Episode 208 / March 13, 2023

SaaS, Chennai, Acquisition By Freshworks and Building Rocketlane with Founder, Srikrishnan Ganesan

47 min

Episode 208 / March 13, 2023

SaaS, Chennai, Acquisition By Freshworks and Building Rocketlane with Founder, Srikrishnan Ganesan

47 min
Listen on

As per Tracxn, there are 1100+ SaaS startups in Chennai as of Feb 2023.

Chennai has rightfully gained the title of the SAAS capital of India, thanks to the expansion of companies such as Zoho and Freshworks.

Although these two firms have recently surpassed the $500 million revenue milestone, making them the most prominent success stories in the realm of Indian-based SAAS companies, there are other companies contributing to Chennai’s reputation in the market. Chargebee, CloudCherry, HappyFox, and FourKites are among the businesses that are creating a unique space in the industry.

In this episode, we have with us Srikrishnan Ganesan Founder, Rocketlane. Srikrishnan’s SaaS journey began with Konotor, which got acquired by FreshWorks and later became Freshchat. He has experienced scaling from 0 to 100 and is now building Rocketlane, a customer onboarding platform that reduces time to value and eliminates hit-or-miss experiences.

During the episode he talks about his inspiration behind building Rocketlane, Planning and doing GTM early on being a SaaS founder, setting up a base in Chennai, and much more.

Notes –

00:00 – Highlights of the conversation

01:32 – Intro to Srikrishnan Ganesan, Rocketlane and Chennai’s SaaS ecosystem

02:36 – Why SaaS founders prefer Chennai?

06:09 – Advantages of building prior-product building experience

09:50 – Choosing the domain for Rocketlane

13:12 – Rocketlane’s Pre-Launch setup

18:53 – What works in customer conversation’s Pre-Launch?

22:44 – Why do SaaS founders ignore GTM?

24:35 – Raising their 1st round

26:32 – Choosing to become a Category creator

29:08 – Investing in Brand-building upfront

30:39 – Funding announcement with a Rap video

34:15 – Learnings from his journey

37:54 – Their strategy for Demand-Gen

40:29 – His thoughts on Generative-AI

45:47 – Slowness demand for Rocketlane or similar companies serving SMBs

Read the transcript Here:

Srikrishnan 0:00

This is again, one more learning from the FreshWorks journey where we saw how we can de-risk a product while we’re building it, and not have to launch prematurely. Because I think when you launch prematurely, you’re not living up to the vision. The customer can’t decipher that vision when the product isn’t there yet. The good thing was that within the first two and a half months, we had 30 paying customers. And I think that created certain confidence in the team, it created confidence in our investors that we are onto something. So I think we actually had a lot of thought leadership content that came out of all of this as well, which was well documented, which turned into some great content that we could present at events over the last two years.


Let’s just say, give your shot at making a rap video for Rocketlane’s funding announcement. And the first version of the lyrics he gave me, I was like, wow, if this is what you can do, we should turn it into something awesome.


It’s not a forte, but I think on this journey, I’ve learned so much about sales. And I’ve definitely been shameless, in reaching out to folks requesting for introductions, pushing a deal across the line faster, chasing a customer. So I have become a sales guy, I would say.


Siddhartha 1:30

Hi, this is Siddhartha Ahluwalia. Welcome to the 100 X Entrepreneur Podcast. Today I have with me Srikrishnan Ganesan, founder of Rocketlane. Rocketlane today is one of the hottest SaaS companies from India, to give a global perspective on the SaaS, SaaS wave started in India around 25 years ago, when the Zoho launched, Sridhar Vembu could never have imagined that today in 2023, Zoho would be a $1 billion SaaS revenue company from India with multiple products, FreshWorks followed the full suit of Zoho. Today FreshWorks has more than 500 million in annual recurring revenues. And these two companies, both from Chennai, have built Chennai as the SaaS capital of India. The SaaS talent is the densest in the Chennai region in India, and global investors respect the way the Chennai ecosystem has come up and built India on the Global Map in SaaS. Srikrishnan, welcome to the podcast.


Srikrishnan 2:32

Thanks for having me on Siddhartha.


Siddhartha 2:36

So Sri, we are in a very monumental moment globally. Earlier Indian product companies were respected because of the product. Today Indian companies are also respected because of the go to market strength the founders have built. And you’re sitting here in Chennai, you are one of the most respected founders in SaaS today in India, so why Chennai?


