Sramana: When did you start Crayon Data?
Suresh Shankar: We formed the company in 2012. In reality we have only been functioning since October. That is when we moved into a real business and started to hire people. We are coming out now and we are talking to people now. We have made good progress in the products.
Sramana: Did you fund the company yourselves or did you go raise money?
Srikant Sastri: We started by self funding but we did raise some money as well. We have not raised institutional angel money, but we have taken loans from individuals. We have individuals that we have worked with in the past as well as some family members, and these are all people that believe in us.
Sramana: You guys have both had substantial exists and I am sure you have enough cash to fund this yourselves. Why did you take outside money?
Srikant Sastri: Our outside money is from family and close friends. We did that because with our previous companies we made sure that a lot of people who loaned money to us and supported us made money. We were indebted to them. We believe that people who believe in us should make money.
You are absolutely right in saying that the amount of angel money we have raised so far could have been covered by our own investments. I think that the relationships that those people bring have a much more significant value.
Sramana: So these are people who you look at as strategic investors? Will you rely on them for client relationships or other strategic factors?
Suresh Shankar: Absolutely. They are not just money.
Sramana: What about the premise of what you have started with? What is the product definition process that you have started with?
Suresh Shankar: Our earlier companies were services based companies and we thought we had some options to build a product focused company. In our world a lot of very smart people look at the past and try to determine what to do with the future. In our services plays the only way to scale was to hire more and more people.
Our entire premise was to combine the internal data of the enterprise with external data. Typically those two datasets have had different focuses. People used to look at social media from the perspective of what they knew about the consumer. That does provide very good broad, cross category, knowledge. However, the groups in an enterprise would likely only consider a very narrow part of that data for their needs. We thought about the idea that human minds process that much data and that this was not going to work.
What we need to develop is a predictive model. We need to be able to tell people what the most likely things are to happen. We need to tell them what their choices are and what the likely outcomes of those choices are. That fundamentally changes the enterprise dynamics.