Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, Founder & CEO, Drawbridge
There are many reasons people choose to become entrepreneurs. Some want to make money, others want the freedom of owning their own businesses, and some, like Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan, want to make an impact.
For Sivaramakrishnan, a self-described accidental entrepreneur, she never intended to become the founder of one of the fastest-growing companies in the world. It just so happened to be that it was only by doing so could she affect the change she wanted to see in the world.
Originally intending to pursue a career in academia, by the time Sivaramakrishnan graduated from Stanford with a PhD in information theory, she realized that this was merely a milestone on a journey to something greater. After graduating she headed for Silicon Valley and found herself one of the original engineers of a soon-to-be successful startup.
“I felt like here was a place where I could create an impact,” Sivaramakrishnan says.
By the time that startup was acquired by Google in 2009, Sivaramakrishnan had developed a taste for the intricacies of the startup world and soon began her own venture called Drawbridge. The company was all about helping other companies of all kinds understand their customers and their buying habits across multiple devices.
Impressively, since she’s launched, Drawbridge now has over 150 employees and is considered one of the fastest-growing companies in the world. Growing by almost 2000% in just the past year alone, in regards to size and the amount of revenue it generates.
Not bad for an accidental entrepreneur.
- Where mobile advertising is at now, and what the future holds
- How to find data solutions to marketing problems
- Why it’s so important to find people who share your vision
- Who you need to hire as your company starts to grow
- The unavoidable, and the avoidable, pitfalls of running a fast-growing startup
Full Transcript of Podcast with Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan
Nathan: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the “Foundr Podcast.” Thank you so much for taking the time to share your earbuds with me. I really appreciate your time and attention, guys. So I just want to say thank you. My name is Nathan Chan, and I’m the CEO and publisher of “Founder Magazine,” and the host of this podcast, the “Foundr Podcast.” And I hope you’re all having a great start to your 2017. I hope it’s off to a bang. I hope you guys are absolutely crushing it. And wherever you are around the world, I just want to say thank you. I really appreciate your time and attention.
And with this episode, you’re in for an absolutely treat. The founder that we’re speaking to today, her name is Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan. And she’s from India. She actually used to work at Google. And she quit her job, and now she’s running one of the fastest growing companies in America, called Drawbridge.
Now, what this company does is it has an algorithm that can link purchases made across users’ devices. And it’s essentially a company that is providing big data to big companies. And these big companies pay a lot of money for this data. So their growth is incredible. You know, they have been around for about five years. You know, they’re growing very, very fast. They…I think they were, yeah, definitely in the Inc. 5000. They were very, very high up. They were number 6 on the overall list. So growing super, super fast, incredible growth.
So long story short, guys, Kamakshi knows what’s up when it comes to running a fast growth business. You’re in for a treat. Me and her really connected, and really vibed. It was a great conversation. And I know you guys are gonna enjoy this one because she even called me out. She said, “Nathan, you’re asking a lot of questions that you’re experiencing right now in your company, aren’t you, at Foundr?” I was like, “Yeah. Pretty much. I get it. I know what’s up. I know what it’s like to run a company. I know what it’s like to run a startup. I know what it’s like to be stressed out. I know what it’s like to be scared if things aren’t gonna work. I know what it’s like when you’re trying to get customers. I know what it’s like when you have no money.”So yeah, it’s…when you’re trying to grow a team, you name it. So like, it’s really interesting.
So yeah, look. That’s it for me, guys. I hope that you’re enjoying this podcast. If you are, please do take the time to leave us a review on iTunes. It helps us more than you can imagine. And you know, I know you guys are entrepreneurs that are listening. I know you guys are founders. Please do share the word, and you know, let your friends know about this awesome podcast. We do our very, very best to help spread the word. And you know, one thing that I’ve really clarified over the past couple of years is we have an incredible opportunity to build a household name, entrepreneurial brand, and that’s what my goal is. That’s what my mission is. And that’s what I’m working towards doing. So you know, if you guys are enjoying this, please do help spread the word. You know, word-of-mouth happens, and is more powerful than you could ever imagine. So I’d love your support, guys.
All right. That’s it for me. Now, let’s jump into the show.
The first question that I ask everyone that we speak to is how did you get your job?
