, and one of the influencers behind the sales community category
  • Kamal Ahluwalia, CEO of Eightfold, and one of the pioneers in the talent intelligence category

Or watch the video

Key takeaways from this episode

We’re excited to bring you another installment of B2B category creators! 

In our previous episode, we talked to two leaders in the next-gen internet network performance management and cybersecurity intelligence categories about the importance of market models. 

This episode brings in new insights you can use to improve your market models even further.

We look at how focusing on category creation can help you build a defensible moat in the long run and build products that people want.

Plus, our guests share some advice on the hard lessons they learned while creating a new category from scratch.

Takeaway 1. Category creation takes time

We all know that category creation isn’t something that happens overnight.

It often takes years of testing and pivoting to create a category.

But what’s even more challenging is getting people to buy into your idea when no one else is doing what you’re doing.

That’s why it’s sometimes useful to start with a proxy in the early stages of growth.

A proxy is an already-existing category that people can use as a reference when thinking about your product.

For example, you could say that you do what *insert company name here* does but better.

As you innovate and move towards product-market fit, the market will start defining your category, and your proxy comparison won’t be necessary.

Takeaway 2. The importance of brand perception

You also need to consider the impact of de-positioning, market size, and pricing when creating a new category.

Depositioning is all about changing how the market behaves towards your competitors.

Rather than saying, “we’re better because we have all these features”, depositioning tells the market, “we’re better because other brands can’t do XYZ.”

This is especially effective in markets where buyers have an inflated perception of a competitor’s product.

Keep in mind that this approach will only work if: 

  • You have a one-of-a-kind solution that the market wants
  • Your brand is associated with being great at “one thing” 
  • You continually deliver on your brand promise 

Depositioning is also a very resource-intensive and time-consuming process.

You’ll need a big enough market size where you can establish premium pricing for a premium product for it to work.

Takeaway 3. Why most startups fail

The truth is, most startups end up failing because they either run out of cash or build something that the market doesn’t need.

Another reason why startups fail is that they let internal politics, poor management, and a toxic company culture keep them from focusing on the big picture.

Most new founders have a hard time with this.

They may not be able to quickly notice the signs of an underperforming team until it’s too late.

The solution? Use objective indicators to figure out if you have a high-performing organization or not.

Some of these indicators include: 

  • Each team’s alignment with the company’s shared values and vision 
  • Your company’s willingness to take calculated risks and innovated on existing solutions
  • The level of communication and collaboration between teams and departments

Just like category creation itself, it takes time to build a positive workplace culture that holds everyone accountable.

But it pays off over the long run.

For more insights on building a team, positioning, and category creation, be sure to listen to this episode of B2B category creators.


Sahil recounts how a common problem he faced during his sales career led to creating a new category.

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