This week’s Interview was with Anu Shukla, a serial entrepreneur with more than 25 years of high-tech industry experience. She is an active angel investor personally supporting and investing in women and minority-led enterprises. She is a venture partner with elevate.vc to continue the mission to serve under-represented minority founders.
Anu has founded and exited several software companies: Fintech loyalty currency company RewardsPay, Mobile ad tech and monetization player Tapjoy, e-commerce personalization company MyBuys, and early marketing automation pioneer Rubric, Inc. She has successfully exited two startups with $600M enterprise value.
Anu is the Co-Founder and Executive Chair of Botco.ai, an emerging player in the application of AI/NLP to enterprise marketing automation use cases. She serves on several non-profit boards and has experience in SaaS, Adtech and Martech product companies. She has a Bachelor of Arts degree from St. Stephens College, and an MBA and Doctorate (Honorary) in Business Administration and Management from Youngstown State University.
Anu has just authored a book called Intelligent Chat Nurturing with her Botco co-founder and it is soon to go to the final press.
Tell us more about Botco.ai and how is it growing with so many advances in Artificial Intelligence today
Botco.ai is a conversational marketing platform powered by NLP and AI. Imagine if you could have your most knowledgeable product manager be available 7X24 to answer hundreds of questions, that’s what an understanding of NLP can facilitate. Our vision was to help enterprises create a seamless journey across multiple touchpoints for their customer. During the pandemic, we saw a surge in demand in the healthcare sector and focused on it. We have grown 400% last year as health and wellness accelerated their adoption of digital technologies and virtual engagement. So, I would say we are growing very well!
What was the idea of Rewardspay and the story behind founding it?
There are $48 billion in rewards given out every year in the United States alone in the form of miles, points and cashback from Airlines, Hotels and credit card loyalty programs. We founded Rewardspay to enable consumers to easily use their loyalty currency for online shopping. My previous company Tapjoy enabled consumers to earn virtual currency in their game by performing an action like watching a video, or trying or buying something else. So, initially, I was looking to bring this large loyalty currency into game monetization but realized that it would be equally desirable for online shopping.
Being a serial entrepreneur, what are the challenges you have faced at different stages and with different companies that you have founded?
Here are the companies I have founded: Rubric, Enterprise Marketing Automation, MyBuys, Ecommerce recommendation Engine, Offerpal/Tapjoy Mobile game monetization network, RewardsPay Loyalty currency payments and Botco.ai Conversational marketing platform powered by NLP.
The biggest challenge is always finding the product-market fit, timing and execution, raising money and choosing the right exit at the right time. I think serial entrepreneurs can get better at not making the same mistakes over time!
What were your objectives and beliefs as a part of the Board of Directors of Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives and International Museum of Women?
I wanted to encourage, mentor and help other women in their entrepreneurial journeys. And FWE which is now called Watermark was a great organization for that. So our goals and objectives were aligned. On the other hand, IMOW was curating Women’s contribution to technology, business and other fields in a virtual, digital format and I did feel that was a very worthwhile cause as women’s achievements could encourage the new generation of women. Recently I joined elevate.vc as a venture partner and our mission is to fund underrepresented founders like Black, LatinX and Women entrepreneurs. So as you can tell this mission is important to me in all the organizations I have been fortunate to be involved with.
Rubric was the first company you founded and what motivated you to found it and become an entrepreneur?
I had been fortunate to be part of some winning teams in startups, I was the VP of marketing and product management at B2B companies that were successful and had IPOs or major acquisitions. I felt encouraged by that success and was beginning to build up the courage to do this myself. As a VP of marketing, I had put together a system and process to do my job and I felt that other B2B VPs of marketing would be interested in this system as well. As part of my research, I spoke to 100 Marketing people and asked them if they would be interested in purchasing his system if I built it. Based on the overwhelming results I started Rubric, it was one of the pioneering marketing automation companies and introduced email drip marketing and many other features for the first time. Rubric had a successful exit within 18months for over $400 million and was far more successful than I expected from my first venture. You could say that I was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug from that time.
What does your typical day look like?
I have become so much more productive since the pandemic as I have not wasted time on commutes and travel. So my typical day involves a lot of zoom calls whether working on Botco.ai or listening to pitches from early-stage founders, I do take my children to schools or sports as they have started in some hybrid format now, and make time for a long walk, hike or run with my golden retriever Bella every day. I have dinner with my family every day ( no business dinners) and catch some news or streaming most evenings. It is actually a lot more fun than it sounds!