Why Binny Bansal chose to launch tech startup xto10x Technologies for his second innings
Flipkart Co-founder Binny Bansal and former Ekart Head Saikiran Krishnamurthy launched startup xto10x Technologies. The venture will offer tech tools and a learning platform for startups all over the world looking to scale up rapidly.
What does a Flipkart Co-founder do after resigning from his position as group CEO at India’s top ecommerce Unicorn? He starts up again! Binny Bansal is teaming up with Saikiran “Saiki” Krishnamurthy, a former Senior Partner at global consultancy firm McKinsey, to launch xto10x Technologies, a tech startup that will address issues related to scaling up for growth-stage startups globally.
What led to the xto10x idea?
YourStory spoke to a number of people who have worked with Binny and Saikiran and learnt that the duo has worked closely since early 2016 when Saikiran took over from Binny as the head of Flipkart’s in-house supply chain and logistics arm, Ekart. They continued to be in touch and were looking for opportunities to collaborate even after Saikiran moved out of Flipkart in early 2017.
The idea for xto10x Technologies supposedly came to them a few months ago when Saikiran left Ola (where he was Head of Marketplace). The duo felt that startups, even those with great product-market fit and rock-star founding teams, can still lose their way in their journey towards building full-scale businesses and great organisations.
Binny and Saikiran decided this was the perfect idea to work on together - combining Binny’s experience in building and scaling Flipkart and as a prolific angel investor, and Saikiran’s 18+ years of experience in building businesses across McKinsey, Flipkart, and Ola. The goal was singular: to provide deep, systemic solutions for issues that startups face in the aggressive scaling-up phase.
YourStory learned that over the last few months, Saikiran has been having conversations with several startup founders, VCs, and former colleagues, which has allowed them to move very quickly from the idea phase. While the company was formally incorporated in October in Bengaluru last year, Binny and Saikiran have spent the first few months testing the idea and defining the team they want to build. They are now looking to scale up hiring in the next few months, especially in technology.
The xto10x game plan
xto10x Technologies will help startups scale by bringing in the right knowledge and capabilities across several key areas, such as a strategy to execution, hyper-growth, ops, design, data science, HR, and strategic business finance, and putting in place operating systems for effective governance.
A source with knowledge about the duo’s strategy told YourStory, “Even after a startup has achieved a product-market fit and created serious business momentum, there are several factors that are important to scale into a large, profitable, world-class institution.”
This, he said, could include the founder's own ability to learn and grow from "running everything" to building a strong leadership team, designing the demand funnel (from traffic to orders) in a way that can scale. It also includes creating a strong supply chain that reliably delivers what the customer was promised, designing and running a mission-driven organisation with an inspiring culture, and so on.
“Their role of xto10x will be to provide relevant knowledge and products that will help startups all over the world address these problems in the simplest possible way,” the sources said.
xto10x will reportedly start with three offerings.
First, a technology and product suite that will enable efficient and effective scaling and help unleash the capacity of the organisation.
The second will be a learning platform to help startups find the knowledge they need when they need it - through curated courseware, content, case studies, and events.
The third will be a “diagnostic” offering, which will help founders paint a full potential “10x” view of their business and how to get there.
What Binny and Saikiran bring to the table for startups is their personal experience in living through and solving many of these problems first-hand and understanding the challenges founders face in solving them.
“They bring the learning both from what they have done that worked and mistakes they made which founders can learn from,” sources told YourStory.
In addition to co-founding Flipkart and helping to build structural capabilities like Ekart, Binny is also a prolific angel investor and mentor in the startup ecosystem.
Saikiran, having spent 15 years at McKinsey, knows how to put himself in the shoes of founders or CEOs to understand their businesses deeply and solve their challenges. He also has the operating experience of leading Ekart and Marketplace at Ola.
“This gives him a unique vantage point on the problems startups face and how to solve them at scale,” sources said.
However, sources said both Binny and Saikiran are clear that xto10x will not play a consulting or advisory role.
The xto10x leadership team will focus on developing “at-scale” offerings and support product rollout. With a few companies they may play a more hands-on role, but that “will be an exception, not the rule”.
“In a few situations, they may provide management support, where absolutely critical to get things done or even help founders hire the right team. But they will not play a consulting or advisory role,” the source said.
Defining the roles
xto10x is likely to see Saikiran playing the role of hands-on CEO while Binny will play an active role as Executive Chairman. Binny is still on the Board of Directors at Flipkart, but sources close to him have said he plans to be “meaningfully involved with xto10x and that will not take anything away from his commitments to Flipkart”.
While Saikiran will focus on xto10x full-time, sources said Binny will probably spend a third to about half his time on the startup, building the company globally, working actively with the leadership team to help identify the right product areas to bet on. He will also mentor and support select startup founders that xto10x will work with, help hire a great team, and provide the initial risk capital to get the company going.
The business model
The new venture is said to be experimenting with a few different business models with a mix of fees and equity to ensure the right alignment of incentives. With very early-stage startups, there could also be an option for venture investors to sponsor the “diagnostic” as a way of helping founders come up with a roadmap around which all stakeholders can be aligned.
Though it is early days, several startups have already reached out to Binny and Saikiran. It seems likely that they will begin a few diagnostics in January itself. The duo also plans to hire a world-class product-tech team and a broader leadership team that will bring deep experience in critical areas.
The question now is: how impactful would xto10x be in its mission to help startups scale?
In the couple of months since its launch, Binny and Saikiran have found strong resonance for what they are trying to do in their conversations with founders.
“There is already significant pull for what they want to offer. The fact that there is no other company doing this today and the combination of their unique experiences has excited them about the scope for impact,” sources told YS.
Binny and Saikiran are also personally excited about their plans. “They are backing their ability to build a world-class team and solve this problem at scale,” the sources added.
To be sure, both individuals have a lot to contribute. As Karthik Reddy, Managing Partner at Blume Ventures told YourStory after Binny’s departure from Flipkart, “Binny has been an incredible supporter of the ecosystem, mentoring, investing and guiding many of our portfolio startups. He exudes rare objectivity and clarity on what’s important for founders to focus on.”
Binny Bansal’s exit from Flipkart may have been sudden, but he's clearly readying for another long innings!
[PS: Binny Bansal ranked at the top of the list of YourStory’s 25 newsmakers of 2018, along with his Flipkart Co-founder Sachin Bansal. Check out the rest of the list here.]