“I’m the kind of person who learns by doing,” says Girish Mathrubootham, CEO of Freshworks, which provides a broad range of simple-to-use business software.
When he first launched Freshdesk in Chennai, India in 2011, he acquired six international customers within a fortnight. “They found us! We were tapping into existing demand,” he beams. Eight years on, the tech unicorn he cofounded is worth USD 1.5 billion.
Mathrubootham set up his first venture, a Java training company, in 1999, and went on to build helpdesk systems and work as VP of product development for Zoho.
The idea for a new venture came when he was shipping his belongings from Texas back to India, and his expensive LCD TV got broken in transit. After many futile hours trying to claim insurance, he started sharing his experience in a forum (“I wanted justice or revenge!”). Within a day, he had an apology from the company’s president. Something clicked: “I saw that the power had shifted to the user. I decided to build a fresh helpdesk product.”
Unlike most U.S. companies, Freshworks is as big in Europe as it is in the States. In 2016, it set up its European HQ in Berlin to go “deeper and wider” in the region. He chose Berlin “because of the talent pool” and the “relatively low costs.”
Mathrubootham is mainly based in the U.S., but he is constantly traveling. “It’s fantastic to see how the company changes every six months – it’s like a baby growing up, or a beast that you can’t understand,” he says.