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“Never make the same mistake twice”, With Douglas Brown and Krishna Subramanian

To create a successful tech company, you should start by asking yourself the following questions: Who has the problem that you’re trying to solve, why is it important to them, why can you solve it better than anyone else, and why now. Sometimes you may have the greatest solution for a problem, but you may […]

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To create a successful tech company, you should start by asking yourself the following questions: Who has the problem that you’re trying to solve, why is it important to them, why can you solve it better than anyone else, and why now. Sometimes you may have the greatest solution for a problem, but you may be ahead of your time or too late. Ask yourself what it is going to take and how can you succeed in this market.

Maybe you have a great solution, but it’s too complex to build. It may not be worth the return you may get. Our current company is a good example. The problem of managing data better is not new. However, our company is an example of the right idea, at the right time, with the right technology. Data management software started 10–15 years ago, but they were too early in the market. Data was not growing very fast and there were only TBs of data. There was no cloud back then, only tape. These original companies were way ahead of their time, but 10–15 years later these same companies could have been more successful.


As a part of my series about “Lessons From Inspirational Women Leaders in Tech”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Krishna Subramanian, co-founder, president, and COO, Komprise, the leader in analytics-driven data management software. Krishna is no stranger to founding, building, merging, and acquiring tech companies — she has built three successful venture-backed IT businesses and held senior leadership positions at major companies, such as Sun Microsystems and Citrix. With 21+ years of experience as a senior software executive, Krishna has successfully generated over 500M+ dollars new revenues, with proven industry expertise in SaaS, cloud computing, and data management.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

My career path in technology began during my schooling in West Africa. I took a class that allowed us to experiment with punched card programming, which involved using paper cards with holes that are punched by hand, which represent computer data. This curiosity eventually led to pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Computer Science at Angelo State University and later a Master of Science in Computer Science at the University of Illinois.

Fast forward to today, I have 21+ years of experience as a senior software executive, with industry expertise in SaaS, cloud computing, and data management. I am currently the co-founder, COO, and president at Komprise, the leader in analytics-driven data management software. I am really passionate about Komprise, because we work tirelessly to enable enterprises to address the two biggest problems they face with data — how to manage today’s massive data growth and how to unlock the business value of data.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began at your company?

When we started Komprise, we presented to a customer prospect who let us know they were interested in purchasing our product. We later received a text from the CEO of the company letting us know that he wanted to invest in our company through his venture fund. He later ran our second round of funding, and we took it as a good sign that he not only wanted to use our product but also invest in our company.

Can you share a story about a funny moment from when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

When we were creating our first company, one of the questions in the grant application was: “Why would you build this company?” This question struck us as funny, making us stop and think for a moment. We had spent so much time building a great product, developing the go-to-market strategy, investigating who are customers would be, and delving deeply into so many areas of the business before we got to that point. Looking back, asking ourselves why we were building Komprise was an important question and a valuable lesson to always take a moment to ask yourself why you’re pursuing a specific business.

Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?

Building a business is challenging, and considering giving up is a normal feeling. All three of the companies that Kumar Goswami, Mike Peercy, and I have built have all gone through downturns. The first company we built endured the tragedy of 9/11. The second company we founded went through the stock market crash and economic recession of 2008. Today, we are all dealing with the global upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When we started Komprise there were people who didn’t understand the idea, so it was very tempting to want to give up. That is why you really have to believe in what you’re creating. It never deterred us if venture capitalists didn’t see the value at first, we knew we were on the right track. That said, if you don’t have the passion and conviction for your product, then you should think twice before starting a company. There are a lot of bumps in the road, and you must have to passion to keep moving towards your goal.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

The most fundamental person to thank is my mother — she taught my sister and I to never hold back. There was a lot of gender stereotyping against women when I was growing up, that still continues today, and my mother wanted to ensure we didn’t face that. She encouraged us to always pursue our dreams, go after our goals, and never give up. The foundation my mother gave us is so important, and I am deeply thankful for her.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Starting and scaling a company requires taking calculated risks and being comfortable dealing with unknowns. One of the best pieces of advice I received early on and have followed diligently throughout this journey is this: “Never make the same mistake twice.” This is key because it’s impossible to predict if any move you make will work, and making mistakes is common. But it’s more important to take calculated risks, and if there’s a mistake, take the time to learn from it.

Ok super. Thank you for all that. Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview. We’d love to learn a bit about your company. What is the pain point that your company is helping to address?

At Komprise our mission is to help businesses handle the incoming deluge of data with analytics-driven data management. This approach helps customers know, move, and control their data to save costs and extract more business value from it — without disrupting access. We help companies solve the two biggest challenges they have with data, managing data growth, and unlocking data value.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

A lot of IT problems are unnecessarily complex. We wanted to build a product that was simple, efficient, and user friendly because IT should make your life easier. So, we asked ourselves: “How do we build our product to be as easy-to-use and effective as possible?” Many of our customers have said that Komprise reminds them of a user-friendly app on their phone. We’re proud to be one of the highest-rated products for customer satisfaction.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

One reoccurring problem that businesses are facing is that data keeps growing, and there is a desire to manage it more efficiently. We are looking at more techniques to contain data’s valuable information, beginning with moving it into the cloud. In addition, data management needs to move towards greater sustainability. It’s not doable to keep building out data centers to no end. You have to create a more sustainable path, especially with the ongoing challenges of climate change. We want to transform the cloud and its infrastructure to extract the right information but keep less of a footprint.

