Sequoia-backed Near to build second rung of leadership via EIR programme

Sequoia-backed Near to build second rung of leadership via EIR programme
Anil Mathews, founder and chief executive of Near
11 Mar, 2020

In a bid to develop a second layer of leaders to fuel its global expansion, data analytics startup Near is putting the finishing touches to its entrepreneur-in-residence (EIR) programme. The year long, fully paid programme is slated to roll out its maiden batch soon with 10 EIRs.

The company will invest up to $1.5 million in the 2020 programme which will include salaries, travel and overhead expenses incurred.

Dubbed N’EIR, the annual programme will run from April through March. Through the programme, the company will identify and shape leaders who can build out teams across the startup’s overseas offices, take responsibility for setting up offices in new markets, or head its business units in India.

“We have been growing consistently and are looking to double down on our efforts on expansion. However, the challenge is that we do not have enough missionaries whom we can send out to foreign locations, in markets where we aren’t present or where we want to expand. That’s when we thought we want to create the next layer of leaders. The program will focus on grooming leaders with actual, practical work-related knowledge,” Anil Mathews, founder and chief executive of Near, told TechCircle.

In a first-of-its-kind initiative in the SaaS world, the company is looking at vice president level executives with over five years of experience, who are open to relocating overseas. It is scouting candidates from business schools such as the IIMs, ISB, Harvard University and Stanford University to select smart profiles.

Mathews said the key attributes he is looking for in potential candidates are attention to detail and storytelling ability. “We’re looking at folks who can spot erroneous nuances and think through user journeys in depth. They should be able to articulate the message, communicate with people from diverse fields, be it product, design, business, finance or human resources,” he added.

The first batch of candidates will be based at Near’s Bengaluru office for the first six months and will work alongside CXOs and vice presidents from across functions including product, technology, business development, marketing, and finance. In the second half of the programme, the EIRs will work closely with one of its global business teams to get an understanding of the business environment and gain market exposure in the respective local markets.

At the end of the programme, selected candidates will be appointed as P&L (profit and loss) heads for Near in overseas markets, effectively acting as mini-CEOs or as head of functions at its India office as vice presidents.

“We believe that in 12 months time, they are groomed enough to go and plant our flag in countries where we are not present, or lead a region,” Mathews said.

The company expects to on-board at least 4-5 candidates from the first batch. “By the end of the programme, we will figure out the strengths of the people and decide who would fit in. It’s a fully paid up program with vice president level salaries, offers them hands-on experience in India and at global markets, so candidates are not losing out on anything. If not at Near, they will be fully ready entrepreneurs to start their own journey or get placed elsewhere in top roles,” Mathews said.

Founded in 2012 by Mathews and Shobhit Shukla, Near offers intelligence on people and places to brands and enterprises, through a suite of SaaS products, to help them understand user behavior. It enables first-party data owners leverage audience, spatial, and retail data of their customers based on their real-world behavior.

Near doesn’t sell raw data. It collects data from a host of sources including telcos, data partners, WiFi providers, card firms, and several other apps and fuses this digital and physical-world data together to derive intelligence from them. This intelligence is used to create anonymised, location-based profiles of users and is offered on a SaaS product known as Allspark to brands, enterprises and publishers across more than 20 countries. For instance, it would offer information such as where a user lives, works, brands he/she prefers, gas station he/she goes to - to a brand to help it enrich data and market products more effectively.

“We are a data intelligence company, we need people with domain knowledge. However, it is difficult to find people with the kind of expertise we require because what we are creating is a new category. We have found proper market fit, our go-to market is very clear, and now we have to double down. The EIR programme is designed to create a set of people with domain knowledge who will help us scale,” Mathews said.

The company claims the integration of this intelligence into clients’ systems can be done via simple, self-serve SaaS products where at most times the process is driven by the sales team, without the assistance of the tech teams, because all they need to do is to drop a small line of code into their tech stack.  It currently processes data from over 1.6 billion monthly users across 44 countries.

Near has raised a total of $134 million so far, including from London-based private equity firm Greater Pacific Capital (GPC); venture capital firm Sequoia Capital India; financial services company JPMorgan; Cisco Investments, the venture capital arm of US-based technology firm Cisco; and Telstra Ventures, the investment unit of Telstra's Australia's largest telecom company Telstra Corp.

Headquartered in Singapore, Near has offices in San Francisco, New York, London, Bangalore, Tokyo, and Sydney. Its clientele include brands such as News Corp, MetLife, The We Company, and Mastercard.