Kamakshi: I think the best way to answer this question, which I think I’ve…in the various interviews or conversations that I’ve had in the past, I think the first thing…I get asked this question. And a very natural response from my side, which is absolutely grounded in the truth of my story, is that I never planned to be an entrepreneur, or this is not a very deliberate exercise that I had always dreamt of, aspired to, and planned against.
I think I even once kinda, in a moment of candor, said that I’m the story of an accidental entrepreneur. That basically is pointing to the fact that, look, each individual, each entrepreneur, each founder has a story of his or her own. And I don’t believe that there exists this kinda uniform success story that is kinda the template that, you know, every sort of aspiring entrepreneur needs to abide by or fit into. Having said that, here are sort of my stories.
I ended up with this job because of my previous experience at a company called AdMob, where I was one of the lead scientists in the data science group of the engineering team. And that story of AdMob is a very successful one that Google acquired AdMob in 2010. So it was about a four- to four-and-a-half-year run of a highly successful company, wherein I was able to participate from very close quarters, as a part of the very early team. I was among the first 25 people or so in the company, and among the first 15 or so in the engineering team. So as a result of that, seeing the rise on being a part of formulating and creating the success gave me the ability to see entrepreneurship play out to somebody close quarters.
I actually stumbled upon AdMob even before that from my experience at Stanford where I got my PhD in a very theoretical mathematical field called Information Theory. And people with my background typically are not entrepreneurs. They’re academicians, or they’re on Wall Street with sort of this designation called quants. I’m probably among the more unorthodox journeys of information theorists to sort of an entrepreneur. And that was through this company, AdMob, as I said.
And I…when I graduated from Stanford, didn’t quite have a commercially sort of, you know, viable idea for a startup myself. Having sort of found the opportunity at AdMob, I thought like, here was a place where I could create an impact, bringing in some of the experience and expertise that I have, and being a part of sort of the success story of AdMob. And it suddenly played out well that it was a raging success, and that laid the foundation for me to go ahead and think about ways in which I’m able to continue the spirit of innovation in the field of mobile, broadly speaking, internet economy, and certainly that of, you know, advertising and marketing technologies as well.
So that was probably a couple minutes long in terms of what my journey was, but hopefully…I tried to pack in a bunch of things about unorthodox journeys, not a single template that necessarily fits all and what my particular story there was.
Nathan: I see. So AdMob was acquired by Google. How did the idea for Drawbridge come about?
Kamakshi: That’s right. So actually…so AdMob was one among the pioneering solutions at the time of, you know, the first generation of smartphones, when the first generation of smartphones, i.e. the first iOS and iPhone was released way back in 2008. And it was effectively an ad network model where app developers could effectively monetize their applications by having a direct line into the brand advertiser ecosystem rather than necessarily working through the telcoes, operators, and carriers.
So that was effectively what AdMob was, a pioneering solution in mobile advertising at the time when the first generation of smartphones were being launched in market.
My idea for Drawbridge effectively was germinated at the time when I spent…or at my time at AdMob. Seeing some of the ways in which mobile users and consumers are interacting with mobile as a device, content and mobile, the ways in which they are engaging with application so that this new medium called, you know, native applications, you realize that sort of this is likely to be the new frontier. But it has its own dynamics. It’s not…it had a certain set of problems, right? Meaning it was not as data-rich in terms of how consumers were expressing themselves in the application environment. How is it that you were able to tie the same consumer when they are on another device which is their laptop or the tablet or they’re watching the television or they’re on their desktop? If you’re able to connect that user, right, then you’re able to solve for that proverbial consumer journey in unique ways. So that means you’re able to enhance the measurement capabilities for reaching a consumer in mobile.
So some of these challenges were apparent even when we were at AdMob. So that’s when…sort of that was the germination point for the idea of Drawbridge to say that if you’re to take that mobile consumer story to the next level, and you have to carve out mobile 2.0, by definition, a mobile device is fragmented. There are a number of mobile devices we as consumers interact with. So that becomes how they connect that consumer across these multiple mobile devices. So it becomes sort of…you can formulate it as a cross-device problem.
At the end of the day, there’s a consumer identity problem you’re trying to solve for. Identity is very foundational. Cross-device is one component of identity, if you may.
So that’s how the story or the vision for Drawbridge germinated from my time at AdMob, seeing the rising tide of mobile, and understanding what some of the challenges in mobile then were.
Nathan: Got you. I see. And you know, the company…when did you found it?
