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.
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Growing Up in Chennai
Srinivasan’s journey begins in Chennai, a city known for its scorching heat and rich cultural tapestry. Born and raised in the ’80s, he fondly recalls a childhood where warmth wasn’t synonymous with comfort, as the Indian climate painted a different picture.
The pressure to conform to traditional career paths, especially in fields like engineering or medicine, loomed large, shaping his early aspirations.
Despite harboring a poetic inclination and a love for computers, Srinivasan succumbed to parental expectations, choosing engineering over his dream of becoming a poet.
His fascination with computers, however, became a driving force, sparking a lifelong passion for problem-solving and innovation.
The US Odyssey
Srinivasan’s journey took an international turn when he ventured to the United States to work for Texas Instruments. The transition from the warm climate of Bangalore to the frigid winters of Minneapolis brought not only a change in weather but also a cultural shock.
From a structured corporate environment to the dynamic chaos of a startup, Srinivasan embraced the challenges, proving his adaptability and tenacity. Texas Instruments was the first pioneering tech company to start a development center in India.
Impulsesoft: A Leap into Entrepreneurship
Returning to India, fueled by a desire to create a lasting legacy, Srinivasan co-founded Impulsesoft in the late ’90s. He partnered with a few friends to start the company, though he candidly admits that he had no idea of what it is to be an entrepreneur.
Nor did he know anyone who had been in a business or even a small shop.
When Srinivasan and his co-founders started the company, there were a lot of successful service companies operating out of India. However, there weren’t any product companies, so they thought about building a global product brand. At the time, cell phones weren’t really popular in India.
Initially, the team experimented with various ventures, such as pager systems for blood banks, activity-based cost accounting systems for the textile industry, and chip design simulators. Eventually, they forayed into the burgeoning field of Bluetooth technology.
Impulsesoft emerged as a leader in Bluetooth wireless software stack, a success story that culminated in a significant acquisition by SiRF Technology Inc., a GPS semiconductor giant.
Srinivasan recalls how theirs was one of the three or four companies worldwide that were building this Bluetooth product sometime in the 2000 timeframe.
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Their product attracted attention from Zemans in Germany, Aer, Samsung, Nokia, and a few others who ended up using Impulsesoft products.
Once the product started to get commoditized, Srninvasan and his team started to look at building the next level of product, which was essentially getting into consumer products like Bluetooth wireless headphones.
While the acquisition marked a financial success, it fell short of the grand vision they harbored for Impulsesoft.
Undeterred, Srinivasan acknowledges the invaluable experience gained during this journey, paving the way for a more profound understanding of entrepreneurship, from incubation to exit. He recalls that the company sold for $15M.
Amagi: A Vision for Global Impact
Following Impulsesoft, Srinivasan and his co-founders embarked on a new venture, Amagi, with a fresh set of goals. Focused on creating a scalable, global, and industry-transforming business, Amagi set out to redefine television viewing, anticipating the shift from cable to internet-based streaming.
Srinivasan and his co-founders set out to build software that would allow viewers to watch personalized television and personalized advertising. They saw it as a massive opportunity that had the potential to go global.
Amagi ended up becoming a tech company out of India focusing on geo-target advertising on cable TV. The company also became one of the fastest-growing media businesses in India, getting selected in the top 3 of the Deloitte 500 APAC.
Amagi had a 65-person sales team that was going in and setting up local devices across India. However, Srinivasan talks about setbacks like having to constantly fund the company and deal with channel conflicts with their partners.
The television networks had conflicts in terms of the same customer base that they were going after.
Amagi was, at one point, working with 35 television networks as the second-largest buyer of inventory across TV after Unilever in India.
Pivoting to SaaS
The entrepreneurial path is rarely smooth, and a strategic pivot in 2017 saw the company transition from an advertising-focused business to a SaaS technology model, addressing the evolving demands of the market.
Srinivasan and his co-founders decided to move forward with only the tech team and had just $5M in cash. He decided to relocate to the US to build the company on a more global scale.
The new business model was providing subscription software to Television Networks, content owners, and sports rights owners.
The objective is to help them create streaming channels and deliver them to viewers using ad-supported models or otherwise.
Clients pay a monthly fee for every channel and every television content that they stream to consumers, and Amagi also takes a share of any advertising revenues that they would actually make.
Fundraising and Global Expansion
As Srinivasan explains, Amagi is funded by a combination of equity and secondaries. They raised a seed round of $5M from an angel investor who had backed their previous venture and had earned good returns. Srinivasan and his co-founders also invested some of their own money.
Over the next five to seven years, they raised around $50M from top-tier investors like Premji Invest, one of the largest private equity funds in India, Mayfield, KKR Funds, and Emeril Media. These investors exited through the secondary rounds when new investors came in.
As Srinivasan reveals, they also had a buyback for some of our employees. Amagi has also been financially buoyed by strategic investments, with approximately $359M raised over the years, a mix of primary and secondary.
Storytelling is everything, which is something that Srinivasan KA 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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Investors such as Norwest, General Atlantic, and Axel have contributed to the company’s global expansion, making it a dominant player in the media and entertainment industry. It has been growing at 30% to 40% year-over-year every year. Amagi went from $0 to $100M in five years.
The company is the largest SaaS technology company in the media entertainment industry with primary revenues. It earns 73% of that revenue from the US, 20% in Europe, and the remaining 10% spread across the world.
Srinivasan also reveals that Amagi works with 80% of the top 100 media companies in the US today as their backend SaaS technology vendor to help them run their broadcast on the cloud. Amagi also helps them stream and monetize their content using advertising.
Becoming the Media Operating System
Srinivasan’s vision for Amagi extends beyond being a leading technology vendor; he aspires for Amagi to become the operating system for media and entertainment companies worldwide.
With a focus on empowering media businesses to acquire, produce, manage, distribute, market, and monetize content seamlessly, Srinivasan envisions a future where Amagi serves as the backbone of the industry and their “underlying platform.”
Lessons Learned and Advice for Entrepreneurs
Reflecting on his entrepreneurial journey, Srinivasan imparts valuable advice to aspiring entrepreneurs. He emphasizes the importance of choosing a market with substantial growth, urging them to focus on blue oceans rather than red ones.
Srinivasan’s story is a testament to the power of thinking big, navigating challenges, and embracing the unknown.
Srinivasan KA’s journey from Chennai to Silicon Valley encapsulates the essence of entrepreneurial spirit and resilience. His story, marked by successes, failures, and continuous learning, serves as an inspiration for those navigating the ever-evolving landscape of business.
As Amagi continues to shape the future of media and entertainment, Srinivasan’s legacy remains intertwined with the transformative power of daring to dream big.
Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:
- 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.