Every entrepreneur seeks venture capital for further success and strength. But there are few rare ones who do it the other way – by forming a 100% bootstrapped, fastest-growing, billion dollar-company without any VC money.
This man is none other than Sridhar Vembu, Founder and CEO of AdventNet. The company sends $1 million every month to its bank labeled ‘profits’. AdventNet is behind the newly-launched productivity suite Zoho which revolutionised the software industry.
Born and brought up in a modest middle class family in Chennai, Sridhar completed his early education in a Tamil-medium government school. He was good in academics and later got into the prestigious IIT-Madras. He preferred studying electronics over learning tedious programming in computer science.
Sridhar could not qualify for pursuing his PhD from his institute but went on to do his doctorate in electrical engineering from Princeton University in 1989. After his PhD, he, along with his US-based brother Kumar, returned India and started a software venture AdventNet Inc. Within a couple of months, he managed to attract over 150 customers. But, in 2000 he faced many critical challenges and decided to start something new and revolutionary.
That’s when Zoho was born. Zoho sells software over the Internet as Zoho Office suite. With about $500 million in revenue, it competes with Salesforce’s customer relationship management software as well as Google Docs’ office productivity suite of tools.
Zoho is currently serving over one lakh paying businesses and 18 million individual users. It also has a hosted customer relationship management service that is free for very small companies and only costs $10 per user per month for larger ones.
This Indian entrepreneur achieved so much glory and success that it intimidated the well-known American entrepreneur Marc Benioff, Founder of Salesforce. He had attempted to buy out Zoho a few years ago. Obviously, a failed attempt.
Marc told us that Google was a giant and our offerings could not compete with them. I replied that he needs to be scared of Google. I only need to do better than Salesforce to survive!, Sridhar quoted over Marc’s attempt.
Sridhar believes that all startups in the B2B segment should always focus on building businesses without any funding. He says that they should learn to make the customers pay for the services. Many capitalist, including venture mogul Mike Moritz, have approached to invest in his firms, but Sridhar kept on declining such offers.
“If I had accepted investment funds, I may have been different but I may have been worse off too. I believe we are better off this way”
Not only this, Sridhar’s operation does not hire engineers with high-flying degrees from prestigious IITs, IIMs etc. He is always looking for young professionals whom others disregard. About 147 out of 150 managers at Zoho have never worked elsewhere.
“We don’t look at colleges, degrees or grades. Not everyone in India comes from a socio-economic background to get the opportunity to go to a top-ranking engineering school, but many are really smart regardless”
Sridhar’s situation is one that every entrepreneur dreams of. His extraordinary achievement is a strong source of motivation for all aspiring entrepreneurs. He is a perfect example of excellence where one doesn’t chase money but money chases excellence.
Share this with someone who chases an entrepreneurial dream. Tell them how money is not a big deal, excellence is.