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Last updated: 29 Jan, 2024  

Girish.9.thmb.jpg Freshworks entered a red ocean market by choice: CEO Girish Mathrubootham

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IANS | 29 Jan, 2024
Despite the funding winter induced by tightening global monetary environment, Indian startups saw $8.4 billion of capital pour into them in 2023. Over the last couple of years, Indian startups have embraced the new normal of having to improve unit economics, shorten their path to profitability and look to build strong and resilient businesses with the ultimate goal of going public.

When it comes to IPOs, perhaps no other startup listing has been as instrumental as Freshworks, in signalling the coming of age of Indian tech.

Being the first software-as-a-service (SaaS) company from India to list on NASDAQ, it brought the SaaS sector into the mix of primarily consumer internet and fintech companies that have filed for IPOs in India.

Founded in 2010 by Girish Mathrubootham and Shan Krishnasamy as Freshdesk, the company rebranded itself as Freshworks in 2017. It counts the likes of global venture capital firm Accel, among its earliest investors.

“We entered the red ocean market by choice…...with Freshworks, our whole goal was business model disruption,” said Mathrubootham in an interview as a part of a new series, PitchCraft, by SeedToScale, an open-source content and community platform for early-stage startup founders.

“The deck is a very important first impression for the investor….” said Mathrubootham while deep diving into his storytelling approach and strategy that went behind creating his initial pitch deck which helped him secure funding from Accel.

Now donning the hat of an investor on the other side of the table with Together Fund, the Rajnikanth fan recalled how he had never made a pitch deck before 2010.

“I had to google what a pitch deck is,” said Mathrubootham.

He credited Venture Hacks, a blog dedicated to startup advice, in giving him a structure to build his deck upon, focusing on communicating the strength of the team, business traction, size of the market etc.

Today, the Freshworks’ Founder looks at “craftsmanship” in pitch decks of founders, emphasising that a pitch deck is a very important first impression maker to an investor.

“Investors want to know whether a founder has the right to win…”

The first Freshworks pitch deck, which is available to be downloaded from SeedToScale, had its core team as the first slide.

“Magic happens with the team…...the strongest aspect of Freshworks in 2011, and even now in 2024 is the people.”

Commenting on his hiring strategy in the early days of Freshworks, Girish said “If I know that somebody is good, I'll just hire them, I bet on the people, and then we'll figure out the right role for them later.”

The conversation also brought in the investor viewpoint. Shekhar Kirani, partner at Accel, who wrote the first seed cheque for Freshworks weighed in on what gave him conviction to back Girish’s vision more than a decade ago.

Having backed many Indian SaaS unicorns such as Amagi, BrowserStack, Chargebee and Zenoti, the seasoned VC investor believes what truly sets a compelling pitch deck apart is the meticulous attention to detail.

“In Freshworks case, every word, every sentence, and every slide had a purpose, painting a clear picture of their vision and strategy. The confidence and depth of experience in the team was evident, highlighting their expertise and ambition to make a global impact,” said Kirani.

The series PitchCraft by SeedToScale aims to democratise the art of creating a compelling pitch deck for early-stage founders and future builders.

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