In this episode, Matt Wolach interviews Saravana Kumar, the CEO of Kovai.co – a platform that offers multiple products at scale in both enterprise and B2B SaaS space. Saravana talks about how he built his business from the ground up and bootstrapped his way from zero to $10 million.
As a leader passionate about running and scaling a company, Saravana shares how he profitably runs his business. If you’re a new software founder who’s looking to see a similar scale, check out some of this episode’s insightful takeaways.
Podcast: SaaS-Story in the Making
Episode: Episode No 178., “Use this Trick to Bootstrap Your Company to $10 Million – with Saravana Kumar”
Host: Matt Wolach, a B2B SaaS sales coach, Entrepreneur, and Investor
Guest: Saravana Kumar, CEO of Kovai.co
TOP TIPS FROM THIS EPISODE
Take Calculated Risks
Saravana started Kovai.co in 2011 as a single product company. Since then, he has only had one principle: be cost-conscious.
From a bootstrapped perspective, Saravana says being cost-conscious is very important because the company doesn’t have any investors, and experimenting on the financial budget is a considerable risk.
“So you need to be cautious about every dollar you’re spending.”
Furthermore, even though it might seem like the growth is slow, Saravana says it’s okay to feel no regrets. In the last 10 years of being a leader, he notes that there have been many learnings while at a slower pace.
“Because when you’re doing it very cautiously, carefully, you learn quite a bit.”
Now, with $10 million worth, Saravana says he and his team have built the foundation and learned a lot. This includes building products, how to get the GTM for the products, and how to take them to the market.
The next step for the team is to look at their long-term goals and what they can do in the next 10 years, specifically how to create a billion-dollar company out of the current successfully bootstrapped business.
Learn First, Then Rake in the Cash
One of the challenges Saravana sees with many new software founders today is that they are rushing to get things done.
“What they miss out is that this is actually like, a 25-year effort.”
He wants to share a piece of advice with startup software founders to take it step by step. If you’re in an early stage of your career, don’t jump and do things yourself, he says.
Be precise and be very cautious about where you’re going. Take your time. Spend at least two or three years in the field and try to understand it better.
While fast-growing startups out there are making massive progress in just a year. It’s also essential to take one step at a time. That way, you’ll be able to learn more and carry these learnings in the years to come.
For beginners, Saravana says the first five years of your career are crucial.
“Don’t worry about the money,” he says, adding that it helps to make a conscious decision. “Because the majority of the time, the switching will come down to money.”
Spend your time learning, and the money will follow.
How it All Started
Before founding his own company, Saravana worked as a product consultant for Microsoft. When Microsoft stopped investing in a desktop server product, Saravana saw an opportunity to take the features and bring them to people who needed them.
“There are like 12,000 enterprise customers worldwide that need features like this, and I just picked it up.”
And he did, so he gave it a try and spent a year building the product’s first version.
He then received an award for this specific technology– a recognition that only 20 people in the world had. This gave Saravana a good network within the same community, like how influencer marketing works in the modern world.
“By the time I launched it in 2011, I already had an audience of some 15,000 who are really into that segment. They see you’re more like an influencer already. So you know, they trust you.”
So when he launched, he was able to close five large enterprise customers.
“The main reason being, you know, nobody is solving that problem, and they need it.”
For two years, Saravana and his team were able to scale up to 250 customers.
“We are a bootstrap completely, and we still do until this point. We haven’t taken any external money. That’s mainly because we were very frugal and conservative.”
Saravana continues, “I’m more passionate about building profitable businesses rather than growth at any cost and throw a lot of money. It looks nice outside, but not inside. That’s how it all started, and gradually, we kept our eyes open.”
More opportunities came his way, and he took it to build more products. To Saravana, it’s all about finding prospects, acquiring them, and go bigger from there.
[19:08] “You need to be cautious about every dollar you’re spending.”
[19:16] “It might look like the growth is slow, when you compare it with some of those fast-growing [companies], [but] there are no regrets. There’s a lot of learnings for us in this last 10 years.”
[21:40] “If you’re a young individual, spend some time [learning]– at least two, three years in.”
[25:04] “The first five years of your career are crucial. Don’t worry about money.”
[26:00] “In the first five years, learn as much as possible– that is the best thing you can do. And money will come eventually.”
[23:35] “When you’re getting a company started, you don’t have to know everything about that specific industry, but use what you’ve already learned before and apply that.”
[23:51] “What I’ve learned in my startups, I mean, just the breadth of knowledge, there are so many different things in a startup, you have to know because you wear so many hats, you have to understand all different pieces of a business.”
To learn more about Saravana Kumar and Kovai.co, visit: https://www.kovai.co/
You can also find Saravana Kumar on LinkedIn at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/saravanamv/
For more about how host Matt Wolach helps software companies achieve maximum growth, visit https://mattwolach.com/.