In the last decade consumers have largely shifted from purchasing from local businesses to shopping online.
Srinivasan Prasanna saw this shift as an opportunity to optimize online shopping experiences and started his company iWMS Americas, LLC. in the basement of his Minnesota home in 2014 with himself as the sole employee.
Nearly six years later Prasanna’s company has graduated from the Prior Lake Technology Village with 52 employees worldwide and he has plans for even more growth.
Located in Prior Lake City Hall, Technology Village is a business accelerator program that supports the growth of tech and professional service businesses through various resources such as mentorship and office space. When Prasanna read about the Technology Village in the Prior Lake American, he saw it as an opportunity for his business to grow from a basement startup to an international company.
“When I went to this place, a beautiful location in downtown Prior Lake and a very nice office space for an affordable cost, I took the plunge,” he said.
iWMS Americas provides IT consulting specializing in supply chain services and during Prasanna’s time in the Technology Village it has evolved to also provide automation hubs and robotics conveyor systems inside distribution centers, he said.
Technology Village provided Prasanna with invaluable mentorship and guidance from other business professionals on handling finances, employee management and upscaling his business, he said.
“I was given a crash course which could’ve taken me say five or 10 years but this was given to me in three years,” Prasanna said.
And on July 31, iWMS officially graduated from the program.
“I am super excited. In this COVID-19 era, I think our business is the healthiest it’s ever been,” Prasanna said. “The stability came and the fundamentals of my business got solidified by the Technology Village.”
Though the pandemic has paused some of his plans to relocate the office, Prasanna plans to expand his business right here in Prior Lake and continue to hire graduates fresh out of Minnesota universities as he has done in the past.
“I’ve lived in Minnesota for 12 years and I’ve had the opportunity to travel to about 12 countries so far and about seven states in the U.S. and I can tell you the work ethic in Minnesota is probably one of the best I’ve ever seen in my life,” he said.
He also has three children growing up in Minnesota and wants them to see there are viable employment opportunities within the state.
“I want them to have a positive mind. You don’t need to go to Silicon Valley to get a high quality technical job, if that’s what you’re looking at, it can be right here and it is available right here,” Prasanna said.
For those with business startups looking to expand, Prasanna offered three pieces of advice:
Don’t be afraid to ask for help because there are resources like the Technology Village out there; there are funding opportunities available; and make connections and start a network.
Starting a business is a bit like growing a Chinese bamboo tree, he said.
“The first five years you don’t really see growth but you do have to nurture it, you do have to water it, you do have to feed it, do all these things but then the sixth year the Chinese bamboo tree grows to be 90 feet,” Prasanna said. “What that really tells you is, it takes the fundamentals to put things in place and then the growth just skyrockets. You don’t want to grow too fast and fail. You want to have your fundamentals right and I think a program like Technology Village gives you those fundamentals to take your next step in the scaling up of your business.”
Prasanna’s 52 employees make up about half of the Technology Village’s 109 employees, according to Chairman of the Technology Village Board of Directors Sarah Jones.
Technology Village started in 2012 with the idea that it would create a “culture of innovation” and generate jobs in Prior Lake and throughout the country, she said.
Prior Lake businesses or those that intend to grow their business in the city can join the incubator and have access to the resources offered within the village. Participants will join in on round table discussions with board members who have a variety of experience in real estate, advertising and more.
Technology Village participants are also offered educational opportunities on topics such as IT security, accounting and legal advice from local experts or others involved in the program.
“Our focus is always on what’s your business plan, how can we bring it to life and then how do we help hold you accountable to achieving your goals?” Jones said.
Businesses graduate from the Technology Village after three years when they are viable enough to work independently or ready to scale up.
There are currently 10 businesses actively involved in the village and four businesses have successfully graduated from the program so far.
Though COVID-19 has stopped the Technology Village from having a party to congratulate Prasanna on his success as planned, Jones and the board are thrilled “so thrilled for his graduation from the program,” she said.
“Sri has built out an international business and they are among the most successful of our companies in terms of revenue, in terms of employees. They have the most employees of any of the businesses in the incubator,” Jones said. “Sri has been not only a really successful business man but also a really strong advocate for the board.”
For those who may be looking to take the next step in their business plan, applications for the Technology Village can be found at technologyvillage.net. Technology Village is also actively looking for community members to join the board of directors.