In the vibrant landscape of entrepreneurial journeys, few tales are as compelling as that of Srinivasan KA, an Indian-born entrepreneur whose trajectory spans continents, industries, and transformative experiences.
From navigating the bustling streets of Chennai to founding and scaling tech companies in the United States, Srinivasan’s story is a testament to resilience, adaptability, and the pursuit of audacious dreams. He also talks about his global approach to building businesses.
Srinivasan’s latest venture, Amagi, has attracted funding from top-tier investors like Premji Invest, Nadathur Holdings, General Atlantic, and Emerald Media.
In this episode, you will learn:
- Srinivasan KA’s entrepreneurial journey from Chennai to Silicon Valley, reflects adaptability and resilience in the face of cultural shifts and industry dynamics.
- Impulse Soft’s success in Bluetooth technology laid the foundation for Srinivasan’s deep understanding of entrepreneurship despite falling short of the grand vision.
- Amagi’s pivot from advertising to a SaaS technology model showcased the importance of market responsiveness and strategic evolution.
- The $300 million raised in funding underscores Amagi’s global expansion and dominance in the media and entertainment industry.
- Srinivasan envisions Amagi as the future operating system for media and entertainment companies, revolutionizing content acquisition, production, and distribution.
- Reflecting on lessons learned, Srinivasan advises entrepreneurs to focus on markets with substantial growth and to aim for blue oceans rather than red ones.
- Srinivasan KA’s journey serves as an inspiring tale of thinking big, navigating challenges, and leaving an indelible mark on the entrepreneurial landscape.
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About Srinivasan KA:
Srinivasan KA is a technology entrepreneur with 23+ years of experience in establishing and successfully scaling businesses.
Srinivasan co-founded Amagi in 2008 and established it as a global leader in SaaS for broadcast and streaming TV on the cloud. As Chief Revenue Officer, he is responsible for revenue growth inclusive of sales & marketing.
Before Amagi, Srinivasan co-founded the wireless audio company, ImpulseSoft, which went on to become a market leader and was later acquired by the American semiconductor company, SiRF.
Earlier, Srinivasan started his career at Texas Instruments as a software engineer. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the Government College of Technology (GCT), Coimbatore, India.
Srinivasan regularly speaks at global industry events, evangelizing the use of the cloud for channel creation and monetization.
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Read the Full Transcription of the Interview:
Alejandro Cremades: Alrighty hello everyone and welcome to the deal maker show. So today. We have a really amazing founder a founder that not only has done it once but twice and the second time around you know he’s building this rocket ship. You know we’re going to be talking about all types of the good stuff that we like to hear when it comes to building and scaling. Ah, how he actually started his companies with 0 experience on the domains that he was operating in or he intended to actually operate in also how he went from ah pivoting not only in the product but also pivoting on the location because he was in India then now he’s in the us there’s a very interesting transition that many. Many of us entrepreneurs including myself. You know we have experience you know to as immigrants and then also ah moving into the us you know and and and and having that global approach at building the business. So again, really inspiring conversation ahead of us so without further ado. Let’s welcome. Our guest today. Srini K a welcome to the show.
Srinivasan KA: Thank you so much. Thank you so much Alejandro pleasure to be here. Thank you for hosting me.
Alejandro Cremades: So born in tonight India give us a walk through memory lane. How was life growing up there.
Srinivasan KA: Chenai chennai is the probably one of the hottest cities around in India so it was hot. A lot of memories about heat and summer growing up. We used to always I used to always wonder when we read poems which says a nice and warm. We never associated nice and warm together. Nice was cold for us. So yeah, it was ah it was a really interesting time growing up in the 80 s in chenai.
Alejandro Cremades: And how is it like there too like with the I know there’s a lot of pressure around education you know and the culture and you’re either an engineer or you’re a doctor in your case you decided engineer. So ah so that problem solving approach where where did that come from for you.
Srinivasan KA: Ah, growing up I actually wanted to be a poet a tremendous pressure from my parents to become an engineer so I ended up being and ah being an engineer but loved computers I mean the first time I actually touched computers you really fell in love with them all always like. And just as a thought exercise to myself I keep when I even when I walk I look around stuff and say hey what if it could actually do it differently so in that sense problem solving has always been fun for me.
Alejandro Cremades: And what was that the you know that that experience too of of coming to the us as well. You know working for a Us company like it was Texas instruments at the time you know what? what was that culture culture shock because I mean the us is a little bit of different than you know from. Perhaps you know where you came from from India from where I came from from Spain. So how was that of a culture shock for you. Okay.
