Chaitanya and his co-founders bootstrapped an MVP and then went on to raise $35 million in several rounds of funding. The company is now over $10 million in Annual Recurring Revenue.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s go to the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Chaitanya Chandrasekhar: I grew up in India in, what is today called, Chennai. I can’t get myself to call it that. I call it Madras. I was born in Madras back in the 80’s. My dad used to work for an Indian publicly-owned company. They were in the oil and mining business. It was a typical government employee household. My mom was a housewife. I studied in Madras. I went to college in Madras and came to US for grad school in 2005.
Sramana Mitra: What brought you to the US?
Chaitanya Chandrasekhar: It is the land of opportunity. At the back of my mind, I’ve seen and read stories of first-generation entrepreneurs in the Valley. It was something I was excited about. Grad school eventually got me here. I was interested in a particular body of work and there was a professor in Stanford who was doing that work. I got to know him through email and decided to take the jump.
Sramana Mitra: Where was that?
Chaitanya Chandrasekhar: That was at Stanford from the school of Mechanical Engineering with a focus on AI as it’s called today.
Sramana Mitra: Did you do a Ph.D. or a Masters?
Chaitanya Chandrasekhar: I got my Masters and I decided to join the workforce. It was exciting to be in the Valley in the 2005 to 2007 timeframe. People were building startups. I was excited and wanted to be a part of that. I graduated from my Masters and jumped head first into it.
Sramana Mitra: Did you jump into a company or did you start your own right away?
Chaitanya Chandrasekhar: The genesis of this is super interesting. I was in college. I was working for a professor on a particular project which was a recommendation engine for tellers at banks. It was funded by Wells Fargo. This is when I was in college. It was very interesting.
Wells Fargo eventually bought the project and put it in commercial use. I ended up joining a company called Multilytics, which is today called Credit Karma. I was employee five or six at that company and had lots of friends there. It was really cool to see the genesis of that startup environment, understand what was going on, and go through that whole funding process.
After that, I ended up joining a company called NexTag. NexTag was a company which was extremely data-driven. I joined NexTag and helped them with building up a team to allow NexTag to do marketing analytics better. I helped build that team jointly with two of my co-founders today and ended up becoming a P&L owner. We did that for about three or four years and NexTag got acquired.
New management came in and that’s when me and my co-founders decided to leave. As we were talking about what’s next, we were just throwing out ideas. Finally, one idea was something we could all get behind and be really passionate about. That was how Quantic Mind started.
Sramana Mitra: I used to track NexTag but at some point, I stopped tracking them. Who bought them?
Chaitanya Chandrasekhar: NexTag was bought by a private equity company called Providence Equity. It was bought for an equity value of $1.3 billion. NexTag was a unicorn before the word unicorn was actually invented. The founder, who’s an Indian, had wonderful outcomes. Everyone who was involved also had great outcomes. The company, at its peak, was only about 300 people.
Sramana Mitra: I missed the exit. What year did you start Quantic Mind?
Chaitanya Chandrasekhar: Me and my co-founders left NexTag in the 2012 timeframe. Between 2012 and 2013, we were just talking about what we wanted to do. We started Quantic Mind and raised a seed round in December of 2013. We started building the idea and generating revenue in 2014.