10 software start-ups that have clicked

With growing venture capital interest in start-ups that make software for other businesses and those that make consumer technology, Mint puts the spotlight on 10 such successful companies


Sanjay Parthasarathy of Indix Corp. Photo: Nathan G./Mint
Sanjay Parthasarathy of Indix Corp. Photo: Nathan G./Mint

INDIX CORP.

FOUNDED | 2010

ENTREPRENEURS | Sanjay Parthasarathy, Satya Kaliki, Sridhar Venkatesh and Rajesh Muppalla

LOCATION | Chennai

FUNDING | Seed round: $1.4 million from seed investors, including Nexus, $4.5 million from Nexus Venture Partners and Avalon Ventures in 2013, Series A1: $9 million from existing investors in 2014, $15 million in 2015 from Nokia Growth Partners and existing investors

The company initially started off as a product awareness price index data, and commerce-related information provider. However, over time, it pivoted after carrying out surveys and receiving customer feedback. It was finally launched as a product catalogue firm.

Indix provides its users with product discovery services, big data analytics among other services. It lists products across all categories that consumers use, these could be toothpaste, shoes, medicines, computers telephones among other things. Product summary information includes price range, store count, brand information and category information; product offers as a category provides a complete set of offers information from a single store or across a set of stores.

As part of data analytics, the technology provides tools by which users (clients) can compare their offerings, services and pricing (historical data) with the competitors to make better business and operation choices.. The products information is provided over the cloud, from where the users can view information related to specific products (it can be searched by categories as well). The information relating to each product is in a proper format so that it can be used easily by the company (user)

Businesses use the Indix app and APIs for better and faster decision making, improve sale of products and develop ways to create product-aware applications and websites. Product information listed by Indix displays more than 35 billion product offers from over 50,000 brands and over 1,000 international sites and it has 23 categories and 6,000 sub-categories of products listed. Indix charges its users according to the data needs of a company, across three kickstarter, standard and enterprise that ranges between $495 per month to a annual contract. Users of the Indix technology include retailers and commerce enablers.

With the latest round of funding, the company plans on hiring a larger set of data scientists and expanding to different geographies.

SECLORE TECHNOLOGY

FOUNDED | 2010

ENTREPRENEURS | Vishal Gupta and Abhijit Tannu

LOCATION | Mumbai

FUNDING | Series A: $6 million in 2013 from Helion Venture Partners and VentureEast Series B: $12 million in 2016 from Sistema Asia Fund, India Alternatives and existing investors

Seclore claims that its Enterprise Digital Rights Management (EDRM) solution can protect just any type of document. Be it a text message, email or PowerPoint presentation, the content shared by an employee internally or externally can be monitored with customised settings.

Abhijit Tannu
Abhijit Tannu

Gupta explains that his company’s technology can control with whom the data can be shared, placing restrictions on editing, taking printouts or even forwarding the data. In addition to this, notifications on screen shots, forwards, and edits are sent to data sender.

“Today, employees use Sharepoint, Dropbox or other apps to share files—our technology can track the flow for each of these apps,” adds Gupta. There is immediate accountability and onus created for the sharing of information that the company can track.

All operating systems are embedded with the technology that controls and monitors information after it is sent. The company initially focused on India, the Middle East and Europe, 2014 but later began tapping the US market too. It claims to provide its services to 180 clients in India and 450 outside of India. With the recently raised funds, the company plans on increasing its sales and marketing teams and focus on growth from South East Asia and US.

