Editor’s note: Launched in 2007 in India, Kreeo helps organizations enable information discovery, collaboration and co-creation. CEO Sumeet Anand discusses knowledge/information management solutions in a Big Data world and shares lessons learned along the startup’s journey and pivot from consumer to enterprise software. This article is brought to SandHill readers in partnership with ProductNation.
SandHll.com: Please describe your company and product focus.
Sumeet Anand: Our key offering is the “Kreeo Enterprise” product and solutions around it. Kreeo helps organizations to enable information discovery, collaboration and co-creation among people to synergize them as a corporate mind. We strive to facilitate better expression, creation and management of knowledge in ecosystems and to address the needs of a future driven by Big Data, open data and linked data.
Kreeo uniquely combines the strengths of social computing, application PaaS, Big Data and an interoperability layer in a unified framework. Kreeo solutions are applied to a wide variety of contexts such as market-intelligence management, knowledge-centered support, corporate KM intranet, social learning, etc.
By using Kreeo, customers can get rid of multiple application silos and can unify information from multiple sources (internal and external/Web) and make it easily discoverable and collaborative.
Kreeo is currently available for on-premises and private cloud deployments, and we are working on our SaaS offering. The product is applicable to almost all industries and we provide vertical solutions to customers for specific scenarios. Our key targets are medium and large organizations in the BFSI vertical.
SandHill.com: There are a lot of software products for information management. What is unique about Kreeo?
Sumeet Anand: Most of the knowledge that matters for a business is either with people or is outside an enterprise on the Web. Traditionally for information discovery and collaboration, companies applied multiple solutions such as social networks, search appliances, micro blogging, content management, document management, file sharing, wiki, blogs, RSS, bookmarking and analytics.
With Kreeo organizations don’t need any of the above as modules or separate solutions; they can do all that and much more with a unified solution that also intelligently organizes (multi-dimensionally) a company’s knowledge and interactions and makes them easily discoverable in a simple, sensible and highly secure (object-level secure access) way.
Using Kreeo, people can get access to real-time results from the Web around their interests (news, customers, competition, technology, markets, etc.) along with all that is available internally inside the company (documents, project info, support content, learning content, user-generated content, etc.).
Users can create content objects and co-edit them like a wiki object or keep them as author-editable blog posts. They can co-edit in draft as well as published mode. Kreeo provides access to near-real-time structured data (graphs, charts, tables) from sources like Bloomberg, etc. along with unstructured content created internally and from multiple Web sources.
Our solution can greatly enhance the productivity of knowledge workers across marketing, sales, R&D, strategy and operations teams.
SandHill.com: You changed your company’s model from a consumer product to an enterprise solution. What drove that decision?
I have been a KM, eLearning and analytics consultant for many years. In 2004 a KM solution designed by me (as part of a team at Satyam) won the IBM beacon award 2004. But I wasn’t satisfied with the solution due to the integration issues and usability hassles. Our vision was to facilitate better sharing and creation of knowledge within and across ecosystems (private & public).
We started in 2007 as a consumer Web offering for social/collaborative search (similar to a wiki search, which is now closed). But in late 2009 we pivoted and changed our model to focus on the enterprise collaboration and knowledge management software space.
After our initial launch, recessionary times caused us to consider closing down and going to other jobs. We realized our inability to make money and to raise funding in that market, so we pivoted to the enterprise market. We believe adoption of social tools within the enterprise will become a norm only if we enable secure interplay between public Web and private enterprise deployments.
The hope is still there for our original vision. It will eventually happen; the question is just when. We are now moving from the problem of application sprawl to platform sprawl. Things are still in silos and we wish to interoperate. It’s kind of like EAI + SSO on cloud deployments. Such an approach fails to address enterprise issues (cost, usability, complexity and agility) over the long run. So we believe the paradigm of cross-ecosystem interoperability will eventually win along with open source-based enterprise platforms.
SandHill.com: Is there a story behind your company name?
Sumeet Anand: Our idea was to create a new word that also imbibes our purpose. So we formed Kreeo, which combines “Creo” in Latin (meaning “to create”) and “Kriya” in Sanskrit (meaning “activity”). Thus Kreeo means creating knowledge through the activity of networking and collaboration. But unfortunately we didn’t get Kreeo as the company name, so we chose another name that we liked: i-nable solutions.
SandHill.com: Please describe one of your company’s lessons learned and where it occurred in the time line of your product development.
Sumeet Anand: There have been many lessons in our journey, and we are still learning. What I would like to share is about focusing on making money.
I tested my idea with investors prior to starting up but didn’t get funding initially and then later I stopped looking and went bootstrapping. When the recession drove us to pivot to the enterprise software market, we bootstrapped our way ahead using our prior revenues.
We went ahead, pitching a modified version to prospects and, to our surprise, we found a few early adopters very soon. Since then we have taken a slow and steady approach of refining our offering further with a few customers and then scaling up later as we get our product fitment and sales strategy refined. Our version 4.0 is based on real learning with customers; and post its launch, we are finding a very high acceptance among prospects and greater conversion rates.
Funds to scale up efforts remain a constant challenge. Finding good people to work for peanuts and big dreams was tough. I learned that having enough cash (working capital) to survive in difficult times is more important than growing.
SandHill.com: What will be your company’s focus over the next 12 months?
Sumeet Anand: We are currently engaged with many big enterprises in India and are getting great response to our offering. For the next year we will work on a SaaS offering along with multiple vertical solutions on Kreeo to be marketed with relevant partners in various geographies. Our focus is on acquiring more customers (large accounts) and then reaching out to small and medium-sized enterprise markets with a SaaS offering of multiple solutions.
SandHill.com: How did you get your first customer?
Sumeet Anand: Through networking. After we decided to pivot and transform into an enterprise software company, I started connecting with prospects and pitched to many people I met through my network. Luckily, within three months we had two paying customers.
SandHill.com: If you could go back and live another business day over again to do something different, when would it be? What happened that day?
Sumeet Anand: Even before we incorporated, we had an angel interested to invest a very good amount of seed investment in our company, but we refused because, as per our Excel sheet, we needed twice what he offered. If I could do it over again, I would like to rework my Excel plan for a lean startup so that I could have taken that money! I actually ended up achieving the same objectives with a quarter of what was offered.
SandHill.com: When you encounter challenges or setbacks, how do you pull yourself back up and become inspired again?
Sumeet Anand: I remind myself of my blood group (B+ve).
SandHill.com: If you could change something about the software industry, what would it be?
Sumeet Anand: I would like to ban traditional proprietary software. I would like all software technologies to be powered by or built as open source or using open standards. I would also like to make the Web read-and-write enabled since its inception.
SandHill.com: What is your top advice for first-time entrepreneurs or startup CEOs?
Sumeet Anand: First, change is no more a mere constant; it is the norm, and we need to proactively create it. Second, as the saying goes, “An idea is like a baby, easy to conceive but painful to deliver.” So my advice for delivering on the vision is to have a complementary team of at least two founders right from the start. Think about how you will make money while/prior to defining/refining your product.
Two last pieces of advice: Having high quality sales and marketing capability is more important than technical capability. Also, don’t look for a success mantra. We all are different and have different situations, so define your own success formula.
Sumeet Anand is founder & CEO of Kreeo (i-nable Solutions), a technology startup in the Enterprise 2.0 and collective intelligence space. Kreeo helps organizations to enable information discovery, collaboration and co-creation among people to synergize them as a corporate mind. He is also actively involved in various voluntary initiatives with Nasscom, iSpirt and The Goa Project.
Kathleen Goolsby is managing editor of SandHill.com.