Sharran Srivatsaa ’01 leads an inspirational conference call for thousands of business leaders every day at 5 a.m. Now the CEO of the real estate software company Kingston Lane, Srivatsaa began his career by cofounding a software company, later growing a real estate company to ten times its size in just five years. In his 5 a.m. Club, he passes along the wisdom he has gathered through managing a wildly successful entrepreneurial career and from working with his own mentors, starting with advisers at Luther College.
Srivatsaa came to Luther at age 16 from Chennai, India. He joined organizations such as the Student Activities Council (SAC), played on the tennis team, had a campus job, and began experimenting with his own business ideas. “Because of the intimate access to staff, faculty, and administration,” he says, “I had many individuals who served as mentors to me.”
Trish Neubauer, director of student activities and Dahl Centennial Union, taught Srivatsaa about the value of creating great experiences, he says. “She would always tell me that our memories of Luther would be based on our relationships and experiences, which is why SAC played a pivotal role in bringing great experiences to campus. Even today as I think about building companies and cultures, I think about the experiences that our clients and employees have every day.”
From Rich Leake, former Luther tennis coach, he learned the power of being consistent. “Come rain or shine or snow, tough matches or long travel meets, Rich always showed up consistently every single day.” That’s part of the basis on which Srivatsaa built his 5 a.m. Club conference call, which is successful and gaining in participation precisely because he does it every single day.
Srivatsaa credits Luther music professor Juan Tony Guzmán ’90 for taking him under his wing. “He treated me like family and even hosted my parents when they visited,” Srivatsaa says. “When someone just steps in and takes care of you unconditionally, it’s a pretty amazing thing. It taught me a lot about life, love, and personal responsibility.”
He also found mentors on the custodial staff during his work-study assignment. They helped him understand American colloquialism and pronunciations, which he says helped him assimilate a lot faster into a new culture and country.
Srivatsaa, a computer science and math major, also began developing his business skills at Luther, partnering with other students to add magazine and coffee deliveries to his newspaper route.
Computer science professor Kent Lee ’87 took Srivatsaa to various programming contests. It was an event at UC–Berkeley that launched Srivatsaa’s career and introduced him to a key business mentor. On the advice of contest judge Peter Loewy, Srivatsaa formed a software company with other contestants. Several years later they sold it for a profit, and Srivatsaa took some time to enjoy his tennis skills, teaching at luxury resorts in the Caribbean, on Maui, in Dubai, and in Singapore. He recruited Luther teammates Chris Jasper ’02, Rob Gerdts ’02, and Randy Mack ’03 to join him.
Next up was earning a business degree from Vanderbilt University and a stint on Wall Street with Goldman Sachs. Then one day his business mentor, Loewy, called to ask advice about a Southern California real estate company, Teles Properties. The two ended up taking over the company, increasing it by ten times its size in just five years and selling it to the huge real estate firm Douglas Elliman.
Srivatsaa lives in Laguna Beach, Calif., with his wife, Neeti, and their children Neal, 8, and Lara, 3. He still partners with Loewy and continues to reach out to other business leaders to ask advice. But it was at Luther, Srivatsaa says, that he first learned the importance of having mentors in his life and of becoming one himself.