‘For Accel and Tiger Global, Freshworks may have delivered bigger returns than Flipkart’

Photo: Shared on Twitter by Freshworks CEO Girish Mathrubootham.

Freshworks Inc. created history last month by becoming the first software-as-a-service (SaaS) startup from India to list on Nasdaq, making it one of the proudest moments for the Indian startup ecosystem. The company raised more than $1 billion through its public offering, giving it a more than four-fold rise in its valuation at a little more than $13 billion (about 97,790 crore).

Freshworks founder Girish Mathrubootham spoke with Mint about the milestone he calls “India’s IPO” and his inspiration from Steve Jobs, even as he explains what Freshworks did right and the future direction of the software startup. Edited excerpts:

How is Freshworks adapting to governance and financial nuances, now that it is a listed company?

At Freshworks, we have been practising life as a public company for 12-18 months. I would say this was a journey, to make sure that we are execution ready and operations ready. When we say operations ready, it means whether Freshworks has all the back-office systems and processes in place to close the books. Execution ready is whether we have the (business) predictability to provide right guidance for every quarter, every year, and so on.

I’m actually feeling energized and humbled by the response to our initial public offering (IPO) and it was truly India celebrating. The Freshworks IPO is India’s IPO. The bigger feeling is of excitement. Pressure is always a privilege. Everyone has a high expectation (of us) and we have to deliver that now.

Prominent venture capitalists have backed you. How was their response on exits? How do you see value creation for public market investors?

I think the IPO has given me the opportunity to fulfil my set of responsibilities to venture capital investors who came with us on this journey starting in 2011. Now, as I take on the role of chief executive officer, I take the responsibility for creating value for a new set of public market investors. Our employees are also shareholders and not different from public market investors.

On exits, most of this is public. For Accel and Tiger Global, we have possibly clocked the largest value of returns, bigger than Flipkart as well. For them, we are the top investment in India (by returns). Our investors are supremely happy.

Now, with the IPO-milestone out of the way, what are the next key priorities for Freshworks?

We look at Freshworks as two broad units, a customer line of business and an employee line of business. With technology evolving, businesses have made investments in siloed tools of customer service, sales customer relationship management (CRM), and marketing automation. We are on this journey to break down these silos and offer an omnichannel solution.

Our mission at Freshworks is to make it fast and easy for every business to delight their customers and employees. That does not change.

We want to build a different kind of software company where we take inspiration from (Apple Inc. co-founder) Steve Jobs, and say it is not about building features but really about focusing on design to make life easier for users. That is the ethos on which our products are built.

We have seen Freshworks cut losses dramatically. Is there guidance on your profitability?

The answer to growth versus profitability is always to look at it as a balance. If we can grow efficiently, we will continue to grow. There is no need to go for profitability just because we must be profitable.

The article was first published on livemint.com.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.

Singapore Reporter/s

In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).   

  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.