…and kept his soul intact in the process
The traditional startup The fever dream looks like this: You have a revolutionary idea for a startup in your dorm. You drop out of school and take your idea to Sand Hill Road, where the VCs shower you with money. Your business is growing rapidly. You end up getting a billion-plus valuation and going public to much fanfare.
It’s mythology anyway, but what if there was another way? What if you could grow a billion-dollar company without the outside investment, the sales and marketing splurge, the pressure of ever-faster growth?
Zoho, a company with a wide range of front-end and back-end business software, has challenged this stereotype of growth and investment with great success. Zoho reports that last year’s revenue topped $1 billion – although as a private entity it didn’t provide an exact figure. Yet it never required a penny of outside investment.
By growing the business on its own terms, Zoho has been able to build a strong internal culture rooted in R&D and product development, growing slowly but steadily without facing any interference from investors.
Zoho’s product catalog of over 50 products covers everything from a traditional office suite to business intelligence, finance, sales and marketing, customer service and many more software categories to list here. Using a freemium model to drive usage, it competes with giants like Salesforce, Google, Microsoft, and Oracle, but has found a way to thrive despite such a tough competitive landscape.
I spoke to Founder and CEO Sridhar Vembu, as well as industry experts, to get a better idea of how Zoho has grown on its own terms and how this “little engine that might” keeps rolling.