Entrepreneur Dinesh Ganesarajah '11 built a business out of connecting academic research And companies looking for their next big idea
By Sara Langen | Photo by Jeff Sciortino
Dinesh Ganesarajah '11 spent six months after graduation in a Kellogg conference room cold-calling potential clients for his scouting startup. His main goal: Build enough in initial sales to seed the business and start hiring.
He put $200,000 on the books.
Today, Ganesarajah sits in PreScouter's downtown Evanston offices managing nine U.S. employees and 32 contractors in the Philippines who serve the research needs of the company's 31 clients. His annual sales are approaching seven figures. The business's fast financial success surprises even him.
"It's quite startling how big we are now versus a year ago," says Ganesarajah, the founder and managing director.
PreScouter helps corporations find new inventions by bridging the gap between academia and industry. For example, if Hershey's wanted to create a zero-calorie chocolate bar, PreScouter could help it find ingredients and chemistries to make that possible, Ganesarajah says.
Governments worldwide spend more than $100 billion each year funding academic research. Recognizing the potential for commercializing this research, PreScouter provides such companies as Domtar, Evonik and Reckitt Benckiser with targeted insights.
"What I really wanted to do was start my own company and be an entrepreneur," Ganesarajah says. "At Northwestern, I noticed there was a lot of work being done in the research labs, but not a lot of it was getting out into the real world. I could see there was this big gap."
Having spent his career building businesses for other people — first as an operations manager at online gambling company OpenBet Technologies and later as a portfolio manager at BBC — Ganesarajah wanted to build something for himself, and he saw Kellogg as the place to gain the skills to do so.
The McCormick Scholars Program at Kellogg granted Ganesarajah $25,000 to help him get PreScouter off the ground. In a pivotal conversation with fellow alumnus and venture capitalist Matt McCall '91, McCall introduced Ganesarajah to Zach Kaplan, an entrepreneur whose company, Inventables, had sold R&D materials to labs. Kaplan provided insights into sales and building a sales model.
Watching PreScouter evolve from an idea into a successful company has been gratifying for Ganesarajah. He has a vision for its future, one that doesn't necessarily involve him.
"I see myself as a serial entrepreneur," he says. "If I can get this business to $30 or $40 million in revenue, after that point, I don't see myself as a CEO. That type of business is a different challenge."