Following a string of failed attempts, in 2008 Kulasingam convinced a friend to partner with him to start a digital agency. That company, Digiflare, would quickly grow to become a leading provider of video app solutions, and in 2016 would catch the eye of competitor, Accedo. That year the two companies would surprisingly merge, and Kulasingam would go on to become senior vice president of products for Accedo.
As a result of his professional success, Kulasingam has received numerous awards and accolades, including being the recipient of the University of Ottawa’s prestigious Young Alumni Award of Excellence, and noted as one of the Top 40 Under 40 by Multichannel News.
Kulasingam recently spoke with TC to discuss his career, his future goals, and his advice to others in the Tamil community interested in venturing into business on their own.
1. Tell us a bit about yourself. How did your career begin in the tech industry?
I came to Canada when I was 10 years old and I had the good fortune of having an older brother who was a great role model and was into computers. I followed his footsteps and attended the University of Ottawa with a major in computer science in 1999. Being in Ottawa at this time was exciting, as it was the boom of the dot-com era. However, when I graduated in 2003, I found it was difficult to get a job in the tech field. With the help of a friend of mine, I was able to get a job in a flight data company where I worked my way up to leading a new product launch. After spending three years there, I moved back to Toronto to pursue an opportunity in technology consulting before starting Digiflare in 2008.
2. You launched Digiflare with a partner in 2008. What was the idea behind this company?
I wanted to start a tech company ever since I was in university, and I actually tried it a couple of times with other partners but none of them worked out. In 2008 I convinced one of my best friends, David George, to start a digital agency with me. We started a company that was initially focused on serving enterprise customers, working on their internal applications. It was great to work with big financial services companies but the work wasn’t exciting and we couldn’t really talk about it. In 2012, we pivoted the company to focus on media and entertainment, and building video app solutions. A simple way to explain what we did is that we helped build Netflix-like video app solutions for other big media and entertainment companies like Disney, CNN, and Rogers. As a result of our change in tactics, we grew exponentially to a staff of 120 people before we merged with Accedo in late 2016.
3. What was the process behind merging with Accedo?
Accedo was our big competitor and we were not looking to sell Digiflare, but in 2016 we realized that we needed to raise capital to expand our business internationally, so we hired an investment banking advisor to help with the process. Our advisor knew the chairman of Accedo and relayed that they were looking to strengthen their position in North America. Shortly after, we held a few meetings with the Accedo founders and realized that doing a merger with them would help both businesses grow and create a big market lead in our ecosystem. In late November 2016 we completed the merger.
4. Describe your current role with Accedo.
My current role is SVP of Products and I’m responsible for our global products portfolio and the overall product strategy. I also sit on the Accedo board as a director.
5. What is a typical workday like?
My typical workdays are pretty dynamic and I do travel frequently for work. I like to start my days off early and try to block my mornings for focus time and meeting with my team members in Stockholm, Sweden. The afternoons are generally for meeting with my team in Toronto, customers and partners. I do make it a point to be home by 5 p.m. each day to spend time with my 16 month old son. I’ll plug in for an hour or two each night to finish off emails.
6. What are your future goals with Accedo, and as an entrepreneur more generally?
The traditional TV space is still being distributed and I want to help Accedo with its continued growth globally so that it can be a dominant player in our space with new video centric solutions.
In regards to my own goals as an entrepreneur, I’m a builder at heart and will likely start another company in the future.
7. There seems to be a large number of people in the Tamil-Canadian community who are venturing into the entrepreneurial sector. As an entrepreneur yourself, what do you think this says about the Tamil-Canadian community? Do you have any words of advice for budding Tamil entrepreneurs?
I think Tamil-Canadians are resilient and hardworking. We have been able to get through tough times and integrate into Canadian culture. Our generation and the next generation will accomplish great things and be good role models for others.
My advice to aspiring Tamil entrepreneurs is to think really big in terms of your goals or ideas and don’t settle for less. You need to work your butt off! Early on I learned that we all have strengths and weaknesses so it is really important to have strong self awareness. Either improve on your weaknesses or find a trustworthy partner that can fill any gaps you may have. My strengths are in technology, strategy and operations, but my weakness is in sales, my partner David ended up filling that gap for me. My other advice would be for people to get out of their comfort zone and get to know their customers. They will provide invaluable information on your products and services. Finally, stay humble and network as much as possible. Business is done based on relationships. It is important to connect with people who will help open doors for you.