..I have a dream that makes fear fear,
And it is alive; how can you bury it?
Let me live with courage, I have no fear left
I’ll tear through every path and seize success...
— Translated from Gully Boy (2019)
A defiant rapper’s challenge to the world applies just as well to most entrepreneurs out there. Nobody I know lives by those words better than Sarosh Waghmar, CEO and co-founder of Spotnana, does.
Sarosh is someone who saw his first startup crumble overnight during the dot.com crash, lost his home and slept in his car while trying to start his second company, and lived through 100+ VC rejections while braving multiple professional and personal setbacks. And yet, he kept his dream to turn his passion into his life’s mission alive.
I met Sarosh a few years ago through his co-founder and Spotnana CTO, Shikhar Agarwal, a friend and fellow IIT alum who was a founding engineer of ThoughtSpot and a member of the Google Brain team. At that time, Sarosh was running a travel management company with a $70M+ book of business that he had built from the ground up. In doing so, he was constantly frustrated by the high cost of travel, lack of choices and overall poor traveler experience. He felt that the only way to deliver the perfect traveler experience at the lowest cost was to rebuild the legacy technology stack for travel and create an open platform that welcomed other ecosystem vendors. That is exactly what Sarosh and Shikhar set out to build at Spotnana.
Spotnana is a truly global, full-stack travel management solution that offers a unified, best-in-class experience to travelers, travel agencies and travel providers. The core technology stack is an open platform that provides API access to other ecosystem partners. In order to offer unbiased travel choices, the company eschews all GDS incentives and charges only based on consumption, i.e., customers only pay per trip and no service fees.
Sarosh and Shikhar’s vision to reimagine travel infrastructure strongly resonated with a thesis that I have had for the last few years. In this era of “infinite” compute (aka cloud computing), unprecedented telemetry data, and robust ML/AI technologies, every major business function could be and will be reimagined. Travel, given its multi-trillion dollar market, was long overdue. In addition, platform companies, while harder to build, can create outsized successes. Spotnana, with its open platform available via API access, is truly unique in the industry and could absolutely become the hub for the entire travel ecosystem.
My journey with Spotnana started back at Madrona as a seed investor in the company, and together with my then-partner Steve Singh (founder/CEO of Concur), having a ringside seat to everything they did - recruiting a world-class team, building a phenomenal product, signing up an amazing set of customers far ahead of any other company at this stage, and most importantly, putting a culture in place that values trust, transparency and integrity above all else. In my close to a decade in venture capital, this continues to be my only board meeting where every one of the 100+ employees across three continents dials in!
Today, Spotnana announced a terrific Series A financing - raising $34 million - a true reflection of the team, company and business Sarosh and Shikhar have built in a remarkably short time. As I came on board at Decibel, it was a no-brainer for my new partners and I to continue the journey with Sarosh and Shikhar and invest alongside ICONIQ and Madrona. We are excited to bring in our own expertise in product-led go-to-market models and our deep network of enterprise customers to help them with the next phase of the business. I am even more excited that Spotnana would be my first Decibel deal - talk about starting with a bang!
Travel is a complex industry with plenty of others vying for a piece of the market. In addition, COVID has disrupted the industry in many ways, some of which are here to stay. However, we firmly believe that this is also the best time to build a modern travel technology company and deliver the traveler experience a post-COVID world warrants in a dramatically altered market landscape. So, as Sarosh, Shikhar and the world-class team at Spotnana continue to disrupt and redefine the multi-trillion dollar travel industry, we at Decibel are super excited to continue our partnership with them!
#apnatimeaayega (Our time shall come)
Written by Sudip Chakrabarti