'SaaSy' entrepreneurs don’t miss the bus
I am not a morning person. So on Wednesday when I had to set out on an assignment at the crack of dawn it was not with the pleasantest of feelings that I reached the bus st0p at St. John's Medical College, Koramangala.
However sleep and grumpiness did an about turn as I was thrown into a pack of young and enthusiastic entrepreneurs all waiting to make the journey to Chennai.
We boarded the SaaSY Bus! which was set to travel from Bengaluru to Chennai for the event SaaSX2 powered by iSpirit and Microsoft Ventures. There were 34 exhuberant entrepreneurs who run their own SaaS based startups and the mood in the bus was infectious!
As we trundled along the Bengaluru Chennai highway, Prasanna Krishnamoorthy, CTO in Residence at Microsoft Ventures figured that it would be nice to break the ice and have a round of introductions and generally chit chat. The bus journey threw up some interesting quotes:
“In the entire entrepreneurial journey, I learnt that it is not enough only to build a great product but you need to focus more on the customization of the products to address the paint points. What I intend to learn is that how to sell and navigate your product as most of the customers are not open to new technologies.”
“One thing I learned in my journey is that how to scale up your startup when you are a bootstrapped.”
“During the initial days, it took us long nine months to validate our product which I think was a challenge for me. But simultaneously I believe that we should wait till we find the most sustainable and scalable way of solving this problem.”
A glimpse of the SaaSX2 event
Our bus finally screeched to a halt at the Hotel Le Meridian, Chennai, the venue for the second edition of SaaSX. The place was teeming with more than 200 SaaS startups who had gathered there with a hope to gain fruitful learnings on the dynamics of the SaaS market. We were welcomed in true ‘Thalaiva’ style, inspired by Rajnikanth, by the flamboyant Girish Mathrubootham, Founder and CEO of Freshdesk.
Getting serious, Girish then said, “SaaSX was the brainchild of Suresh Sambandam, CEO, KISSFLOW and Avinash Raghava, a member of iSpririt Foundation. Me, Avinash and Suresh had a meeting on organizing this event on the Chennai as the city has a phenomenal history of B2B product companies. At first, we were very skeptical since we didn’t have the idea that people would come from Bengaluru, Pune, Hyderabad and all across India. Last year, the event was four hours and this year we planned to extend the event to eight hours having experienced the success in the SaaSX1.”
FreshDesk is a Chennai based SaaS startup founded by Girish Mathrubootham in the year 2010. The company has grown by leaps and bounds, starting out from a 1000 sq ft office with five members to 400 members working out of a 60,000 sq ft office space in SP Infocity, Chennai.
As things were warming up, quite literally, in a fireside chat with Sumanth Raghavendra Girish mapped Freshdesk’s outstanding growth, “Our first customer came on June 10th 2011 from Australia and Microsoft Hackathon happened on 23rd June and we won the first prize of $40K on cloud category. And this was before Accel Partners funded on us and we were totally bootstrapped. Our conventional wisdom is to maximize the revenue. So we spend lots of money on marketing. We tried all the marketing channels Facebook, LinkedIn, Email, Banner Ads. During that period we made altogether 70 customers.”
He adds, “In the last fifteen years, we focused only on B2B customers and SMBs both in India and globally. For me a great product experience starts from the moment the customer lands on your website. So on your website, he has to like what he sees and when he signs up you need to understand is he gets value out of your website, at least a wow, so that the customer spends the next 30 days evaluating your products.”
Fireside Chat with Aneesh Reddy, Capillary Technologies
Another interesting fireside chat was with Capillary Technologies, a Bengaluru based SaaS Company that leverages mobile technology to help brick and mortar retailers interact with customer. Founded by Aneesh Reddy and his co-founders, Krishna Mehra and Ajay Modani in 2008, the startup has tied up with over 170 major brands across 150 million stores and serves over 150 million customers. Recently, it raised $45 million in Series C round from Warbug Pincus and existing investors Sequoia Capital and Norwest Venture Partners.
Aneesh said, “At the early stage, we raised money from 17 angel investors. In 2012, we raised $15.5 million in Series A fund. And with these funds we used to burn Rs five lakhs a month and expanded our footprint to US market. Now we have our office in South East Asia, Australia, Europe and MiddleEast. From 2012 to 2014, we had a very hard time and but we never took those hard calls of firing people because at some point of time, it is very difficult to hire senior people.”
According to a report by Gartner, public cloud services revenue in India will reach $838 million by the end of 2015, an increase of almost 33 percent, compared to the 2014 revenue of $632 million. Gartner predicts high rates of spending on cloud services in India to continue through 2018 when the market is expected to reach $1.9 billion.
As the event drew to a close and we were getting ready to board the bus back to Bengaluru, I could only think to myself that this had been a truly worthwhile journey. And an event like SaaSX is a worthy platform for those startups who can learn, network and find new ways of scaling up their venture to the next level.