Lessons From My First Venture

Krishnan Ganesh
Krishnan Ganesh
Founder and CEO, 
Krishnan Ganesh is the Founder and CEO of TutorVista, and the CEO of SMARTHINKING. He shares his experiences and the lessons he learnt from his first venture. TutorVista is an online tutoring company which was founded in 2005. It provides online tutoring at affordable prices, and has a tutor base of over 2,000 teachers across India, U.S., UK, Australia, China, and South East Asia. Apart from online tutoring, it also provides Test Prep Help, Homework help, Supplemental Tutoring, and gives assistance to the students before their tests and exams.

Prior to founding TutorVista, Ganesh had co-promoted IT&T. He was also the CEO of Wipro/Bharti British Telecom, and had held senior management positions in HCL.

My First Venture
My first venture was IT&T. During the initial years of my career in the hardware industry, I came across customers who faced issues with the maintenance of their computer. This gave me the idea to start IT&T. I think my biggest learning was managing the cash flow successfully. The company’s inception happened during a period when neither venture capital nor angel funding was popular, neither was the services industry (which was our business model). It was also a period when only manufacturing businesses were mushrooming and their requirements were different from the services sector. At that point we did not think about monetization or raising money. The whole focus was on paying employee salaries at the end of the month. IT&T taught me that for an entrepreneur it is not about EBIDTA (Earnings Before Interest, Depreciation, Tax and Amortization), EPS (Earnings Per Share), or profit margins, but about having a positive cash flow. If at the end of the month, I have cash to pay all my expenses, then I have a successful business; if I delay salaries or vendor payments, then it is an unsuccessful business.

What I Learnt
My first venture taught me that besides managing cash flows successfully, one also needs to select the right co-founders and partners. At IT&T, I had five partners with different backgrounds. But over time, we had to buy the shares of a couple of partners, as there were differences. That taught me the need to choose partners carefully and also to build a strong team, right at the beginning. In my subsequent ventures, I took care in selecting the co-founders and partners, and it was a great experience as I partnered with the right people. I realized that it is important to have co-founders with diverse skill sets who can meaningfully challenge each other, rather than always be in agreement.
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