Singing for Your Supper | Hemanth Puttaswamy from Malbek

Building a thriving corporate culture is important to most every founder. But for Hemanth Puttaswamy, it’s everything. His team at Malbek doesn’t merely touch base periodically to connect. They sing. They play music. They read poetry. And they do it every Friday.

On this episode of UpTech Report, Hemanth talks about why encouraging these personal connections is so important to his business, and how it’s affected their product.

More information:

Hemanth Puttaswamy is a technology entrepreneur. As CEO and co-founder at Malbek, his vision is to redefine the quote-to-cash solution aimed for the age of AI. Hemanth is a hands-on leader with a passion for building a great team with an amazing culture that zealously works to make every customer successful. He is responsible for overall corporate strategy and product vision with a keen eye towards building the best man-to-machine solution interface that will delight every user.

Prior to Malbek, Hemanth was the CTO and SVP of Products and Development at Revitas (acquired by ModelN), Saba (acquired by Vector Capital), and VP Of Technology at Coremetrics (acquired by IBM). He holds multiple patents in the area of AI and Big Data Analytics. Hemanth has an MBA from San Jose State University and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Science from Mysore University, India.


DISCLAIMER: Below is an AI generated transcript. There could be a few typos but it should be at least 90% accurate. Watch video or listen to the podcast for the full experience!

Hemanth Puttaswamy 0:00
You have to be able to go convince those first three customers to say, here’s the product, please try it. And give us the feedback so that we can make this product better. Right.

Alexander Ferguson 0:18
I’m excited to continue our conversation now hearing more about your journey of how you got to where you are today. Where did it begin?

Hemanth Puttaswamy 0:27
You don’t like three or four companies before we started Malbek, one of the one of the companies where I was CTO, CEO asked me to look at the old business process just because I had that I do understand the different parts of the business process. He asked me why some of the sales deals are not going through as fast as it should. And then I started looking at that the the constant theme was legal team is not able to turn around contracts past. And then I went in, start meeting with the General Counsel and other team members. So what I noticed was no fault of theirs. You know, like they had to take every contract, you are in the Salesforce. And you need to take all that data in Salesforce and create a contract that will take few days. And after that, you give it back to salesperson and the salesperson has to give it back to the prospect or customer and they will Redline and it comes back it then they don’t know where to go. It’s a maze, right? So they need to get cu approval or they have to get CFO approval, they have to get logistics team approval. It was a nightmare, right? So it made a lot of these deals just fall through the cracks or go to the next port. So that was the lightbulb whether

Alexander Ferguson 1:59
I was really the TAs, or was this really tough.

Hemanth Puttaswamy 2:04
This? You know, like Coremetrics, I was just trying to understand, and tapa was another company, where it was a gradual buildup, right. In suburb, we had to, you know, like the commitment is something that we did not understand. Right? We had 2600 customers at that time, if I’m not wrong, and across the globe, big commitment, what is committed? And how do you recognize the revenue? Is there a consistent way of recognizing the revenue, all those things started making me think that everything falls back to one thing, which is contracts, right? So that’s when I got into riveters in Revit, as I learned quite a bit about revenue management. And while learning revenue management learned quite a lot about contract management, and that’s how the Malbek is.

Alexander Ferguson 3:03
The this company here is your first being CEO, several times see leader CTO, and I’ve been the first CEO

Hemanth Puttaswamy 3:11
role. So there’s the first company as CEO. We have two other co founders, amazing co founders, we’re going to be starting this company. Yeah, getting it

Alexander Ferguson 3:22
getting a start. You’re not a new to the SAS world. So what what was it like though, being able to get funding and getting it started any lessons learned? Maybe something you do differently? Or you would you would recommend other SAS leaders to to be keep in mind when funding?

Hemanth Puttaswamy 3:40
Sure. You know, like this mine, believe it or not 22nd SAS application in my career. So that I mean, I was involved in that many. But this one is special, we put in so much allow into this. For you know, like any entrepreneur, the if you’re a business to business kind of solution. Definitely no warrior first three customers, right? First three customers, that is key, right? Of course, the product fit is extremely important, you have to solve a good problem, right? A knee has to be there. But while doing that, you have to be able to go convince those first three customers to say, here’s the product, please try it and give us the feedback so that we can make this product better. Right? So that, to me is something that I knew right from the beginning that’s important. I did not keep three customers in mind. I had kept one customer in mind to start with. So I would say definitely keep three in different industries horizontal solution.

Alexander Ferguson 4:55
That way you you have enough of a variation and version and if something happens with me Have two others that you can work with. Got it. That’s powerful for getting those first customers. And then beyond that, how to scale? Was there been any favorite campaigns or impactful ways of marketing and outreach that you have found that worked?

Hemanth Puttaswamy 5:20
So that core team is so critical, so critical. I mean, if you’re, I mean, I know entrepreneurs think that they’re superheroes, they can do anything and everything. But I was a realist, right, I wasn’t released. And I was very lucky to have an amazing, amazing executive team members, including the head of marketing, who was so creative, and we were able to get her as a part time employee. Of course, we couldn’t afford her full time. And she made all the difference, right, the perspective that she brings, and she brought in, and the head of sales, the perspective that he brought in, and the head of customer experience. So that core team is extremely critical. So the first six, seven leads that you build you, you know, like, as an entrepreneur, you’re very protective, protective, you will say it is the only way. But that’s something that I learned all the time, you should be open, you need to learn from others. Right? So these members, it’s, I would say, Malbek is shaped by many great individuals like this. Right? So that’s what is variable, core team members.