Srikrishnan 2:57

Of course, I think with every kind of product, you tend to build muscle in certain areas over a period of time. And every generation of companies from a region learns from the previous generation of product companies. In that sense, probably, Chennai has had an advantage thanks to the likes of Zoho, FreshWorks, etc, being based out of here. In fact, a lot of Chennai based SaaS startups have founders who may be ex-Zoho, ex-FreshWorks, etc. So, for any startup, I guess there are many unknowns that we need to tackle with but if you’ve been part of building a SaaS business before, the number of dimensions or domains where you have some expertise, some exposure, which helps you control variables in that side of things increases, and that way, I guess we have some advantage because we’ve all built some SaaS business before. So we know some aspects of it, the amount of exploration we need to figure out the rest of it is lesser.


Siddhartha 4:00

So you’re saying the talent density of SaaS in Chennai makes Chennai the SaaS capital. But more than that, is there anything else because now what is happening is companies from Delhi, especially all kinds of startups, are going to Bangalore, but I see Bangalore SaaS founders moving to Chennai, building their teams in Chennai.


Srikrishnan 4:22

Yes, as I said, when you look at all the functions, I’ll give you an example. When we started Rocketlane, the first few hires that we brought on, all of them had built SaaS products before, our designer had successfully designed world beating SaaS products in the past, our initial engineering team, some of those team members had built and scaled SaaS products before. And even among us as founders, all of us have experienced a journey before building and relaunching a product in fact, three times before getting on this journey, which meant figuring out what are the tasks that a typical customer of different sizes would have?


Give me any SaaS product, I can probably tell you what the roadmap should be. And there is no need to figure it out in a hard way, it’s easier, because you’ve done it before. And I think that’s what the SaaS founders in Bangalore are probably looking at saying, I know that I have a product that is going to be easy to sell. And I know there are people who have learned to sell simple SaaS products before. So let me hire people from that background. There is FreshWorks, there is Chargebee. There are companies that have sales teams here.


So you don’t need to relearn from scratch. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel when it comes to selling those kinds of SaaS products. On the other hand, maybe if I had to sell to an enterprise, I would look at companies like Adobe, Whatfix and so on? Who is doing that? Well. So why go elsewhere to figure out who used to work over there in the past? Who we can look at now as talent to hire. I think that’s what’s happening here.


Siddhartha 6:09

Sri, you are a second time founder, and you yourself, say that you have launched three products, the first starting Rocketlane? What is the advantage that you caught, during the journey of building the first product content or selling it to FreshWorks? And then learning them, I would say zero to 10 at FreshBooks?


Srikrishnan 6:27

I think some very clear lessons on what to do and what not to do, emerge from that previous journey.


Siddhartha 6:34

And what would they be, I would love to share this with the audience?


Srikrishnan 6:37

I think when we started on the connector journey, we were actually looking at like we want to build stuff that’s not already out there. Very new evangelistic products, we didn’t know how much of a challenge that would be. And took on I would say, too many variables in one go. We were figuring out what a product should do. We were convincing customers, here is why you need such a product, trying to do that inception in their minds, saying, here’s why you need a product like this. And hopefully, they realize it and they come and buy. But the market itself was just maturing as well, mobile apps were what we were focused on selling to.


And while in India, for example, mobile apps were all the craze and everyone was building an app. The western world, mobile was still like, very, I would say, ignored part of at least for bigger companies web dominated. Give you an example, I learned about this fortune 100 retailer, we wanted to pitch to them. And then once we realize that, for them, the web was the 13th biggest store, which means they had 12 physical stores that were bringing in more money than the web.


And within the Web, Mobile Web was ⅕ the size, rather mobile, was I think the 13th biggest and within mobile, mobile web was five times the size of mobile app. And we were focused only on that app. So that became something insignificant for them. And if my whole value prop was around mobile, they weren’t going to pick it up, at least in 2014-2015, when I was trying to pitch it to them. Things will change along with time, but you can’t be far ahead of your time. SaaS, from a market perspective. And you need to follow momentum. That was my biggest learning from the previous journey. Because once we changed what we were doing in FreshWorks, we relaunched the same product. We called it FreshChat. And it became a web and mobile, where we knew that companies like Intercom and Drift were growing really fast.


And that’s exactly what happened for Freshchat. We had like a zero to 12 million journey in two years and three months. And it was amazing to see what momentum does for your team for you, for everyone involved in the journey, how it pushed people to level up and grow in different ways. And that’s what excited us about even doing one more startup journey, that experience of launching a product, which had that kind of momentum. So that was one lesson. I’d say the second big thing was about in the previous startup, we didn’t do any marketing. And we saw what kind of marketing FreshWorks was doing, and understood the value of demand gen. And, really, how sales becomes so much easier when you bring the interesting prospect to you, and what that can do for the company, for the business. And so we focus a lot this time around on marketing, and I think a lot of SaaS founders have reached out about how we’re doing our marketing. I think we still have a lot to learn, but we’re doing some things really well.


