Siva Kumar brings passion, panache and a dose of good-willed humor to his role as Co-Founder and CEO of TheFind, the second largest shopping search engine and the twelfth fastest-growing private company listed on the Inc. 500.
Entrepreneurially minded, Siva has co-founded and successfully grown multiple, venture-funded start-ups, serving as President of Scalent Systems, President and CEO of Impresse Corporation and Chairman of Onebox. Following those successful pursuits, Siva found inspiration for what would become his next start-up in the unlikeliest of places. After selling his last company and with spare time on his hands, he observed his wife’s unwieldy process of shopping online, which Siva likened to “pogo-sticking” – multiple browsers open, simultaneous searches, separate windows for reading reviews and counting coupons. He knew there must be a better way to shop.
With his characteristic zeal, Siva Kumar set out to create a better shopping experience, one that keeps the consumer’s needs front-and-center. Starting with informal conversations, Siva was ultimately introduced to Shashi Khandelwal, then a student at Stanford who had spent considerable time thinking about this problem from a search perspective. Soon thereafter, Shashi – who would later become the company’s CTO – quickly built the first prototype of what would become TheFind’s shopping engine in his dorm room, and the seeds of a classic Silicon Valley tale were planted.
Today, after years of engineering magic, user-interface design and capital generation, Siva’s original vision has come to life as TheFind, a best-in-class shopping resource, allowing consumers to easily and efficiently shop over a half of a million stores, manufacturers and retailers – online, in stores and on their mobile devices.
Siva Kumar received his MBA from the University of Chicago; an MS from Pennsylvania State University; and a BS from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India. He resides in Menlo Park, Calif. with his wife and two daughters who now shop more efficiently than ever, thanks to TheFind.
What are you working on right now?
We are currently working on two significant areas of growth in commerce, iPads and Facebook, or more generically tablet and social commerce respectively. We have launched our Catalogue shopping experience on both and anticipate releasing much more this coming fall.
What does your typical day look like?
There really isn’t a typical day, but a typical week consists of meeting with our engineering and marketing teams as well as our retail partners. I also spend a good deal of time talking with media, industry analysts and others are attuned to consumer market trends.
3 trends that excite you?
The two most exciting trends in commerce and the ones that really energize me are the emergence of tablet and social commerce. I’ve also been following closely the rise of new business models such as private sales and mobile commerce which are helping to blur the lines between online and offline commerce.
How do you bring ideas to life?
The inspiration for new ideas and products can come from anywhere and it often starts as one person’s idea, but through our collaborative process where an idea goes through many modifications and development cycles it is ultimately owned by the entire team. Typically, we bring forward ideas in our product and developer team meetings where we make extensive use of the whiteboard and sometimes heated debate. These discussions help to coalesce ideas into a great product that we can build and deliver to market.
What inspires you?
I am inspired every time someone approaches me and tells me that they’ve had a great experience with something we’ve built. Ultimately, we are about building a great user experience and feedback from the people who use those products is the greatest reward of all.
What is one mistake you’ve made, and what did you learn from it?
I have co-founded more than half a dozen start-ups at this point and the most important thing I’ve learned (and that any startup founder needs to know) is when to hold em and when to fold em. The prevailing philosophy in start-ups is that if the business model isn’t working as imagined, you have to pivot. And while that makes sense when the business is very small, say 3-4 people, the truth is that as the company grows you will reach a point where you can’t reasonably pivot and it makes more sense to look for a more immediate exit.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
The most important one of all: Always be selling…as an entrepreneur, you have to sell people all day every day. Every meeting, every chance encounter is an opportunity to sell your idea and you should never let an opportunity to sell pass you by.
What do you read every day? Why?
I wake up to my email and read through that. I am constantly on Facebook and Twitter, catching up with what the people I follow are reading and sharing. I read the NY Times, Times of India, and Wall Street Journal every day, I’ve found Techmeme to be the best filter for what’s making news in technology today and I tend to read that on a daily basis as well.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read, and why?
Anything from Arthur C Clarke or Isaac Asimov, because sci fi forces you to look at things from different perspectives and imagine what might be possible. Honestly, I’m not a big fan of business books and I find more inspiration in science fiction.
What is your favorite gadget, app or piece of software that helps you every day?
My iPad, I go with it everywhere and really can’t live without it. It is my books, tv, internet, everything.
Who would you love to see interviewed on IdeaMensch?
Steve Jobs – I’d love to know where his ideas come from?
Why do you continue to work on start-ups?
Because I like to come up with new ideas and products, and startups give me the flexibility to solve problems in new and exciting ways.
What’s the quality to look for in an entrepreneur?
Optimism, first and foremost. Entrepreneurs have to always see the glass as half full.