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26-YO Kochi Man’s Startup Wins Over Silicon Valley, Makes It to Forbes 30 Under 30

Kerala-born entrepreneur Ashwin Sreenivas has earned a spot in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for his AI-based startup Campfire, which helps companies manage and build large communities online.

Entrepreneur Ashwin Sreenivas (26) was recently listed in Forbes’ annual 30 Under 30 list for his US-based tech start-up Campfire.

Hailing from Kochi, Kerala, Ashwin moved to the United States to pursue his graduation and post-graduation in computer science at Stanford University.

In 2019, after his post graduation, Ashwin co-founded Helia, a US-based start-up that sold software to enterprise security teams to reduce the labour intensive function of monitoring through cameras, with the help of Artificial Intelligence (AI). Late last year, Helia was acquired by another company named Scale AI.

After his stint with Helia, Ashwin launched his second start-up Campfire in 2021. This is a platform that uses AI to help companies build communities.

“Companies put in a lot of effort these days to build communities, which is essential for their growth. It helps them understand their customers, launch products in the market, and engage with their most loyal customer base. Ultimately, these communities help the company promote their products further. But while there are so many platforms to build large communities on, there are very few to help manage them,” Ashwin tells The Better India.

He adds, “So Campfire offers a platform that helps these companies in building, managing and growing communities with ease. We work with all these community platforms to gather required information from them, and use the received data to make them stronger. So we plug into your platforms like Twitter, Slack groups, Discord channels, open source forums etc and give you all the insights that will help you manage and run these large communities,” he says.

When asked about his clients, Ashwin says, “We have a fair number of clients right now. We work with a wide range of clients, ranging from a two-person start-up to multi-billion dollar companies. Most of our customers are based here in the US but we have a large number of customers in Europe and India as well. TimescaleDB, Pachyderm, Tribe AI are some of our clients.” Campfire uses the SaaS business model by charging its clients an annual subscription.

Ashwin notes that being a venture-backed company, Campfire has the best investors in Silicon Valley like Kevin Hartz the co-founder of Eventbrite. “Several people who invested in my last company Helia have also invested in Campfire,” he adds.

Talking about challenges faced while setting up a start-up, he says, “I think there are three big challenges. First one is to understand what to build or recognise what the product should be. Especially for a venture-backed company, you need to build something that could ultimately become a multi-billion dollar company. Second is understanding how to get to customers once your product is in the market. The third is recruiting – if you cannot recruit great people to come and work with you, then building an incredible company could be difficult.”

Ashwin believes that when you are trying to do something new and be successful, you need to be ready to put in a lot of hard work and time. He says that one must be ready to accept failures and learn to be okay with them. “When you start out, most things you do might not pan out the way you wanted. If you either allow yourself to be discouraged by failure or don’t attempt high risk things, then you are not going to do anything new and interesting. So it’s a combination of being willing to put in a lot of time in your work and being able to push through when most things don’t work,” he adds.

When asked about him making it into the Forbes list, he says, “I have mixed feelings now, because on one hand I am grateful and honoured, but on the other, it makes me realise how much there is left to be done.”

“Most of the 30 under 30 awards are for potential. So, they expect us to do these incredible things in future. Now I relate to this saying – ‘From those to whom much is given, much is expected’. So, there’s a lot left to be done now,” concludes Ashwin.

(Edited by Divya Sethu)

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