Siddhartha 9:49

Would love to understand from you, how did you choose the domain for Rocketlane, because you have like an infinite canvas to paint once you came out of FreshWorks.


Srikrishnan 9:59

So it wasn’t like a straightforward choice, we did consider a lot of options around what we want to build next. Because it’s not like the idea came first. And we said, Okay, let’s go build that. Rather, it was like, we’ve had a great journey over here. We want to build one more, we want to take a new bunch of people with us on a high momentum journey. So what do we build? And we explored a bunch of domains. But we also started talking to different kinds of stakeholders in these domains to understand what areas are crowded, what are some emerging areas where we could have strong momentum.


And one of the things that emerged, as we spoke to more people, was that there was this problem that had an interesting beachhead, and a wide TAM as well, which was customer facing projects, When you look at Asana,, Smartsheets, etc, we knew that 50% of the projects that run on them are actually client facing or customer facing projects, run by agencies run by implementation teams inside companies, consulting companies, system integrators, all kinds of businesses, services and services teams inside product companies as well. And that told us something about how big a TAM this was. And within that there was a very interesting beachhead for us, which was implementation teams or onboarding teams inside product companies. That’s the space we knew deeply. Because I myself was overseeing a lot of our mid market and lower end of enterprise focused implementations at FreshWorks.


If I have to look back at the previous journey, and say, What are the biggest pains you had? Definitely that initial implementation journey was something that was very broken, the first partnership that the customer was experiencing with you. And it was exactly the moment where we stopped being customer centric. There were siloed experiences, siloed conversations happening across tools, there wasn’t the right visibility for the customer. And for our team, we were not on the same page very often, my team member would say, implementation is going great. Customer will send me an escalation email.


So precisely knew this was a pain point. Talking to a bunch of founders talk to a bunch of customer success heads, implementation heads talk to investors as well, because we wanted to ensure that this time, in our journey, we pick a problem that is of high priority for the business itself. And one of the themes that emerged was A, for companies that do usage based billing, they were actually making money only if their customer implemented and went live with them successfully. B, if you’re selling to an enterprise, there is a huge lag between your contracted or booked revenue, and your live ARR. And that was a board level conversation. That’s what made us think, if this is a high priority and high visibility problem, people want to solve it. Let’s attack that first.


Siddhartha 13:11

So you define the problem really well. You saw a large and unsolved market because it was essentially getting sold on Excel sheets and Asana at that point in time, maybe two years ago. So your distribution and marketing muscle is really talked about in the industry. Your zero to one journey is really famous because you went from zero to like 1 million ARR, within 12 months of launching, tell us about the activities you did pre launch.


Srikrishnan 13:37

First thing I would say is we took a while to launch, we did not launch an MVP, when we launched, it was already a full featured product. This is again, one more learning from the FreshWorks journey where we saw how we can de-risk a product while we’re building it, and not have to launch prematurely because I think when you launch prematurely, you’re not living up to the vision. The customer can’t decipher that vision when the product isn’t there yet. So we wanted to avoid that problem. In fact we had to write a nice note to all our investors as well saying, I know you’re eager to see us launch. But that’s not the approach we’re taking. So I had time on my hands. I was talking to a lot of customers. My co-founders are building the product. I was showing the product, early stages to people. We didn’t have design partners, but we had a lot of interested parties who were giving us feedback and input.


Siddhartha 14:31

How do you find them? That’s important.


Srikrishnan 14:33

Cold outreach on different pretexts, so nine months before we launched the product, we launched a community for customer onboarding and implementation professionals. It’s called pre-flight, if anyone’s interested, do take a look at So the community meant a lot of people were joining in there who could have been valuable people, for us to pick their brains. And so we started those conversations with some of them, not all of them. We didn’t want it to be like the communities about us, it was about them. But if they were interested, if they seem to be passionate about the problem, sure, we want to learn more about how they’re doing their work today, show us what spreadsheets you’re using, what macros you’ve built, what not. And once you’ve done that, if you’re open to it, we can also show you what direction we’re going. And we’d love your feedback. So we did a lot of that. We probably spoke to 70-80 companies in that period. And we also built deep domain expertise through the community, we were hosting two events a month in the community.


Siddhartha 15:40

In India or the US?