CAPILLARY TECHNOLOGIES

FOUNDED | 2008

ENTREPRENEURS | Aneesh Reddy and Krishna Mehra

LOCATION | Bengaluru

FUNDING | Series A: $15.5 million from Sequoia Capital and Norwest Venture Partners in 2012; Series B: $14 million from existing investors in 2014; Series C: $45 million from Warburg Pincus and existing investors in 2015

What is now a multi-million dollar company was founded by people who were simply trying to develop something cool. “It’s not like we had a multi-million dollar idea when we started. We looked at what was happening—which sectors were growing. Back then retail was just beginning to happen, and so were mobiles. Hence, we decided to do something that combined these two,” recalls Reddy, the company’s CEO. The founders realized that offline retailers needed more visibility into what their customers were thinking, and why sales suddenly dropped. Hence, Capillary looked at delivering an affordable customer relationship management software, using a mobile phone.

Aneesh Reddy. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Aneesh Reddy. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

The firm subsequently rolled out an analytics product, and followed with a digital campaign tool. For the first three years, Capillary focused on India and quickly grew to serving about 4,000 stores. With money to “burn”, the company “went ahead and set up an office in the US, UK, Middle East and a few other countries,” according to Reddy. However, Capillary realised that real growth was happening in Asia, the Middle East and China, so it decided to focus on these markets. The seven-year-old firm serves 20,000 stores across Asia. It competes with companies such as SAP SE, Salesforce.com Inc. and Oracle Corp.

To scale up, it acquired e-commerce software maker MartJack (Reasoning Global eApplications Ltd) and Ruaha Technology Labs Pvt. Ltd, which helps companies derive insights from their data with the help of machine learning.

BLIPPAR INC.

FOUNDED | 2012

ENTREPRENEURS | Ambarish Mitra, Omar Tayeb and Jessica Butcher

LOCATION | London and New Delhi

FUNDING | Series C: $45 million in 2015; Series D: $54 million in 2016

While settling the bill at a restaurant in London, one of the founders looked at the pound and asked: “Why can’t the Queen come out of this note?”

The conversation, that took place when the founders were slightly tipsy, lingered even when they turned sober. The result: Blippar—an augmented reality company that enables users to see extra, rich content by simply pointing the phone at an object. The founders want to bring augmented reality to everyday objects on behalf of brands, advertisers, and publishers. Blippar started out with providing services for brands and now provides AR content of real-world objects like plants, animals and food on the plate.

“The app allows users to click a picture of an object—the camera on the phone gets integrated with the app. The picture is then processed on the backend to reflect results. The result would have information on the product.

Ambarish Mitra.
Ambarish Mitra.

Users ‘blipp’ on objects like magazine pages, cans of cola companies, ketchup bottles, and serve added content to consumers,” explains Arnav Ghosh, India head of the company. Blippar with its machine learning capabilities will allow users to take a picture of a product and provide information on price, availability and other features.

Blippar has 10 offices across the globe and a major chunk of its business comes from outside India.

The company charges enterprises anywhere between $7000 and $30,000 for a project depending on its scope, requirement and specifications.

HELPSHIFT INC.

FOUNDED | 2012

ENTREPRENEURS | Abinash Tripathy and Baishampayan Ghose

LOCATION | Pune and California

FUNDING | Seed round: $3.2 million from Nexus Venture Partners and True Ventures in 2012; Series A:$10 million from Intel Capital and existing investors in 2014; Series B: $23 million from Microsoft Ventures, Salesforce Ventures and existing investors in 2016

Helpshift, which uses the software-as-a-service (SaaS) model, enables companies to identify their most heavy users—those that significantly spend on their apps—and target them with better support and offers.

Helpshift retains its branding on every app, including those of its largest clients. It aims at helping customers receive support even before they reach out to agents, using data on usage patterns that helps it identify when a user might need help.

“The next step is to make customer service autonomous where algorithms start to augment human beings first and eventually replace some parts that are repetitive and labour intensive,” said Tripathy, CEO of Helpshift.

Abhinash Tripathy (left) and Baishampayan Ghose.
Abhinash Tripathy (left) and Baishampayan Ghose.

Since shipping its first product in 2013, the company claims it saw two consecutive years of 300% revenue growth.

Although all of Helpshift’s engineering team is based in its India office, only about 7% of Helpshift’s business comes from India, with the US and Europe accounting for the bulk of the rest.

