What’s the Secret to Building Successful Businesses?
When Manoj Ganapathy, CEO & Founder of SalesTrip, moved from India to the UK in 2010, he didn’t have any grand entrepreneurial plans in mind. His only priority was to make a better life for him and his family.
Yet, over the next decade he would go on to found not one, but two successful enterprises, creating innovative solutions that solved for unmet needs in the market, as well as supporting customers across the globe.
The serial entrepreneur joined us earlier this month on the Salesforce Tech Founders club on Clubhouse to share his inspiring entrepreneurial journey, and how building on the Salesforce platform has helped him to create multiple successful businesses.
Did you always have the entrepreneurial bug growing up?
I never knew I was going to become an entrepreneur. While working for a company, I encountered a subscription billing problem that we were trying to solve and the lack of solutions and problems in the market drove me nuts. I saw a huge opportunity in that gap in the market, and I was shocked that no one had tried to solve the problem before.
The possibility of creating something that was better than what was available in the market ate away at me for about a year and then I decided to grab the opportunity before anyone else. I was an economic immigrant from India who moved here to try make a better life for myself and my family, and simply saw an opportunity. Then the entrepreneurial journey began.
How was your current business, SalesTrip, born?
I founded a bootstrapped startup, Invoice IT, in 2010 around the time of the financial crisis. In less than 5 years, the company got acquired by Steelbrick and then, in just 6 weeks, the whole company got acquired by Salesforce. So within a very short space of time, I went from being the founder of a very small startup in London to being the Head of Billing Product for Salesforce and living in San Francisco.
The idea for my current company, SalesTrip — a travel and expense product built on the Salesforce platform — came from working with Salesforce and realising that there was no existing product to link all your travel, expenses and insights back to the CRM system. As with my first company, there was a gap in the market that I spotted and wanted to seize.
Do you have any tips for building businesses in quick succession?
I have no specific background or qualifications, so my approach has always been to find a problem in the market that can be solved (there’s always one out there). Then go out and personally speak to customers to understand what they are looking for and the challenges they face. Next, go out and sell to the first 20 customers on your own; no one is more passionate about your product than you, or better equipped to sell it.
It was only after we were bringing in $50k per month consistently, in my first company, that we decided it was time to hire a sales team. First, find a problem, then a product that is quick and repeatable, then scale the team. Don’t worry about venture funding at the start; if you don’t have a product-market fit, no amount of money will help fix it.
What aspects should founders consider when selecting a technology partner?
I never had a doubt about which technology partner to work with. Salesforce was always my first choice. There are a few factors to consider when choosing, one being scale. I have personally built products on a range of platforms, and I can say with conviction that on Salesforce I can build a product five times faster than I can on any other platform. If a customer wants a new feature to be added, on Salesforce all the components are there to help you build it. You don’t need to worry about things like security, infrastructure, scalability, user access — all of these come bundled in with the platform capabilities.
The second is the number of customers using the platform. When the technology partner has as many users as Salesforce, it creates a ‘tow effect’ for partners — you can piggyback on the existing Salesforce ecosystem and then start selling to those customers directly. Being part of this ecosystem gives you instant credibility which has opened up lots of opportunities for us that we wouldn’t otherwise have had.
Lastly, in terms of technology costs, while other platform providers may offer credits to let you start building on the platform, with Salesforce, you don’t pay a penny during the building process, until the product starts making money. That’s not the case with other providers and often this factor can get overlooked.
How has the partnership helped you accelerate business growth and overcome challenges?
The partnership is a win-win situation. We are able to onboard lots of new customers while also bringing new users and business functions into the Salesforce ecosystem. There are a couple of ways in particular that it has helped us grow. We have actively made use of the marketing channels offered by Salesforce, such as advertising on AppExchange and sponsoring events and discussions, and this has been a big advantage to us. We also have access to the sales and partnerships teams which have helped us reach customers and understand their specific priorities, giving us a broader audience and greater level of insight that we wouldn’t have had outside of the partner ecosystem.
What one piece of advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
The moment you know you have a strong product or service offering, don’t waste any time — take the leap. I would also suggest doing proper research into things like where you will launch it, what market you are going after, and which distribution channels you will use.
There is an old saying “Build a great product and the people will come”. That never happens in the real world. Distribution beats a good product every time when it comes to building a successful business.
For more inspiring conversations with world-class founders and entrepreneurs, sign up to the Salesforce Tech Founders club on Clubhouse and join our bi-weekly events about all things entrepreneurship, where you can take part in the conversation and connect with members.