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Bhushan Kulkarni on what it takes to build a succesful startup

If there is a formula for starting and launching a successful startup to exit, then Bhushan Kulkarni knows it.

The Saline-based entrepreneur has gone from son of an immigrant to serial entrepreneur, working as an engineer at Ford along the way. He has since launched and sold Quantom Consulting (an engineering consulting firm) and InTouch (an international callback center), and built the successful software venture GDI InfoTech. Today he is building up InfoReady, a software platform that helps streamlines the grant application process.

So there must a be a formula to this sort of serial entrepreneurial success? If there is, Kulkarni claims he doesn’t know it. He does admit he knows what to look for when building up a startup.

"It really boils down to finding a special opportunity in the market place," Kulkarni says. "Where there is a gap in the market or a chance to radically change the game?"

Finding that need is the first part. But it is far from stopping there. There also needs to be a way forward.

"Is there an opportunity to do it differently?" Kulkarni says.

For instance, a few years ago Kulkarni noticed that researchers struggled through the grant process. Brilliant people would get lost in information overload and end up spending hours doing things they hated, such as writing out and managing grants, instead of what they were best at, research. He also noticed that few people were trying to tackle this problem.

"The options for these tools were so low," Kulkarni says. "It was a very low number."

That led to him launching InfoReady four years go. It has since grown 800 percent and raised $2 million in venture capital. It is looking to wrap up a Series A round of investment later this year.

However, such growth rarely goes in a straight line. Kulkarni points out that entrepreneurs need to think big picture on their ventures and be ready to change and adapt to make sure they are successful.

"One thing leads to another, always," Kulkarni says. "You always have to start with a vision in mind. It all starts by taking that vision and implementing it with a handful of customers."

But most importantly, Kulkarni says a successful startup needs customers. The more the better and the quicker they get them the better. Once the company gets them, then job No. 1 becomes making them happy.

"A startup is not a business until you have your first customers who are delighted with your product," Kulkarni says. "You need that first delighted customer."

- Written by Jon Zemke

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