Kamakshi: I founded the company in 2010 in terms of incorporation. But by the time, I was able to get my first engineer and my founding team together. We were talking…it was Jan. 4th of 2011 was effectively when all of us came together and began the enterprise of building this company.
Nathan: Got you. And you guys are now one of the fastest growing companies in America. So can you tell us more about, you know, how you’ve grown it and scaled the model?
Kamakshi: I think I kinda laid the foundation of why the company even came into being, right? You’re seeing the rising tide of mobile. You’re seeing so many consumers active on their mobile devices. You’re seeing entire markets like the Southeast Asian markets or the South Asians markets — Asian markets for that matter — where, you know, the penetration of the traditional device class is far surpassed by the penetration of mobile devices.
So the value proposition of reaching the consumer, and using this as the new marketing medium, and using this as the new digital medium is apparent for everyone. So the vein which we basically brought our capability to market was we effectively first developed this connectivity solution. So that means we have a very good understanding of the sets of devices a given consumer owns. As a result of which, we have built this massive connected consumer graph that reaches 1.3 billion consumers globally, and a little over 3 billion devices. That being sort of the five-year journey of this company in building this unique asset of connectivity of devices and consumers.
So what we have done is we basically, in some ways…or in many ways, we have democratized identity. This is a unique asset, someone like Facebook has, Google has. Why? Because through your Facebook handle, you log in to multiple devices. In the in-application environment, you fire up a browser, you log in. It tells Facebook who you are and the devices that you own. So that data is something that is inside Facebook, and similarly, that of Google.
So where we come in is this massive connected consumer graph. In some sense, it’s a very accessible data asset. It’s a portable data asset, and it is available at very high scale for a variety of different players in the internet economy. That is marketers, brands, and enterprise companies who are looking to understand consumer identity in terms of the devices, etc., that they interact in. So that’s the core asset, right?
How did we bring this core asset to market? We brought it to market in two ways. One is we built an application on top of this asset that application is effectively a programmatic automated advertising marketing solution. So this…it’s effectively a piece of software in the form of an application that sits on top of this core asset of identity data. And that is effectively a very differentiated marketing advertising tool that any brand or marketer is able to leverage to reach their consumer no matter what device they are on, and understand their consumer journey as they move from device to device so that they are able to have this sort of seamless communication and conversation with their consumer.
So it’s effectively an advertising marketing stock. That’s one way in which we brought the data solution to market.
The second way in which we brought the data solution to market is by creating a licensing model of the data itself. So that means our customers, they could be a small app developer, they could be a major marketer, they could be a major global brand, or it could be an enterprise company, be that an Oracle, Adobe, Nielsen, and the like. Any one of these guys wants to understand for their products, and their use cases, and their applications, they want access to this data because this is so fundamental in nature because it ties consumer identity across devices. So we license the data across a broad range of consumers…sorry, customers, across different sets of vertical categories servicing a variety of different use cases and applications. I’ll give you some examples of use cases and applications these guys would use it for.
They would use it for advertising and marketing. They would use it for content optimization because you and I as average consumers, we consume content on different media types, native applications, browsers across different devices, etc. Once we understand consumer identity, we are able to create a personalized view of content for the consumer. Product recommendation, Amazon is able to solve for product recommendation extremely well. And again, because it’s keyed off of an identity, you log in to Amazon, you tell who you are. But retailers, brands, etc., who don’t necessarily have a log in environment until the point of purchase, they can leverage such a solution to make a very personalized product recommendation feature on their sites, on their applications, etc.
Security and authentication because you and I operate on multiple devices, etc., all of that is effectively again solved by knowing the consumer identity across devices. So these are sort of examples of use cases at corresponding companies, solutions, and vendors, who we would be selling our data asset into.
So in summary, there are two ways that we have brought the solution to market. One is we built an application on top of the data which is the advertising marketing application, and then we brought the data solution to market to power a much broader set of use cases and application.
Nathan: Got you. And how long did it take for you to acquire this data?
Kamakshi: Excellent question. Right. In some sense, I’d say that that growing, and continuing enterprise of this company. Meaning how is it that we continue to acquire the data so that we are able to build this largest, global, independent identity solution.
So the very simple answer to that is it has taken us five years because we’ve been in business for five years. And it doesn’t end here. It’s a continuing exercise for us because consumers buy new devices, devices get churned, cookies and browsers get churned, new device types, the whole IOD class of devices are emerging. So there are various ways in which the frontier of innovation continues to grow for us. As a result of which, the problem of acquiring the data to build this kind of an identity solution at the scale that we do is an ongoing, never ending, continuing enterprise for us.
