Sramana: Was the transition process contentious or was it something that happened naturally?
Rajiv Kumar: It was not contentious, although it was not easy. Change is hard, but it felt like the right thing to do. The ideas I was presenting and my evangelism were compelling. It took some planning, but I was impressed with how well that transition went. It was generally a very smooth process.
Sramana: Where was the business when you came back in 2012? What were the metrics that you were tracking?
Rajiv Kumar: The business was in the mid seven figures in terms of run rate. It was experiencing double digit growth rates. The product was starting to lag behind and a lot of competitors were starting to emerge.
Sramana: What did you do once you assumed the CEO role?
Rajiv Kumar: There was a big cultural change going from a Harvard business school, operationally polished CEO who had vast experience to an organically grown CEO with a physician background in his late 20’s. There was a cultural shift. It was important for me to establish credibility and rally the troops. I spent a lot of time on our mission, philosophy, and vision. Once people believed in our mission and vision, that led to a massive shift in the mindset and everyone was ready to get on-board. I spent a lot of time on product and marketing.
Sramana: What do you attribute your growth to? What is the lever that has helped you grow?
Rajiv Kumar: First, we expanded our marketing funnel. Second, we increased our customer retention. On the marketing funnel, we embraced a thought leadership approach. We published scholarly research, spoke at conferences, and wrote white papers. We did that in a very credible, non-sales pitch manner. We created a lot of content on our website that improved our organic search rankings. We would get 2,000 people showing up for a single webinar. That was a venue where my passion as a founder could come across.
We also focused on making our product stickier. We charted a multi-year roadmap with our customers. We made our product more engaging at the end-user level. When we became a part of the daily lives of our end users, then it was less likely that an HR department would pull us away from them. It is easier to grow your top line when you just add new customers year over year.
Sramana: What about your team? How did you determine who the new CEO and management team was going to be when it came time to return to school?
Rajiv Kumar: We leveraged our personal networks. We identified a dozen potential candidates who we down selected two three individuals. Within that group there was one person who really stood out. It was somebody who had been to the same undergraduate school as us and someone who wanted to move back to Rhode Island. It was someone who we fit in well with culturally. It was a very easy decision, and we did not have to use a search firm. That person was then responsible for building out the rest of their team.