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Capital Efficient Entrepreneurship: Venky Balasubramanian, CEO of Plivo (Part 1)  

Posted on Tuesday, Nov 10th 2015

Venky has built a fast growing, profitable company with just $2 million in angel financing, raised as two convertible notes. Excellent navigation, and a lot to learn in the domain of smart, capital-efficient entrepreneurship.

As we are bound to see the market crash in the upcoming quarters, these are the type of companies that will thrive in the post-bubble era.

I frankly can’t wait.

Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with the beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what circumstances?

Venky Balasubramanian: I was born in India and was raised here. The first 10 years of my professional life was essentially all telecom before Plivo. I was in software development, a bit of sales engineering, and a bit of actual sales as well across different geographies, including Southeast Asia and Latin America. Then seven years into my professional telecom life, I got bored and I wanted to do my own thing. I was actually in the Valley during that timeframe. I quit my job and came back to India. I started my small outlet. Two years into that, I came out of that.

Sramana Mitra: What years are we talking?

Venky Balasubramanian: 2005 to 2011.

Sramana Mitra: So what you’re describing now is the 2011 story?

Venky Balasubramanian: No, let me take a step back. In 2005, I started as a software developer. From 2005 to 2008, I took on a software development role. I was also involved in more a sales engineering role in Southeast Asia. In 2008, I got bored with telecom and corporate life. During this time, I was also involved with a startup. I quit and came back to India and built my own small restaurant. I did that for a year. Although I liked what I was doing, but my heart was in technology. So I came back to telecom.

Sramana Mitra: When you did the restaurant, what city were you doing that out of?

Venky Balasubramanian: I was in Gujarat at that time.

Sramana Mitra: But you’re not from Gujarat?

Venky Balasubramanian: I’m from all over India. I was born in Gujarat, but was raised in Delhi and Bangalore.

Sramana Mitra: But at this juncture, you were back at Gujarat and you did the restaurant in Gujarat?

Venky Balasubramanian: That’s right. After that, I joined a larger telco company. I was with Huawei for almost three and a half years. I was in Latin America at the end of my stint with Huawei. Having travelled out of country, there was a need to make calls back and forth. There were lots of services back then including Skype. A lot of these countries where I travelled to, the Internet was not the best. Back then, Google Voice didn’t work for international countries. I made some sort of a prototype where someone could call back home, primarily for my own use.

While doing this, I realized that something of this sort would be ideal for different enterprises out there who don’t want to depend on a proper Internet connection and still want to be able to make international calls at a lesser cost.  The spark lit up again. I quit my job again. This is early 2011 time frame. I started building a few prototypes here and there. It was more like a hobby. During this time, I met my co-founder Mike online on GitHub. He was in  France building a couple of ideas himself. The difference was that he was building some kind of framework where he could  prototype his ideas faster. I was working on something similar. I saw his code online and reached out to him. That’s how it started out in 2011.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Capital Efficient Entrepreneurship: Venky Balasubramanian, CEO of Plivo
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