Leveraging your relationships to unlock opportunity

Ausus recently interviewed Soumitra Sharma, our Founder & CEO to understand more about Workomo – A system of Intelligence for Professional Relationships. 

We are sharing the interview again here so that more people in the ecosystem can read about our mission & product thesis.  

 

We sit with hundreds of connections in our rolodexes & our Linkedin accounts, but seldom are we able to connect with them in times when we need them the most. 

Looking for the next pivot ? Want to hire a new project manager who can deliver ? Where do you find the right investor-product fit ? 

Where do you go ? How do you build context ?

We believe our professional networks hold untapped potential to bring the right connections & conversations to our minds that may otherwise slip through. Workomo aims to do just that, surface intelligent insights from the network you trust, while you focus on being effective, committed & ultimately brilliant at what you do. 

 

Why does Workomo exist today? Why is now a good time to launch? 

SS : The current COVID-driven economic crisis is underlining the importance of inculcating a meaningful professional network as a potent way to build a career that stays robust across macro-economic cycles. As software eats the world, growth-minded professionals are operating like “mini-enterprises”, leveraging consumerized, light-weight software (eg. Slack, Zoom, Airtable, Superhuman, etc.) to drive their career hustle. Be it for making new connections and personal brand building, or side-gigs like angel investing, advising companies, etc. The gap in the market is that there is no software product out there that helps these professionals go about relationship management in a structured and intelligent way. Essentially, no one has been able to “productize” relationship management. The closest alternative is LinkedIn, but it only works well for the pure “new connections” use case. In our research, users have expressed extreme dissatisfaction with LinkedIn beyond this discovery use case, especially with respect to key missing elements such as intelligence, productivity, and curation.

Who is working on Workomo and why are you (or your team) the one(s) solving this problem?

SS : We have a fully-distributed US-India team (HQ in San Francisco), comprising 6 full-time members, most of whom are ex-founders. I am the founder and both my founding PM and I are based in SF. 

I have ~12yrs of experience as a full-stack business leader, operator and venture investor across the “US-India-China” tripod. Before founding Workomo, I was the founding member of Alibaba Group’s global expansion team, working directly with founders Jack Ma and Joe Tsai to drive cross-market initiatives post IPO. I came into Alibaba via the acquisition of a BABA portfolio company, where I was an early business leader. Before becoming an operator, I was a VC investor with IDG Ventures India, wherein I invested in the first mobile Internet wave of India starting in 2011.

Workomo reflects my journey of global VC -> operator -> founder. During my career, as I proactively worked on deep relationship building, I saw the present set of tools failing me. All the people I have crossed paths with in my career, as well as info about them, were fragmented across many platforms. LinkedIn was too noisy and generic. I created a spreadsheet of my own, with about ~130 people that I felt were important, but this was a static sheet that never got updated due to the sheer effort involved. Basically, I was struggling to structure my relationship management process using existing tools.

When I was thinking about starting-up, I wanted to focus on a problem that I had a deep internal buy-in for, and that I understood better than most founders out there. That’s how the idea of Workomo was born.

How do you measure success today? What metrics are you using?

SS : Right now, the product is in limited private beta. The key metrics we are tracking include 1) overall retention and 2) post login, how many users are repeatedly utilizing core product features of each release.

In a few sentences, who is your customer and what is your value proposition?

SS : Our customer is a new-age, global knowledge professional who has a “growth” mindset and is actively looking to leverage their network to achieve career goals. Our value proposition is: “Workomo analyzes your network, uncovering ways to strengthen relationships and reveal new opportunities.”

How did you acquire your first user? 

SS : We launched our waitlist in mid-2019, which has been steadily growing with professionals from all over the world signing-up to request product access. Our private beta users have been curated from this waitlist, which also includes professionals from our own networks.

What updates can we expect from Workomo in the short term and how do you see it evolving in the long term? 

SS : Workomo’s current version is an iOS app that integrates into the calendar, automatically picks-up, analyzes, and prioritizes the user’s relationships from it, and surfaces intelligent relationship-actions in front of the user.

In the short term, Workomo will expand integrations into other communication stacks such as contacts, messaging and social. In addition, we are rapidly building-out our intelligence engine at the back-end, to make recommendations even more intelligent, contextual and personalized. We hope to go public on the iOS app store soon.

In the long term, Workomo will become a “relationships fabric” that sits on top of major use cases that professionals leverage to interact and collaborate with their network. It will be like an assistant, capture signals from multiple sources, interacting with the user and learning about their goals and preferences in real-time; in parallel, continuously gathering and building context about their network at the back-end, and recommending the most productive relationship-actions, whenever and wherever a user likes.

Do you have competitors? If so, who are they and why are you different?

SS : Before Workomo, our users were hacking their own relationship management solutions using one or more of the following categories of products: 1) Spreadsheet software (e.g. Excel, Sheets, Airtable and personal CRMs) and 2) Note-taking apps (Evernote, OneNote, native iOS, etc.). In addition, they also use 3) Physical notebooks and 4) Contact management apps, as well as 5) just their “mind” (i.e. cognitively remembering things), in some form as part of this stack.

Essentially, the above categories of products are “Systems of Record” (SOR) whereas Workomo is a “System of Intelligence” that derives insights & generates recommendations by integrating into them.

These SORs address utilitarian “point” use cases that are relatively unintelligent and cognitively-hard and uninteresting to use (e.g. manually updating spreadsheets, writing long-form notes on Evernote, data entry into personal CRMs etc.). 

Workomo is building a full-stack, relationships-management platform from the ground-up. It has a high degree of automation and intelligence delivered in a personalized experience that reduces inertia for relationship building tasks.

If Workomo were to fail, why will that be? And what are you doing to mitigate this risk right now?

SS : At early stages, the most common reason for startup failure is the inability to make something people actually want – solving a real, deep-enough, must-have pain point for users.

This gap usually results from not talking to users enough, not deeply understanding their pain points and not getting their feedback on what you have built. 

We are mitigating this risk by taking a highly consultative approach to building Workomo, based on continuous user feedback. We operate in a very lean and iterative way, shipping small and often, getting user feedback, and incorporating inputs back into our roadmap – rinse and repeat.

We believe this approach will improve our odds of getting to true product-market fit.

If you weren’t working on Workomo, what would you be doing instead?

SS : The idea behind Workomo – using technology to help professionals in the Internet 3.0, build deeper and value-creating relationships in their careers, has been my long-term conviction. I can’t imagine working on any other mission right now!

Are you raising venture capital? 

SS : We raised a pre-seed round that was jointly led by a Fortune 500 Internet CEO and a top-tier VC firm, alongside several prominent global angels & family offices.

We will be looking to raise a seed round in the coming few quarters.

How can my readers help you? 

SS : We are looking for private beta users who can give us product feedback and actively collaborate as “innovators” to help build the product out. 

If you are looking to leverage your professional network more productively, and are frustrated with LinkedIn, do sign-up for our private beta list at our website here.

 

This interview originally appeared in the Ausus #8 Newsletter by Brett Giacco here 

Published on 22nd April 2020

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