INSIGHTS #31 Ashwin Damera of Emeritus on why the founder-startup fit is vital

Jun 07, 2019 44 MIN

In this episode of the #INSIGHTSPodcast series, Ashwin Damera, Co-founder of EdTech company Eruditus, speaks about the effect the ‘founder-startup fit’ has on scaling a company and the importance of a mentor.
The #INSIGHTSPodcast series continues with Ashwin Damera, Co-founder of Eruditus, an EdTech company that makes Ivy League education affordable and accessible to the world.
Eruditus offers a wide portfolio of customized and open programs delivered in India, Singapore, Dubai, and other global locations. It also runs Emeritus Institute of Management, which provides short-duration online courses. The company currently has 30,000 students across 85+ countries pursuing certificate courses, diplomas, or online degrees.
In the podcast, Ashwin, who belongs to a South Indian family and was ‘expected’ to work for an MNC, talks about his journey into the world of startups. He recaps his college journey at Harvard Business School and how studying in Boston in an Ivy League institute changed his perspective about education and life.
He also talks about the origin of Travelguru, his first startup, and the risks he endured to start the company and run it for five years before it was acquired by Travelocity.
While every founder talks about product-market fit, Ashwin speaks about the ‘founder-startup fit’ and the radical importance it holds when it comes to scaling a company. “Somebody maybe very good at starting a company and taking it to $10 million in revenue, but from $10 million to $100 million, is that founder still a good fit for that company, at that stage?”
Ashwin envisioned Eruditus as he firmly believes education is transformational. He credits it for teaching him to take the plunge and become an entrepreneur. With Eruditus and Emeritus, they decided to solve the problem of lack of high-quality education.
“How many people from India, Southeast Asia, China, or Mexico can pack up their bags for two years, spend more than a crore, and get that education. In most cases, even though people want to, the schools only accept five-10 percent. Accessibility is a huge challenge. So, one of the things we set to do was solve this challenge,” he says.
As Eruditus scaled, Ashwin speaks about the launch of online programs through Emeritus and providing education that is completely opposite to the massive open online course (MOOC) model. He emphasizes on learning from their mistakes and understanding that classroom audience and online audience may not always demand the same product - in their case, courses.
The path Eruditus took, in 2016, by accepting capital was completely different from the one they had previously travelled for five years as a bootstrapped startup. Ashwin tells us why capital was essential to grow and scale.
As a founder, he also speaks about doing something you are passionate about, while also trying to find a big business space which allows you to launch a new S-curve every two years.
Comparing travel to education, he explains why it is crucial to building a sustainable enterprise over the years. The team that builds a startup and the team that is helping it scale is extremely important, Ashwin says.
He also emphasizes the importance of a mentor and the guiding angel they can be through this journey. On finding work-life balance, he says: “If you are running your startup as a marathon you will cover 24 km, but if you sprint you will cover 100 meters. To run it as a marathon, you need to have work-life balance.”
Tune in to listen to Ashwin share his knowledge about the startup culture and the exceptional growth of Emeritus in eight years.