Editor’s Note: This is a Q&A series that features entrepreneurs who have successfully guided their startups (or multiple startups) to maturity. It is meant to complement StartUp Beat’s coverage of early-stage startups and an effort to provide further insight into the experiences of tech entrepreneurs.
Bio: Avi Basu is the founder and CEO of Connectiva and has been responsible for creating and executing Connectiva’s strategy since its inception. Under his leadership, Connectiva has transformed itself from an early stage product company into a leading global provider of revenue and risk management solutions. Avi has grown Connectiva’s revenues at more than 100 percent annually over the last four years by securing strategic sources of capital, leading major customer acquisitions and establishing key global alliances. Avi has over 17 years of experience in the communications and software industry and has held senior leadership positions in sales and business development, operations and professional services for global companies including LHS and SEMA.
SUB: What was your first entrepreneurial venture?
Basu: My first entrepreneurial venture was actually Connectiva Systems, which I started in 2001. Connectiva Systems is a subscriber data monetization software company. We basically provide analytics solutions that help telecom, media and utility companies in many ways such as reducing revenue leakage, minimizing fraud, lowering churn, improving operational effectiveness and increasing overall profitability.
SUB: What prompted you to start Connectiva?
Basu: I started Connectiva because I really wanted to do something bigger than what I was doing at that point in time. I have always found the telecom industry to be quite exciting and wanted to solve some of the critical problems it was facing, which were not getting developed. Given my personal ambition and the insight into seeing a business problem that needed a solution, I set forth to start this venture.
SUB: Was there a point at which you knew Connectiva would hit it big?
Basu: At every point, I believed that Connectiva would hit it big. However, it was really after four or five instances when we started to get good customers and validation for our product that I knew we would be really successful. Also, when our revenue increased and the recognition in the industry was coming from around the world, I knew that Connectiva had really accomplished itself.
SUB: Was there a “tipping point” when Connectiva really picked up steam and where it started growing exponentially?
Basu: Yes, approximately four to five years after I started Connectiva, in 2005-2006, we reached our tipping point and really started to grow very rapidly.
SUB: What were the first steps you took to establishing Connectiva?
Basu: The first step was to assemble a world-class team. This was a fundamental step because afterwards, I knew that I could rely on them and we could work together to really build the best solutions. Next, we focused on the technology and the business case for our product. Lastly, we received capital from investors who really have a longer-term view of the industry. Those times especially were not good to raise capital but I made sure to focus on this as I was building Connectiva.
SUB: If you had it to do over again, what would the first concrete step to establishing Connectiva have been?
Basu: I would have done the same thing which I did, to build out the best team. Without a great team, nothing else will work.
SUB: What were the most significant obstacles to growing Connectiva to maturity?
Basu: The most significant obstacles were some of the macroeconomic conditions that still exist around the world today. And this I would say for us has been the biggest obstacle. The next biggest one has been managing the growth of Connectiva.
SUB: What kinds of outside funding did you raise?
Basu: We have raised funding through blue chip, private equity and venture capitals.
SUB: What was the metric/milestone that indicated to you that Connectiva had moved past startup stage?
Basu: I think that there were a couple of them. The first was when some of the day-to-day activities were happening without my involvement. And the second one was when we were bringing in more cash than when we were burning.
SUB: What were the most important lessons you learned about entrepreneurship while building Connectiva?
Basu: The first three steps to building a successful company are: team, team and team. The team is absolutely the most important because employees will be there during the growth process and also they represent the company to stakeholders. Two other valuable lessons I learned are the importance of access to capital and never running out of cash. Also, when you are building a product or service, whatever you are offering to the marketplace, you need to provide tangible business outcomes to your customers. People are willing to pay good money for something that will have a proven positive impact on their business. And lastly, it is important to believe in yourself and in your team, with enough ambition, you can achieve your goals.