Friday, October 11, 2013

Making the Leap: From Start-Up to the ‘World’s Largest Retailer’

@WalmartLabs' Vijay Raghavendra admits he had questions about moving his 21-person start-up to a company with more than 2.2 million associates worldwide. But the opportunity to leverage his company’s software to positively affect customer experience at the world’s largest retailer – as well as his first exposure to the dynamic and collaborative culture of Walmart eCommerce – overcame his initial concerns.

Vijay’s resume includes both large companies (eBay/PayPal) and small (Nextag, Zynga); before joining @WalmartLabs he was one of the co-founders of Palo Alto-based start-up Inkiru, a predictive analytics platform for big data which was acquired by Walmart eCommerce in June. We asked Vijay to give us his thoughts on making the leap from Inkiru to @WalmartLabs and any advice he might have for anyone considering that type of change.

Q.   Did you have any concerns about culture fit, moving from a small start-up to a global retail giant?

A.   “Just a few but they were quickly addressed as we progressed through the due diligence and the first few months post acquisition.  I had worked with many of the @WalmartLabs staff before, so I knew we would be working with top-level talent.

My concerns about culture fit were alleviated by our interactions with the due diligence team prior to the acquisition, when we spent a number of days at our Palo Alto office and in San Bruno working through details of technologies and platforms. I was very impressed by the due diligence team’s professionalism, business and technical acumen. It was great to see our two teams respectfully debate opposing points of view (in the small handful of instances where there were opposing points of view) and quickly work through differences of opinion.  Any remaining concerns I had about how a small, nimble startup would mesh with such a large organization disappeared post acquisition.”

Q.   It’s been four months since the acquisition began. How are you feeling now about the decision to move to @WalmartLabs?

A.  “For the most part, the past four months have been a blur. Three months from the date of acquisition (June 9) we were live; our platform was fully integrated into the backend of I think our progress has been phenomenal, and it certainly is a testament to the fact that Walmart may be a big company, but it has the ability to function like a start-up – nimble, collaborative and focused on achieving the end goal.

Perhaps the biggest advantage of working in a larger company that we’ve seen so far is that, in addition to having the ability to pick and choose the best technology and tools, you have the resources you need to get the job done.
There was a bit of a learning curve in the beginning. We work with multiple people who own parts of a process. The result is awesome support that allows us to collaborate at a scale and speed we hadn’t experienced before.”

Q.  What would you say to anyone who is considering making the jump from a small start-up to a larger company?

A.  “I would tell them to look for large companies that combine the best parts of a startup and a large company because these organizations provide:

  • The opportunity to positively affect the lives of millions of customers/users on a daily basis.
  • The ability to work with an amazing amount of data, cutting edge technologies and algorithms to solve tough problems at massive scale.
  • The opportunity to work with a talented team that works together to make quick progress towards a common goal.
  • A collaborative, fun work culture that should be an easy transition for anyone coming from a start-up.
  • In short, I would tell them to look for a company that will provide them with the opportunity to fit right in and start adding value right away.”