Akhil founded Xena Intelligence, a SaaS platform to help businesses sell more on Amazon. It's a subscription-based business model, with a fixed fee + a percentage of growth we can bring to the client e-commerce sales channel. Their client's sales total $250k/mo, and their revenue is $15,000 per month.
Hi Akhil! Who are you and what are you currently working on?
I’m Akhil Suresh Nair and I’m the Founder & CEO of Xena Intelligence, aged 30, based in Boston, MA. I have an engineering background and have an MBA degree from Babson College.
Xena Intelligence is a SaaS platform that uses smart data analytics to help businesses sell more on Amazon through a proprietary algorithm. I am the founder & CEO of Xena Intelligence. We have a subscription-based business model for clients, which constitutes a fixed fee + a percentage of growth we can bring to their e-commerce sales channel.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
I am a first-generation immigrant with an engineering & MBA background. Xena Intelligence started as a fun side project while I had a marketing consulting business for SMBs. The idea came about since I observed a huge need in the market for Amazon sellers to compete effectively on that platform. The process of efficiently analyzing data and running efficient ad campaigns can be extremely complex and time-consuming. My idea was to automate the entire process, enabling us to use specific algorithms to optimize further online sales - which was the crux of Xena Intelligence. My experience with the needs of small businesses certainly led me to build this tool to enable them to be more competitive against large companies with considerably more ad budgets.
I decided to devote all of my time to Xena and not pursue my consulting business since this avenue had more potential and the possibility of helping out more businesses - it made the idea more scalable.
How did you go from idea to product?
We started as a marketing consulting company for small businesses. During our work with SMBs, we realized a huge gap in the market for e-commerce management systems for small companies - that there were none available. This gave us the idea to build a tool ourselves to help our clients sell more on Amazon through smart data analytics and intelligence ad campaign strategies.
Some of the initial obstacles were to convince enough small business owners to trust us to manage their Amazon accounts though we had no prior experience at that point. We were lucky enough to get the first few clients, which led to us testing our hypothesis and making the full-fledged tool.
Which were your marketing strategies to grow your business?
Our strategy was to position us as a market expert in e-commerce and focus on small businesses by actively engaging in local business chamber activities and conducting webinars and knowledge sessions.
We knew that small businesses heavily relied on word of mouth and hence we paid considerable attention to our clients and went above and beyond our scope of work. We started finding traction when our inbound marketing strategy yielded results and we started getting lots of queries.
How are you doing today and what are your goals for the future?
We currently have 4 clients, handling over 250 SKUs on Amazon and $250,000 per month total client sales. Our company revenue is $15,000 per month. We have a team of 5 in the US and overseas. We are also in the current cohort of MassChallenge.
The future goals are to expand our small business clientele and start acquiring enterprise-level customers.
Since starting Xena Intelligence, what have been your main lessons?
I think the most important lesson I have learned is persistence.
The ability to overcome self-doubt is a constant battle for all entrepreneurs. Doing so for an extended period results in thick skin and a willingness to tackle the million other obstacles that inevitably show up.
What were the biggest obstacles you overcame? What were your worst mistakes?
I sincerely believe that the biggest obstacle I had to overcome was to convince myself and my close friends and family that what I was doing was worthwhile and impactful.
At early stages, it feels like your startup is nothing more than wishful thinking and any person can easily poke holes in your business concept, and you are bombarded with a wide variety of advice on how you should take your startup forward. It can be pretty terrifying to keep going ahead against all odds.
In addition to all this, being a first-generation immigrant also brings about some challenges in understanding the processes and social nuances of succeeding in this country.
What tools & resources do you recommend?
I have used a variety of SaaS tools which make it very easy to run a virtual startup with team members across the globe, including HubSpot, LinkedIn, Quickbooks, Hootsuite, AWS, Airtable, Google Table, Google Analytics, Zoom, and more.