It’s very important to make the right hires, but equally important is to fire the bad ones. In a startup, time is your biggest enemy. So, if somebody (or something) is not workout out, you need to make a bold decision to end that relationship quickly.
Prasad Thammineni is the CEO and co-founder of OfficeDrop and a serial entrepreneur. He has founded five companies and holds more than 20 years of technology, operations, sales and marketing experience. Prasad earned his MBA from the Wharton School, where he won the Wharton Award for Leadership and Innovation. His role at OfficeDrop combines his technical and product management background with his business leadership skills.
What are you working on right now?
I’m busy making OfficeDrop a complete cloud solution for small businesses. This involves combining traditional cloud storage, syncing teams to a cloud workflow, and now adding social collaboration into the equation. Small businesses are diving into tools like Yammer, Salesforce Chatter even Facebook Groups to collaborate on content. OfficeDrop is focused on bringing tools like this together so businesses can collaborate in real time.
Where did the idea for OfficeDrop come from?
I graduated from the Wharton School of Business with boxes upon boxes of notes and papers. It was my personal project to scan all of that paper into digital files to make it manageable. The project began out of personal convenience, but quickly grew into a business idea when I realized that many companies, especially small businesses, are still heavily reliant on paper. Think of how heavily bogged down they are just by paper, filing cabinets and the storage space needed to house all of this, too. This idea quickly became a mail-in scanning service called OfficeDrop. Companies would ship their boxes of paper documents to OfficeDrop, which would in turn, scan, digitize or organize those documents in the cloud. These digitized documents quickly became more useful to companies, as they were much easier to share, sort, search and collaborate on while in the cloud — a function OfficeDrop likes to describe as a digital filing cabinet.
What does your typical day look like?
My day is split between product management, design, business development, strategy and general talks that any business leader needs to complete. A couple years ago, I got my first dog, Copper, who comes to the office – this has changed the structure of my day. I begin my mornings walking Copper, which takes about 45 minutes. That time is a luxury, giving me the chance to get away from screens and think about the big picture or day-to-day stuff without any distractions. I usually plan out the day or week ahead of me, and really clear my mind. Sometimes, I come up with the best ideas while walking Copper in the morning.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I approach the idea development process similar to how one approaches sales leads within a sales funnel. I start with a number of rough business ideas and put each idea through a due diligence funnel. Some make it through the funnel and some don’t. Ideas that make it through the funnel are more viable and have a higher chance of being successful. I usually split the due diligence process into two stages. In the first stage, I focus on the idea and in the second stage, I focus on whether I can execute on the idea. Throughout the process, I understand that ideas evolve, so I organize a team that is nimble and good at adapting to change.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Collaboration! Right now, we think of collaboration in terms of content: basically sharing and storing documents to create the best final version. Companies use a number of tools, like Yammer, to have these conversations. This is “near-real time” or “delayed” active collaboration. Something exciting, is enabling people to have these real time conversations in the documents themselves. A big part of this is to make widgets within cloud storage that allow us to make comments and suggestions as they occur, essentially making collaboration more genuine.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
I’ve never had a job that I would consider bad. I’ve learned from each position I’ve held along my career path. At one point in my career, I spent eight years at a company, only to see it go into bankruptcy because of another division. During this time, I still learned from the people I worked for and with, and ended up getting a crash course in how to manage during a crisis. This is experience that’s very valuable. Sometimes in an entrepreneur’s career path things seem bad, but it gets better.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
With OfficeDrop, we’ve made the best decisions that we could with the insights we had at the time. However, when we launched in 2008, we had no idea that the economy would take a dive for the worst. In hindsight, it would have been great to predict the popularity of mobile apps, but you know what they say about hindsight. General advice I would give to early entrepreneurs is to raise as much money as possible early on. The money you have drives the choices you make.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Be bold. Being a successful entrepreneur is all about evolving. Do not shy away from taking risks at any point during the life of your company. From time to time, your strategies will not work out. Reassess and find a new way! Continually study and embrace your skill to pave your own path to success.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
It’s very important to make the right hires, but equally important is to fire the bad ones. In a startup, time is your biggest enemy. So, if somebody (or something) is not workout out, you need to make a bold decision to end that relationship quickly. I’ve learned that there will always be things you wish you could have done differently, but holding on does not help your startup.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I have a concept I call “Parking Lot Marketing.” Here in Cambridge, Kendall Square is full of early adopters and technologists, ultimately the type of people who might be interested in my startup OfficeDrop. By visiting the local parking garages and placing branded messages, stickers, even just my logo, people will become more familiar with my company. This is a great way to raise visibility in the early adopter market, and each parking lot or garage has its own type of customers – whether it’s in the financial district or the innovation district.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
Earlier in October, I was on a call in my office. Our QA Lead, Apoorv came in to let me know my dog Copper had an accident in the conference room. I was a bit embarrassed, Copper never does that. When I entered the conference room in a hurry, everyone from OfficeDrop was singing “Happy Birthday,” and there was no accident! What a company culture! The entire team went out of its way to surprise me.
Who is your hero?
When I was growing up, I always looked up to my parents. My father was someone who worked very hard and did it honestly. He was someone who worked for the same company for a long time and didn’t take much risk. I probably got my risk-taking approach from my mother, who was very creative. If a problem needed to be solved, she was very resourceful.
Who will win the cloud wars?
Right now, these cloud wars are defined on the amount of storage space available. Large companies can continue to offer GBs and GBs of space to users, but really, what makes the cloud useable are the services that we build on top of it. As the cloud matures, I think you will see that companies adding social collaboration into these services will “win” the cloud war.