Srikrishnan 15:41

Across both, it was an online community on Slack. And we used to hold these events on Zoom. And we used to have people attending from all over the globe. Initially, it was Indian speakers who were from our network in some way. But as we started showcasing here, here’s the caliber of people who are coming in talking over here, we started getting more people from across the globe, who are interested in sharing, just call this implementation stories. Just about, hey, here’s what I did over the last 12 months to level up on how we were doing our onboarding. And the next part to that was, we also ran a podcast. So again, the podcast was launched a few months before we launched the product.


So we built a lot of relationships. We built a lot of credibility, we built an audience for what we were doing before we launched the product. Those were some preparatory things we did. This also helped our marketing team understand what the pains are. What are the goals and challenges of these team members? How do we write the right copy on our website to appeal to this audience? So we had a lot of learning from all of this. And when we did our product hunt launch, which was we tried some interesting things over there as well around launch. So we said let’s time our funding announcement and product launch on the same day. So we waited basically a year to do our funding announcement.


On the launch day of the product we did that announcement, did the PH launch, and we got to number one on Product Hunt. We got like, I think 250 signups that day, which we were struggling to fulfill or cater to, in the next two and a half months, because we didn’t have a sales team. So we had one person who had joined us to do sales, it was me and two other team members who were on the gold market side, essentially taking all these customer demos. And the good thing was within the first two and a half months, we had 30 paying customers. And I think that created certain confidence in the team, it created confidence in our investors that we are onto something. And especially for me and my co founders, we have experienced a lack of PMF. What happens when you’re stuck, versus what it feels like when you’re able to sell fast and move fast. So that difference was very clear. And that gave us a lot of confidence to go out and do more.


Siddhartha 18:22

So how many customer conversations did you have in those nine months before the launch? unique customer conversations.


Srikrishnan 18:28

Probably over 100, I don’t think I counted it. I didn’t set up a CRM at that time. We were on Notion. So I have like a long list or Notion, maybe 120 companies over there.


Siddhartha 18:41

And you reach out to them on LinkedIn or email. What works in that?


Srikrishnan 18:47

I think the best thing was actually one connected by others in our network. So we were careful about picking angels during our initial journey. Two things we did one, of course, they were people who helped us on our previous journey. So we gave them some space. So other founders who helped us or operators who helped us, we made some space for them. But other than that we were very, very picky about who we include on the cap table. We wanted people who can help amplify what we’re saying, or make amazing connections for us with customers. Be a domain expert who can help us in the direction we need to go. So we were careful in picking those people. And I think that also helped us. Some of them made amazing introductions, which may not have helped in initial traction, but it definitely helped in validating what we were building and definitely helped in getting those conversations going.


Siddhartha 19:46

So you were basically spending almost all of your time figuring out who you would have customers reaching out to them and having conversation and you had a junior sales guy along with you for the first nine months.


Srikrishnan 20:00

Absolutely. And the nine months before launch, we didn’t have the sales guy, we had one marketing lead, who had joined us. And we were doing all these outreach, I was getting on a lot of the calls, everything was recorded so that the whole team could watch every recording of every conversation with the customer, how are they reacting, who were like prospects or experts. So we got a lot of Intel through that. And we were doing all these events and podcasts, etc, just building domain expertise, writing blogs on the side, not necessarily publishing them, but the meat of the content.


So I think we actually had a lot of thought leadership content that came out of all of this as well, which was well documented, which turned into some great content that we could present at events over the last two years. So at launch, I would say, the first year, we had three amazing pieces of thought leadership that we brought out in space. And that was all thanks to talking to so many people.


Siddhartha 21:04

So all this go to market activities that you did not only help you with the first set of 30 customers within two and a half months of launch will also help you sharpen the pitch of the product, sharper. The messaging on the website, and media marketing team became stronger when they reached out to prospects.


Srikrishnan 21:23

Absolutely, it made us look like experts in the space, not just a company building software.


Siddhartha 21:30

I think that’s important when customers speak to you, they review about you on your website or any other, you already have a community where customers could hang out and get a feel of the community right before they could even go for a trial. That also means the customer is putting some investment in a trial.


Srikrishnan 21:47

Absolutely. So we have a mix of SMB and mid market customers and often with an SMB customer on call me and folks on our team can actually give them real tips about how these small things can help you with how you’re doing your onboarding. And that expertise came from all of the content we built over a period of time.