Nathan: I see. So is your team quite engineer-heavy?
Kamakshi: Great question. So I think…before I answer the question of are we engineering-heavy, I’ll probably provide this very quick background to you. Right? So when you build a very large social network and you’ve created this kind of network effect of scale, right, over the course of the 10 years or so that Facebook has been alive, there’s a massive reach, reaching 1.5 billion consumers globally. And the kind of data that they have about consumers including their identity across devices is far excellent. As a result of which, the company is so highly valued. This is true for someone like Google as well.
So if we have to solve for a consumer identity problem in a very consumer friendly fashion, that is in a privacy and the data safe fashion, then there are probably two known answers, right? You build the largest solution on this planet, or your build the largest social network on this planet. In some way, they are nonstarters, right? So in effect, what a company like Drawbridge did is we said, “Can we leverage technology to pretty much replicate the kind of capability that these two companies have?” And we’re able to build that very valuable asset that is much more accessible than what a Google or a Facebook would have.
So we anchored on the fact that we are gonna leverage technology to build this solution. Because we anchored on the fact that we are leveraging technology, we obviously have to have a very smart, high quality, high performing engineering team. Because we are not simply using engineering, which is this…we field about 80 billion internet transactions in the form of ad request on a daily basis. That is a massive amount of scale that we have to build from a computing perspective, from a systems and an infrastructure perspective. So there is a tremendous amount of engineering talent that is necessary.
Not just that, we have to also have a tremendous amount of data science talent wherein our data scientists are designing, and tuning, and tweaking the algorithmic ideas based on which we’re able to build such a high quality data solution.
So that’s where I would say that it is absolutely heavily technology centric in terms of the team composition, and precisely because we are leveraging technology to build identity and replicate the scale of what Google and Facebook would have. And we have to have multiple kinds of engineering talent, engineers who build large systems and infrastructures, and data scientists who are able to solve unique algorithmic concepts should be able to build this.
Nathan: I see. And when it comes to the growth in terms of revenue generation, what is…obviously, the data is fueling that, but you know, do you find that a lot of these, I guess, enterprise customers are coming to you to utilize your asset, and license the data?
Kamakshi: Yeah. I would say that for the following reason, right? Exactly, because I think we’ve used the word Google and Facebook probably 10 times already in this conversation. But it goes precisely to that problem. There is a growing dominance of few companies on this planet in terms of the massive amount of data that they have amassed about consumers on the internet. I think it is time that there be sort of solutions that have democratized this capability and created much more of a free world economy around consumers. And as a result of that, a company like Drawbridge is kinda spearheading that capability.
So to your question about, do enterprises have an appetite and demand for such data, absolutely they do because the ones who have the largest access to this data are not making that available in the broader ecosystem. So that means that demand for our data is, by definition, very high because the ones that have it are not making that available.
So that spearheads and fuels some of the revenue growth and the size of the business that they have because our data is deemed to be very valuable and certainly accessible. And it’s by no means trivial for us to build this kind of data, the kind of technology, etc., but that creates a lot of defensibility and the right mode in terms of, you know, the value that we have built for this company and the data that we are developing. So the access and demand for such a solution is very high.
Nathan: Got you. So what’s fueling the growth? Is the asset that you guys have, not so much…you guys are going hard on marketing. Like do you have a strong marketing team? Do you have strong channels that you’re using to acquire these enterprise customers? Do you have a big sales team, or it’s quite organic?
Kamakshi: I would say that…I would say it’s a combination of all, right? So if you have a very valuable piece of technology and a very valuable asset, that obviously creates the hard tags for organic demand for this data, for this asset, for the solution, and the technology.
But obviously, we need the power of the marketing machinery and our commercial sales operation to be able to create wide-ranging impact of this data, and wide-ranging adoption of this data. So I would certainly not say that we have built such an incredible asset that sells itself which is, to some extent, true. But it has been accelerated, and it has been catapulted by the strength of the marketing team that we have in terms of how they have positioned and created value, and certainly created awareness for such asset and technology, and certainly, our commercial teams who are sort of really taking the message into the far reaching corners of this planet. We have customers in Australia, we have customers in Singapore, in China, in Europe, here in the U.S., Latin America. So this is the strength of the commercial team that is basically creating the voice and adoption for this data solution in conjunction with the marketing team that does a tremendous job strategizing and positioning the value of such a technology and asset. And the organic value of what we have certainly makes some of their jobs easier.
