Interview of Kavita Mehta-Founder of Caymus Technology Ventures
Kavita Mehta, a serial entrepreneur, mentor, and business leader has 25 years of experience in building data-driven platforms and products. She is also co-author of HarperCollins-published book Acing Admissions: The Indian Student’s Comprehensive Guide to US College Applications.
In 2011, Kavita co-founded The Red Pen, a leading education consultancy for global university and MBA admissions. Before that, she worked as a Wall Street investment banker, business development and program management leader with Yahoo! in Silicon Valley and a digital media executive with GroupM (a division of WPP) in Singapore.
Kavita Mehta’s current venture Caymus Technology Ventures, with its AI-powered platforms Lore and LoreForTeams, aims to help seasoned professionals and young graduates to upskill themselves with the best-fit learning options.
What inspired you to start this company?
I have been mentoring students and young professionals for the last 20 years, from helping them make sense of information on courses and universities to helping them make balanced decisions by better understanding themselves. In the last few years, aspiring learners have become more open to different types of courses and are no longer interested in just going with the crowd and pursuing popular courses such as engineering, medicine or commerce.
The other trend I have noticed is that many professionals, in an effort to remain relevant and employable, are seeking out programs to upskill themselves. In essence, there is a significant need to help people identify learning options and then help them choose the one that best fits their needs at a given point in time.
Caymus was started in 2018 to provide structured information on relevant learning courses based upon interests and the skills that need to be developed. Lore uses data analytics and ML to recommend learning options, and LoreForTeams allows enterprises to organize, track and action learning. The entire end-to-end system enables smart decision-making and helps individuals build skills and challenge their status quo.
What are some of the new ideas you would implement in this company?
At Caymus, our drive is to keep upgrading ourselves – from introducing new courses and products to deploying employee-friendly initiatives in running the organization. Though we are headquartered in Mumbai, our team is located in different parts of the country, working remotely and delivering results.
I am keen to bring talented women back to the workforce by providing benefits such as working from home, flexible schedules and, in the future, childcare options in our office spaces.
What is the problem solved by your startup?
Caymus Technology Ventures is the start-up behind, Lore, an AI-powered platform that helps graduates and experienced professionals select the right-fit course based on personal requirements.
The product features of Lore allow users to search, compare and receive personalized learning options and recommendations for a range of interests. They offer categorized learning options, including courses across all leading online providers such as Masterclass, Coursera, Udemy, Udacity, and more, including free YouTube and Vimeo videos.
LoreForTeams’ proprietary technology uses data analytics and ML to find the best possible smart solution to help enterprises and individuals navigate a myriad of learning options. It is a hassle-free platform that helps organizations build, retain, and empower talent.
Caymus with its global, integrated, and holistic perspective believes in driving educational empowerment on the bedrock of education, skills, and technology.
What obstacles have you faced trying to reach your goals and what steps have you taken to overcome them?
Every company faces challenges when it is building from scratch. Caymus, too, has faced challenges even with the explosion of the ed-tech industry in the last five years. While it isn’t always easy to balance the myriad demands on my time and attention – from raising funds to developing a quality product with multiple learning options to identifying the right pricing strategies – it is rewarding to know that we are helping people in productive and sustainable ways.
Since we are focused on providing a high-quality product to our customers, our meticulous process meant that it took longer for us to commercially launch our platform. But, we have not compromised, especially when it comes to our ability to adapt, modify, and extend our functionality to new genres, geographies or use cases.
The key term for us is ‘balance’ – by intentionally balancing customer needs with our product roadmap and revenues with product quality, we will remain nimble enough to adapt and grow at a sustainable rate.
What according to you drive sales to a company?
There are four pillars to drive sales:
Need for the product (Product Market Fit) – A product needs to fill an existing need in the market, or, alternatively, create a need that people/companies don’t yet know they have. For example, every organization faces training and development needs yet most have not found a viable solution. Our product, Lore, was created to fill this exact market need.
Visibility – While a product may be fantastic and solve a need, without appropriate marketing and promotion, it will fail to gain traction.
Pricing – Competitive pricing is important, but not as important as value pricing. Pricing needs to be consistent with the product offering and take into account the buying behavior of the target audience.
Customer service – The after-sales and customer service needs to be top-notch so that the cost of acquisition of a new customer reduces significantly over time. The time and effort to convert a referred lead is significantly lower than that of a cold lead.
Who do you look to as a role model?
Share a quote that inspires you:
Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for? –Robert Browning
You can, you should, and if you’re brave enough to start, you will. –Stephen King
What is your life mantra? Share your original quote.
Everything – people, places, organizations – has its “goods” and “bads”. To be happy, to move forward, and to be productive, enjoy the good and deal with the bad.
How to be a leader according to you?
I’ve been a leader at different points in my life and career, and I have found that when I make people – my team, employees, customers, investors, and stakeholders – my focal point, I make the best long-term decisions for the company or organization. Putting people at the center means building patience, learning to actively listen, regularly recalibrating, and cultivating a sense of influence.
How do you respond to constructive criticism?
Positively. I always try to understand the situation and perspective of the person offering the criticism. This way I can focus on identifying how to modify my approach in future interactions.
Any suggestions that you want to give to aspiring startups for raising funds?
Since fundraising detracts from the focus on the core business, it’s better to build a buffer into the timelines. I suggest starting earlier than you think you should and asking for double the capital you think you need.
What do you think are the most important elements of successful business relationships?
Successful business relationships are formed through respect, trust, and consistent communications. Regular networking and follow-ups help maintain these connections; at the same time, knowing when to take a pause is also important.
Share your experience of fundraising and how difficult was it?
Fundraising has been challenging because each stakeholder’s definition of traction and timeline of success is different. Actively involved investors and partners can push you towards making your product better but can also become unnecessarily meddlesome and distract you from your mission. It’s important to communicate your core values and non-negotiables.
In June 2019, we found the right investment partners and raised Rs 1.3 crore from a clutch of angel investors from India and the US. Silicon Valley technology leader, Rob Solomon participated in the round and is on the advisory board.
How would you like to utilize the funds?
We would invest the capital in product development, building partnerships, and marketing.
What’s your opinion about StartupLanes?
StartupLanes is a great networking platform for startups and investors. An ecosystem that offers mentorship and consulting from legal matters to fundraising for startups and a platform for investors to be informed about budding startups and innovative ideas. We need well-known portals like yours to reach out to more entrepreneurs, both budding and experienced, because, when it comes to startups growth, it truly takes a village!