Srinivasan KA: Actually I worked in Texas instruments in India in Bangalore. Ah so it was a transition in that sense ah spending the two years with Tex Instruments I think ti was the first company tech company that actually started development center in India one of the first. Pioneers in India to start tech. Um, and then I moved to the us spent about a year year and a half ah in the us working for a startup ideas here and that was a huge transition one from from warmer hot climate that was in Minneapolis so it was a huge switch from a climate perspective but also very interesting to have. You know, completely different culture different way of working if you will aleandro. So but.
Alejandro Cremades: What? Well also warmer warmer when it comes to the to the type of duties that you’re doing because I mean obviously when you go from a company like Texas instruments to a startup. You know you’re putting fires out every day all day. So. I mean that that was quite a big deal for you to make that transition from a big company to a small company I mean what really pushed you in that direction.
Srinivasan KA: So but by a couple of years out of college we had decided that we will start something so wanted to get some experience working in a startup you know, being out at a large company like ti we are primarily you know at such a narrow view. Our upperture was very very narrow in terms of what we could see. Ah, so wanted to work in a startup to just gain the experience so spend about a year year and a quarter with ideas before we went back and went back to India and started our previous company.
Alejandro Cremades: That’s amazing now now in in your in your case, you know you started you know your company your previous 1 your first one and that was impulse soft and you started that with ah with a bunch of friends. So so how did you get the band together and and why did you guys think that. This is what made sense because you had no experience you know in this segment.
Srinivasan KA: Absolutely so the the way I become an entrepreneur was fairly accidental. One of my friends was a classmate from college came to me and said hey I want to start a company. Do you want to join I being a nice guy. Nice friend didn’t want to say no. So I said yes, that’s pretty much how I got started with the whole entrepreneurship journey. I had no idea what an entrepreneur being an entrepreneur meant I never had anybody I hadn’t even known anybody that has been ever been in a business even a small shop right? So in that sense was completely completely. New was staying with my brother so it was easy. All expenses taken care of already so it was a fairly easy risk to take. Ah, and the intent ah for us to start that company was to build an enduring brand out of India a product brand like a sonny r and hb that’s how we actually started off with you know this was the 1990 s late 1990 s where there were a lot of service companies out of India that were successful but they were there weren’t any. Product companies so we thought hey let’s build a global brand out of India so that was the original intent. Of course we had no idea what it would take to get there. You were sufficiently young and naive. All we had this was this grand dream about building this product company so we ended up. You know, trying a whole bunch of things I mean this was again pre I mean this was in India phones where and mobile phones weren’t popular. This were pager so we built ah a pager system for blood banks. We built ah an account an activity-based costing an accounting system for textile industry. We built a simulator for.
Srinivasan KA: Ah, chip design. We tried all sorts of stuff before we actually saw this opportunity. Ah that whole Bluetooth wireless. Um, you know was coming up and we thought hey let’s go build something to learn about the product not necessarily to sell not necessarily to make money but to learn how to build a product. So we ended up building a bluetooth software stack.
Alejandro Cremades: So then tell us about how that the journey went because even though it was the first company. It was the first exit. You know you guys had a ah positive outcome. So why? So what walk us through how that journey towards you know that acquisition you know how did that go.
Srinivasan KA: Yeah, so once we started once we landed up on doing bluetooth. We started. We built a software stack and ah little did we realize that we are one of the 3 or 4 companies globally that was building those so there was suddenly a lot of demand customers calling in. Asking us for hey can you actually provide us a software stack because we’re building this Bluetooth product again. Remember this was 2000 timeframe so we had zemans from Germany we had ah Aer and then subsequently Samsung Nokia ah sonarrics and bunch of companies that we and that ended up using our product eventually brought com text as instruments so went from absolutely nothing to become one of the leaders in Bluetooth wireless software stack. Ah eventually. Ah. The product was getting commoditized so we wanted to look at building the next level of product which was essentially getting into consumer products, Bluetooth wireless headphones and so on so we wanted to raise some money started talking to a bunch of potential investors. 1 thing led to the other ah and we had ah. Couple of companies some of these strategics coming in asking us saying hey would they be would you be a link to sell the company to them so that they could build out the b load of product so eventually got acquired by surf which was the largest Gps semiconnector company at that point of time Nasdaq listed which is now part of Qualcomm. Um.
