Growth – Don’t sell-out while adapting to market needs

Geetha Vallabhaneni – How not to be a sell-out while adapting and scaling to market needs.

I worked in enterprise software space for 10 years. And it was really clear. We thought the consumer space overtaken by mobile, we get everything done, even we walk with our cell phones with our heads down. But in the enterprise space, its still actually in their infancy. People are still trying to figure out what that means for their business.  So then we looked at business software that companies use to run their business. CRM, IRP, payroll systems even. The software is old. It’s written either 30 years ago, or in CRM’s case, this is written 12 years ago. They’re great. They’re a great company, they’re a web company, but they don’t have a mobile component. So when we said, let’s build a mobile enterprise company, what we mean is become a really serious enterprise software company that’s focused on mobile. Think of the next generation business software, we are the platform. So we have a CRM, we have a civil intelligence platform; we have an IRP that’s completely integrated. And we have a payroll system and performance management system. So think of this classic SAP Oracle stack. But clearly gear towards the future devices. Mobile, and even the desktop machines that we would use will be touched base in a couple of years from now.

Marzena: So you’re really thinking forward in terms of how we integrate ourselves regardless of the new technologies coming out to not become obsolete at some point and create a platform where everybody has to in a sense rely on you in order to deliver.

Geetha: Yeah, in order to build their business. So we want to build that mobile enterprise company. But as a stepping stone, we built a mobile app for sales force, because sales force themselves don’t have a mobile app. So we are paying customers, we are making some really great partnerships that we’ll talk about soon in our press releases. We’ve seen good traction. That’s the whole point of seeing something that’s lacking.  Right, as a stepping stone, this was our first venture. Nobody is going to give us millions of dollars to build this huge platform. So how do you prove yourself? You can come up with a product you can execute, start with a mobile offering, a mobile layer for a great solution that’s already there.

Marzena Kmiecik: So when you decided to start this business, were you already thinking of your exit strategy in terms of selling the company at some point or being acquired? Because it also seems at some point this will be dominating where somebody will buy you out. So I’m asking in terms of strategy on a business side, when somebody’s planning a business, an idea, how do they take it to the next level?

There are companies that build based on exit strategies. You have to have few exit strategies. You can’t really build for acquisition. Then you are actually betting on a couple particular companies. For me, personally, there are people who actually just build targeting acquisition. And that’s great, it works out for them. But for me, individually, I have to take different choices. Failure, of course, is always an option.

Marzena Kmiecik: So how do we deal with it and the unpredictably, I think, of what’s next in the technology?

Exactly. So you’re always thinking about, okay, there’s an acquisition path, there’s a chance that we will actually be the next big company, so how do I plan to grow? How do I step aside and bring the people that can grow and scale the company? You have to think about it from day one, right? Because that’s just the real deal, there’s the chance–

That’s some amazing intelligence to have. To be able to think of those things way before you even step into the realm of, I’m starting something. To even go that way. I’m not sure if a lot of people even think about that. I think they’re stuck on the idea. This is what I want to do, without all the other pieces of the puzzle. To what extent do you think they have to do that homework in order to be successful in the end, versus winging it and really just holding onto that idea and everything else will fall into place? Just from your experience working with startups an see what’s going on in Silicon Valley, where do you find that balance of just, I’m going to go for it? Everything else will just happen.

I think really lasting successful companies, the difference between that and failures is thinking about strategy, execution. The most successful founders actually find people who can grow the company. Because as a founder they can only grow the companies to a certain point, and then they learn lessons, right? Think about Larry Page, they stepped aside for a while, let who has experience run the company and then they learn from him. And then take from that.  So that’s the beautiful way of executing whereas not thinking about these things and just being obsessed about the product. It can work, by the way, especially if you are a consumer app. You have invented a really clever game, and that goes viral, and you really don’t have to think about scaling. Because that’s just making money and that’s all you want from the client. But if you’re really building a company that’s lasting, then you do have to think about it from day 1. Which is why starting a company really entails a lot of things. Sitting first at the drawing board and thinking about different possibilities. Product is part and parcel of it, but there’s a lot more moving components around it.