For every step, you need to spend time considering how every interaction, with customers, partners, investors, etc., delivers value.
Sashi Narahari is the founder, president and CEO of HighRadius. He has spent the last 12 years bootstrapping what began as a two-person startup into a multimillion dollar, global leader in order to cash automation technology. He holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Mechanical Engineering and began his career as an SAP consultant. Since founding HighRadius, it has grown to serve more than 200 Fortune 1000 customers and received $50 million in growth funding from Susquehanna Growth Equity in September 2017 in addition to equity investments from Citi Ventures and PNC Bank.
Where did the idea for your company come from?
When I was working as a SAP consultant dealing with ERP implementations, I noticed a major gap in the B2B payments market. While Accounts Receivable (AR) and Accounts Payable (AP) are the two sides of every B2B transaction, AP solutions were everywhere but finance professionals had to deal with incomplete functionality and tools for AR management. Combining the market need with the realization that enterprises prioritize platforms, versus siloed, add-on software, I set out to build an end-to-end AR SaaS platform. Today, HighRadius is trusted by more Fortune 1000 companies than anyone else in the order-to-cash space.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
No two days are alike for me. To make each one productive, I like to avoid meetings that should be emails. For real-time collaboration, we build ad hoc teams. Productivity comes from centralized ideation and decentralized execution. My philosophy is to let the best idea win, regardless of tenure or title.
How do you bring ideas to life?
Execution separates ideas from reality. At HighRadius, we plan everything out to a level of detail granular enough for the execution owner to know exactly what is expected while still granting independence to bring creativity and skill into the final deliverable. Unless your employees have the clarity (the why) and the power to control the end-result (the how) even the biggest ideas won’t come to life.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I find the growth of autonomous systems exciting. We are seeing complex problems that humans struggle with being solved by AI. Organizations that figure out how to use this growth in automation to not just reduce costs, but redeploy resources represents an amazing trend for new types of services.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
I am a voracious reader and consumer of information. One of my favorite things to do is to watch how others have figured something out and imitate it to a certain degree, leaving enough room to optimize for uniqueness.
What advice would you give your younger self?
There’s a notion that to be a successful entrepreneur, you have to have a totally original, totally unique idea. While that certainly helps, it’s OK to take what others are doing successfully and make it your own. There’s a prevailing sense that everyone’s circumstances are unique, but the truth is that very similar problems persist in a variety of industries. Not only is it OK, it’s ideal to learn from other companies, even if the connection may not be immediately obvious.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I don’t think that VC funding is real validation. Real validation comes from your customers when they keep signing on for your services month after month. At HighRadius, we purposefully choose not to accept funding until after we achieved market traction, a strong company culture and positive unit economics.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I call it WIIFT. It’s an acronym for What’s In It for Them. It means for every step, you need to spend time considering how every interaction, with customers, partners, investors, etc., delivers value.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
It’s easy to be a good company. All you need is good top-line growth, reasonable margins and investor returns. But a great company is built when its people love what they do. We put a great deal of focus into hiring people. Over the years this has created a high-performing resource base that doesn’t rest on its laurels but continues focusing on creating a big impact in the future. This has helped our business grow exponentially.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
One of our biggest failures was not pivoting to the cloud SaaS business model fast enough. Our on-premise software business was steadily growing and generating good revenue and we were too comfortable. The big learning opportunity here is that you always need to bet on the long-term even if you have to take a short-term hit on revenue.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I’m building from the best idea I have right now.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My Vans. I wear them all the time and I’m always on my feet.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive? How do you use it?
Blinklist. I love reading about ideas in business, customer service, sales and marketing – but like any other 24×7 employed entrepreneur, am always running against time. I think it’s a great app with concise, simple-English summaries minus all the jargon and storytelling.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
“The Art of Thinking Clearly” by Rolf Dobelli. It’s simple and to the point. When you’re running a business, time is critical. It’s helped me learn how to minimize simple day-to-day errors and make better, more timely decisions.
What is your favorite quote?
“Ideas are a dime a dozen, but people who execute on them are priceless.”
- Productivity comes from centralized ideation and decentralized execution.
- Execution is what separates ideas from reality.
- Always bet on the future, even if you have to take a short-term hit on revenue.