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Dallas 500

Meet the Dallas 500: Chakri Gottemukkala, o9 Solutions

The o9 solutions leader talks about garnering a $3.7 billion valuation, growing 10x over the next few years, and how the company is innovating.
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Under Chakri Gottemukkala, o9 Solutions has expanded rapidly from two founders to about 2,400 employees with global operations. Halfway through 2023, it was growing revenue by 55 percent year over year. The company’s cloud software platform is used by businesses to drive the digital transformation of analytics and planning capabilities. In 2023, o9 was valued at $3.7 billion.

In his extended 2024 Dallas 500 Q&A the CEO talks about the company’s growth, his leadership strategies, and more.

Birthplace: Hyderabad, India

Education: University of California, Los Angeles (MA) Indian Institute of Technology Madras (BE)

First Job: “My first job was at i2 Technologies and one month into my new role, I was sent to help on a big assignment with a technology client. I had to learn to swim fast so to speak, but we managed to close a significant deal within a few months. I learned the importance of putting the client first and seeing beyond the boundaries and hierarchies in order to get things done. So if there were challenges with a product, I went directly to the head of product management to discuss it. My philosophy is that leadership isn’t based on tenure or seniority, it should be driven by values. 

“What I learned from that experience, I’ve always applied to o9’s newcomers because I believe that when talented individuals are starting their careers high expectations need to be set—and there needs to be less hand holding—because that’s the way to get the best out of employees.”

Best Advice: “A great leadership lesson that came directly from my experience at i2 was to build a culture that focuses on what the customer needs and removes the boundaries so that you can move forward. That’s what drives my philosophy that every leader and employee needs to see that whatever your role is, you should think like a CEO and think holistically about what needs to be done.”

Dinner Party: “One DFW business leader that I would have loved the opportunity to go to dinner with and learn more from is Ross Perot. Even though he passed in 2019, I’ve always admired his ability to start and scale a business and I would have loved to get his take on business and politics and also building a legacy through the Perot Foundation.”

I Collect: “I’m actually the opposite of a collector. Whatever I collect, I lose. I’ve lost expensive watches, so I’ve just stopped wearing them.”

Hobby/Passion: “I’m a big sports fan. Currently, I play golf but I grew up playing badminton and cricket. I fundamentally believe in the power of sports to provide individuals with opportunities to advance in life and to build strong life skills.”

Industry Change: “If there was one thing I could change, it would be the rate and speed that companies embark on digital transformation. The business world is changing rapidly, and many companies still take a slow and siloed approach. While it is getting better, business leaders need to adopt a more agile mindset and take a quicker approach to transforming their businesses to keep a competitive edge.”

Local Fare: “My favorite spot in the DFW-area is Velvet Taco and their Red Velvet cake.”

Guilt Pleasure: “A weekly poker game and sneaking in rounds of golf.”

Fun Fact: “I have zero musical talent. On a scale of 1 to 10, my kids would rate me as a negative 10.”

Go-to Advisor: “My father was an entrepreneur, so I would consider both of my parents to be direct business mentors as they instilled a sense of working hard and doing what you are passionate about instead of following in their footsteps. Also, Sanjiv Sidhu, founder of i2 Technologies and a co-founder at o9, who taught me to apply first principles thinking and to solve problems with intellect instead of going ‘by the book.'”

Toughest Challenge: “Even in o9’s early years, we took on the tough challenge of going after large global enterprises and going up against bigger, entrenched competitors. As a result there were a lot of doubters and criticism. So it’s about keeping your eye on the ball and managing to overcome challenges by being innovative to solve problems that the bigger companies have. It takes a lot of hard work to convince the bigger companies to give you a chance as a young company.”

First Car: “My first car was a Ford Escort that I purchased with funds from a summer internship when I was in grad school.”

Proud Moment: “Our biggest success is o9’s continued growth and ability to scale globally. In the past year, we’ve achieved a 55 percent YOY increase in annual recurring revenue, grown to more than 2,400 employees, and expanded into new markets including Brazil, Australia, and New Zealand. It’s one thing to grow rapidly when you are a smaller company, but we’re continuing to grow as we scale as well. That’s something that we’re really proud of, as it took a lot of hard work and innovation.”

A Better DFW: “The one thing I’d change is lowering the temperature in the summer.”

Pivotal Moment: “I think life will always be unexpected so I think it’s important to stay the course in what your vision is but also stay in the moment. My philosophy is that the unexpected happens when you are expecting certain outcomes. When things happen, it’s important to take action because it’s not about what you expected, it’s about what you do. Just keep going and things will turn out.”

Must-read: “There are so many good books out there, I wouldn’t want to tell people what to read because reading is such a personal choice. One topic that I love reading about is the universe; it reminds me of how much still is to be discovered.”

Alternate Reality: “If I wasn’t in my current role, I believe I still would be an entrepreneur because I see this as an ability to create a meaningful impact in a lot of people’s lives because it creates leaders and it creates career opportunities, and I feel that’s the best part of it. So one way or another, I would have ended up becoming an entrepreneur.”

Embarrassing Moment: “I once forgot a carry-on bag at the gate at DFW and didn’t realize it until I landed in San Francisco. Turns out they had to bring out a bomb-sniffing dog and everything. When I landed, I called DFW to ask about the bag and they said, ‘Oh, you were the guy.”’

Bucket List: “I recently played golf on the Old Course at St. Andrews in Scotland.”

Key Strategy: “Scaling a business for growth is all about leadership and finding multiple levels of leadership throughout the company. It’s key for leaders to live by the company values (in o9’s case, it’s creating a culture across client value, leadership, execution, innovation, and social impact). The only way a company can scale is if the company is growing based on values, not just based on hierarchies.

“I think it’s also key to keep it simple because when you scale from a few hundred people to thousands of people, you need leadership at every level. We have made it a point to drive leadership based on values, not based on tenure or title so that it empowers employees across the organization.”

Future Forecast: “I’m excited about how the importance of supply chains has become much more evident and it has never been more elevated as a boardroom topic. Business leaders are realizing the huge impact that supply chains have on companies. Even though o9 has grown rapidly and we have blue chip clients across many industries, we think there is still an opportunity to grow and have a huge impact on the market. Over the past few years we’ve grown incredibly towards a $3.7 billion valuation, and we’re planning to grow another 10x plus over the next few years.”

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