Who are you?
Shiv Shankar – I’m the cofounder of SalesX.io, a unified conversation platform for sales people using artificial intelligence to automate followups and their CRM data-entry jobs and help them to close 10X more deals.
Can you tell us the story of your business from idea to where you are now?
My previous startup Waybeo was a call marketing analytics platform. The product was catering to a small niche segment and had to follow a sales driven strategy to generate leads, which was very process driven and effort intensive. We used five CRMs within a span of four years for managing our sales process and failed all 5 times to get adopted by our sales team.
We realized CRMs are just a platform for saving customer database and data-entry is an extra workload for our sales people. Sales increases when a team focuses on closing more deals and optimizing their emails and calls with right leads. But CRMs never helped them in doing so and they just ignored eventually.
Fortunately, our product was integrated with CRMs of most of our 500+ customers and we were closely associated with their sales teams. We evaluated this problem in their cases and understood this is a common problem and a big one.
Going ahead with the Lean model, we interviewed more than 300 sales people in different levels and realized this a big billion dollar opportunity.
What has been your biggest failure or struggle?
Before finding success with my product bounzd.com, I failed twice with previous products. Speed and execution were the key reasons. As it was a student startup initiative from a tier two coastal city in India, we failed in reaching to the customers and doing sales along with product development.
And what has been your biggest achievement or success?
I am proud of starting up Waybeo while in college itself with 6 friends as cofounders and running successfully through the emotional roller-coasters and multiple failures to reach clarity and profitability. Even though ‘student startups’ were totally new to a city like Trivandrum in 2008 and a supportive ecosystem was missing, making Waybeo to India’s top 10 emerging tech startups in 2013, and getting the termsheet for acquisition from an US public limited company are a few great moments to cherish.
The most amazing thing that got built due to the above, is a network effect resulting in new startups, entrepreneurs and a growing ecosystem in Kerala, which we wished to have in the beginning.
What’s your must read business book?
While it’s not right to pick one from my big list, I would recommend “Essays by Paul Graham” as a must read to any entrepreneur.
And “Crossing the Chasm’, “Start with Why”, “Hooked” are the ones which I would also like to recommended to.
Who’s your most inspirational CEO or founder?
Sreedhar Vembu of Zoho.com has inspired me a lot to follow my SAAS B2B dreams. Elon Musk and Steve Jobs are definitely there, even though it’s a cliche answer.
And can you tell us something weird or interesting about yourself?
Running my startup for the first 4 years without taking any salary till the startup becoming profitable. Still cherish that period as the biggest learning phase of my life.