Startups

Naa Se Haan Tak: InMobi’s founder Naveen Tewari on the challenges of building a world-class company

Source | YourStory : By Sindhu MV

“Entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted.”

This is the conclusion of a man who is part of a team that built a world-class product from India. Naveen Tewari today basks in the glow of success, which is doubly sweet for him considering his product had faced innumerable challenges, including being written off by ‘experts’. Today, as the CEO of InMobi, a young mobile advertising and discovery platform that is challenging industry giants, this man’s infectious positivity belies years of struggle.

We let him tell the story. “It was the summer of 2007,” he recalls. “I called Abhay, my friend and IIT batchmate. We met and, by the end of the day, decided to work on something together. We got our friends Amit and Mohit to complete our gang and moved to a one-room apartment in Mumbai. Our office was a roadside dhaba where we came up with the idea of mKhoj, an SMS-based mobile search engine.” Today, the three co-founders hold key positions at InMobi: Abhay Singhal as Chief Revenue Officer, Amit Gupta, as President, North America, and Mohit Saxena as Chief Technology Officer.

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‘Boys with the PPT’

During the early days of mKhoj, they were dubbed the “boys with the PPT” in the market and faced a series of rejections. But then, with the resilience and insouciance of youth, the undeterred quartet kept at it till they secured the initial funding from Mumbai Angels.

But there was no happily ever after. A year on, mKhoj was in a bad shape; it didn’t take off according to plan and it was clear that they had to evolve. “We had to look at a more scalable model and fast. We decided to move away from an SMS-based search platform to mobile advertising.” Again, there were no takers.

Says Naveen, “After multiple rejections, we were distraught. So, in mid-2008, with our maxed out credit cards and no investor to support us, we risked it all. We landed in San Francisco with a ticket on credit and a bundle of nerves. We presented our idea to KPCB (Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) and walked out happy with our first funding breakthrough for InMobi.”

Inspirational startup story

This story has been told and retold on numerous platforms. Yet, it continues to be one of the most inspirational startup stories because InMobi remains one of the few product companies from India that went on to grow phenomenally, enough to make global giants like Google and Facebook to sit up and take notice.

In its initial years, InMobi garnered a total of $15.6 million in three rounds of funding — $500,000 in 2007, $7.1 million in 2008 and $8 million in Series B funding in 2010. And in 2011, it raised about $200 million from Japan’s Softbank Corp. Today it is a part of the exalted Unicorn club (where a startup is valued over $1 billion) and has offices in 14 countries. The startup on its website makes bold statement, “We’re not just another mobile advertising company. We are a technology powerhouse.”

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