Srinivasan KA: So yeah, decided that hey we’ve spent the last seven years this was you know in 2005 spent ah spent the last so previous 7 years ah and ah you know time to look at the next new thing next thing.
Alejandro Cremades: And how was that visibility that that gave you you know into the full I would say cycle of a company because now you know you not only you did the incubation the launch the financing the scaling but then also the exiting. How. What kind of disability that does that give you.
Srinivasan KA: This was phenomenal as a learning experience for us right? and somebody I mean again I’ve been an engineer a software engineer at heart had no idea what an account of cable was what an accounts pay able was or howbbage. You know what? what a term sheet was. So pretty much from everything from you know what it takes to run a business what it takes to raise money what it takes to exit the business. It was a phenomenal phenomenal experience. Overall we sold the company for about $15000000 in total. So it wasn’t it was ah a. An okay exit. Obviously we were still young in the 20 s you know where it had you know a fairly good dollar amount in the bank. Ah but nowhere near what we wanted to become which was the sony r hb out of India so from that perspective was a failure. Ah, from where we started but the experience was just amazing. So gave us the confidence that we can go build anything that we want and can be successful at least we knew what we didn’t know.
Alejandro Cremades: Now in your case you know like how was that transition you know from you know building you know, impulseof you know to now taking it easy for 2 years which is the vesting and resting you know being you know with the acquirer to then all of a sudden thinking. Hey. I gotta do something I’m an entrepreneur.
Srinivasan KA: Yeah, so as part of the transition when we sold the company. We’re fairly clear that in 2 years we’ll actually quit and start something new, right? So we I mean I taught we were entrepreneurs so wanted. We’re fairly sure so there was a 2 year we had committed to the company aquiting company that will stay back for at least 2 years so the second year anniversary on the day ah of of the acquisition the second year anniversary we quit and the next day we started ammagi which is our current company. So the int intent was you know now that we’ve learned our lesson at some level we are hopeful hopefully wiser than we what we were. So this time we actually said hey let’s go build something really really big. That’s enduring that’s going to go beyond the 3 of us that’s going to. You know be around well beyond us so you want to build something really truly groundbreaking so we set up 3 goals when we actually started the company. Saying hey these are 3 things that actually should be the criteria if you’re successful. What would success look like 1 it should be truly scalable a company global in nature. It can actually transcend barriers to it should change the industry and we didn’t know what industry it was going to be. So we just decided that whatever industry. It’s going to be a pre-eaggi and a post to magy the industry should look different because of us we should have been able to influence industry impact the industry in a way that if we actually change it and 3 should be fun I mean it should be you know something that you would enjoy doing so we we took these obviously we decided to start with.
Srinivasan KA: Ah, with India India Focus Business Given India was blooming at that point of time said hey let’s go build something for India but it is to be truly truly scalable business.
Alejandro Cremades: So then why why did you guys decide. You know when it came to obviously building a scalable business on Amaji to to be the one that you will be pulling the trigger on.
Srinivasan KA: Right? So but when we actually you know thought about a market then we decided hey we we started looking around saying hey what are the big opportunities. What are the massive gaps in the market that we could address using technology and we were looking at saying hey what are the big changes happening in the industry. What are the second auto effects. What are the third effects are we are we able to. You know, look at gaps there and we looked at Tons and tons of different ideas again. The 3 of us that actually cofounded again. We were classmates in college we worked at Texas instruments together. We had founded the ah previous company together. So had some you know, phenomenal relationship but come from completely different thought processes right. Ah, so ah, personally I’m somebody. That’s actually much much more data-driven will want data for everything to see you know is there proof you know, tell me you know why this would work or 1 of my other colleagues ah is was is a super optimist. Come in and say hey next ten years this what is going to happen. You know future is very rosy and we can actually build in a super confident and the third person. Ah she is a pessimist by nature. She’ll tell me hey she’ll come up with every reason as to why it won’t work so very interesting. Diverse background. So as we started looking at hey what are the different things that we can actually do ah. Debated a whole bunch of stuff coming from different viewpoints and one of the opportunities that all 3 of us converged on was this broader shift of television viewing from traditional cable Tv to streaming internet based viewing. We thought this was back in 2008 we thought that’s going to be um.
Srinivasan KA: You know, certainly going to be a big trend going forward at that point of time people are watching Youtube on desktop but otherwise people weren’t really streaming tv so we thought that’s going to happen in the next few years let’s go build software that can actually power that so that all of us can watch personalized television and personalized advertising. So that was the premise on which we started we thought hey it’s a massive opportunity can be global ah can truly change the industry if you’re able to build something that can deliver personalized deliveration for everyone.