Alexander Ferguson 6:41
Name is something is everything in order to grow in order to build. And I mentioned, it’s changed and continue to grow over the years, how many team members you got now today?

Hemanth Puttaswamy 6:50
So we have about 26 employees right now. And growing. Continuously? Keep that

Alexander Ferguson 6:56
culture as you grow? I mentioned it changes a little bit. So how do you keep the right structure? And and what do you look for when you’re adding more team members?

Hemanth Puttaswamy 7:04
Sure. You know, like, this is very important. Culture is the heart of the company. Right? And the culture is there, a lot of things are invisible, right? With the way you said exactly. As a leader, right. For example, we do test fest across the company. Right? So that’s, that’s kind of, you know, like, that’s a culture of air quality is not just the QA teams responsible. Quality is everyone’s responsibility. Right? And we do some some of the things which are funny and nice. Music is an intricate part of the music. Yes. Music.

Alexander Ferguson 7:48
So how does that how does that go? Just everyone’s plays, instruments or what?

Hemanth Puttaswamy 7:54
So every Friday, actually, every Thursday, sometimes it can be Friday, but every Thursday now, we spend about one hour with different team members, either doing poems, singing, playing musical instruments, it’s upon our, where it’s open for anyone who wants to jump. Right? And believe it or not, there are new team members who have joined in the same week, and they have done singing. So that made them comfortable to be part of the system, you know, a part of the key. So that builds that camaraderie, you know, like that the the friendship between the team members, that’s very important.

Alexander Ferguson 8:44
When you’re hiring a new potential candidate, and you’re looking at them beyond the resume, what methods do you use to assess that potential of the candidate?

Hemanth Puttaswamy 8:54
So attitude is everything. Right? Attitude is so so important. With that, the the method, the open mindedness, the way the person can think, and take input and try to learn and solve certain problems. So typically, our interviews will be quite open ended questions, right? It’s because we want to learn the perspective that person brings to the table rather than someone who’s an expert in every area. So we want to see whether the person brings a specific perspective and also a very big perspective. So that is one of the most important features we look at

Alexander Ferguson 9:42
moving forward in this interesting world birth moment COVID How do you see the challenges and hurdles you’re going to need to overcome in coming into next year both internally with your team, as well as externally with your potential clients and reaching out during this this time period?

Hemanth Puttaswamy 9:59
You Actually, the things did not change a lot for the company for the COVID, because we are a startup and we are remote teams, right? Most of us are distribute we are our team is distributed across US and India, right? We did not have that big of a challenge to adjust to this. The the, the the opportunity is definitely what we’ve seen as the customers are, you know, like we’re struggling, right. But the particular customers who hadn’t implemented the solution, yet, they’re going through the process, because they were used to going to the next door and then getting that contract review and getting the contract signed. So what I’ve seen is changing the behavior of the customer, right, to adapt to online, you know, like the technology. And I believe, you know, like ours, among many other companies will help in that process. It becomes an enabler whether it’s online or offline, it’s good behavior change.

Alexander Ferguson 11:13
Are there any books or audiobooks, podcasts or, or journals or blogs that you go to or found really helpful in the past and would recommend?

Hemanth Puttaswamy 11:22
Sure, typically, I read mostly the technology books or business books. And the last one that I read was, build what matters. So build what matters. It’s a product management. It’s a book about product management, how to optimally build the features, rather than creating a bloat of features. And also, what is that perfect combination of requirements that you can gather to build the right things for the customer, the best customer hawk. So that’s one of the books I would recommend. And hiring with your head was another one. These are some of the things that board team members recommended that I read, I learned quite a bit about the things that I thought I would have hired 100 or 200 people in my career, maybe more. But I learned few things which are new. Right? Same with the product management, I built 2022 SaaS applications, but you never stop learning. Right? So there are some cool things that I learned in this new work.

Alexander Ferguson 12:39
Last question for you, what kind of technology innovations do you predict we will see in the near term next year and long term, 510 years?

Hemanth Puttaswamy 12:49
So definitely, the AI is everywhere, right? And different people think AI differently. Of course, some people think that AI is going to take away the jobs, it will do like for example, lawyers are not needed anymore. That’s one of the thought process for some people, I believe it’s going to be an enabler. It’s going to be an assistant, right, which is going to like if you can review, let’s say 100 contracts a quarter, you can increase that to 200 contracts, or maybe 300 contracts, maybe 500 contracts. But the there is no replacement for that human angle coming into that. I’m very excited about open AI. Right, the open AI innovation that’s happening. Particularly the semantics, part of it, right. But at the same time, I believe it’s the context, which is very, right. So it has to be put in the right. So you know, like, right platform. And also you need to guide the user in the right way. So yeah, I mean, that’s one of the exciting things that I’m definitely looking forward to.

Alexander Ferguson 14:11
That concludes the audio version of this episode. To see the original and more visit our UpTech Report YouTube channel. If you know a tech company, we should interview you can nominate them at UpTech Or if you just prefer to listen, make sure you’re subscribed to this series on Apple podcasts, Spotify or your favorite podcasting app.



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