Yuriy Zaremba Of AiSDR Is Disrupting Our Industry, and What We Can Do About It

An Interview With Cynthia Corsetti

Be curious and enjoy. AI is the greatest innovation in decades and we are living through it. It will transform our lives dramatically and for the better. Be curious about it, monitor latest developments. It’s going to be fun.

Artificial Intelligence is no longer the future; it is the present. It’s reshaping landscapes, altering industries, and transforming the way we live and work. With its rapid advancement, AI is causing disruption — for better or worse — in every field imaginable. While it promises efficiency and growth, it also brings challenges and uncertainties that professionals and businesses must navigate. What can one do to pivot if AI is disrupting their industry? As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Yuriy Zaremba.

Yuriy Zaremba is the CEO and Co-Founder of AiSDR (Y Combinator S23 batch), a B2B SaaS platform that uses Generative AI to automate email outreach end-to-end. He is a 2x Alum of Y Combinator and a second-time founder with 1 multi-million dollar exit. The previous company he built, AXDRAFT (Y Combinator W19 batch), was acquired by Onit in 2020.

As a member of the YC community, he received access to GPT-3 when the AI was still in beta and 3 years before the public launch, making him an early adopter. As a result, 2 new Gen AI-driven features were built and deployed in under 12 hours at AXDRAFT, setting both him and the team up to embrace the possibilities unlocked by AI early on.

Yuri’s AI-first mindset culminated with building AiSDR in 2023, which got accepted to YC at the idea stage when the product was still a prototype, and raising $3M (Y Combinator, Flyer One Ventures, SID Ventures) after the public release of product MVP 2 months later. In a few days since launch AiSDR secured a paid pilot with Fortune 500 company in the sales and marketing space. Now 6 months into business, AiSDR has 60+ clients and showcases predictable performance through the highest quality of AI-generated outputs.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dive into our discussion our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think there are a couple of things. First of all, we are Ukrainians and we started this company in the middle of the full scale war with Russia. Our offices and team are in Ukraine. Secondly, both me and my co-founder and brother Oleg are second-time founders. We have built and sold one company before — AXDRAFT. Thirdly, both of our companies have been backed by Y Combinator, which is the most famed accelerator in the world. All of these things are unique and there are only a handful of companies and founders that accomplished something similar.

From a product perspective, what sets AiSDR apart is the level of detail we go into when configuring customer’s AI persona. We even configure specific words to use and to avoid to make sure our AI captures customer’s tone of voice and value proposition just right. Another thing that distinguishes us is the level of personalization — we take into account the entire Linkedin profile of a person, including the most recent posts to try to find the one thing that may connect that person’s needs and interests to our customer’s value proposition to make our outreach relevant.

You are a successful business leader. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? Can you please share a story or example for each?

For me those three character traits are: grit, optimism and adaptability.

When you are building a startup nothing ever goes exactly your way, so very often you have to move forward solely relying on grit and discipline, being optimistic about the future and ready to change to make that future happen. Those are the skills that get you through the toughest times. I’ve lived through this countless times, when large customers where churning, or funds were running out, or when we were hearing consistent “no” from investors. We did not give up, we powered through and adapted, believing that this just one hiccup on our long road to success and it turned out that way.

Let’s now move to the main point of our discussion about AI. Can you explain how AI is disrupting your industry? Is this disruption hurting or helping your bottom line?

In our case, we are the AI disruptor. Previously the sales outreach process looked like this: a sales representative (1) builds a lead list; (2) creates a standardized email sequence in Outreach or similar software; (3) launches automated sequence and engages manually with people who respond with a goal to book meeting. If a sales representative wanted to personalize an email to get higher engagement/conversion — they would have to research the prospect’s account and craft an email manually that would take 15–30 minutes per email. Once the meeting was booked — it was passed down to an account executive.

AI completely removes the human from this process up until a point of when a call is booked. AI can search for relevant leads, based on a provided set of parameters, create a personalized email for every single prospect (no templated sequences) and when prospects respond — correspond with them, answering follow-up questions and handling objections. Honestly, it is pretty mind blowing to what extent the sales representative function can be automated with AI

Which specific AI technology has had the most significant impact on your industry?

I think it is without the doubt — GPT-4, a model behind ChatGPT. We are also use Claude by Anthropic and the most recent model — Claude 3 Opus is awesome, but definitely GPT-4 is the technology that started all this and showed us what’s possible

Can you share a pivotal moment when you recognized the profound impact AI would have on your sector?

Yes, I read in an article that AI convinced a person to pass CAPTCHA test for it, pretending to be a blind person. It amazed me and I thought — if AI can convince a person to do this it surely must be able to write convincing sales emails. That’s when I started experimenting with ChatGPT and GPT-4 and when I saw the first results — I was blown away. That’s when I knew that the future of sales is here.