Alejandro Cremades: Now comes 2017 You know you thought that you were in the path that you had hoped for. But then all of a sudden you realize that it’s time to adjust to what the market is asking you for and. Obviously quite bumpy. Ah, you guys decide to obviously listen to the market and you let go of almost everyone in the entire company I mean that’s not Easy. So So what happened there walk ah walk us through that.
Srinivasan KA: Yeah, so but but once we started got on this path right? We eventually ended up. We actually pivoted even in 2008 as we started with this idea we figured that a streaming was still not happening. It’s going to take some time so we we pivoted twice within the year as we went and. You know, build products went out to the market and actually got feedback. Ah where we ended up building an at tech company out of India focusing on geo-target advertising on cable tv so this grew to be a fairly large business. Ah one of the fastest growing businesses media businesses in India we actually twice got selected. But in the top 3 of the fastest growing mandd businesses by delightte 500 in apac so growing really really fast, but we had a couple of big headwinds coming towards us 1 was ah structurally you know while we were growing. We were bleeding money. Ah, the the business model required us to consistently fund ah the business and two there were fundamental channel conflicts with our partners which are our television networks where ah they would see conflicts in terms of the same customer base that we are going after. So by 2017 we had become the largest. At techtvattechtelevisionattechcompany in India um, fairly fast-growing business. But as I said not so profitable. We had a 65 people sales team that was actually going and setting into local devices across across India.
Srinivasan KA: Um, working with 35 television networks where the second largest buyer of inventory across Tv after Unilever in India so was well pushed but clearly was not sustainable. So we decided to pivot in 17 to a much more of a saas technology business. Ended up letting go of our entire at sales team which was about a 65 people team. We kept the tech team. Ah, but the the entire advertising and operations team had to be let go they were some of the best people that we had hired so it was heartbreaking. They were friends um a lot of them were friends. You know fairly close ones. Ah, was really really difficult to let them go but we had to pivot I mean as a company we had less than $5000000 in cash. Ah, ah, it was not sustainable and we were bleeding so we ended up pivoting to a completely a tech saas business in seventeen I ended up moving to the us. To go build it on a much more global scale.
Alejandro Cremades: So for the people that are listening to really get it. What ended up being the business model of Hamaki How how are you guys making money.
Srinivasan KA: So yeah, obviously a very simple ah business. We actually provide subscription software to Television Networks content owners and sports rights owners help them to create streaming channels ah and deliver them to viewers you know using ad-supported models or otherwise. So they pay us a monthly fee for every channel every television content that they stream to consumers and we also partake in terms of any advertising revenues that they would actually make.
Alejandro Cremades: So Also how was the fundraising journey here because I know that you guys have raised quite a little bit of money you know quite some Zeros there. So. So also you know there’s a combination there between equity as secondaries as well. So Why any you know? but. Light that you could provide you know on that you know I’m sure that it will be beneficial too for the people that are listening so that they can really get to understand that you can actually you know sell some stock you know in your company before he goes public or before he gets acquire and gets some liquidity. So. So walk us through you know the fundraising you know the experience and then also the equity versus secondaries.
Srinivasan KA: Absolutely so we we we raised our I mean when we started the company we. We raised a seat round from our an injured investor who wast was an investor who was an angel investor in our previous company and what what’ve seen the returns would knew as we trusted us so he wrote us a check. Even before we decided what what business we are going to get into. Ah so we raised ah the initial race was about $5000000 we actually raised. We also invested our own money. So ah, ah so that’s the initial race subsequently as we built the india attech business. Ah we raised. Ah, close to ah about $50000000 or the next 5 to 7 years. Ah from premg invest one of the largest private equity funds in india and mayfield ah as well as kkr funded ah emeril media. Ah, essentially between the three we ended up raising about $50000000 or so as I mentioned by the time we got to 2017 we had pretty burnemuch d through most of the cash. Ah so we had to become much more self-sustainable so we actually pivoted brought into breakken where we were actually ah self-sustaining. As a business but obviously from a growth perspective. We ended up. We went back to the market raised money from excel and nor west ventures um ah and ah last year we did another round between axel and general atlantic partners as well as aar.