Nansi 22:11

Hi, everyone. Before we begin, I would like to share that this podcast is brought to you by Prime Venture partners, an early stage VC fund led by Amit Somani, Shripati Acharya and Sanjay Swami. Prime is often the first institutional investor in category defining tech startups in FinTech, SaaS healthcare and education, such as Markit Quizzes, Planet Spark, Bolt and Glip to know more about Prime visit


Siddhartha 22:42

And so why do founders, especially in SaaS, ignore the GTM a lot, like the GTM is taken secondary and the thing is that once we build a really great product, then we can start reaching out to the customers through an outbound motion. And then over a period of time, an inbound will build in, this never works.


Srikrishnan 23:01

I think there is somewhat of a founder market, or founder GTM motion fit as well. And for a lot of people, to be honest, probably the easier path is to say, let me build that clear ICP and reach out to specific people, and it should work even that way. It’s not like you won’t have that initial traction that way, maybe slower. But you’re gonna attract exactly the kind of, or you’re gonna chase exactly the kind of customer you want. But I wanted to make it easier for all of us. So I said, if I do the hard work upfront, and I’m ready to do it this time, I know I had the feeling that I did not do justice to our product last time. And this time, I want to do this justice.


Siddhartha 23:51

It was a vengeance of six years.


Srikrishnan 23:54

Actually one of our lead investors, Vikram from Matrix, he’s actually a batch mate of mine from postgrad. And the only thing he told me when we just partnered up, he was like, last time, you didn’t do much marketing. Hopefully this time, you will fix that. And I thought it came from a genuine place. It wasn’t like a VC gyan, it was actually like, he means it. It comes from a very good place. And it does, it will make a difference for us. So maybe over indexed a little on marketing, but I think it’s been valuable. It’s been super useful for us.


Siddhartha 24:35

How tough was it for you to raise your first round?


Srikrishnan 24:38

Well, in reality, we were just getting out of FreshWorks. Even before we announced it to our team, VCs had reached out. It was slightly easier this time I would say, the only complication that happened was COVID. So in January, when we had VCs reaching out to us, we were saying, maybe you’re not yet ready, we want to first sort of take a break. Think about what we want to do. We have some thoughts, but it’s not finalized. We’ll come to you. And then in March, we also changed our tune, because we saw this uncertainty. And we didn’t want to wait for things to go really south and then figure out that we can’t raise money or something like that. So we said, now we’re ready, let’s talk, we are validating what we want to do. But we want to find partners quickly.


And luckily enough there were quite a few people who were in touch with us. And some of them were willing to partner on the journey quickly. Some of them actually had cold feet around what was happening in the economy at that time. This was like, March 2020, things were just going south. Understandably, people wanted to wait and watch where things settle. But luckily, we closed around quickly.


Siddhartha 25:57

You will remember the month that you close in 2020?


Srikrishnan 26:00

We signed the term sheet in April. The money hit the bank in June.


Siddhartha 26:05

Pretty fast. Considering that macro was really unstable at that point.


Srikrishnan 26:10

Correct. I think we were still in a phase where an ex FreshWorks team had a premium. We were lucky that way. We had a good exit. Before, we had a good reputation and had been volunteers, which is booming. A lot of founders knew me. So if they were reference checks going around, we would have had, like people who have said good things about us.


Siddhartha 26:31

So Rocketlane is thought to be a category creator. So there are two pieces, where you place a SaaS tool or a product, and one is category creator, which is very difficult to build. And the other is N x better product. So tell us about your thought process. Why did you choose to be the first in the bucket, and what was the journey like?


Srikrishnan 26:53

This is probably one thing we did not want to do initially because of the previous journeys experience. But when it came to this problem, in our mind, the wider TAM was that we are 10x Better for customer facing projects than regular project management tools. So we felt there is an established type of product that people are buying. And we’re just innovating on top of it to create what is a 5x or 10x better experience for certain kinds of companies. And so it’s not a huge leap, there is some budget that can be repurposed, maybe we charge a premium on top of what Asana or Monday would charge. But we’re not entirely going after a brand new budget. We were for smaller companies, which were running on spreadsheets, for example. But the value is high.


Every founder in early stage values looking good in front of their customer, they want to look more mature, if you want to sell to an enterprise, and you’re going with a spreadsheet, that’s not going to inspire confidence in the partnership itself. So I think that message resonated with early stage companies. And they also started buying. But in our mind, yes, there is a category Client Onboarding that’s getting established, there was one other player already in this space, who had some amount of traction. But that only made us believe in it more that someone has some traction, which means we could also enter the market and hopefully, take the lead before it’s too late.


