Startup-O Stars is a series that captures stories of authentic tech entrepreneurs from Asia, to share their insights, learnings, tips & resources with the community. It aims to foster a deeper understanding of these journeys, direct from the trenches.


Vijay Gudipalli

– Co-founder, Almug Technologies Pvt Ltd


Vijay Gudipalli of Almug Technologies Pvt Ltd speaks to Startup-O Stars about how they leverage their strengths to innovate, and what they did to address the gaps in their skill set.

Vijay Gudipalli might be described as an entrepreneur by default. He has been lured to entrepreneurship as a by-product of his primary passion for artificial intelligence, machine learning and natural language processing. His authentic flair for his product belies the fact that the business of running a business came less naturally.

In fact, he is most at home describing the multiple bespoke solutions that Almug has developed in this cutting-edge arena. As a co-founder of Almug, he and his 28-member team are proud to have evolved a series of creative products to help their clients. Vijay comes alive when describing his work in this field, and says with a laugh, “I love problem-solving more than anything.”


The paradox of a great product with no takers

Almug, founded in 2015, is named after a precious rare wood from biblical times that was said to have powerful properties. The founders are now aware that they have built a successful platform that is scalable across business verticals within fintech, legal tech and media-tech. They are beginning to enjoy the fruits of their labour – as of 2018, they have turned profitable and look forward to a transformational 2019.

However, the startup has experienced its share of bumps in the road so far. Its two co-founders and 4 developers spent 18 months post launch with all hands on deck, developing and perfecting their AI product. By the middle of 2016, they had two clients, but 2017 was a year of struggle with limited client traction, where new revenue was hard to acquire. Promising meetings that yielded no concrete results were disheartening, as was the pressure of keeping the team motivated through rough times.

Having done all the legwork, they had reached a stage where they needed more than passion to propel their business towards growth and traction.

“More than just the investment, Startup-O's extensive network has been a great value addition.”


The great big missing ingredient: how to add it to the mix

In identifying the missing ingredient that was proving to be a stumbling block, Vijay is quick to admit that pitching, sales and marketing are not their strength. Although the team is proud of their complete confidence in their domain expertise, entrepreneurship requires a broader-than-anticipated set of skills.

To address what was holding them back, they sought mentors to help them plug into a network and to build long and fruitful associations within the startup ecosystem.

As such, in 2018, Almug found themselves among the top 5 in Startup-O’s fourth round of curation which Vijay says was a potential turning point. The Startup-O platform helped to level the playing field for them, through the opportunity to ‘prove their mettle’ to its seasoned community of experts. Their expertise, passion and well-crafted solutions for clients resulted in their being ranked high in this investment assessment program.
“More than just the investment,” he says, “their extensive network has been a great value addition. They also shared their valuable insights on strategy that helped us develop a holistic picture of our business.”

“Startup-O shared their valuable insights on strategy that helped us develop a holistic picture of our business.”



The foundation on which a solid business is built

Almug’s team is confident in its products and abilities; in Vijay’s own words, they are “very good techies”. Many of their solutions lie at the cutting edge of AI, machine learning and natural language processing, in other words, they are identifying needs that have never before been met.
Take, for example, their value-add in the fintech sphere, which Vijay describes with enthusiasm. Market-moving news typically reaches traders with a time lag, which financial institutions want to eliminate to the maximum possible extent. To enable quicker response time, Vijay and his team developed a system that he says, “can think like a financial analyst.”

Further, of the approximately half million documents that their platform receives in a day, a mere 1-2% are likely pertinent to traders. To address this, Almug developed a system, using natural language processing, that identifies these valuable ‘needles in the haystack’ in milliseconds. To add more value, they then refined the system such that it is able to decipher the tone of an announcement and assign a score for quick decision making.

Almug owes its current growth trajectory primarily to these core strengths, that have proved their genuine value in changing how their clients do business.

"An entrepreneur needs to enjoy the process of problem-solving more than anything else."


Magic is when all the pieces fall into place

Vijay is positive in pointing out that the journey has only now begun after their period of uncertainty, and there is much growth to look forward to. He is committed to creating a great value-added product and to growing valuation for Almug, by exceeding customer expectations.
With his eye now firmly on the prize, Vijay is proud to share his current goal of achieving USD 10 million in annual revenue.

As the saying goes, don’t judge a book by its cover. As another saying goes, the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Almug is a story of authentic technology-oriented founders with solid faith in their abilities – gems in the rough who could have slipped through the cracks of the ecosystem. Instead, they took the timely step of recognising their weaknesses and addressed them by seeking out focused mentorship in the right arena. This process has yielded a robust product offering that benefits its customers and the ecosystem as a whole.

Startup-O is South East Asia’s leading platform for startup assessments, investments, and venture building. It was created with ‘Entrepreneurs for Entrepreneurs’ ethos at the core of its design. The assessment platform coupled with venture funds helps with systematic discovery & investing in high traction tech startups. These promising growth startups are selected through a transparent process which is a blend of multi-stage online evaluations conducted by seasoned global experts & proprietary ranking algorithms on the platform.