Srinivasan KA: Ah, so over the course of the ah the last fifteen years we’ve raised about $300000000 a mix of both primary and secondary. The initial investors. Ah you know Mayfield are ah you know Kkr they’ve exited through so through secondary rounds from the new investors that actually came in. Ah, we also had a buyback for some of our employees so that you know people that have stayed with us so we could actually provide some liquidity as part of the secondary race. So we provide ah provide a buyback option for all the employees as we did the the last round race. So. It’s been a very very so totally. We raised about Cuba take about $300000000 as a mix. Um, and yeah, it’s been a very very interesting journey today we have nor west general atlantic avatar and pre g invest apart from of course Axl as as part of the investor. Makes.
Alejandro Cremades: And and also um, you are alluding to earlier. You know when when you guys got together. You know to really build this business. You wanted to build something scalable and when it comes to scale. Hey. You guys are generating big numbers already. So for the people that are listening to really get an idea on the scope and size of amagi today I mean anything that you can share at a high level.
Srinivasan KA: Um, we we we announced public numbers a a year and a half back. We crossed a couple of years back crossed $100000000 in ar a couple of years back. Obviously we have been growing growing at about ah 30 to 40% year- on-year every year. And now we used to grow out 100%. Obviously we went from 0 to $100000000 in 5 years Ah, you know, certainly the the largest saas technology company in the media industry today specifically focused on Media Emt media entertain entertain ah primary with primary revenues. Ah, in the us about 73% of that revenues in the us about 20% in Europe and rest and the rest spread across the world ah work with pretty much all the major television network brands work with the major networks most of the major networks most of the major sports leagues work with. The biggest studios in the business work with the largestation groups about 350 odd customers pretty much who’s who in the industry if you look at the top hundred media companies today in the us we’ll be working with about 80% of them as their backend saas technology vendor to help them run their. Broadcast on the cloud to help them stream their content ah to help them monetize their content using advertising.
Alejandro Cremades: So so in this case, you know to we were alluding to earlier. You know the investors that you guys have onboarded on the money that you’ve raised. Obviously you know investors they better on a vision and as well as your customers your employees. So imagine you were to go to sleep tonight really. And you wake up in a world where the vision of a Maggie is fully realized what does that world look like.
Srinivasan KA: The world will look like where we become the operating system for our media. Entertainment Company. So every media business out there is able to use amagi as their underlying platform to run their entire business. What does that mean as a media company I Acquire or produce content. I manage my content I distribute my content to either. You know, streaming platforms or my own direct-to-consumer app I monetize that content ah content using advertising or subscription right? if I’m able to if Amug is able to provide a platform. For all of these media companies to you know acquire produce manage Distribute market and monetize their content as the underlying platform I think we’ll be very very very happy. Ah so we want to become the media operating system. The media cloud.
Alejandro Cremades: That’s amazing.
Srinivasan KA: Ah, for the M and D industry.
Alejandro Cremades: Well, that looks like a beautiful, a beautiful worldine now. We’re talking about the future here but I want to talk about the past and doing so with a lens of reflection. So let’s say I put you into a time machine and this is the moment where you know you are literally. You know, thinking about you know you’re doing your your 2 year vesting you know the the vesting and resting that we were alluding to you know earlier and let’s say you know it’s that day where you’re like in office enough I’m going to go and build my next company and let’s say on your way out of the building. You’re able to stop that younger serini and you’re able to give that younger sereni you know because we’re talking about sixteen years ago 1 piece of advice before launching a business. What would that be n why given what you know now.
Srinivasan KA: Um, if there is 1 piece of advice I would say focus on a really really growing market. You know the the first business at a market when we actually started. We were pretty much creating the entire ecosystem. We are fighting against the entire industry to build a completely new business model. If. There’s one advice I would say focus on a really large market focus on a growing market where the tide is with you not against you. Ah so a lot of lot of ah work can go in and you can be. I mean tirelessly working towards actually building out a company. But if the market forces against you that’s going to be really really difficult. So I think the the biggest would be think as big as you can think in the biggest way possible and focus on market where there is a larger market growth. And you’re not trying to take you know focus on blue ocean rather than red ocean.
Alejandro Cremades: I love it. So what? Srini for the people that are listening that will love to reach out and say hi. What is the best way for them to do so.
Srinivasan KA: Or the best way would be my email would be KAS attamagi dot com a a g I dot com or my Linkedin which is linkedin.com/caswasenkasvasan.
Alejandro Cremades: Amazing! Well sir any thank you so much for being on the deal maker show today. It has been an honor to have you with us.
Srinivasan KA: Well thank you so much for taking the time pleasure to be here. Alejaro.
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