Nov 26, 2012
Fun. For many of us, fun does not typically come to mind when we think about our jobs. These two worlds are for many of us separated as distinctly as oil and water. However, for few, such as BC Krishna, CEO of MineralTree, work and play go hand in hand.
A true pioneer in the field of innovative software solutions, Krishna has been involved in startups for the past 15 years. Now considered a guru in the entrepreneurial world, Krishna marks his third successful endeavor with MineralTree. Memento and FutureTense are the other two.
According to Krishna, it is all about “shining a light on a problem.” While selling fraud detection software at Memento, Krishna discovered an enlightening need: small businesses were the prime target of fraud online account takeover, by way of phishing attacks. However, small businesses, by their very nature did not have the capabilities to handle such attacks, nor the desire to allocate monetary resources for taking this security measure. SME (Small and Medium Enterprises) were largely in denial of the high risk associated with online fraud and the implications associated with ignoring such a chief threat to their businesses.
To overcome the hesitation, inherent in human nature, to pay for preventive measures, Krishna identified another demand in the SME market, namely a need for simpler payments. Instead of leaving security to remain a problem, Krishna sought to create an innovative solution, which gave rise to a secure and simple payment process for SMEs under the name of MineralTree.
Thus, Krishna took a unique approach to make his product more appealing by creating a streamlined payment process. According to Krishna, small businesses make 80-90% of all payments through paper checks. Not only is this a cost for the environment, but also for small businesses, amounting to a total cost of nearly $27B annually (9B checks at a cost of $3 per check). MineralTree eliminates and reduces the number of checks written by creating a more secure, less complex payment process. The market Krishna is dealing with is a large market in itself as well: over 98 percent of the 27 million businesses in the US are characterized as SMEs. In order to market and offer his business under a pre-established brand, Krishna is using the sound strategy of partnering with banks.
Like all startups, Krishna faced many challenges but found a way to work around the setbacks: “Startups are always disadvantaged,” says Krishna. A paradigm of perseverance and resolve, Krishna has learned valuable lessons from his previous startup experiences: “At some point, it’s not going to go the way you expect. You need to be patient and surround yourself with a supportive network.” From the VC firm you choose to work with to your founding team, new hires, and family and friends around you, it is clear that a support network is key in determining your company’s survival.
Many can notice inefficiency, but few have the ability, drive or desire to invent a viable solution to fix that inefficiency. You may ask why Krishna repeatedly took the risk of founding new businesses. It traces back to his time at MIT. Krishna vividly remembers the moment, driving in the car with his roommate at the time, Steve, and learning his friend was creating a cartoon software program for artists. He remembers thinking, “if he can do it, I can do it.” In many ways, the bar is higher at MIT, according to Krishna. The institution marked a turning point for him, where he was encouraged to delve down an entrepreneurial path. Being around likeminded people, driven to overcome hurdles and developing a keen desire to impact or change the world even in some small way, can be incredibly inspiring.
Like all MITers, Krishna lives for a challenge and considers creative problem solving exciting. It presents him the opportunity to apply innovative thinking to technology. In creating a new business, “you can’t think too much, you just have to try it,” Krishna advises. According to Krishna, the key to starting a company, as with all matters in life, is to have fun. And a sense of humor doesn’t hurt either!