Helpshift has its engineering team of about 60 engineers based in Pune, while 33 marketing and sales professionals work out of the US and UK. It has now been installed on 1.3 billion devices across the world.

LEAF INNOVATION

FOUNDED | 2014

ENTREPRENEURS | Chiraag Kapil, Manik Mehta, Ayush Banka, Paras Batra and Avinash Bansal

LOCATION | New Delhi

FUNDING | $250,000 from angel investors in Silicon Valley in 2015

It was a chance conversation between Batra and a stranger at a bus stop over the safety of women in Munirka (Delhi) that sowed the seeds for developing a smart pendant. “We were discussing that Munirka has a lot of air hostesses living in the area as it is close to the airport and how unsafe it could be for them due to erratic work timings. In addition to this, the bus stop where we were conversing was the same one where Nirbhaya was waiting back in 2012, before the entire episode took place,” recalls Batra.

Manik Mehta, Chiraag Kapil, Ayush Banka, Avinash Bansal, and Paras Batra. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint
Manik Mehta, Chiraag Kapil, Ayush Banka, Avinash Bansal, and Paras Batra. Photo: Ramesh Pathania/Mint

The team began prototyping in 2014 without any external funding. They won a few cash prizes that helped them set up the product. Finally, the smart pendant was created. Priced at Rs.2,000, the pendant provides alerts and information about the person wearing it. “The pendant has to be double tapped and an immediate alert is sent to the guardians of the person. In case of a poor internet connection, SMS alerts are sent,” adds Batra. The pendant is available in three colours.

The company has sold over 6,000 pendants, 70% in India and the rest outside of India. The pendant has an internal battery that can be charged by a USB cable and the battery lasts 7-8 days. Going forward, the company is developing a kid’s safety device and a wrist wear product. It plans to launch these products by next year and is also looking to raise a Series A round of funding.

POSTDOT TECHNOLOGIES

FOUNDED | 2014

ENTREPRENEURS | Ankit Sobti, Abhijit Kane and Abhinav Asthana

LOCATION | Bengaluru

FUNDING | $1 million from Nexus Venture Partners in 2015

A 15-member-team, three million users, and a product that’s used by developers across the world, including in large enterprises like Cisco—that is the journey of Postman, developed by Postdot Technologies Pvt. Ltd. The company makes software that helps developers manage something called Application Programming Interfaces or APIs. APIs form the core of the connected world we are moving to. An API has code that specifies how two applications can exchange data and what sort of data may be requested and sent between the two. While earlier, companies used to build every application they needed by themselves, with the rise of the use of APIs and what is known as the micro-services architecture, they no longer need to.

Abhijit Kane (from left), Abhinav Asthana, Ankit Sobti.
Abhijit Kane (from left), Abhinav Asthana, Ankit Sobti.

Take Uber for instance. The company uses APIs from Google maps for its directions, it uses APIs from a start-up called Checkr to perform the background verification of its drivers in the US—reducing the need for it to concentrate on ancillary tasks.

It is safe to say that APIs have become critical in modern software development, but the tools to manage these and be more efficient while writing APIs haven’t really delivered on their promise, which is where Postman steps in.

“Postman makes developers more efficient in their workflow, whether they are new or experienced; this drives organic growth,” said Abhinav Asthana, chief executive officer, Postman.

CHARGEBEE INC.

FOUNDED | 2011

ENTREPRENEURS | Krish Subramanian, K.P. Saravanan, Rajaraman S. and Thiyagarajan T.

LOCATION | Chennai

FUNDING | Series A: $800,000 from Accel Partners in 2014; Series B: $5 million from Tiger Global and Accel Partners in 2015

Working as product engineers at Zoho gave the founders the idea to build products that included secure scalable applications with a focus on business-to-business space. These services were to serve as a utility for a wide market spectrum and so the team decided to work on building well-structured billing and invoicing systems for recording and processing.

