Sudheer Koneru has raised over $200M for his latest startup. A big software company that powers brands in the health and wellness space.
During our interview on the Dealmakers Show we talked about the difference between working at a giant like Microsoft and doing a startup, the number one key skill for entrepreneurs, fundraising, becoming the uber of business software and Harry Potter moments.
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From Microsoft Employee To Startup Entrepreneur
Sudheer Koneru was born in a tiny town of just around 400 people in India. One of those places where you grow up knowing everyone, and where everyone knows you.
His father became the first person in their family to leave their little village and go to work in a big city. It was quite a big cultural transition for Sudheer at first, but he learned to adapt and fit in.
Sudheer’s father ended up moving to the US, which was certainly an influence for him to follow in those footsteps for his Master’s after finishing high school in India.
Although things have changed a lot, this was still back in the days when your family either wanted you to become a doctor or engineer. They were the only two really reliable career paths.
Koneru did well in school, and that earned him a shot at studying in the highly envied field of computer science. So, he took up the challenge.
In college Sudheer had the opportunity to intern with Microsoft. He loved it so much that after graduating he went back as a full time employee. Even though IBM was offering him almost twice as pay. It was a gut choice that ended up paying off really well in options as the tech giant grew.
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It was a time when the teams there were very driven to do excellent work. He ended up leading part of the Windows team. For a long time it was an environment where he just kept on being stimulated by learning and growing.
Koneru ended up leaving Microsoft and along with some of his former colleagues launched his first startup, Intelliprep. When he left Microsoft there was a senior executive at the company, Vijay Vashee, who became part of his board and also the lead investor. He also had Sanjay Parthasarathy and Satya Nadella (current CEO at Microsoft) as investors and advisors.
They built an online learning solution and learning management systems. They did pretty well. Becoming a $100M company, merging with Click2Learn, and being rebranded as SumTotal Systems. Their product became the leader in the Gartner Magic Quadrant.
They also learned some significant lessons, coming from such a big tech brand as a group of technologists, to becoming startup founders.
You learn that you can’t have the same we can just build anything and sell it attitude as a startup. You need money to survive. You actually have to learn how to sell and market your product and turn it into a real business.
Finding Your Purpose
Having fallen into a more corporate role, and yearning to be back doing something more entrepreneurial Sudheer decided to take two years out to go decide what he wanted to do next.
He realized that as with the majority of people, once you get too busy working, and get stuck in tunnel vision you aren’t as aware as you should be in the choices you make. You start going through the motions of getting a house, having a mortgage, and just working.
He spent time trying to be more mindful about this. He did yoga and meditation and aimed to be more aware and intentional.
As Dumbledore told Harry Potter, “It’s our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are far more than our abilities.”
Sudheer says he realized that “our innate nature of human consciousness is to work toward our full potential. If I’m feeling healthy and if I’m feeling good, I will naturally go and solve the most complex problems that I’m able to solve.”
He found wellbeing as the foundation for all of this, whether you are a basketball player, engineer or entrepreneur.
So, he got involved in Latitudes Pro. He ended up with seven stores focusing on wellness. Yet, he couldn’t find a good software solution for helping to run his business. He knew that larger businesses were struggling along with the same challenge. There was nothing in the market.
So, even though he hadn’t planned to do another startup, the problem was just so compelling and needed. So, when Latitudes Pro was acquired by Apollo Life Studio, he set out on his latest startup venture.
Zenoti: The Uber Of Business Software
Sudheer’s latest startup Zenoti is an end-to-end software solution for wellness businesses. Like spas and yoga studios. Some of their B2B clients have over 800 stores in the US alone.
He describes it as an uber like software experience for business owners. A tool that allows them to do what they are made to do and specialize in, while ensuring Zenoti takes care of everything else from CRM to payment processing.
Today, they have around 650 employees, and have raised over $200M in capital.
Storytelling is everything which is something that Sudheer Koneru was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend, Peter Thiel (see it here) where the most critical slides are highlighted.
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Listen to the full podcast episode to find out more, including:
- Removing the hurdles between you and getting funded
- The number one key skill for all entrepreneurs
- The one tweak that boosted their revenues by 40%