And we have an advantage of building from India, which means we can build more products per dollar raised. And we can build it faster with a larger product team. And we have a very experienced product team. So I think we were able to do a great job with the product. And I did read a book about category creation by Anthony Kennada before the first month. In April one of the things I first did was think about what things we need to do, we have to successfully create a category. Anthony Kennada was the former CMO of Gainsight. So they had actually done it very successfully. So a lot of things we did were actually from that playbook.


Siddhartha 29:07

So you invested in brand building a lot upfront. A lot of founders, first hand founders, don’t have the resources to do that. And you guys had raised a 3 million round and then an 18 mil round. I think within one year of that, would you have been able to invest so much without raising funds? That was an option?


Srikrishnan 29:28

Probably not right. I think, honestly, in this venture, we’ve sort of taken a long view on a lot of things. And so we needed to have partners who support that long view. Hence, I think the kind of fundraisers we did are important for the kind of journey we are on. You can still do it. I think the community, for example, did not take much money to create podcasts or the website itself. So at launch, the things we had done weren’t necessarily things that took up a lot of money. For Community, we had an intern helping us run initially. Even the website was built by my co-founder and product designer, they sort of sat together and figured out how to build a world class website. And when people came on the site, they were already telling us, this looks like a company that’s at least been around for two plus years. And we always wanted that to be the brand that comes across as someone who’s been there for longer, come across as more mature than where we were in the journey at every point. So that’s like an intentional thing.


Siddhartha 30:39

And why did you do your funding through the rap video? Really cool.


Srikrishnan 30:45

Our Series A was a nice, 18 million round. And obviously, we’ve seen videos being made for different kinds of announcements, we’ve all seen some form of cringe music video from a startup in the past, we hired this person on our team who used to be doing his own gig, but freelancing, making some rap videos, etc. That was a passion for him. I mean, let’s see what comes out of it. Let’s just say, give you a shot at making a rap video for Rocketlane, for our funding announcement. And the first version of the lyrics he gave me, I was like, Oh, wow, if this is what you can do, we should turn it into something awesome. It is all done on a $200 budget. All in house. I think we did bring in someone to shoot. But that was only the cost.


Siddhartha 31:40

The artist was also a full time employee?


Srikrishnan 31:44

Correct. I don’t know if we can ever replicate that. I would say it was like a chance thing that it came out as well as it did. The lyrics were amazing. Everyone enjoys it. Everyone tells us specifically that this could have been a cringy video, but it wasn’t. It was a classy, amazing rap song that you guys made. And I think, now that it came out, well, it looks like a masterstroke but could have gone either way.


Siddhartha 32:08

That was, I think, one of the fantastic investments in building a brand. And SaaS companies don’t do it. A consumer company would do it.


Srikrishnan 32:15

I think where we actually invested, I will say, is in bringing on creative people on the team. So this guy, we brought him on as a content writer, but also told him video is something you seem to be good at. So let’s also make more stuff in video, we brought on a very early creative lead with a multidisciplinary design experience, who had made some amazing videos in the past for other companies. So video is a skill. And we brought him on board earlier than a lot of companies would have. Of course, I think the funding helped us say, we are going to bring on someone for video or someone for illustrations, etc, early in the journey. But I think I like this message. There’s a startup that does this. It’s called Audience plus, and every company is also trying to be a media company in a way.


And I strongly believe that if you want to capture an audience’s attention, you need to behave like a media company, in a lot of ways you need to create amazing content for that community. And often that means investing in video. And I’ve gotten comfortable at making a lot of videos myself over the last few years. I’ve done 10s of videos, whether it’s like appearing on podcasts or making our own thought leadership content, being at events, all of that. And I think it’s served well to invest in this direction.


Siddhartha 33:46

And you seem to be more like a quiet person, so I believe sales don’t come naturally to you. Would you say that?


Srikrishnan 33:54

It’s not a forte, but I think on this journey, I’ve learned so much about sales. And I’ve definitely been shameless in reaching out to folks requesting for introductions, pushing a deal across the line faster, chasing a customer. So I have become a sales guy, I would say.


Siddhartha 34:15

Can you tell us what you learned on this journey? And what can you share with other founders?


Srikrishnan 34:19

Sure. I think one of the important things we did very early on was very intense pipeline review meetings. on a very regular basis, like two times a week, we had this discipline of going through every single deal with a problem solving mindset. It wasn’t about saying, what actions did you do? Why did you not touch this for two weeks, etc. It was more about where are we stuck? How can we get unstuck? So that problem solving mindset, I think helped us learn a lot about what we need to do to revive every deal. Not move anything too close at all. And just keep at it with new ways to solve problems, and bring about fast changes in how we were doing things. And I think the early team had that ability to learn and try things differently quickly, which truly helped us.


