July 8, 2017 - No Comments!

Life After Startup Funding: 10 Things We Are Doing Differently

by Rajiv Jayaraman, Founder - CEO, KNOLSKAPE

At KNOLSKAPE, we have been receiving great validation from the market for our new-age learning products and platforms for quite some time now. With 200+ clients across 15 countries, we are pacing nicely towards global expansion. We recently received validation from the VC community as well, with Inventus Capital and the HR Fund backing us.

It is almost 100 days since the funding event. In this article, I wanted to share some of the changes that we are going through as an organization, post funding.

1. Long-term orientation
As a bootstrapped startup, companies typically tend to take short-term / tactical decisions. We've been through that mindset as well. We are now unlearning some 'here and now' habits from the past and are consciously taking a long-term view on strategy and execution. We are building a robust R&D culture through KNOLSKAPE Labs, a team that looks at Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning, Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR). We have made some significant strides already with AI and VR in the learning domain.

2. Agile execution
We charted our 3 year strategy plan and started breaking it down to 5 key growth pillars. On a weekly basis, we are now setting goals across the organization and aligning ourselves to the 5 pillars. Although this was being done informally even before funding, now there is a lot more awareness and sense of alignment to the growth pillars.

3. SaaS enabling the entire organization
Instead of re-inventing the wheel or taking shortcuts, we wanted to make best use of SaaS tools that are already available in the market for scaling the business. This approach, we believe, brings in tremendous efficiencies across the board and prepares the ground for non-linear growth.

4. Specialization
Back in the day, all our team members rolled up their sleeves and did everything to get things done, cutting across functional boundaries. Personally, like most other startup founders, I have done everything from C-suite presentations to being a janitor. This doesn't help when the company is scaling up. What works is specialization and deep expertise in whatever we do. In line with this, we have fine-tuned our hiring strategy and team structures.

5. Dashboards and Financial reporting
Access to (correct) information is highly critical for making quick decisions. We are developing dashboards that capture key growth metrics and are making it open for everyone to make timely decisions. We are also engaging with advisers on critical legal, accounting and financial matters to enable global growth.

6. Active engagement with board members
I reckon this is one of those things that makes a startup leadership team feel jittery, post funding. One is really unsure of the working styles of the board members. We are extremely fortunate to have two super insightful and supportive gentlemen on the board, Samir Kumar from Inventus and Varun Bhatia from the HR Fund. We've been able to leverage their experience, expertise and networks to a great extent to drive growth.

7. Hiring and On-boarding
The senior leadership team now spends at least 20% of the time interviewing, hiring and on-boarding. We firmly believe that this is time well-spent. We focus a lot on evaluating prospective knollies (that's what we call ourselves) on cultural fitment. We are also trying to make the whole recruitment process scientific by introducing assessment tools (some of our own tools in fact) to supplement behavioral interviews.

8. Focus
With money in the bank, there is a temptation to attempt every idea that we've always dreamed about. That doesn't work, does it? What works instead is a clearly articulated strategy and laser sharp focus. As one of our advisers, Sanjay Anandram often says, "Focus is spelled as 'No'". Keeping with this, we have cut down many products that were not aligned with the 3 year plan, potentially taking a short term revenue hit. The idea is to free up knollies to work on high-impact products and produce stellar outcomes.

9. Senior leadership coaching
We are in the business of transforming talent for our clients. We are committed to doing the same internally as well. One of the first things we did post-funding was to assign seasoned coaches to our senior leaders for self development. Without senior leaders scaling up, the organization simply doesn't scale.

10. Talent development
We believe that group learning is very important for organizations to excel. Even when you have individual superstars, a lot depends on how these individuals come together, learn to respect each others' points of view and arrive at solutions that are out-of-the-box. In the last few months, we have rolled out a series of learning interventions to spur innovation, enable managers to provide open and honest feedback and to establish a robust interviewing process.

I will continue to share our lessons going forward as well. I hope this is useful for entrepreneurs and startup teams that are in the process of scaling up. Look forward to learning from your experiences as well!

Here's to growth!

Published by: Nikita Madhu in Blog

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