By Simha Sadasiva, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer
As you may have seen recently, Ushur announced its Series A funding round led by Silicon Valley’s premier firm 8VC. This is a significant milestone for us to celebrate and the entire team looks forward to expanding Ushur into a global brand.
Co-founder Henry Peter and I recognize this to be a great endorsement of our business and our technology, and we are excited to partner with Bhaskar Ghosh and David Moskowitz from the 8VC team as we accelerate to the next orbit.
So, let’s take a look at where we’ve been—and some of the lessons we’ve learned along the way—in order to set the stage for where we’re headed.
After nearly a decade of building and selling infrastructure to telco carriers worldwide, Henry and I found ourselves in teams that made it possible to commoditize and deliver technology to the masses at affordable prices. With the ubiquity of the mobile device and the daily content overload caused by social media, it became clear to us that we were staring at a fantastic opportunity to “ushur” in short snippets of engagements between businesses and consumers in the same way we engage with each other.
By automating these “micro-engagements” - and augmenting that with process and workflow automation, we realized that we could create significant value for enterprises that are reliant on legacy systems of records largely powered by human touch.
So, we quit our stable, corporate jobs and took the plunge into the world of startups.
Why We Call it Ushur
Reinforced by emerging technologies such as Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI), we could eliminate the friction that exists in interactions with customers, employees and partners. More importantly, our micro-engagement platform, coupled with an AI system, could accelerate workflows afix the endless wait times and frustration experienced when calling an insurance company, an airline or a retailer.
Similar to the seamless experience one has with an usher getting you to your destination, we deliver services for end users which are nothing short of a personalized white-glove, usher-like experience, albeit fully automated.
With our team of experts in ontology, machine learning, data visualization, zero-code systems, analytics, and enterprise software, Ushur has combined robotic process automation with a conversational automation platform. Our architecture and system design have proven our ability to apply this platform to a variety of verticals and use cases—from top-line sales and marketing to cost-optimization, operations and customer support.
Our focus on these fundamental differentiators provide us with the advantage of a bottoms-up approach to making the enterprise smarter, quicker, and more cost-effective—especially in insurance. Some of the world’s leading disability, life, and property and casualty insurance companies use Ushur for evidence of insurability, claims automation, billing automation, and a plethora of other agent assistance solutions.
Without losing focus, we recognize that similar problems exist outside of insurance (think about the friction we experience with airlines, cable companies, retailers, healthcare providers…the list goes on).
The first two years of any startup journey is largely focused on understanding the market and creating the minimum viable product—and Ushur was no different. We dabbled in a few market experiments that ended in failed go-to-market partnerships. These setbacks were not the end; they just meant it was time to reevaluate.
Our true north has always been our customers, so we decided to optimize our product, processes and services around customer acquisition and retention, and train every employee to become a Customer Success Champion. Since then, we have grown to serve Fortune 500 & Global 5000 companies.
We started Ushur with the vision of dismantling barriers for frictionless interactions, and it all starts with process automation. However, this is just the beginning and there is much to be done to put Ushur on the global map.
Regardless of the number of years of experience in established businesses, first-time entrepreneurs need to acknowledge that they don’t know what they don’t know. Along with talking to our network, attending conferences, and doing research, we recognized the need to reach out to a broad set of experts and recruit amazing mentors who have had entrepreneurial experience in investments. Our mentors provided valuable point of views that we internalized for our startup.
While a lot of advice from many sources is available, we eventually realized that every situation is unique and the team DNA and dynamics need to be a part of the decision-making process.
Charm Lady Luck
In the words of Vinod Khosla, venture capitalist and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, who spoke about the entrepreneurial roller coaster, “The essential thing that entrepreneurs do is to charm lady luck.”
Some call it luck; others call it providence. Regardless of the name, I’d consider lady luck a good friend of ours. We met one of our largest customers on an airplane. A phone call to a long-lost friend brought in one of our lead investors. We hired our first engineer—one of our star players—from a Craigslist ad.
Each time we have faced adversity, we dug deeper, came up with creative solutions, and charmed lady luck to carry forward successfully on our entrepreneurial journey.
We pitched the idea to my friend Sri, a tech executive and mentor, whose enthusiasm encouraged us to jumpstart building a proof-of-concept. With that in hand, and the help of friends and family, who were receptive to our pitches anytime, anywhere—even mid-karaoke—we raised half a million dollars and officially became a “funded startup.”
As first-time entrepreneurs, we were amazed by the pride that came with raising our first seed money, as well as the excruciatingly painful process of raising early capital. We now understand why early investors are called “Angels”. That’s definitely how we see those who have backed us. The experience of working with limited resources drove us to be very cost and capital efficient with everything we do right from our early days.
As we race ahead to gain the required velocity to take Ushur into the next orbit, the path ahead is filled with more hard work, exciting opportunities to solve hard problems and growing the company sustainably without losing the core culture that we have cultivated.
And we remind ourselves and our team each day: stay focused, stay hungry, and stay frugal!
Right after our funding, my mother passed away to be in a better place. I know she is watching over with pride on what we have accomplished. My mother has been the most influential person in my life and I owe all of my successes to her.
A special mention goes out to Pankaj Patel - an industry stalwart who has mentored us and been very instrumental in our evolution. As an up-close investor and board member of various companies, 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.
This post would be incomplete without the acknowledgment of gratitude to acknowledging our mentors, investors, partners, and friends – Hem Korubilli, Don Fotsch, Murli Thirumale, Sridhar Chandrashekar, Shashi Kiran, 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.
Finally, 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.