I think that the biggest learning for me would be the intensity of reviewing things and making quick calls and how we want to, like reviving things, making adjustments on the fly, and bringing in deals, creating that momentum early on. I think that was super important for us to all feel that, hey, we know we can do this, we know we can win deals and push our team pushing our customers, we created a lot of urgency in different ways. For example, urgency wouldn’t be only about saying, we have a discount, if you close this month, we also created urgency by saying, we’re very close to a great milestone, as a team, it’ll be great if you can confirm your purchase this month instead of next, and customers understand.


So they cooperated. And we were able to bring in more deals within a period of time by communicating our urgency with our customers. We also made a lot of them feel more invested in us, a lot of our early customers care about our success. And they will make other introductions for us. They love the product, they will send us notes about what’s working well for them. Screenshots of how they got praised for something that was done on Rocketlane, that’s been valuable for us to further show as proof of success to other customers to bring them in. Secondly, we put ourselves out there quite a bit, we did a lot of events, we started showing up at virtual events while the pandemic was on. And as soon as in life events were happening again, in person events we were there. We were there at SaaStre and 2021 and 2022. We were there at Pulse last year, two times.


So we know that as part of creating this category and putting ourselves in front of companies, it’s important to do these events, show our thought leadership, build our network the right way, and never miss any opportunity to showcase what you’re doing. And we’ve reached out to so many people who are influencers in customer success, who now know and think highly of our product and are able to recommend us to others. And that’s the other important thing I feel like not missing out on any opportunity. A lot of our deals actually came from VCs making intros to their portfolio, because we made an impression on them. So take every opportunity to make a good impression. And then be shameless with your asks. And that helps in augmenting the pipeline early. And success breeds success. So I think that’s sort of been our mantra.


Siddhartha 37:53

Can You tell us, you shared some of the steps on your demands in the engine, you shared a community preflight, you shared a podcast you have, you shared the brand investments that are produced in brand building. What are the other steps that you did in your demand engine?


Srikrishnan 38:09

We did start spending on marketing early, like on keywords, search keywords to start with, we tried some LinkedIn as well. I don’t think we were experts at any of it early on, we’re getting better at those things now with hiring people who can manage those things. But we started spending some money on it from early on, and we used to send $10,000 a month from August 2021 itself. So just like a couple of months into having a product life, because creating multiple engines of growth is something we feel is important in the journey. And we need to of course, measure and see what works, what doesn’t. But we felt it was very important to experiment with different channels and figure out what is going to work for us. So we started spending money on those experiments. We will get two customers from spending $10 dollar and we’re going to make up for that money spent, and the cost of servicing a customer in SaaS anyways is pretty low.


So we did pursue different advertising. Actually, we had customers who told us they found us through Instagram as well. Till date I don’t know what ads we were running. But we’ve tried different things and some things work for different kinds of audiences. So of course retargeting, etc. But that’s another area where we invested. We started trying outbound very early, I wouldn’t say we were very successful at it early on. And I think you need multiple people trying it for someone to crack that formula and realize it later and now it’s starting to work for us. But overall, it was a lot of hassle plus, putting ourselves out there in different ways.


And G2 is another investment, I would say we did push our customers hard to give us those ratings and reviews on G2. And we didn’t want to spread thin across all the review platforms, we focused on one. And I think we were able to build a good presence there and establish our leadership. It’s not enough, to have the best product, the world needs to see it that way. And we want to make sure that we do what it takes to come across that way as well.


Siddhartha 40:29

And right now, at this moment, it’s very phenomenal globally for all the SaaS companies, chat GPT generative AI has taken the industry by storm. Today, Microsoft is partnering with Chat GPT, seen as a leader in everything in generative AI. Google is trying to catch up, it failed at the first attempt of launching Bard, lost $100 billion of net worth in one day. Other companies are also trying to see what they can do in generative AI. I’ve never seen so much excitement around a technology, especially from the enterprise side. There has been excitement from the consumer side of tech, but from the enterprise side of tech never seen such excitement. What are your thoughts?


Srikrishnan 41:16

I think it’s very interesting. And I think it’s going to make all of our jobs easier and more interesting as well. For example, one of the other things I’ve been doing personally is there were 52 weeks in a row where I was actually posting one onboarding tip every week. And I still continue to post something about our space every now and then. I recently came across a tool where if I do a voice recording, it will turn that into a LinkedIn post, as a tweet thread, I don’t remember the name. I can look it up and share it with you later. And you can share it with people.