Nathan: Interesting. So can you tell us…you know, how did you build this marketing commercial team to keep fueling the growth of the company? Because that’s not easy.
Kamakshi: I would basically point to sort of people, right? I think that while…many times when people talk about sort of entrepreneurship or companies, right, there is a certain amount of abstraction because the company…in some ways, there’s a…it can be viewed as an abstract sort of concept of a company. But company is a very tangible sort of sum of the people who are working for the company. That includes myself, that includes our VP of marketing, that includes our VP of sales, that includes our commercial head, our COO. It includes our marketing manager. It includes each one of these people who come together to make this happen.
To answer your question about how did we build this kind of, you know, machinery, marketing machinery, I would give a lot of sort of credit to the kind of partnership I have and to the kind of support I have from our VP of marketing, the kind of strategizing that he brings into the organization to be able to position us the right way, the ways in which our commercial team, our VP of sales, our COO, etc., who basically work hard towards continuing to kinda leverage on the value from a positioning perspective, but actually creating adoption. So it’s about finding the right kind of people who understand the vision, the mission, and work with you to be able to find life in it by actually executing it. So a lot of the credit goes to the people here at Drawbridge.
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So can you tell me about, you know, these people that you’ve effectively hired? What are you looking for? How have you got the right people in the bus especially in the early days?
Kamakshi: I think that’s an excellent question. I mean you’re talking…you said that your audience is, you know, emerging, budding entrepreneurs on the horizon, right? If there is one lesson from my entrepreneurship story or my founder story…and this is that time of the year, right? You’re hitting the end of the year, you look back, you get introspective, even in the scope of this particular year. And I also…so you also tend to get introspective of what have the last five years been.
I think there is one truth. It’s about finding the right people who will go along the ride and the enterprise of building a company with you. Hiring the right people is absolutely crucial and fundamental to building a successful company. It is as important as the product/market fit. It is as important to the merit of the idea or the product based on which the company was founded, because people are the ones who are executing and building it.
In terms of, you know, finding the right people in the early days, that’s probably…as everyone is aware, it’s harder as the…in the early days, the product/market fit is still happening. The idea is still finding its life in terms of actual adoption. The value is still being generated. So how do you engage, you know, people who have successful careers, other organization, other companies, to come and join you on this enterprise? I think you lean on a lot of your network. You lean on sort of the good people in your network who then build in sort of the network effect of, you know, one hop away, two hops away, in terms of finding and giving you pointers to the right kind of people. Your investors help you because they have strong networks as well in terms of the kinds of people that they know. So I cannot emphasize the importance of the value of your network in the early days.
Now, as the company, you know, grows and achieves success over a period of time, you are able to probably lean less on a network, you’re able to truly cast a wider net, and you’re able to achieve…and as long as you have creative ways, product value and brand value, you’re able to cast a wider net, and achieve success in hiring. But the earlier days, it is a big function of the kinds of people that you know, the people that know the people that you know — your investors, your board members, you well-wishers, your advisers. All of these guys are contributing towards sort of finding the right people especially in the early days.
Nathan: Okay. And what sort of characteristics are you looking for?
Kamakshi: That’s a great question. And I think that’s sort of an evolving question as well. Right? There are some traits and characteristics that transcend time. And there are some traits, and there are some characteristics that have sort of an increased value depending on the time and stage of the company.
So for example, in the earlier days, when there is very little in the form of real supporting infrastructure, there are…I think the fundamental trait that helps people be a part of early stage companies, and be a part of that founding team that lays the foundation of success for the company would be someone who can…who’s comfortable wearing multiple hats, someone who can sort of see the value of the company, the product, more from an end-to-end perspective rather than the specific scope of what they do as their profession.
So there are some traits around a lot…horizontal thinking, the ability to expand your horizons, the ability to wear multiple hats. And there’s a word called “scrappy” that is used a lot in sort of, you know, the startup lingo. It effectively means someone who’s willing to do anything, learn anything, climb any learning barrier or learning curve necessary to make the company successful or solve a particular problem at hand.
