"Founders Who Fundraise" is a blog series highlighting founders in the Bowery Capital portfolio and their origin stories. Have you ever wondered how founders come up with their ideas, how they approach testing and validating, as well as their approach to fundraising? This series will share stories from the founder’s POV and provide insight on the inner workings of starting a VC backed business.
Somesh Saxena is the Founder & CEO of Pantomath, a Bowery Capital portfolio company and market leader in the data observability and traceability ecosystem. On the heels of his Series A fundraising announcement today, we sat down with Somesh for our "Founders Who Fundraise" series.
How did you come up with the idea for Pantomath?
I have spent the majority of my career in the data & analytics space. Prior to founding Pantomath, I was a Data & Analytics leader at GE Aerospace supporting 18,000 data consumers through a 100-person organization. I led multiple programs at the company, including enterprise data & analytics, self-service data, big data, and robotic process automation, giving me unique insights into the problems and challenges encountered by data teams.
Through conversations with peers in the industry along with my first-hand experiences, I learned that even though companies are striving to be data-driven - building dashboards, analytics, and data pipelines across the modern data stack - they struggle with data reliability issues leading to poor business decisions and lack of trust in data as an organization. This directly impacts their bottom line. Resolving data issues is a manual and time-consuming process involving multiple teams all relying on tribal knowledge to manually reverse engineer complex data pipelines across different platforms to identify root-cause and understand impact. All leading to productivity loss and data downtime.
The idea of Pantomath was born out of this major pain point faced by data teams and data consumers alike. The vision was to build a product that could offer end-to-end observability and traceability across the data stack to detect problems in real time, enable data teams to troubleshoot those issues in a simplified way, and resolve the incidents instantly.
Talk to us a bit about being a solo founder of the business. How did you think about your own expertise and going at it on your own?
Prior to starting out, my expertise was in the data domain and in building strong teams. While being a solo founder can of course be challenging, I have an amazing team I rely on. Hiring top-tier talent that could bridge any gaps I had was of utmost priority for me while starting out. Additionally, I surrounded myself with some mentors who played a key role in getting Pantomath off the ground. My brother, Shashank Saxena, has especially been instrumental in the journey. Having been a successful entrepreneur himself with VNDLY, he has been by my side every step of the way.
Talk to us about your process for raising the Series Seed round. Did you do market validation before? Build the product in advance? What did you think about it?
Since the idea of Pantomath was born out of my professional experiences in the data space, I had immense clarity in what I wanted to build, why I wanted to build it, and who I wanted to build it for. It was still important to get market validation prior to fundraising though. I talked to several data leaders at Fortune 500 companies and large enterprises (Pantomath’s ICP), understood their challenges, and incorporated their feedback into the product.
While I did not build the product in advance, I did document product features in detail, create mockups and had a prioritized product roadmap, preparing my team and me for the build phase. Post-fundraising, this led us to execute with focus and clarity and enabled us to take the product to market much sooner than expected.
Give us a window into the recently announced Series A? What was the fundraising process like?
The market isn’t currently favorable towards fundraising and especially these Series A rounds. We were grateful to have multiple term sheets less than a month into fundraising. I think this is primarily due to the customers, customer references, and overall traction. Our strong metrics, customer success stories, market traction, and strong balance sheet, all contributed to a fundraising process that was not overly stressful or complex. I do think that more and more Series A firms are narrowing their aperture and focusing on companies with outsized traction. I don't want to say it was all success - we did find it really tough to rise above with many firms given the market conditions and how competitive and crowded this ecosystem is.
The data landscape has really ballooned in recent years. How did that affect your fundraising strategy? What advice do you have for entrepreneurs working in these really competitive markets where there might be a lot of funds that may have been invested in a competitor?
Pantomath plays in a nascent yet really crowded category. This definitely played a part in our fundraising strategy. It encouraged us to hone in on our key differentiators early in fundraising conversations and focus efforts on finding the right fit for a long-term partnership. I would encourage entrepreneurs working in competitive markets to focus their messaging on what sets them apart and explain to potential investors why they are well-positioned to win the market.
What was it like balancing the fundraising with operations / day-to-day responsibilities?
Finding a balance was extremely hard. Fundraising is a full-time job and a time-sensitive process, but the rest of the CEO duties can’t be put on pause either. I always kept an eye on the critical few balls in the air that I couldn’t afford to drop and let the rest of the day-to-day responsibilities take a bit of a backseat.
Reflecting on your journey so far, what is something that has changed in your life professionally and personally since starting Pantomath?
Professionally, I have learned to seek advice more frequently than I used to. I was notoriously bad for trying to figure everything out on my own and internalize things more than needed. As a solo founder and a first-time entrepreneur, I learned pretty quickly that I needed to ask for help early and often because it was all so new to me.
Personally, I have become extremely conscious of keeping an eye on burnout levels for myself and the team. Building a startup is like running a sprint marathon. I’ve learned how to pace myself.
While the fundraising market has been unforgiving to a myriad of startup founders over the last 24 months, traction and a clean story can help you rise above the rest. Seeking advice more frequently, finding that balance between CEO Fundraiser and CEO Company Builder, and focused messaging in competitive markets are critical takeaways for any founder going out to fundraise in the current market.