Just two months after beginning the EMBA program at Wharton | San Francisco, Guru Hariharan started developing Boomerang Commerce Inc., a big data software-as-a-service company focused on pricing optimization. This week, the 2014 graduate is publicly launching his venture at the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference in New York City. We asked him to tell us more about his startup experience. Here’s what he said:
I wanted to earn an MBA to learn the tools of the trade to become a CEO. I had spent my career as a technical employee at companies like Amazon and eBay, but I wanted to learn how to oversee an entire business. I also had an idea for a venture that I wanted to develop. For me, Wharton was the only school that would meet my needs. I didn’t want to settle for any other program.
Shortly after coming to Wharton, I transitioned from my job at eBay to founder of Boomerang Commerce. I had conceived the idea for Boomerang after observing the increasing digital divide between ecommerce giants like Amazon and other retailers. It was Amazon’s analytical abilities that really set it apart. I wanted to offer all retailers the advanced analytical capabilities needed to survive and succeed. The specific goal of the company was to create a big data retail analytics platform to help next-generation e-retailers drive smart pricing and assortment decisions.
After validating my idea, I developed a software prototype that enabled retailers to do price comparison of a catalog of products to those of other retailers. I took it to market and it quickly gained traction. From there, I found a larger opportunity in price optimization. Amazon can change its price every two minutes whereas the average retailer changes price every 129,600 minutes, which is equal to every three months. This is a super hard problem, but it had huge market potential. I focused on assembling a rock star team to tackle this problem. After having built a strong “enterprise team with an Amazon DNA,” we started laying the foundations of an enterprise class product.
Boomerang’s flagship product is a Dynamic Pricing Platform, which currently powers millions of pricing decisions for some of the world’s biggest retailers like Staples.com. Any retailer with greater than $50 million in annual online revenues can use our software to accelerate growth and profits. We are headquartered in Santa Clara, CA and have a product development center in Bangalore, India.
Being at Wharton throughout the startup process has been very beneficial. First, my classmates have been a great resource. I was able to get advice on everything from how to talk to CEOs and CFOs to product pricing. Second, I was able to target many of my classes to areas specific to my interests. For example, I took several courses on economics, pricing and marketing. I was able to build in knowledge from those classes into the product. That’s been a great tool to convince retailers of its value. I’m selling a product that is based on microeconomics, portfolio optimization and advanced data science concepts that have worked for 30 years while leveraging the dynamism and real-time nature of e-commerce. That is powerful.
Above and beyond the classes, the professors have been extremely supportive. In particular, Prof. Jagmohan Ragu has been a key mentor for me. He’s a world-renowned thought leader in pricing. Running my ideas by him and receiving feedback was invaluable. I’m still in touch with him and plan to visit his class as a guest lecturer.
My team and I are excited about launching the next phase of the company at the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference. The Disrupt Conference is our opportunity to really get our name out there and start the marketing machine. The conference is probably the most coveted startup launch platform – it’s the Super Bowl for startups. They selected 28 startups from around the world and my company was one of those. It’s a great chance to present our company to potential customers and institutional investors. I’m really proud of our team and all that we’ve accomplished so far.