Dr. Sindhu Joseph is the CEO and co-founder of CogniCor. She is an entrepreneur with a doctorate degree in Artificial Intelligence and an inventor of 6 U.S. patents in artificial intelligence. CogniCor was born out of her Ph.D. thesis and her personal experiences with a problem that most people face: the need for customer service that really solves issues. CogniCor’s patent-pending artificial intelligence based technology enables enterprises to solve customer queries and issues instantly, minimizing human intervention while enabling corporates to have significant OPEX savings and customers to get instant, personalized resolution to their issues. Follow her at @sindhutweet.
Who is your hero? (In business, life, or both.)
I am inspired by the lives of many great people who have sheer talent, passion and perseverance to live their dreams. But as with most of us, my hero is my father. He constantly inspired and challenged me and demonstrated with his own life what it means to experiment, live on the edge and dare to be different. He came to a remote village in India with no earnings and worked his way up as a successful entrepreneur.
What’s the single best piece of business advice that helped shape who you are as an entrepreneur today, and why?
Be prepared to throw yourself into uncomfortable unfamiliar situations. I grew up in a remote and poor village in India. At the age of 15, I had the choice to stay and continue my education in my little village or take the risk of going to a far-away metropolitan city where I didn’t speak the language and where I wouldn’t have any contact with family for several years. I took the risky option and never really returned back. The experiences that I had on that journey made me the person I am today: a researcher, an inventor and an entrepreneur.
What’s the biggest mistake you ever made in your business, and what did you learn from it that others can learn from too?
Choosing large enterprises as a customer base is bold and risky enough for any startup. But focusing on one single customer and trying to win over them over for an entire year — despite many negative signals and warning signs — was destructive and demoralizing for my company. During the process it was easy to underestimate how much time passed. Thankfully for us, we recovered soon after with another customer. But from then on, we knew to really look out for the warning signs and use our team resources sparingly until we had enough assurance that the deal would hold up.
I would suggest all entrepreneurs to be bold enough to evaluate their prospects and decide to say “no.” When you stop pursuing unpromising leads earlier, you will have the energy and opportunity to start again. This helped us reshape our funnel. We have honed our skills when picking the right clients because of this mistake.
What do you do during the first hour of your business day and why?
I set my goals for the day by looking through my list of commitments for the team and for my clients. The idea is not to waste an entire team’s time because of decision or review delays and show responsibility and respect for others. Then I go through my personal agenda as a CEO, such as advancing partner discussions, looking for new client verticals, looking to get openings with a strategic clients, raising money, etc. I also spend an hour every day reading up on technical advancements relevant to the company and I collect ideas to evolve the roadmap of the product.
What’s your best financial/cash-flow related tip for entrepreneurs just getting started?
Normally founders feel pressured to spend quickly when they have raised money, assuming this is somehow proportional to growth. A lot of vendors and employees quickly gather around when this happens, which can distracting you from executing your strategy. Stay focused, stay lean and stay disciplined on growth, even if it may not feel strictly necessary. That way, once you see the big, bold opportunities opening up, you can hit them with all your resources. In other words, spend time and money smartly and wisely.
Quick: What’s ONE thing you recommend ALL aspiring or current entrepreneurs do right now to take their biz to the next level?
Find what quality in your product five clients are willing to buy right now. Knock at the doors of as many prospective clients as you can, shamelessly seek help from wise heads, and scale. In addition, enrolling your product/idea for a string of international competitions can help you get great visibility.
What’s your definition of success? How will you know when you’ve finally “succeeded” in your business?
For me, success is a personal continuum. If you feel your work is all worthwhile in your short life, you are already successful. On the contrary, when you no longer believe in the idea or business, and are hanging on to see a miracle or feel afraid to give up, it’s time to move on. In more tangible terms, when a business demonstrate that it can scale, that’s when it’s successful.
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