10 Questions for Manish Sharma, CEO of Life Sciences Business Intelligence Startup TikaMobile

Photo: Manish Sharma CEO, TikaMobile Photo Credit: Courtesy Manish Sharma
Manish Sharma CEO, TikaMobile | Courtesy Manish Sharma

If you ask Manish Sharma, cofounder and CEO of  TikaMobile, about his company, he’ll tell you about a startup that provides sales forces at medical device, life sciences and pharma companies with cloud-based business intelligence on mobile and web devicesso they can do their jobs better. And he’ll also be happy to discuss  the company’s successes in the field.

If you ask him about his entrepreneurial journey, you’ll find that this is a CEO who has learned from experience to surround himself with excellent people, to guide but trust his employees and to remember that being humble is better than being overconfident.

Up-to-the minute business intelligence applied judiciously to sales can even the playing field for smaller companies that need to get in front of the right decision makers with the right message at healthcare facilities and physicians’ offices, according to Sharma. His company offers a roadmap through the weeds of overabundant data, often in spreadsheets, so that sales people can optimize touchpoints with healthcare providers by using their mobile smart devices.

Basic Info:

Company name: TikaMobile

When did you launch the company? Sept. 2013, with a product launch in March 2014.

Product names:

TikaDevice: An end-to-end mobile sales solution, including customer relationship management (CRM) that delivers intuitive, easy-to-use prescriptive analytics to the medical device industry.

TikaPharma: A sophisticated analytics mobile application that extends the value of CRM by letting the pharma sales rep know which customers to target and what conversation to have with them.

TikaAlerts: Automated and configurable alerts that are sent to sales reps based on risks and opportunities associated with patients, payers or events, such as newly diagnosed patients, new physicians in a territory and changes in coverage. These generated alerts are delivered to sales reps using analytical algorithms, so they can act quickly on sales opportunities and/or threats based on market-driven events.

CEO: Manish Sharma

New Jersey locations: Princeton and Morristown

Team: Tony Bowden, principal; Amin Torabkhani, director of analytics; Jim Badasarian, director of sales; Bartosz Zajac, TikaMobile Poland; Stacey Levas, director of marketing.

Any employees yet? About 12 employees, with three more ready to come on board. Six employees are in Poland.

Funding: We are now attempting to raise a $1 million seed capital round with an angel group. We are profitable and have large and small life-science companies as customers. Based on our monthly sales, we should be crossing the seven-figure dollar mark this year.

Market you are serving: Life sciences sales

Entrepreneurial questions:

1.  What brought you to New Jersey, and do you plan to stay here?

Many of our employees are in New Jersey, and most of our life-science customers. Although we are officially headquartered in New York, we have a pretty deep connection with New Jersey. Most of the companies like ours got started in Silicon Valley, but I think things are changing in the New York/New Jersey area. We feel that we can become a $1 billion mobile and analytics company focused on the life sciences while working out of this state. We are here because our customers are here; the problem that we are trying to solve is here, so this is the right place to be.

2.  What problem are you solving?

Our customers are facing challenges. They are being asked to do more with less because of health care reform, regulations and stiff competition. But one of the byproducts of more technology is more data, and they are drowning in data — from a multitude of sources. Our product integrates data from those sources and applies advanced analytics to enable sales reps to hone in on the customers that warrant the most attention. Our product is designed to reduce the burden of data mining on the sales rep and to drive better returns on investment for management from sales and marketing strategies. We take away the confusing fluff and just give them the information they need.

3. Why can you address this problem better than anyone else?

We think we have a unique product that impacts the bottom line of a company. We implemented our tool in a medical-device manufacturer in New Jersey, and suddenly the company’s sales, which had been flagging, started slowly going up. The company said that it used to take its sales people six to nine months to come up to speed on new products, but now they are able to come up to speed in weeks. They attribute this difference to the fact that sales reps have a mobile application that helps them sell with minimal need to input data or manage their activities. The adoption rate among the sales force is much higher than the industry average. While everyone else is doing very lengthy contracting and IT engagements, we can mobilize a sales team within six to eight weeks.

We have very strong domain expertise in medical devices and pharmaceutical company commercial teams. Before I started TikaMobile, I consulted for one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world. Under my direction, my team developed and rolled out their mobility platform — a platform they are still using today.

4.How did you come up with your startup name?

When we were first starting out, we had a meeting with our advisers. We agreed that we didn’t want the name to be longer than four letters, something short and catchy. One of our advisers said that while she was on vacation, going to the Mt. Everest base camp in Nepal, she got sick.  While she was recuperating in a shack, she looked out and saw flags fluttering in the wind and asked what they were. She was told that they were Tika prayer flags, and that’s how we settled on “Tika.”

5.  What was the biggest mistake you’ve made so far in your entrepreneurial journey, and what did you learn from it?

This is my second go-round on an entrepreneurial journey. I started a financial services company in 2004 and, of course, you know what happened in 2008. The financial bubble burst. I had to lay off a lot of people, and that was one of the most difficult things I had to do in my life. I was very upset that I didn’t see it coming. I did actually see it coming, but I didn’t think the impact would be so devastating. I decided that I wanted to really understand what had happened, so I went back to school and got an MBA from NYU. I wanted to get a better understanding of macro and micro economic trends. I didn’t want to go through something like that again without being ready for it.

6. When was the last time you thought about quitting your startup and going back to corporate life, or doing something else? What got you to stay?

My wife and I were attending a wedding in North Carolina. We have small kids and it took us almost two hours to realize that we were having fun, just the two of us, which is rare these days. She asked me, “If money were no object and you could be doing anything, what would you want to do.” I gave it some thought and told her, “I really enjoy what I’m doing right now. I wouldn’t be doing anything else.” It’s hard how much of a roller coaster entrepreneurship can be, but it is really a lot of fun and I believe in this company.

7.     If you could go back in time, what would you do differently?

On this particular startup, I think we’ve done most everything right. We’ve brought in the right team. However, if I could go back to my first startup, I probably would have been more humble. In general, life teaches you very strong lessons, and the lessons I learned were to listen more and hire smart people, and then tell them what I want, but let them do it. I’d definitely be more humble.

8.   What’s the best place to find founders to network with?

We tend to go to a lot of trade shows and conferences and end up meeting a lot of very interesting companies there. I do have a strong board of advisors with whom I discuss things on an ongoing basis. I also have a group of fellow MBAs from NYU who get together and discuss things. It’s imperative to see the company from an outside perspective.

9.    What does your family think about you being an entrepreneur?

It depends on the day! My family actually misses me. I have small kids. In general, my wife likes the idea that I’m doing what makes me happy, that I’m excited by it. They like that I’m happy, but at the same time, I wish I had more time with my boys.

10.  What has helped you the most to achieve your current success?

I have to credit the people who surround me. I’ve come to the conclusion in life that you have to surround yourself with experts in their fields, whether it is sales, marketing, finance or technology. We have a very good team, and they are a huge part of why we have been successful so far. I couldn’t imagine doing five percent of what we have done without them.

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