As one of about 80 approved software developers, Amazon.com gives Xena Intelligence CEO Akhil Suresh Nair the contact information of every seller — and their sales figures on the e-commerce platform.
And when he reaches out to sellers?
“They're glad that somebody actually understands the pain,” Nair told me about his back-end ad optimization software that takes into account a multitude of data points, including 20 key performance indicators (KPIs), both big (sales, ad spend) and nuanced (conversation rates, cost per click and click-through rates).
For example, when Nair tells "Company X" it is spending 80% of its revenue on ads, and then says he can lower that number to less than 20% in three months… “It makes things pretty fast.”
Since its founding, Xena Intelligence has grown to about $600,000 in annual recurring revenue.
And, as one of the hottest early-stage startups in the area’s tech scene, life has been moving pretty fast for Nair, who is currently in New York City as part of the latest Techstars NYC cohort.
In addition to accepting $120,000 from the nationally known accelerator, he plans to use the three-month process as the platform to prepare for seed stage funding for Xena — as he looks to raise between $1 million to $3 million in capital.
To date, Nair, who has five angel investors, has been able to raise approximately $500,000 in non-dilutive funding through prize money such as the recent Vogt Awards ($25,000) and the 2021 Render Capital Competition ($100,000), which was the impetus for him to move with his wife to Louisville this past summer. He has also received $25,000 investment from Keyhorse Capital.
Xena Intelligence founder and CEO Akhil Suresh Nair poses with the giant check that started it all for him in Louisville at the 2021 Render Capital Competition at Lynn Family Stadium.
Founded in June 2020, Xena currently has 32 e-commerce clients, which range from small shops to a few brands from consumer goods giant Nestlé.
Since its inception, the startup has been able to help its clients gain annual sales of approximately $38 million of sales, Nair said. In turn, they pay a monthly subscription rate, which consists of a percentage of those sales.
On Amazon.com alone, clients have experienced an average of a 32% increase in sales and a 34% decrease in ad spending. Nair said Xena is managing $7 million in ads for his clients on just Amazon.
Xena also services e-commerce vendors on Shopify and Walmart.com — with plans to expand to Etsy in the future.
Through both inbound and outbound methods, the company has been able to gain four to five clients a month, but Nair is confident he can increase that number — especially with the holiday season looming.
Although he looks forward to Cyber Monday later in the month, it cannot hold a flame to the original Prime Day, held from July 11-12.
“On an average, all our customers combined did more sales [those days] than they would do in a month,” he said.
A new beginning
Nair — a native of the southern Indian city of Kochi — arrived in the U.S. via the Boston area, after he had earned his MBA in entrepreneurship at Babson College through its Global Entrepreneur-In-Residence program. While at Babson, Nair worked as a consultant for a number of e-commerce companies, which exposed him to the pain point of sellers having to try to make sense of a flood of numbers and statistics relating to ad campaigns.
“That's when I realized that manually managing ad campaigns is insane,” Nair said. “It takes a lot of time. It’s inefficient. And as human beings, we have limited ability to absorb data and retain it every single day.”
Nair first heard about the Render Capital Competition through his involvement with MassChallenge, a well-known innovator network based out of Boston. He applied after a recommendation from a mentor there.
When he received the green light from Render, he also had a similar offer in Houston with a similar amount of money on the line — and a stipulation to move there for a year. After visiting both cities, Nair and his wife ended up choosing Louisville, in part, for the collective open arms of the tech/startup community.
"Winning the competition definitely gave me an idea that this could perhaps unlock a lot more doors in the community itself,” he said.
As someone who is chasing his American dream, Nair hopes to one day be able to have a traditional office location within two years in Louisville as he looks to scale up his company. He currently has an office space at Story in the NuLu neighborhood, whereas the rest of Xena Intelligence’s approximate 20 employees live in India and Israel.
"The city and the state have given me everything I have — and I see no reason why I can't build a world-class, e-commerce SaaS [software-as-a-service] company right here."
About Render Capital
Render Capital is an investment firm focused on unlocking capital for entrepreneurs in Louisville and Southern Indiana. We work to support the very best startups in our region with the right capital for their business. We want to establish the greater Louisville region as a national leader in innovation, entrepreneurship and creative capital essential for our collective success. Learn more at http://render.capital.