California-based Paypal is known the world over for its stunning success. Established in 1998 as Confinity, the online payments company went for an IPO and was later was acquired by eBay in 2002 for $1.5 billion, in one of the world’s largest acquisitions at the time.
But the company is also known for its legacy to the startup world – the Paypal mafia. About 30 of its earliest employees left the new entity in a couple of years, and launched their own startups. Most of them met with huge success – their startups are now huge companies, including YouTube, Udemy, Tesla, Airbnb, Lyft, SpaceX, Quora, and Pinterest. No wonder Paypal’s mafia legacy is much admired among entrepreneurs across the world.
Since then, the term ‘mafia’ has come to be the pride of any company that sprouted future entrepreneurs. In India, we have celebrated mafias from InMobi, redBus, and Flipkart. All have individually been home to dozens of successful entrepreneurs. Even US-based ecommerce titan eBay, which did not succeed in India, can take credit for an eBay mafia in the country.
A silent entrant in this elite club is Gurugram-based online travel platform ixigo, which claims that one out of every 10 employees has gone to become an entrepreneur. With about 150 employees, the ixigo mafia is big, with more than 15 startups have branched out of the organisation.
Launched in 2007 by Aloke Bajpai and Rajnish Kumar, ixigo has raised $35.5 million from investors including Sequoia Capital, SAIF Partners, and MakeMyTrip.
Rajnish says that the work culture at ixigo promotes entrepreneurship. “Our emphasis has always been on building a strong work culture that promotes openness, transparency, creativity, and fun. At ixigo, everyone involved with a particular function sits together to take full ownership of the product. There is transparency between teams, be it content, marketing or tech, which brings a sense of attachment and pride towards building a product together,” he says.
He believes that it is this “startup-within-a-startup culture” that plays a big hand in the rise of a new generation of founders.
YourStory takes a look at 10 of the prominent startups that are part of the ixigo mafia.
1. USER RULES
Pavitar Singh, former Product Lead in charge of product design and development at ixigo, co-founded UserRules.com in 2011 with Abhishek Khurana, who was Project Lead at the same company. The software startup offered a lightweight social CRM, exclusively designed to assimilate customer’s inputs, analyse feedback. and improve a company’s product development cycle. It was acquired the next year by social startup Sprinklr, where Pavitar is now CTO.
Unicommerce was founded in 2012 by IIT-Delhi alumni Ankit Pruthi, Karun Singla, and Vibhu Garg. Prior to this, Karun and Vibhu were ixigo’s Technical Architect and Product Lead respectively. A SaaS platform, Unicommerce manages order fulfillment and helps manage vendors, procurement, inventory, and warehouse. It had raised $11 million from Tiger Global Management. In 2015, it was acquired by Snapdeal for $40 million. (Karun had also worked at Snapdeal before starting up.)
Launched in July 2017 by ex-ixigo employees, Vineet Sharma, Abhay Jeet Gupta, Udbhav Rai, Parveen Kataria, and Vishal Misra, the startup offers a suite of software-based products to help fleets of all sizes to monitor and optimise their daily logistics operations. Using AI and predictive analytics, it helps improve services efficiently and cost effectively. The Gurugram-based company is seed funded by angel investors, India Quotient, and LetsVenture’s Angel Fund.
Lavesh Bhandari was a Product Manager at ixigo for four years before he co-founded Qdesq with Paras Arora, who was founder-partner at Udaan Angels, in 2015. The flexible workspace platform offers services across 1,690 spaces across 32 cities in India. It has raised an undisclosed amount of funding in an angel round from an investor consortium led by Anuraag Jaipuria, Ruchirans Jaipuria, Rishi Kajaria, Dheeraj Jain, Ankush Nijhawan, Gaurav Bhatnagar, and Manish Dhingra.
Venus Dhuria (ex-ixigo Head Cabs) and Vipul Agrawal (former Senior Business Analyst at ixigo) founded Cricnwin in 2015. The duo had previously worked together at Rutogo, an intercity cab aggregator which was acquired by ixigo in 2015. Cricnwin is a mobile-based platform allows cricket fans to engage through pre-match quizzes, chat forums, live match prediction games, and post-match interactions. Last year, the Gurugram-based startup raised an undisclosed amount in seed funding from angel investor Ankush Nijhawan (co-founder and CEO of TravelBoutiqueOnline), Chinese accelerator ZDream Ventures and venture fund Empower Investment.
Founded in 2017, Tangent.ai is an artificial intelligence-based platform that helps generate photo-realistic images that can be edited quickly and personalised. For brands’ marketing, especially in fashion ecommerce, its AI generates human models as per requirements and customer preferences. The Bengaluru and San Francisco-based firm also does automated A/B testing. Founder Madhur Goel, an IIT-D and UCLA alumnus, worked as a Product Associate at ixigo in Gurugram till 2010.
Akshay Pruthi was Head of Special Projects (AI bots, cab vertical) at ixigo before he launched Wishfie, a vernacular, social video platform in 2017. It enables live video debates on current affairs. It is funded by angel investor Abhishek Singh, CEO of Staffopedia, and Tusker Invests, a New York-based angel network. His co-founder, Durgesh Kaushik, was board member of Reach App, which was acquired by ixigo.
IIT-Roorkee alumni Vineet Chirania and Karan Kumar worked at ixigo for more than two years before they founded Trainman in 2016. Vineet was a research engineer while Karan was in UI and iPhone application development at ixigo in Delhi. Karan is also ex-Snapdeal while Vineet was former research lead at WeAreHolidays. Trainman is an online platform for all information regarding Indian Railways; app has more than four million downloads.
Abhishek Arora was Principal Engineer (mobile) at ixigo for three years before launching online lending platform LoanCircle in 2015, with ex-Flipster Tanuj Mendiratta. The company specialised in solving machine learning problems for some of the largest financial institutions in India and the US. It was renamed Singulariti.ai later. Abhishek also founded UpGo, a mobile advertising platform, earlier this year.
Imagekit.io was founded by Rahul Nanwani, Manu Chowdhary, and Somesh Khatkar to help developers use the best-in-class image optimisation and delivery network without getting into research and development process around images. The founders were at ixigo for almost three years before they branched out to start imagekit in 2016.
Other ixigo mafia club members
ixigo Mafia club members also includes Ernesto Cohnen, ex-VP of Products at ixigo in 2012-2016, who later founded Triporate, an intelligent platform that solves all business travel requests. The club also includes Prashant Ghildiyal (VP technology at ixigo till November 2018) and Nishant Kumar (ex-Technical architect at ixigo) who are now Co-founders of Devtron Labs. Dharmendra Yashovardhan, ex-COO/Executive Director at ixigo, is now co-founder of Nurtr. Shaurya Rawat, who was head of UX Design at ixigo, went on to launch The Geeks' Lab, a user experience (UX) design and research consultancy.