So I think these are the traits that you look for in people in the earlier days. And it does not mean that these have to be, you know, the 20 somethings or the 25 somethings or 30 somethings alone. I know of plenty people who transcend traditional sort of age biases, etc., to become very successful, very scrappy, and very friendly even in earlier days.
So that’s…I would say that’s sort of the early stage nature of how you’re looking for people to fit the needs of the time.
As the company grows, then you tend to look for people who have the ability not simply to lay the foundation and solve a particular problem at hand, but they’re able to think a bit more broadly. They’re able to sort of lay foundations of scale. They’re able to lay foundations of growth. And they’re able to take the company sort of from point A to point B in terms of a quantum leap by establishing sort of scale principles, growth principles, and establishing the…I’m gonna use a word called “processes.” Right? The startup word, the word “processes” can also be a dirty word. And I don’t think so. There is tremendous potential and value for process even at an early stage company. It’s about what process, how much process, and what type of process is effectively what adapts as the company grows.
Nathan: I see. And when…what do your first, you know, your founding team look like? Did you raise capital to fund the, I guess, the…I guess your founding team or to hire your founding team or…and you utilized your investors’ networks, or what did that look like for you?
Kamakshi: Sure. I think there…again, it goes back to sort of my early comment about there are different ways in which each founder and each company has carved its own path and journey, right? So in my particular instance, I did raise seed capital to be able to finance some of the very, very early ideas that we had to implement some proof of concepts that we had to build. And ours is such a heavy technology centric problem, right?
So the first set of people who actually came together, to your point of founding team, were a bunch of engineers. Actually, I kinda draw this analogy. Maybe it resonates with you. In my particular experience, the early founding team of engineers were like the firefighters. They kinda came in. They kinda set the stage for the rest of sort of the operations department so that they’re able to take it from that point onwards.
So our firefighters were the first set of engineers who helped build some of that early, early, early foundation of the data infrastructure, the high scale infrastructure, and some of the algorithmic framework, etc., that we needed. And since they are technologists and engineers, or rather, data scientists and engineers, I did not go down the sort of bootstrap model. I actually did go down the model of raising some seed capital so that we will not…none of us would be heavily compensated by any means, but also it could pay our bills, if you may.
So that is something that is the path that I took. And I think it paid rewards because I was able to attract some of the types of engineers I needed in the very early days we laid that foundation.
Nathan: I see. And when it comes to, you know, being scrappy, finding people that, I guess, are really hungry but they have a great, you know…they understand not just the task they’re doing, but the end-to-end solution, I thought that was a really good one that you said. That’s a really great quality to look for in people. What’s your expectation on how hard they should work, 9 to 5, 40 hours a week, 50 hours a week, 60, 70 hours a week? What are your thoughts on that?
Kamakshi: I think…it’s a very interesting question that you bring in terms of, you know…when you’re looking for people who…the early, early set of people who come and build the company, right? In addition to all the traits that I talked about, is it a streak of hardworking-ness that you look for?
And I think my own interpretation or requirement on what I think is ideal has evolved over the course of the, you know, five years of doing this company. I’d say it’s about…more about working smart than necessarily working hard. In the early days of the company, there are certain things that are absolutely unavoidable. You are talking about 8,000 hours however smart you work because literally you’re starting from a blank page, a clean slate, and a blank canvas. So there are so many things that need to be laid down to take the…to even get sort of the enterprise started. So it does mean that you end up, you know, putting in an enormous amount of time to kinda lay that foundation.
But over time, as you acquire a little bit more of sort of traction — it is also called product/market fit — you acquire some early customers, you’re also spending time, tremendous amount of time trying to kinda, you know, iron out the things in the early versions and the early launches.
But I don’t think that there is any prescriptive rule of the amount of time that is necessary for one person to be successful. There are some tremendously talented people that you are very aware…as you’re very well aware of, who are not necessarily the 80 6,000 hours a week kinda type of people. In fact, creativity has a saturation point very quickly, right? You cannot write all day long and be equally creative and equally sort of impactful. You cannot come up with creative marketing strategies necessarily because you put in 80-100 hours. There’s a saturation point or a cap to the kinda creative value that you bring in.
So to my early…to kinda bring all of these points together, I’d say that invariably, you end up working long hours in the early days because you’re starting from a blank canvas. It doesn’t mean that you’re not working smart. There’s just simply that much to get done. And over time, as there is some scale in the organization, and there is some traction of the product, and there is fit into the market, you’re able to kinda adapt, distribute the workload. And as a result of which, it doesn’t necessarily translate into continuously having to do that over a period of time.
