Leveling the Playing Field

By Kumar Dhuvur WG’08, Co-founder of PowerScout

Kumar Dhuvur WG'08, Co-founder of PowerScout
Kumar Dhuvur WG’08, Co-founder of PowerScout

I am a Co-Founder of PowerScout, a big data-enabled online marketplace where consumers can research and purchase clean energy products such as rooftop solar systems. Before I became an entrepreneur, I spent 10+ years at big companies with big brands and thousands of employees.

It has been two years since we founded PowerScout and, looking back, I am amazed that despite a limited budget and a small team we have been able to accomplish goals faster and cheaper than any of the big companies I have seen operate. This is in large part due to the proliferation of software tools & platforms that make launching key business functions efficient and simple.

Co-Working: A new paradigm in working with others

While we were a little more privileged in founding PowerScout at a golf-course clubhouse rather than a garage, we had to look for office space quickly as we started expanding the team. We found an awesome co-working space in less than a week. No long-term contracts, no office infrastructure to set-up, plus it was easy to expand as our team grew. There are so many options these days: WeWork, Rocketspace, Regus, and Galvanize to name a few. Especially in regions that are start-up hubs, you can often find co-working spaces that cater to your specific industry/functional niche. PowerScout is a big data/machine learning company, and we chose Galvanize as our first co-working space because it had an entire floor dedicated to data science companies. On top of it, they had a data science training program from which we hired our first data scientist. Win/Win!

Productivity Software: Pay as you go

We set up our email, calendar and other productivity software with G Suite, Google’s product for businesses. No trying to figure out how to set-up servers and mail exchanges. Subscription services like Microsoft’s Office 365 allow you to pay a monthly fee to access what was traditionally expensive enterprise software.  Our entire team is on Slack, a messaging software that combines the best features of Skype, Lync, and Communicator, that allows for seamless connectivity across communication channels from IM to Email to Phone calls.  None of us have desk phones. We use web-based project management tools like Trello and JIRA, depending on the type of project we are managing. No jotting down to-do lists—everything lives online and even complex projects have been simple to manage.

Computing Power: On Tap

We are a big data company, so storage and computing are at the core of our business. But we didn’t have to start from scratch. We got started on Amazon Web Services (AWS) in a few hours, where you can rent computing power and storage from the cloud. No servers to buy and no IT administration required. All you need is a fast internet connection. AWS even has a program that offers promising start-ups a credit, which can get you up & running for FREE. Beyond AWS, entrepreneurs can look to Google Compute and Microsoft Azure which provide similar services on demand.

Hiring: Gig economy to the rescue

The most important asset for any company is talent. Now it is easier than ever to find top-notch talent that scales with your business. Platforms like Upwork (a general talent platform) and Toptal (more focused on software development talent) make it easy to find the right person for the right job at the right price. Through Upwork, we were able to find a social media marketer, a technical writer, and a mapping software specialist in a couple of days. The service allows our hiring to be flexible and agile, ensuring key projects are staffed with the right talent in a matter of days.

Marketing Platforms: Flattening the world

With the proliferation of advertising platforms like Google and Facebook, our company has been able to compete effectively with companies wielding much larger marketing budgets than ourselves. On Facebook, we focus on creating data driven and engaging content that can get the same traction as an article posted on a top tier publication. In our Google advertising campaigns, as long as we bid smartly, we can get our ads placed in front of the right target customers alongside big brands. The internet is a noisy place and you need to be good to stand-out, not necessarily big!

To summarize, there has never been a better time to be in a start-up.  Even with limited resources you can be productive from Day One; you can truly focus on the core value you are delivering while leveraging others in the eco-system for everything else.

Bio: Kumar Dhuvur is a Co-Founder of PowerScout, a data science enabled marketplace for sustainable smart home improvement projects. Prior to PowerScout, Kumar has led Product Marketing for SunEdison and marketing analytics for Capital One Bank and also has served as a consultant for McKinsey & Comapny. He is a Wharton grad (WG ’08) and has also received a B.S. from Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras.