Humility is a Core Value: Innovation Boulevard Interview with Samarth Mod of FreshWorks Studio
Entrepreneurs like Samarth Mod and Rohit Boolchandani are great examples of the potential that new immigrants bring to Canada. Both men left their homes in central India in 2012 and 2013 to seek new opportunities and enhance their post-secondary education in British Columbia, Canada. In 2014-15, they not only completed their MBA’s, they founded FreshWorks Studio, which has quickly established itself as a leading Canadian app development firm, employing over 50 people in Victoria and Vancouver, with a satellite office in Seattle.
I had the pleasure of chatting with Samarth Mod, the CEO from FreshWorks last month, and wanted to share our conversation about this rapidly growing company with you.
IB: What challenge is FreshWorks addressing for customers?
Sam: We are app developers and architects. So many organizations need mobile, web, blockchain and AI applications; many enterprises need a dedicated team to work on their project either from scratch or augmenting their existing team. We work closely with clients to identify how they can bring their idea to reality.
IB: What core technologies do you use?
IB: Where did your name “FreshWorks” come from?
Sam: Unlike many other companies, we didn’t spend a lot of time or money on this. Our name originated in a pub over beers. We just kept coming back to the notion of “fresh”…fresh ideas, fresh design, fresh process, and somehow we landed on FreshWorks. We use friendly yet ambitious language, primary colors and fresh design in all of our branding and work with clients.
IB: How does your partnership with Rohit work?
Sam: Rohit and I met each other back in India where we became good friends. We wanted to come to North America and ultimately settled in Victoria at the age of 25, where I had a scholarship to go to UVIC – and I liked the climate. We came to BC a year apart from one another to work on our respective MBAs. We had a few business ideas in the early days – that truthfully – weren’t that successful. Our partnership is like a business marriage; we work really hard to be honest and respectful, even when we disagree.
IB: Tell us something you’ve done that makes you proud.
Sam: One of our early applications was for BC Highways – essentially a free mobile app for BC residents and commuters, based on open source data to help make the BC driving experience as seamless, safe, and efficient as possible. It all started with Rohit and I being stuck in a detour for 3 hours and us thinking, “Hey, this can be addressed!” To date, the app has been downloaded 100,000+ times.
IB: What’s your approach to finding customers?
Sam: We focus a lot on networking and building relationships. Also, it sounds hard to believe, but our clients are actually finding us now. Our reputation for building solid, yet flexible applications is growing, so we’re finding customers coming to us. It’s a great spot to be. We are ranked #3 in Canada for top app developers.
IB: What do you look for in the people you hire?
Sam: We do have a lengthy recruitment process, as we believe the number one reason for our success is our people. We do pre-screening interviews, and then the prospect completes a challenge – a small project related to the work they could be expected to do. Then we have our team conduct a challenge evaluation to assess the work and candidate. We have a high value- and mission-driven team, so everyone’s assessments matter. Our HR team drills deep into teamwork-oriented questions to ensure we’ve got a great fit. One of our top values is humility.
IB: I don’t hear too many teams claim humility as a core value. Tell me more.
Sam: My business partner and I failed a lot in the beginning; we hadn’t nailed a viable model… I think we had two business ideas that just didn’t go anywhere, but we just kept trying. I think knowing that success is tenuous is critical. Success should keep you modest. We use humility in our approach to day-to-day business dealings and how we interact with everyone. Knowing that everyone is fallible, but also capable of great things, is really important.
IB: How did you come to be a member of Innovation Boulevard?
Sam: We competed in a Fraser Health Hackathon, sponsored in part by Innovation Boulevard, and we were fortunate enough to do well in the competition. It’s great to be part of an ecosystem dedicated to innovation.
IB: Are you doing work in the health sector?
Sam: Yes. We have worked with Fraser Health and we are developing apps for others, like Anxiety Canada, Healing Hub and LiveCare, CanAssist, and more.
IB: Tell me about some of the awards FreshWorks has won.
Sam: There’s got to be some irony in that, as we just talked about humility as a core value! However, I can proudly say that our team has won a number of awards. We were recently ranked 3rd in Canada for Top App Developers; we also received Small Business BC’s “Best Immigrant Entrepreneur” award this year, and I was fortunate to receive BC Business’ 30 Under 30 award. FreshWorks ranked #30 in Top 50 startups in Canada by Canada Business and we have received a fair bit of recognition in local and national publications.
IB: Any last parting words you’d like to share?
Sam: Many immigrants come to Canada as job seekers and then go on to become job providers. My partner and I are part of this trend of people who come to Canada for both the lifestyle and the opportunities here, and then we create businesses and provide meaningful work for other Canadians. I’m glad that Canada welcomes newcomers – from highly skilled workers to refugees to international students. Not only do newcomers bring important perspectives, talent and experience, but they also help keep Canada culturally diverse and economically vibrant, which benefits us all.
Alison Berg is the Director of Marketing at Innovation Boulevard. She loves to chat with interesting
people and learn how their businesses thrive. When she’s not doing “marketing stuff,”
she’s starting businesses, watching Netflix, and hanging out with her 2 daughters.