Kunal Agarwal, Co-Founder and CEO at Unravel Data Systems, on Managing Big Data Applications and Momentum
Kunal Agarwal co-founded Unravel Data Systems, Inc. in 2013. Prior to that Kunal led sales and implementation at several Fortune 100 companies. Earlier, he also co-founded Yuuze.com, a pioneer in personalized shopping and what-to-wear recommendations. Before that he helped Sun Microsystems evaluate Big Data infrastructure like Sun’s Grid Computing Engine. Kunal holds a Bachelor’s in computer engineering from Valparaiso University and a M.B.A from The Fuqua School of Business, Duke University.
In this episode, we learn how Kunal and his Co-Founder, Shivnath Babu, convinced top notch talent with cushy jobs to make sacrifices for a common vision at Unravel. He shares how Unravel has kept its cultural values in check while growing from 11 to 100+ employees across multiple continents. We learn why the “shout-out” Slack channel is the 4th most used Slack channel at Unravel and why the Unravel team spent 3 years defining product-market fit. Spoiler Alert: Kunal’s recommended reading is The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg. Listen until the end to get a crash course in race car driving.
1:24 your co-founder is Shivnath Babu. He's a tenured professor in computer science at Duke. Is that where you guys met?
1:55 How did you convince a professor at a great university to get off that train and get on the startup.
2:41 Give us the elevator pitch of what unravel does and tell us about kind of the initial vision and how it evolved over time.
3:58 Where did the vision for the company come from?
5:17 how did you convince at such an early stage good people to come onboard?
8:19 When people are sacrificing for a common vision, did that build strength and resiliency into the company?
10:41 Do you think it was the right move to have a consultant and do you suggest to other founders to do something similar as they’re going forward?
13:39 When you're recruiting somebody who's gainfully employed and doing well it's not easy. What are some of the tricks when hiring?
16:03 How hard have you found it to hand over control? How do you manage the process?
19:26 So on that point about culture you've mentioned hungry but humble. Is that the kind of the essence of how you’d describe Unravel’s culture today?
22:17 Have you had some hiccups on culture as a result of growth and how have you tried to deal with those?
24:54 A lot of people talk about emojis on Slack, do you guys use photos too?
25:44 You are not IBM yet and you are serving big companies. How are you managing to do that?
29:24 Internally, how do you align product, sales and engineering to ensure that you’re building the right thing at the right time for what the market needs?
31:46 Lightening question round!