These Chennai boys will give you no SaaS
Depending on which one of the three founders you speak to at Spendflo, two aspects they repeat often is about building a good company culture and building a large company.
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 only invested our savings only in fixed deposits (FD), and never invested in mutual funds or any high growth investments. Overcoming the idea of a safety net was a significant learning,” he said.
For most people, especially when you hail 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 great company.
So, what does Spendflo do? They help companies buy, renew and manage their SaaS tools. On top of it, they promise to save up to 30% of your SaaS spend or you will get your money back. Today they manage over $100M in SaaS spend.
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, Siddharth 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. My first idea was to launch an EV startup and then Covid hit, and I put the plan to rest. It was the first time I didn’t have anything to do.” Hitting that low point spurred him to think about what he wanted to do next.
“That downtime really helped me put my visors on and figure out what I wanted to do next and how I can achieve that. I knew then that I wanted to start a company.”
The idea of Spendflo came from his past experience of managing SaaS spends at Volta, the Silicon Valley company he used to work before. Managing SaaS expenditure was always a complex problem and he wanted to build a product to solve it. This is when he started talking with his friend and now his co-founder Ajay Vardhan to explore how Spendflo can solve this problem for all companies.
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 the two biggest challenges companies face when they try to shrink SaaS expenditure:
- SaaS buying is decentralized; every team in every region wants their own software and there is no central visibility
- Pricing is extremely opaque; most people pay rack prices and don’t have any benchmarks to negotiate prices
“Spendflo is designed to solve these issues and optimize SaaS expenditure. We have now created benchmarking data on how much you should spend on every tool based on the size and needs of your company.” This data alone makes Spendflo a game changer.
Its beginnings were on a humble Slack channel, with just six to eight customers. BoldCap co-led their pre-seed round with Accel Atoms and they started building out their product. Siddharth says, “Sathya from BoldCap really understood our GTM-first approach, even when other VCs were skeptical. Later he helped us close our seed round, which is a story for another day.”
Spendflo was also 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. Their customers include companies like Wodify, Chyron, 4G Clinical, Curebase, Coinme, Mindtickle, Airmeet, Crownpeak, Lambdatest, Drip, and more.
In June 2022, it announced raising $4.4million from Accel and Together Fund for their seed funding. BoldCap and Signal Peak Ventures also participated again in this round, which also saw investments from angels from Airbase, Zuora, Ivanti, CleverTap and Slintel.
Remembering those early days, Ajay said the first build of Spendflo was very basic. The company had more of a service than a product to offer, but over time, they built a good product that can help customers manage their end to end needs.
Company culture – The Future of Spendflo
Two years since starting out, thanks to the GTM mindset, the company has been growing consistently and they expect to likely pull ahead of their competition soon. The road to achieving scale isn’t going to be without challenges, but the one thing all of them are focused on is culture - it’s about the people who make Spendflo.
“The biggest factor that will limit us is the wrong culture – how we treat our employees and our customers. We know what to build, from this point on if we mess up, it’s on us. It’s more of a people challenge than a tech problem,” said Siddharth.
Given that Rajiv and Siddharth travel a lot to meet customers and vendors, Ajay feels a certain responsibility in ensuring that all team members are on the same page. He has taken it upon himself to help create a happy and safe environment at work. “Defining the right company culture is very 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 Siddharth 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. Siddharth and Ajay agree.
On 4th April 2023, Spendflo announced their Series A fundraise of $11 million from Accel and Prosus Ventures. They will use this capital to expand their offerings globally. These Chennai boys have come a long way already, and their boldness and ambition means that the only direction this startup is moving is 🚀 🚀.