Sramana Mitra: Let’s go to the very beginning of this journey in 2007. You went to SAP and said you wanted to resell. Where did you go to seek your first clients?
Sylvana Caridi Coche: My clients call me. I actually have to pick the clients. Usually people who start a company to do implementations in SAP start as an implementation company. From there, they take a project. Or, they’re like an IBM who invests in SAP and start a whole practice. For me, it was different because the customers were calling me.
Every time I’d go to SAP and say, “I have a new license.” They’d say, “Go work with the other partners.” The other partners would want to compete with me on services. I went to SAP and said, “I’m bringing huge deals. I want to be your partner.” I went straight to the top because they knew me. They looked at my case. There were many times where they would call me when sales cycles were going south or projects not going well. From there, I became a VAR but I had to prove that I could stay a VAR. They don’t care about implementations; they care only about licenses.
My first customer was Fruit of the Loom. Vanity Fair was selling their Intimate to Fruit of the Loom. The CIO was the granddaughter of the founder, and she remembered me from a demo. She said that they were buying a company with SAP and they didn’t have SAP. She asked me to help. I was supposed to go there one week to help with the strategy.
From there, they asked me to stay to take over SAP and then asked me to take over the whole divestiture. IBM was representing Vanity Fair and I was representing Fruit of the Loom. That was my first customer. I started my company on a Friday and I got the call on Saturday and flew on Monday.
Sramana Mitra: When you were doing this, were you still solo or did you bring some people on board?
Sylvana Caridi Coche: I brought some people on board. That was my condition. I will not only be a consultant. I would take ownership of the people. That was one of my conditions to stay. I got a whole team for SAP and led the whole project. Many companies were calling me by name and would tell SAP, “We won’t buy unless we have Sylvana Coach in the project.”
I refused many but one of them really begged me. It was a company in the San Francisco area. I told them that I can’t be there full-time. I started a team and did an implementation with 20 to 30 people there. That’s how I started right away. Very soon, customers would call me.