These Chennai boys will give you no SaaS
Depending on which one of the three founders you speak to at Spendflo, one aspect they repeat often is about building a good company culture.
Perhaps it stems from their own family values or their middle class upbringing. It could also be their experience, as they are hardened software professionals.
Another quality that immediately stands out is the ambition at play.
As one of the founders Rajiv Ramanan puts it, it’s about breaking out of the ‘FD mindset’.
“My dad was a chartered accountant, yet we always had fixed deposits (FD) as savings, never invested in mutual funds or anything. Overcoming that idea of a safety net was a significant learning,” he said.
This is an interesting point. For the average person, especially from a modest/conservative background, the goal to do well largely falls within the contours of a well-paying corporate job and climbing the management ladder.
But for Spendflo’s founding team, the goal was to build – a good product, a good service and a good company. And yes, the culture they seemed to talk about repeatedly.
So, what does Spendflo do? Created to help companies manage multiple SaaS subscriptions from a single funnel, it promises a 23% cut in Saas expenses.
Breaking the ‘Green Card’ dream
The origin of Spendflo begins with Siddharth Sreedharan, the company’s CEO. After several years in the US, where he imagined he would eventually have the Green Card life, Sidharth felt a certain restlessness.
“We were prepped to go public at my previous company. If I had stayed, it would’ve been a good life. But the question of ‘what did I really want’ hung in the air,” he said.
Still in his 20s, he decided to come back to India, a rather bold move.
The immediate aftermath of that decision felt less rewarding though. “After I came back, I was miserable. I had lost eight months of my life when Covid hit; everyone did. It was the first time I didn’t have a job.” Hitting that low point spurred him to think about what he wanted to do.
“That downtime really helped me put visors on and figure out where to go and how to get there. I was able to create a direction for myself. I knew I wanted to start my own company.”
From his own experience, he knew how tasking it was to manage multiple SaaS subscriptions and how that could balloon costs. So, he got talking with his friend Ajay Vardhan.
Siddharth met Ajay while in the US. Both had studied at Northwestern University and shared a connection of being from Chennai. That friendship turned out to be a building block for Spendflo.
Chennai boys FTW
In January 2021, Siddharth and Ajay launched Spendflo, with Rajiv, another Chennai boy, who came on board later that year. While Siddharth is responsible for the finance operations, Ajay is the tech head, and Rajiv is the go-to-market expert.
All three founders will tell you how they all recognize each other’s strengths and their complementary skills, making them quite the team.
Which is perhaps why Spendflo is among the newer crop of companies from India that are shaking things up.
Spendflo began at a time when the world was emerging from the first wave of Covid-19. Which meant that the cut to costs and the more transparent process made it a great sell.
Siddharth explained that there are three big challenges to shrinking SaaS costs.
“First, SaaS is decentralized. There are 15 different buyers. Second, there are seven stakeholders in the buying journey (including compliance and legal) and you have to align everyone 15 times a month. There is no standard process, and everyone is doing their own thing. Third, the pricing is opaque. So, there is no collated data on spend and process. Over time costs balloon.”
“Spendflo is designed to solve these three issues and optimizes SaaS costs. We have benchmark data on how you can spend.” That data alone makes Spendflo a game changer.
Its beginnings were on a humble Slack channel, with just six to eight customers. Spendflo was part of the first cohort of Accel India’s pre-seed funding initiative called Atoms.
Within months of launching, the company was managing tens of millions of dollars’ worth of SaaS subscriptions. Among its clients are the companies Crownpeak, Airmeet, Urban Company, LambdaTest, and Yellow.ai.
In June 2022, it announced raising $4.4 million from Accel and Together Fund in seed funding. BoldCap and Signal Peak Ventures participated in the round, which also saw investments from Airbase, Zuora, Ivanti, CleverTap and Slintel.
Remembering those days, Ajay said the first build of Spendflo was very basic. The company had more of a service to offer than product, but over time, they have managed to make the product the front and center of the company.
“It was a learning curve for me. I hadn’t done much coding before). I built a replica of an Excel sheet. I don’t know how Sid sold it!” he laughed.
“We’re now a 60-65% product company. We are in a place where we can define the process for the customer. We also get valuable feedback from customers who tell us where the broken pieces in the process are – that defines our road map,” added Ajay.
Company culture – The Future of Work
Two years since starting out, the founders are in a good place. They expect they will likely pull ahead of their competitors and capture new markets in time. The road to getting here, though, hasn’t been without its challenges.
But they are firmly looking towards the future. For all three of them, it’s about the people who make Spendflo. This is the culture they keep harping on about.
“The biggest factor that will limit us is the wrong culture – how we treat each other and the customer. We know what to build. From this point if we mess up, it’s on us. It’s more of a people challenge than tech,” said Sidharth.
Ajay feels a certain responsibility in ensuring that all of them are on the same page. As someone who works on the ground level with the team every day, given that Rajiv and Sidharth travel a lot to meet customers and vendors, he’s taken it upon himself to help create a happy and safe environment at work.
“Defining the company culture – it’s important to me. People give their best when they feel they’re in a good environment.”
It’s this aspect of Ajay that both Rajiv and Sidharth admire and count on. Meanwhile, Rajiv is the calm, steady hand that keeps the boat from rocking too much. Rajiv himself believes he brings a certain aspect of frugality, without limiting ambitions, to the company. Sidharth and Ajay agree.
While really opening up Spendflo’s potential is the goal, individually, the founders have goals too. For Rajiv, who used to play cricket, it’s representing India in a sport. For Ajay, who occasionally blogs about movies, it’s writing screenplays or about movies. As for Sidharth, Ajay jumped in to say, “I see him becoming a VC!”
“We started our sales motion even before building out our initial product. Most VCs were skeptical, but BoldCap backed us and co-led our pre-seed round", added Siddharth.