Mu Sigma, a business analytics company is named after the symbols of the mean (Mu) and standard deviation (Sigma). And that suits its nature. Afterall analytics is all about calculations and logic. One of the fastest growing companies in the world, Mu Sigma holds a unique distinction of securing the largest funding round ever by a business analytics company.
The company has garnered a gargantuan grand total of $163 million in funding over its 9 years of existence and that is the highest among all business analytics company. But, the initial foundation of the company is built around a novel concept. Mr. Dhiraj C Rajaram, the founder of Mu Sigma had a novel idea which bore no intentions towards entrepreneurship.
But God has decided something else for everyone. The novel concept turned into one of the most prestigious startup unicorns in the India startup ecosystem, and the rest, as they say, is history.
Rajaram never thought of starting a company. He was happy with what he was doing. However, there were few thoughts that got the company started. What were they?
For Dhiraj, the journey started because of his keen urge to learn. His second reason to startup was to separate noise from the signals – in terms of information that comes to businesses in their day-to-day life. The final reason of him starting up, as he says was his belief that innovation in business was nothing but a chance. More the trial and error, more the mistakes, more the hard work, the better the chances to innovate.
With all this going through his mind, he laid the foundation of Mu Sigma in 2004. The beginning of the company was humble, but the valuation of Mu Sigma today is $15 billion (According to media reports for 2016). When Dhiraj started the company there were other giants in the space like IBM, Accenture etc but it never demoralized him.
Let me tell you the difference between other companies and Mu Sigma. In other companies, there were different people to do programming and business analysis whereas in Mu Sigma they came up with a new role called the decision scientist. The same is an integrated role of an applied mathematician, a professional analyst, and a programmer.
He told his wife about the brilliant idea he had. And she was a bit worried when he told that he would sell the entire house and put all the money into starting the company. However, she immediately agreed as she was impressed by the idea too. Later Dhiraj asked his wife ‘how did you agree so easily?’ And she said ‘there is no point in arguing with you, once you have already made the decision!’ joked Dhiraj.
The Hiring Process
According to Dhiraj, hiring people back then when he started off with his own venture was the toughest job. He begged people to join his company. He remembers the challenge of getting right people into your company. He knew that once they start getting customers, people will change their opinion about Mu Sigma. He kept talking to his friends in Chicago and other people in the industry about the progress that the company made so that everyone knew what they were doing.
According to Dhiraj, joining a startup is a more a matter of the heart. As a part of empathizing with this nature of his employees, he admits to having gone out of the way to get these people into his organization. He says, “You should empathize with potential hires. In many cases, you have to talk with their families. I remember for one person, I had to talk to his mom to explain why joining my company is that important.”
Putting in the money
Dhiraj put 80 percent of his personal money into the business as he was adamant on not raising money from outside. When you put your own money, you spend wisely as you have much skin in the game. It’s like all or nothing. It teaches you a lot of things. Dhiraj has a lot to say about fundraising and investments. He says that when he sees a month old startup securing funding from investors, he considers it a good and a bad thing.
He says, “Now obviously they are very smart; they were able to raise the money. But I think they also give up something far more important. And it’s not just the equity. Equity is just a small price part of it. The most important thing that they give up is, a lot of learning that would have come from investing your own money. You will treat it very differently.”
The First Investment
After surviving on his own for 4 years, Dhiraj finally cracked a deal. Mu Sigma raised its first round of investment worth $30 Mn from FTVentures (Now FTCapital) in 2008.
Subsequently, in April 2011, the company raised an additional $25 million from Sequoia Capital, followed by the third round of $108 million again from Sequoia and a private equity investor General Atlantic, which is the highest investment ever made in an analytics company.
In 2013, Mu Sigma raised about $45 million in a round led by Master-Card with investors including Fidelity While Rajaram and Subramanian hold 24 per cent each, General Atlantic, Fidelity Investments, MasterCard and Sequoia Capital hold the rest. General Atlantic is among the biggest investors in the company.
He Believes in Love
He says, “ There are two kinds of entrepreneurs. One is arranged marriage entrepreneurs and the other are love marriage entrepreneurs.”
“The arranged marriage entrepreneurs are the ones who want to be entrepreneurs and they look for the right business. They shop around. They try out different ideas. They sit in Starbucks and meet with people. They talk to VCs, raise money and sometimes even exit. And like many arranged marriages they have beautiful endings.”
“The second kind of entrepreneur is the Love marriage entrepreneur. He is somebody who has found a girl and wants to live with that girl. And as part of that, he is ready to get married with that girl. The girl is the idea. I became an entrepreneur because I wanted to work on that idea.”
The Current Scenario
Currently, the headquarters of the company are located in Chicago, Illinois, United States. Mu Sigma’s services are provided across the globe. This successful organization has over 125 Fortune 500 companies as its clients. Some of the services provided by Mu Sigma include Risk Analytics, Marketing Analytics, and Supply Chain Analytics. The company has over 3500 employees and the company’s main delivery center is located in Bengaluru, India.
Mu Sigma has seen a lot of recognition in the past few years and the company has also won several awards. In the year 2011 Mu Sigma was ranked #386 in Inc. 5000. Inc. 5000 is a list of the fastest growing private companies in the United States.
Besides this, the founder Rajaram himself has won several awards for the hard work and dedicated efforts he has put into the creation and running of this organization. Rajaram received Ernst & Young Entrepreneur Of The Year India Award 2012 in the services category award. In the year 2013, he was also ranked #37 on the Fortune Magazine 40 under 40 lists.
The working atmosphere in the company is a highly professional one and most employee’s claim that they learn a lot from the organization. Besides the learning aspect, employees also say that they get great client exposure and cross-vertical exposure from the company.