CTO Sessions: Manish Sood, Reltio

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? “Product/service strategy goes hand-in-hand with tech. Today, there is no business or vertical that is not leveraging technology.”


Name: Manish Sood

Company: Reltio

Job title: Chief Technology Officer

Date started current role: September 2020

Location: Seattle, Wa

Manish is responsible for Product and Technology vision, execution and management at Reltio. Prior to founding Reltio, he led Product strategy and management for the Master Data Management (MDM) platform at Informatica and Siperian. He is the co-author of the patent that revolutionised MDM through a global business identifier. During his career, Manish has architected some of the largest and most widely used data management solutions used by Fortune 100 companies today. Manish has been ranked among the top 100 CEOs in America by Owler.

What was your first job? I started my career at a company called Greaves Cotton where I was inducted into the management training program that gave me exposure to all the different business units and functions from manufacturing to sales. I spent the next two years as a part of the engineering sales team focused on the automation of large-scale power plant projects. This formative experience highlighted that the success of a business did not depend on one team or one business function, it required people to work across organisational boundaries in a cross-functional manner in order to achieve breakthrough results.

Did you always want to work in IT? No, I did not always work in IT. I started my career in mechanical engineering and sales, but I always had software as a part of my work. This allowed me to gain a detailed understanding of various technologies and systems. However, over the course of my career I was drawn to IT as I had to work on creating better systems, processes, and automation for running our business. 

What was your education? Do you hold any certifications? What are they? After graduating high school, I chose to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering at Andhra University College of Engineering, an engineering school in the coastal city of Visakhapatnam (aka Vizag) in India. 

Explain your career path. Did you take any detours? If so, discuss. After graduating with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in the mid nineties, I joined Greaves Cotton, an engineering company. During this time the Indian economy was opening up and there was an influx of multinational companies trying to set up new operations in India. I followed my manager from Greaves Cotton to a subsidiary of Mitsubishi that was setting up operations in India. This gave me an opportunity to learn more about the software systems that would integrate the new setup in India back to the mothership in Japan and got me interested in the emerging application areas that spanned front office and back office systems including CRM and ERP.

This experience of deploying and integrating CRM and ERP systems led me to an opportunity with a company called Naviant Consulting in the US. My first assignment in the US was a project for Convergys (a customer and information management company) to help integrate the systems that drove their call center outreach to customers and call campaigns. The next step in this journey was XO Communications, a telecom company where I was responsible for building the end to end integration for Operations Support System (OSS)  that connected the front office and the back office systems to cater to the entire customer lifecycle.

Then 2001 happened and the entire telecom industry crashed, so I began looking for other opportunities. I was introduced to the founding team at Siperian and began helping the engineering team solve data challenges as we gathered the feedback from early customers.

As Siperian grew, my role evolved from the services team to product management and so did the team at every stage of the company. In January 2010, Siperian was acquired and I joined Informatica with the rest of the team. While Siperian was a significant acquisition for Informatica and this acquisition gave them access to a new market that they could sell into and rapidly move towards their goal of becoming a $1 Billion revenue company, it was clear that Informatica was not going to be able to invest in the emerging opportunity of what this space was going to evolve into. This gap was clearly visible to me and I could no longer shake the thought that something new was possible.

With this perspective and a passion for innovation, I left Informatica and invested my savings  to start Reltio. Initially, I approached several VCs with the concept but I was turned down repeatedly. However, the response from potential customers was amazing and this strengthened my resolve to keep going. Not only did the initial customers vote with their dollars, but I also raised a modest friends and family angel round which funded the initial development and business operations. In 2015, Reltio raised $10.4M in Series A funding from Crosslink Capital and .406 Ventures, and then went on to raise an additional $22M in Series B in 2016, $40M in Series C, and $45M in Series D in 2018 while simultaneously growing the Reltio business to take it from a concept in my head to a reality where the Reltio platform is being used by some of the largest companies across the globe.

 Breaking away from legacy Master Data Management solutions that were rigid and fell short of delivering a complete view of the data - we built the Reltio platform, the only cloud-native offering that could harness the growing number of applications and silos of data into a single source of truth for data.

 What type of CTO are you? I am a product and customer focused founder who wears a different hat as needed by stage and phase of growth to fulfill the vision for Reltio. Prior to taking on the role of the CTO, I was the founding CEO at Reltio. My prior experience as the CEO and now the CTO allows me to look at the combination of the product and the business value it delivers. I enjoy working with our product, technology, and user experience teams to drive maximum engagement with our customers and partners. These experiences energise me and get my creative juices flowing. I focus my time and energy thinking about the big impact we can have on how companies operate, how they innovate, how they engage with customers, and how they drive better business outcomes.

Which emerging technology are you most excited about the prospect of? It’s hard to pick just one! At this point in time the intersection of the secular trends of adoption of cloud computing, the need to digitise everything at scale, and the reality of the increasing number of application data silos is creating the urgent need for a Single Source of the most important data that your business runs on (simple examples include Customer, Vendor, Product, Asset and Employee data). The promise of the enduring value delivered by solving the problem of the single source of truth of all data is the most exciting opportunity in the enterprise software landscape. This can unlock application independence for all companies and accelerate their ability to respond to the ever-changing business landscape.