Nathan: Got you. I see. So we have to work towards wrapping up, Kamakshi. But what’s next for you guys? What’s on the horizon?
Kamakshi: I’d say that our guiding north star, our guiding vision for this company is to create a highly enabling solution, and a highly enabling technology, and a highly enabling data asset in the form of this consumer identity. I think there’s a very sort of simple way to put this. We would like to create the largest independent currency for consumer identity online. That means anytime there is a given consumer, a user, on their different, on their particular device of choice, if there’s a way to understand their device ownership, if there’s a way to understand their digital identity, in a fashion that creates very personalized experiences of the internet for them, then that is sort of much more of a pleasant world than where we live in today where there is a lot of random access of content and bombardment of media that one is subjected to because the personalization element is limited because our understanding of consumer identity is limited in many ways.
If we are able to create this universal currency for consumer identity, we are talking about building the kind of personalization capabilities that go beyond the Amazon walls, that goes into every kind of internet experience that we would have.
So that’s the horizon, that’s the guiding vision, and that’s the north star towards which we are building this company.
Nathan: Amazing. And how often do you communicate this to your team?
Kamakshi: Great question. I’m really sort of thrilled by the types of questions that you ask. That’s a separate point I didn’t wanna give as a matter of feedback to you because it looks like you truly sort of have gone through the experience of introspecting and internalizing what does it mean to be sort of a founder? After all, these certain great questions are coming from you.
Because I think…absolutely, you’re right about how often do we communicate this to our team, right? And just like I said that hiring the right people has been sort of…is the single most important thing in a founder or an entrepreneur’s experience. It is also equally important that once you get them onboard, you constantly communicate with them on what is critical, crucial. What is the vision for the company? What are the opportunities? What are the challenges? It doesn’t have to be good news all the time. And I don’t think people…I think the kinds of people who come and join sort of the enterprise of building a company are well aware of sort of what it takes. There are ups, there are downs, there are impediments, there are stumbling blocks along the way.
I think something that we hold dear in this company is trying to have as transparent a conversation or as transparent a communication channel that is enabling to the entire team. So we do that in the form of what we call brown bags here. And the brown bag is done once a month. It is across the entire company. It is to create a very open communication channel that we are able to talk as one voice across the entire company. It doesn’t have to be a single line of communication or monologue from the CEO to the company. It is an interactive exercise where people are able to raise their hands and have a question that they can ask or pose to anyone in their team, to the executive team, to the CEO, or to the founder themselves.
Now, it remains to be seen. It’s not an easy exercise for everyone to do. Even though you create such a forum, not everyone is going to be at a point where they are willing to stick their hand up in the air, and you know, stand up and fearlessly pose such a question. But as you see, more and more people do that, then it creates more of an enabling environment.
So to your point about how often do we do this, that’s our forum and that’s the cadence with which we do it. But it’s a great question in the sense that it is equally important for us to create a very open communication channel with everyone in the company. It gets harder, right? As the company gets bigger, it gets harder because not only can you do it, you need other people who do it like you, and even better than you so that you’re also able to learn from them. And that’s the only way to scale.
Nathan: Awesome. Well, look. We can…last question, Kamakshi. Really great conversation. Where’s the best place people can find out more about you and Drawbridge?
Kamakshi: I would say that our website has more materials about the business, about our product, about a lot of sort of informative materials about the industry, and even competitors. We are fairly open about the way in which we position and talk about ourselves and the opportunity itself.
Additionally, I believe you have spoken with Mike Murphy before, who is our…who manages marketing communications here at Drawbridge. He would be more than happy to supplement some of the materials that you see on Drawbridge with something that’s a little bit more specific about me. He’d be happy to supplement that and provide you anything that you would need.
Nathan: Awesome. Fantastic. So people can go to drawbridge.com.
Kamakshi: Yes, sir.
Nathan: Awesome. All right. Well, look. We’ll wrap there, but thank you so much for your time. It was great to connect. And someone in my team will be in touch with Mike when this goes live.
Kamakshi: All right. Likewise, thank you so much.
Key Resources From Our Interview With Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan
- Connect with Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan on Linkedin
- Checkout Drawbridge
- Follow Kamakshi Sivaramakrishnan on Twitter