"The power of the platform they are building is significant"
Jambu Palaniappan, Managing Partner at OMERS Ventures, reveals why he invested in ultimate.ai and what steps the start-up should take next.
Jambu, you started your career as a product manager. How did you end up in venture capital?
I was working in San Francisco at a company called Intuit, and wanted to join a startup. I was super fortunate to join Uber early on in 2012 when the company was 70 employees. I first lead international expansion in EMEA and India, helping to build and scale the business outside of the US. Then I looked after various businesses within the company, first the ridesharing business in emerging markets and then the Uber Eats business in EMEA. I learned what it takes to build, and the all-consuming grind that scaling a business requires. I left Uber in 2018, mostly because I was really tired. I realized then that in Europe, most VCs hadn’t built anything and that there was an opportunity to share my experience building teams and businesses with others. That’s what led me to VC.
What are your top three criteria when selecting a start-up to invest in?
It’s about the team -- is this a group of people who are resilient, obsessed with the problem they are trying to solve, and work class executors.
Where the market is going? One of the things I learned at Uber is that opportunity is not about your current market size, but about what market is being created by the product you are working on.
I put a lot of weight conversations with their customers -- do customers love your product? Are they evangelists for it without being asked? How upset would they be if it was taken away from them?
Why did OMERS Ventures decide to invest in ultimate.ai? Why now?
We met a lot of companies who were working on the future of support, but what was clear from the very beginning was that the ultimate.ai team was the broadest in their ambition to build a new paradigm of easier and better customer experiences. They had the strongest vision and it was clear that the power of the platform they were building was significant. We also spoke to many of their customers who shared with us the impact that the ultimate.ai product has had on their support experiences. Perhaps most importantly, I was really impressed with the ultimate.ai founder's desire to challenge themselves and the status quo, have difficult conversations, and relentlessly strive to do more.
From previous investments you’ve made, what are your top three learnings about growth after series A funding?
Fundraising in and of itself is a means, not an end. For me, while I’m sure a lot will evolve as the company grows and scale, perhaps the most important thing is ensuring you retain what makes the company great: preserving the outstanding culture and values of the company, keeping the bar high on new talent that joins and never losing sight of the customer experience that has gotten you here.
What is your advice to the founders of ultimate.ai? Which steps should they take next?
Stay true to what got you here. Don't lose sight of that no matter what happens -- whether that be culture, the people around you, and your customers. There will be hard days and easy days, long periods of unknowns where all the questions have no easy answers. In those periods, in particular, remaining focused on that vision and your customers will help you through those tough days.
Don’t be afraid to ignore advice -- lots of people will want to give you advice. Whose advice you listen to is entirely up to you! We are all making our investments in large part because of the team around the table. You’ve got our full backing to go and continue towards that future.
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