Startups

The CTO of this Chennai startup is proof that the passion to code matters more than an IIT degree

Source | Quartz.com  |  BY:Sushma U N

An Indian software startup that doesn’t dig on IIT and IIM graduates, chase venture capital funds, or have an office in the country’s Silicon Valley, Bengaluru?

Meet Freshworks, a Chennai and San Bruno, California-based software maker. Earlier called Freshdesk, the company’s products include Freshservice, Freshsales, and Freshcaller. Its flagship, Freshdesk, is a customer support helpdesk that helps firms collate and direct customer complaints to the concerned departments and provide solutions.

What sets Freshworks apart is the ease of use of its products that also pack in a lot more than its competitors’ offerings. The company is backed by Accel, Tiger Global, CapitalG (formerly Google Capital), and Sequoia Capital India, and is valued at $750 million.

While CEO Girish Mathrubootham is a popular face, few have heard of its other founder and tech backbone, Shan Krishnasamy. Freshworks’s 37-year-old chief technology officer (CTO) is neither a product of any name brand school (ditto for Mathrubootham) nor has he had global stints at multinational corporations. An alumnus of a Tamil-medium school and the Thanthai Periyar Government Institute of Technology in the small, laid-back town of Vellore in Tamil Nadu, Krishnasamy studied mechanical engineering and taught himself programming at the age of 21. And now, he has a passion for easy-to-read, poetry-like code.

No wonder then that the founders aren’t enamoured of elite business or tech schools. They believe in mentoring promising engineers from any college. “We look for people who are raring to go, have that passion towards their craft, and own what they do,” Krishnasamy says. Freshworks identifies coding addicts and gives them a platform to blossom.

“For some it is school, for some it is college, for some it can be Freshdesk,” 42-year-old Mathrubootham adds.

The perfectionist

Before launching Freshdesk in 2010, Krishnasamy and Mathrubootham worked at Zoho, a Chennai-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) company. Krishnasamy was a technical architect and Mathrubootham, his boss, was vice-president of product management. The boss noticed Krishnasamy’s “aspiration quotient,” making him the “first and only choice” to co-found Freshdesk. “He was somebody who was never happy or satisfied with anything…his aspirations were really really high…he was always thinking of something bigger,” Mathrubootham recalled.

Since Freshworks’s inception, Krishnasamy has given technological shape to Mathrubootham’s ideas of easy-to-use software products. Mathrubootham was the “product and front-end guy” who could rely on Krishnasamy, the “tech and back-end guy,” to execute his vision.

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