Let’s zoom out a bit and talk in more broad terms. Are you currently satisfied with the status quo regarding women in Tech? What specific changes do you think are needed to change the status quo?

No, I’m not at all satisfied with the status quo and believe there is a lot of work to be done. It’s well-known that half of the population that graduates college is female, yet half the tech workforce is not female. That tells you there’s a problem, especially given there is such a wealth of educated talent. These graduates are not ending up in the STEM workforce and that needs to be shifted.

One of the first ways to start this shift is to create an open and welcoming culture that recruits people of all backgrounds. At Komprise, we hire the best person for the job, regardless of gender. We’re fortunate to have a lot of women in leadership and engineering positions. My recommendation for businesses to improve their gender equality is to create a culture that welcomes women and embraces their strengths.

In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by women in tech that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts? What would you suggest to address this?

A lot of the bias is unconscious, but still requires persistence and effort by women to push through. Unfortunately, this means women need to be unafraid to assert themselves and be seen and heard. Until the playing field is more level, women have to play more of a pioneering role.

What would you advise to another tech leader who initially went through years of successive growth, but has now reached a standstill. From your experience do you have any general advice about how to boost growth or sales and “restart their engines”?

What happens to companies is that the market is evolving, and companies stop evolving with the market. Founders could have had a great initial thesis, but unfortunately that becomes a doctrine that does not evolve. They may not even recognize that their business is not evolving. As an entrepreneur, you may have to make tough decisions. For example, you may have to change the licensing model to an entirely different value proposition. My advice would be to not consider certain aspects of your business as sacred, and remain flexible to change.

Do you have any advice about how companies can create very high performing sales teams?

It really depends on the stage of the company. For example, if you’re running a tech startup, treat every salesperson as an owner and not an employee. If they believe that they’re contributing to building the business here, then they will make sales happen, and success will follow. We look for that level of entrepreneurship in our sales team when we hire.

In your specific industry, what methods have you found to be most effective in order to find and attract the right customers? Can you share any stories or examples?

Two of the most effective ways to find and attract the right customers are word of mouth and targeting the right audience. Look for customers that attend industry-specific events and tradeshows. Then once you find the right audience, if you have a great product, then word of mouth will lead to more customers.

Based on your experience, can you share 3 or 4 strategies to give your customers the best possible user experience and customer service?

Looking at the problem from the perspective of the customer. It’s not only what they want today, but what they are likely to need in the next few years. Building the product from that point of view is important. For example, at Komprise, we don’t lock a customer in. We keep data in a native format and we don’t hold it in a proprietary interface. Other businesses in our industry may wonder why we don’t make the data sticky, so that customers have to stay longer. However, we want customers to stay because they want to, not because we locked them in. It’s tricky to go down that path, but you have to be confident. Customers really appreciate that flexibility and it helps build trust.

As you likely know, this HBR article demonstrates that studies have shown that retaining customers can be far more lucrative than finding new ones. Do you use any specific initiatives to limit customer attrition or customer churn? Can you share some of your advice from your experience about how to limit customer churn?

Customer retention is extremely valuable especially in a subscription-based business like ours. We have a 98% customer retention rate, and more importantly, last year, our existing customers expanded their use of Komprise by 300%. To do this, early on, we created a team called “Customer Success” — this team does not have a revenue goal, and they are not support. Their entire role is to see how customers are adopting our solutions and jump in and help them with anything they need. They also give us tremendous visibility into the pace of adoption, the hurdles that customers encounter, so we can improve our product, our training, our videos, our support. This has been extremely critical in our customer retention and growth.

Here is the main question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to create a very successful tech company?

To create a successful tech company, you should start by asking yourself the following questions: Who has the problem that you’re trying to solve, why is it important to them, why can you solve it better than anyone else, and why now. Sometimes you may have the greatest solution for a problem, but you may be ahead of your time or too late. Ask yourself what it is going to take and how can you succeed in this market.

Maybe you have a great solution, but it’s too complex to build. It may not be worth the return you may get. Our current company is a good example. The problem of managing data better is not new. However, our company is an example of the right idea, at the right time, with the right technology. Data management software started 10–15 years ago, but they were too early in the market. Data was not growing very fast and there were only TBs of data. There was no cloud back then, only tape. These original companies were way ahead of their time, but 10–15 years later these same companies could have been more successful.

Wonderful. We are nearly done. Here are the final “meaty” questions of our discussion. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I’d like to reiterate the importance of sustainable technology. Tech companies need to think more about the footprint that our technologies consume. How can we make our own data center or offices green? It’s more about the products we build, and if they can be energy efficient. Can we make these products more sustainable? This needs to be a question that every business asks themselves.

We are very blessed that very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

There are a lot of people I’d love to meet. Two examples are Bill Gates, to understand what made him make the switch from being a business leader to a philanthropist, and Indra Nooyi, to understand how she leveraged her “do well by doing good” philosophy.

Thank you so much for this. This was very inspirational, and we wish you only continued success!

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