Kris Ramanathan: Mastering Community and Trust from Kodai

Kris Ramanathan: Mastering Community and Trust from Kodai
Abhinav Tadi (Class of ‘22) and Alumni Office Intern

In August 2022 I had the pleasure of interviewing prominent tech entrepreneur - Kris Ramanathan (Class of ‘81). Kris recounts his journey that began in Kodai and how the Kodai family and the values he has learned during his time at Kodai School have been the building blocks of his career.

Joining the Kodai School in 1977, Kris struggled to fit in. He describes the experience as prematurely joining a residential college, except that he was only 14! Eventually, his homesickness faded and he made strong friendships, and even today calls some of the friends he made at Kodai School his best friends. 

Experiences at Kodai School lead Kris to develop his leadership skills. During his higher studies, he was Dorm President, Class President, and Student Representative. The independence and quality of community that Kodai gave him, instilled a sense of confidence in Kris.  He is able to connect and make friends with anyone with ease. These were skills that he would carry with him throughout his career. Kris later attended South Methodist University in Texas to attain an engineering degree.

Mr. Ramanathan's career started by landing a job as an engineer in the oil industry, which was seemingly suited to his talent in mathematics and physics. Though he did well, he soon realized that this wasn’t his passion and sought to explore business and finance. Soon, he developed a growing interest for business and entrepreneurship, propelling him forward to get an additional business degree.

Life did not always go to plan. Kris describes his struggle to secure a job after the completion of his business degree, despite graduating at the top of his class! However, the Kodai community never really left his side.  Kris reconnected with a close Kodai friend, Robert Gass. Robert handed a helping hand and offered Kris to stay at his parent's place while he was looking for employment. This act of friendship showed Kris that Kodai's connections are strong and last forever.

Kris finally gets hired at a tech startup that he was introduced to through another Kodai friend. He was the third employee in the small software company. The company allowed him to be more autonomous, and he grew with the company. Starting at the bottom with customer service, Kris climbed up to business development and eventually became the head of all US operations.

After reaching the pinnacle of the company’s success, Kris was ready for another adventure. Doubling down on his entrepreneurial passion, he started a new company with a few other technologists he had connected with over the years. He focused on the financial side of the business while his partners were software developers. As a team, they were ready to find the piece of software that would sail them through the Worldwide web bubble. This is where he saw his dreams manifest into reality, or in his words “True success comes not only from being good at what you do but, loving what you do”.

Kris’s confidence gained from his time in Kodai, allowed him to pursue entrepreneurship, a venture not for the faint of heart.  His new world required great flexibility, long hours, and more importantly a strong belief in what you are doing and trying to accomplish.

Though entrepreneurship was in Kris’s blood, he still had to learn through experience. He learned to manage company expenses, satisfy stakeholders, look at legal contracts, hire/fire the right people, etc. all factors that one may not necessarily prioritize or keep in mind when jumping onto an entrepreneurial venture.

His time in Kodai gave Mr. Ramanathan an appreciation for community, a sense of belonging, and most importantly, trust. He uses this philosophy even now when hiring new employees, where he and his team spend a lot of time and effort in meeting and evaluating potential employees to ensure that they are a good fit and can be trusted while also allowing the employee to familiarize themselves with the company’s team.

Through his time building his company from the ground up, Kris’s interest in technology only grew. His company created Netomat, a platform intended for multimedia messaging, a mix between Facebook and Whatsapp. However, this is also where Kris learnt the importance of timing. The Netomat hub wasn’t as successful as they had hoped because they launched the product too early, nearly 5 years before the first iPhone, with people not ready for this type of technology just yet. This was a learning experience and taught him a very valuable lesson, to quote Kris “You can have the best idea and an amazing product, but if your timing isn’t right, you won’t succeed”.

Though not suited for the general public at that time, other technology giants noticed Kris’s avant-garde thinking and took interest, with companies like Electronic Arts, MLB, and Warner-Universal Music hiring Kris’s team to build and design company media platforms. Another valuable lesson could be taken from this, it is up to you to decide whether a roadblock on your path to success is a dead end, or if it is just an obstacle to jump over.

Today, Kris is exploring VR and AI. He is also currently working on a VR game called Edelweiss Act I where you play as a Polish Freedom Fighter. The game is fully immersive with specially composed music and cryptographic puzzles that allows for progression.

Kris Ramanathan truly cherishes and values his time and experience in Kodai. What Kris misses most are the friends he made and the relationships he formed in his time on the hills that, in his words, ‘truly shaped him as a person, transitioning him from a clueless teenager to a mature, well-rounded person who’s seen success in countless aspects of his life’.

Listen to the interview between Abhinav and Kris Ramanathan on the link below:

Kris Ramanathan and KIS Students