How are you preparing your workforce for the integration of AI, and what skills do you believe will be most valuable in an AI-enhanced future?

That’s a great question. First of all, we build AI into all our processes from day one. We use AI-assistants in customer support, marketing, sales and software engineering. We made it part of our culture.

In terms of skills, I think that understanding what AI can and cannot do and being able to prompt it properly to get the desired results is going to be a key skill. Being open and curious about the use of AI in your work generally is also very important. It’s inevitable and avoiding it won’t change the outcome.

What are the biggest challenges in upskilling your workforce for an AI-centric future?

For me the number one challenge is finding work and purpose for people, whose jobs will be directly impacted and replaced by AI. In my opinion, letting people go is not a viable option. In case of AiSDR our vision is to enable sales representatives to become account executives, so essentially get promoted, while AI does more mundane work. In customer success or marketing roles, people can focus on quality assurance, AI configuration and monitoring and similar processes. Thinking through this change, communicating this vision with your team, and educating them to enable their transition into these new roles is where we should focus our efforts.

What ethical considerations does AI introduce into your industry, and how are you tackling these concerns?

On a product level, the question that I get asked most often is: “what if AI says something bad/stupid/insulting, that will damage our brand reputation?”. My answer is always the same: there are many controls in place to prevent this: (1) we use the latest models that have multiple guardrails and protections built into them during training; (2) we run them on “low temperatures”, which means that AI follows instructions more closely, vs. being more creative; (3) we have prompt infrastructure in place that explains to AI what a good sales outreach looks like, what to do and what to avoid; (4) we allow customers to create robust rules, specific only to them as to what AI should and should not say and finally (5) we ask AI to check every AI-generated email for quality before it goes out. Every AI company has similar processes in place, to make sure nothing bad happens.

On people level, as I discussed above — our vision is to delegate routine tasks to AI, allowing people to focus of higher value added work.

What are your “Five Things You Need To Do, If AI Is Disrupting Your Industry”?

1 . Understand what level of automation is possible and where is this going — book demos with 3–5 companies in the space, try to understand what areas of your day to day work they are focusing on what’s on their roadmap, what are the current limitations of the soft.

2 . Identify whether AI is going to be your “co-pilot” or replacement — for example, AiSDR is AI software that replaces the role, while another player in the space — Lavender is a co-pilot (helps SDRs craft better emails).

3 . If key players are co-pilot — embrace it — subscribe to free trial, learn more about technology, and try to figure out how to make your life easier with this new software.

4 . If key players are replacement AIs — lead the change. If you saw that AI is coming for your role the best strategy to find your place in AI-first future is to shape that future — create an AI-automation strategy for your company, pitch it to your leadership — a person like that can never be replaced.

5 . Be curious and enjoy. AI is the greatest innovation in decades and we are living through it. It will transform our lives dramatically and for the better. Be curious about it, and monitor the latest developments. It’s going to be fun.

What are the most common misconceptions about AI within your industry, and how do you address them?

People expect AI to be perfect. Write perfect emails, guarantee booked meetings, etc. It doesn’t do that and it can’t. What is the most surprising to me is that we never expect this level of “perfection” from other people. We all make mistakes and miss sales quotas, but AI is not allowed to do that

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

There are two quotes that I think about often. Both came from Tim Ferris’ book: “Tools of Titans”. The first one is from Marc Andreessen: “Raise prices” — startups often sell themselves short and as a result are not able to pay their bills. If you don’t hear: “oh, that’s expensive” from prospects often, your product is probably too cheap.

The second one is: “Stop drinking NOW”. I don’t remember the author, but I followed the advice and it brings a lot of clarity into your life.

Off-topic, but I’m curious. As someone steering the ship, what thoughts or concerns often keep you awake at night? How do those thoughts influence your daily decision-making process?

Customer churn, global conflicts, etc. I view those from two angles: (1) if I have influence over it — it becomes my number one priority for the next morning; (2) if I don’t have influence over it — I think of a way to reduce it’s influence on me and my company and make that my priority for the next morning.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Probably something around not drinking and being kind to each other

How can our readers further follow you online?


Thank you for the time you spent sharing these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

About the Interviewer: Cynthia Corsetti is an esteemed executive coach with over two decades in corporate leadership and 11 years in executive coaching. Author of the upcoming book, “Dark Drivers,” she guides high-performing professionals and Fortune 500 firms to recognize and manage underlying influences affecting their leadership. Beyond individual coaching, Cynthia offers a 6-month executive transition program and partners with organizations to nurture the next wave of leadership excellence.