Krish Subramanian.
Krish Subramanian.

The company has created a solution for online payments to take care of the most essential components of SaaS (software as a service) and subscription commerce businesses. In the physical world, there is a billing counter where payment is made and the amount is generated by the machine. In case of an online purchase, the physical store is replaced by a website, the counter with a payment gateway and the system generates bills and invoices with services that Chargebee provides.

Companies use the technology created by Chargebee to manage their billing and subscription requirements. The company raises invoices on the basis of which it charges its clients and charges anywhere between $99 and $399 as monthly subscription fees. If it provides its software to 10 clients who have 100 customers each that carry out transactions, then it creates invoices for 1,000 customers. Its customers are mainly in the US, Europe (primarily the UK), Australia, and the Asia Pacific region.

QUBOLE INC.

FOUNDED | 2011

ENTREPRENEURS | Ashish Thusoo and Joydeep Sen Sarma

LOCATION | Bengaluru and California

FUNDING | Series A: $7 million from Charles River Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners and angel investors in 2013; Series B: $13 million from Norwest Venture Partners in 2014; Series C: $30 million from Institutional Venture Partners and existing investors

The founders, who had worked for Facebook Hive (an open source, peta-byte scale date warehousing framework based on Hadoop that was developed by the Data Infrastructure Team at Facebook) were aware of the challenges and opportunities associated with open source technologies. “Building infrastructure is difficult as the technology is rapidly evolving and data mining in itself is a huge task,” notes Sarma. When Sarma relocated to India, the plan was to start something in the space of big data, cloud and software as a service (SaaS).

Joydeep Sen Sarma. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint
Joydeep Sen Sarma. Photo: Hemant Mishra/Mint

Qubole does data mining for companies, operating in the B2B (business to business) space. Companies that use Qubole’s services analyse data using Structured Query Language (SQL)—a special-purpose programming language. Sometimes, these companies are big data companies themselves or are consumer technology companies with specialized big data teams that create algorithms for questions. Qubole provides and develops cloud data solutions that help in storing and managing the data to create insights. “We don’t save any company data. It is like using a Gmail account, on a system” says Sarma. Qubole charges companies based on machine hours, that means revenue is a function of the time spent on the machine. Companies like Amazon Web Services Inc. and Google Cloud Platform (Google Inc.), have partnered with Qubole, according to Sarma.

DRUVA INC.

FOUNDED | 2008

ENTREPRENEURS | Jaspreet Singh, Milind Borate and Ramani Kothandaraman

LOCATION | Pune and California

FUNDING | Series B: $12 million from Nexus Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital in 2011, Series C: $25 million funding led by Sequoia Capital, Nexus Venture Partners and Tenaya Capital Inc. in 2013; Series D: $25 million from existing investors in 2014

The founders initially set out to build a disaster recovery software but “quickly realized” that it was very difficult for an Indian product start-up to sell such software. The founders, instead, ended up developing an enterprise-grade data protection software, according to Singh, CEO of Druva. Enterprises deal with vast amounts of data spread across multiple devices. Hence, it is crucial that they continuously back up all this data and ensure that the data is compliant with data governance policies. Keeping this in mind, Druva developed two products. While inSync helps companies protect data in end-user devices such as laptops or mobile phones, Phoenix helps companies remotely backup and archive their server data.

Jaspreet Singh.
Jaspreet Singh.

“We didn’t even try to raise money during the first two years. Nobody funds enterprise companies. We put our heads down and worked on making revenue, getting customers,” recalls Singh. The strategy appears to have paid off. Druva, today, claims to have acquired 4,000 enterprise customers—65% of them in the Americas, 25% in Europe and the Middle East and 10% in the Asia Pacific region. Moreover, it recently got a strategic investment from NTT Finance—the financial arm of Japanese telecommunications company Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation—to strengthen its presence in Japan as it tries to tap into the growing Asia Pacific market for security software.

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