It also gives you a blog, the same content converted for different formats like Quora answer, a blog, blah, blah, it still makes some mistakes, but at least it’s done a bunch of the work, the formatting, the emoji usage, everything is figured out. And that was cool. I think my effort that goes into making that post every week is going to be reduced if I use a tool like that. Likewise, we’re doing some analysis, we want to understand the pros and cons of a decision, maybe Chat GPT can reveal dimensions along which we should be thinking about while querying and figuring it out from online sources. So I think there’s a lot that’s going to become, at least our approach to solving problems or creating content and so on is going to change, write a poem about Rocketlane. And there was a beautiful poem that came out.


Siddhartha 42:45

It can also produce a video.


Srikrishnan 42:48

Actually, I saw Gyan.AI do a rap video. The video was made using their own software, which again, uses generative AI. And the rap song was of course, sung by our content marketer, but I think this is gonna make a big difference for all of us. Even in our product, there are avenues where we can use AI and tools like chat GPT, we’re doing small POCs today, but there is potential.


Siddhartha 43:21

Sitting in almost the beginning of 2023, global SaaS multiples have been the lowest I think, in the last 10 years or so. Because there was a lot of free money flowing through SaaS with a good space for public and private investors, how do you see this turning up, will you raise the very right point of things. You do need money for a long period, but for the other founders who are about to raise right now and make it 5x multiple.


Srikrishnan 43:47

Things are gonna work a certain way. I don’t think the craziness we saw in 2021 is something we should expect and wait to see if that happens again, rather come to terms with reality that okay, if we are at a certain multiple today, at max, maybe if things are very bullish, maybe it goes to 2x of the current kind of multiples that people are seeing, so we should rationalize a little bit and come to terms with what’s happening and not wait for a day when we assume things will go back to 100x.


Siddhartha 44:30

Do you see it is going to improve even for what is happening, the growth stage SaaS is getting multiples of 10 to 15x. And is trading at a max of 15 to 20 x of this multiple, but these kinds of valuations are creeping down into the growth stage of private investing for SaaS.


Srikrishnan 44:47

Makes sense. Ultimately, everyone who’s investing needs to see an exit return on what they’ve done. So I think the public market valuations is what you need to go by, and of course, if you’re at an earlier stage, and you’re able to see that, I’m here this year or next year, I will be at a certain place based on how I’ve been growing. And I know I can get there. Yes, you get a premium on that multiple today. But don’t expect it at every stage. And you’re at a very early stage, take a good multiple, but be realistic about what’s going to happen next, and work backwards. In terms of where you need to go. So I’ve spoken to lots of investors over the last year. And I think, of course, it works well with investors that things have come to where they are. But we need to accept that things were out of whack before and deal with it now.


Siddhartha 45:47

You sell to early and mid stage SaaS companies, and these kinds of communities are themselves suffering, do you fear flow in demand for Rocketlane, or companies like Rocketlane who are serving these kinds of customers.


Srikrishnan 45:58

I think for small companies, our price point is low enough that if they’re still in business, and they want to grow, they should invest in a tool like us. So I don’t see a slowdown from an SMB side, there may be slower decision making in mid market for us. And we need to counter that we have some tactics we’re trying out, as we speak, to ensure that the larger deals don’t stall for too long, but the value is still there. And we’re able to showcase the value, we are able to have that ROI conversation, we just need to figure out how to have it with the right people. So that like the CFO is understanding the value and not cutting the budget that they need for to like us.


And on the other hand, actually, 20% of our customers are not SaaS, we have services companies also using us. And that is the segment we would want to focus on and grow as well, because I think they’re not dependent on the funding ups and downs. They may not thrive and grow the way a SaaS startup could, but they’re gonna exist, they’re gonna grow. So they continue living and we can make a huge difference in their lives.


Siddhartha 47:20

Thank you so much, Srikrishnan. It’s been wonderful. having a conversation with you. All the best to you to continue the momentum in the flag that you were torching ahead for India SaaS.


Srikrishnan 47:32

Thank you so much Siddhartha.



  • Prime is a high-conviction, high-support investor, backing star teams with differentiated ideas. All partners at Prime work actively with the entrepreneurs post-investment to accelerate building a great company. Prime focuses on building differentiating companies whose solutions are 10X better and are powered by technology and product. Prime is now investing from its fourth fund of $ 120M and is often the first institutional investor in category-defining startups such as MyGate, HackerEarth, Niyo, Glip, Bolt, and Wheelseye. To know more about Prime visit
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