Are there any technologies which you think are overhyped? Why? AI and ML technologies hold a lot of promise and transformation potential but very few companies are applying it well. You see a lot of companies using AI and ML as magical buzzwords without the ability to deliver. The biggest barrier to getting value from these technologies is the inaccurate, fragmented, and siloed data. Access to unified, reliable, and real-time data is an accelerant for multiple business outcomes including the use and adoption of AI and ML capabilities and digital transformation.

What is one unique initiative that you’ve employed over the last 12 months that you’re really proud of? As the provider of a platform that can go across industries and use cases, we are always looking to simplify how customers can easily start using our powerful capabilities. To simplify this, we launched a new program over the last 12 months to launch a new offering that provides a single source of truth for Identity data about people such as customers, contacts, patients, employees in real-time and at a scale that can cover the entire population across the globe. I am proud of our newest offering of Identity 360, Reltio’s free cloud-native service that provides a single source of truth for Person data. Identity 360 is free; a first in the master data management segment of the business software market.

Reltio is not new to MDM SaaS -- our team at Reltio created the category when it became clear that the acquirer of Siperian, from where the first Reltians came, had no interest in moving Siperian MDM to the cloud. Reltio now has 6.3B consolidated profiles under management. Today we’re sharing that power with businesses of any size, anywhere, without charge. No catches. No strings. No commitment. No risk.

I’m also very proud of the amazing culture that we have built at Reltio. We have an enviable set of Fortune 500 customers that include 8 of the Fortune 100, two to the top healthcare services companies, two of the top hospitality brands, three of the top global luxury goods brands, two of the top technology companies and nine of the top 10 pharmaceutical companies in the world. And this is just the beginning. The future is bright for Reltio, our customers and our partners!

Are you leading a digital transformation? If so, does it emphasise customer experience and revenue growth or operational efficiency? If both, how do you balance the two? When COVID-19 first struck and paralyzed businesses across industries, Reltio identified five transformation initiatives that enterprises need to implement to support our customers, including “the shift to digital innovation.” This is more important than it ever was, as we evolve through the high tech, low touch economy.

Holistically understanding your customers is the most efficient way to enable hyper-personalised omnichannel experiences. At Reltio, we provide a cloud-native responsive connected data platform to help manage 360 profiles for any data domain or entity type by integrating data from both internal and external sources. The platform aggregates, refines, reconciles, and relates data from hundreds of sources, while delivering continuously optimised performance. Having the right data strategy is crucial for digital transformation.

Reltio is not just a provider of this capability but we also use the Reltio platform to create a 360 view of our customers and partners to run our business. Reltio Connected Data platform is the backbone of our digital business.

What is the biggest issue that you’re helping customers with at the moment? Many companies have a significant disconnect between IT’s back office efforts for data management, and the businesses’ need to get access to relevant, real-time, omnichannel data. Reltio helps customers across every industry manage data, and deliver connected customer experiences. 

How do you align your technology use to meet business goals? The needs for customer data have grown exponentially in the last few years, but the approach to managing data hasn’t kept pace. Disjointed, disconnected, and outdated customer information is holding back companies from delivering winning customer experiences. Directives like the European Union’s GDPR and California’s CCPA are clear warnings to companies to get their data house in shape.

We believe in the strategic use of data to win in the experience economy. The companies we work with are rethinking their data strategies to put the customer at the center of their universe. They create opportunities to delight customers with every interaction, and drive profitable and sustainable growth. They empower teams with the most holistic, up-to-date, and actionable understanding of customers, while respecting privacy and consent.

But the most difficult part of both compliance and hyper-personalisation is identifying an individual across multiple systems and data sources. Reltio solves this problem by uncovering complex or hidden relationships between siloed data sets, in real-time. Reltio goes far beyond what customer data platforms (CDP) or legacy master data management (MDM) platforms are able to achieve, and supports business goals by improving the bottom line.

Do you have any trouble matching product/service strategy with tech strategy? Product/service strategy goes hand-in-hand with tech. Today, there is no business or vertical that is not leveraging technology. In fact, it is critical for every business to have a tech strategy no matter what industry they are in.

What makes an effective tech strategy? The most effective tech strategies balance an innovative vision with the ability to deliver to the needs of today, while serving as a foundation for the next set of steps to build on.

What predictions do you have for the role of the CTO in the future? As a founder and CTO of a software company, the role of the CTO is to drive the vision, and the path that makes that vision a reality. Building a successful software business is never just about technology, it requires a well-rounded approach to defining the blueprint for the entire business through every phase of growth, and seeing their company through to the long term vision. CTOs of the future have to be business leaders who can wear multiple hats to be a partner for the entire C-suite team to accelerate growth and innovation at the same time.

What has been your greatest career achievement? Taking products from concept to reality where they are used at scale is the biggest achievement, and also the most rewarding.

Looking back with 20:20 hindsight, what would you have done differently? Nothing. Tweaking the past does not guarantee a better outcome in the future. Decisions are always contextual.

What are you reading now? Limitless by Jim Qwik. We had Jim speak at our company kickoff, and I found it fascinating. You can train your mind to do what you earlier thought was impossible. You are only limited by your imagination.

Most people don't know that I… Am into landscape photography, and use a 617 panoramic film camera.

In my spare time, I like to…Try hard to be less frustrated at the game of golf.

Ask me to do anything but… Go shopping.