We are delighted to announce our Series A funding round by Silicon Valley’s premier firm – 8VC. We recognize this to be a great endorsement of our business and our technology, and are excited to partner with Bhaskar Ghosh and David Moskowitz from the 8VC team as we accelerate to the next orbit. My co-founder – Henry and I acknowledge that this is a significant milestone for us to celebrate and we clearly understand that we have a lot of work ahead of us to grow Ushur into a global brand.
Why we started Ushur
Having built and sold massively scalable infrastructure to telco carriers all over the world for nearly a decade, Henry and I were part of teams that made it possible to commoditize and deliver technology to masses at affordable prices. With the ubiquity of the mobile device and the content overload users began to experience online and with social media channels, it became clear to us that we were staring at a fantastic opportunity to usher in short snippets of engagements from businesses to consumers, just like we engage with friends and family. Coming from the world of building enterprise software, we were clear that enterprise systems were mostly made for record keeping – hence the term system of record. Any given enterprise has several of these systems of records, completing tasks depended on data aggregation from multiple systems and in many cases engagements from users – customers, employees, partners. The work was mostly dependent on manual intervention, which is time consuming and expensive. This was the opportunity that we saw and knew we were equipped to go after – massive automation of the enterprise across the data and engagement realms. Our conviction was strong enough for us to quit our well-paying corporate jobs and take the plunge into the world of startups.
We coined the word “micro-engagement” to define this new engagement trend. Reinforced by the evolution of technologies, like WebRTC, HTML5, Machine Learning and AI, we were convinced that we could eliminate the friction that exists in the way businesses interact with their customers, employees, partners and fix the endless wait times and frustration we experience when we call the insurance company or the airline or the retailer. We started with a micro-engagement platform that we coupled with an AI system to make a comprehensive service automation platform.
Ushur is pronounced “USHER”. The motivation on the name was the seamless experience one experiences at a symphony or opera with an usher getting you to your destination. The service experience we deliver for end users is nothing short of a personalized white-glove usher-like experience, albeit fully automated.
Raising Early capital
We pitched the idea to my friend – Sri a tech executive and a mentor to me during a hike. He was excited that this was something tangible and made business sense. He assured me he would invest and support us if we built a proof-of-concept. Within a short time, we had put the basic concept together, made that concept demonstrable and pitched the idea to a couple of friendly customers who gave us invaluable feedback. We were not set up with enough material – product concept, early customer feedback and a direction to charter our course. I would pitch to my friends and family at every opportunity I got – at the running club, at the karaoke club, at social parties. People were very generous with their time and connections. Having known my co-founder and me for many years, they knew our resolve and that we had the chops to build this business and endorsed our business idea with their investment and connections. For some, it was a vicarious pleasure of entrepreneurship that they were experiencing through us. In a few weeks, we raised half a million dollars and became a funded startup. Being the first-time entrepreneurs, it was an incredible feeling to have raised our first seed capital. We raised additional capital as we made progress. Raising early capital was excruciatingly painful since all of it was from our network. We understood why early investors are called “Angels”, and they genuinely are that – at least the ones who have backed us.
The first two years of our startup journey involved us understanding the market requirements and creating a minimum viable product. We tried a few market development experiments that included some go-to-market partnerships that did not materialize. It was in the early days that we quickly realized that we had to optimize everything we did around customer acquisition and retention. Our true north has always been our customers. At Ushur, every employee is coached and required to become a customer success champion obsessively. We are now serving Fortune 100 companies, and Global 5000 brands and a consistent theme has emerged from serving these customers – that what we do at Ushur is not only valuable to companies, but Ushur’s service delivery automation and its KPIs are consistently repeatable across industry verticals.
Being the first time entrepreneurs that we were, we did not know what we did not know. Our views of the startup world were mostly from hearsay – talking to other friends in our network, attending conferences, and reading online anything and everything about startups. One of the better decisions we made early on was to recognize that we needed help from a broad set of experts and recruited amazing mentors who had the entrepreneurial experience in investing in companies. Our mentors provided valuable points of views that we internalized for our setup. We have also understood that you can get a lot of advice from many sources but eventually, as founders, every situation is unique and the team DNA and dynamics need to be a part of the decision making process. A special mention about Pankaj Patel – an industry stalwart who has mentored us and been very instrumental in our evolution. Pankaj’s deep experience in operationalizing businesses and being up-close as an investor and board member at many companies has proven to be invaluable to team Ushur.
I heard SUN co-founder and venture capitalist Vinod Khosla talk about the entrepreneurial roller coaster, and one of the critical quotes he makes is“The essential thing that entrepreneurs do is to charm lady luck.” I was lucky to have had the good fortune of charming lady luck more than once. Some call it luck; others may refer to it as providence. We have taken many forks in the road, and any of those could have been a wrong turn. We did get lucky along the way. We met one of our largest customers during an airplane ride. A phone call to a long-lost friend brought in one of our lead investors. We hired our first engineer based on a Craigslist ad, and she is one of our superstars. Each time we have faced adversity, we dug deep, came up with creative solutions and charmed lady luck in order to blow the wind in our direction.
Why We will Succeed
With our team of experts in Ontology, Machine Learning, Data visualization, Zero-Code systems, Analytics and Enterprise software, Ushur has built a combination of a Robotic Process Automation and a conversational automation platform. Enterprises get work done by establishing processes that we have come to now call workflows. Workflows are mostly dependent on data and interactions to complete them. It is this fundamental view of automating data management and service interaction that makes us unique and sets us apart with an advantage of providing a bottoms-up approach for making the enterprise smarter, quicker and cost-effective. Our maniacal focus on exceptional service delivery experiences is designed to bring brands more proximal to their customers. We measure this affinity with a score and help brands to improve their proximity scores with repeated and ongoing interactions that we call micro-engagements!
The Road Ahead
We are experiencing considerable traction and our architecture and system design has proven that we can apply our platform to many different verticals and use cases – across top-line sales and marketing use cases, as well as cost-optimization use cases around operations and customer support. Ushur has made many inroads in the Insurance vertical with the world’s leading Disability, Life, P&C insurance companies using Ushur for evidence of insurability, claims automation, billing automation and plethora of other agent assistance solutions. These same or similar problems exist in many other verticals. Think about the friction we experience with airlines, cable companies, retailers, health-care providers. We started Ushur with the vision to dismantle the barriers for frictionless interactions and it starts with automating back-end and front-end processes. We innovate at every aspect of how we run and manage our business. If you believe in this vision and have the chops to be a part of it, talk to us.
This writing would be incomplete without the acknowledgment of gratitude to Hem Korubilli, Don Fotsch, Murli Thirumale, Sridhar Chandrashekar, Shashi Kiran, Pankaj Patel, Murali Venkatesan, Sreevathsa BG and David for believing in our vision and supporting us all the way as our mentors, investors, partners and friends. To our angel investors, thank you for backing us with your investments and constant support without which we would not be here today. We could not have stayed the course if it was not for the tremendous sacrifice our families have made. A big thank you to our families – Geetha, Eshaan, Preethi, Thomas, and Maria for supporting us every step of the way, despite all the hardships they endured.
To my team, there is much to be done to put Ushur on the global map. Stay hungry, stay focused and stay frugal!
— Simha Sadasiva, CEO & Co-Founder, Ushur
Liam Collopy, 510-635-4150 Ext. 1009
Executive Vice President