The Story: A Q&A with Founder and CEO Manvir Sandhu
What is Zennify’s founding story?
It all started in 2012. Co-founders Nathan Mueller, Jesse Barker, and I were working at Hewlett Packard, implementing and managing Salesforce for 100,000+ users, when UNICEF invited us to solve a major infectious disease challenge in Haiti. Vaccine quality was compromised due to refrigerator temperature volatility. Bootstrapped and pressed for time, we designed and developed a cloud-based Salesforce IOT solution to track and manage temperature data, and, within months, the entire country had a potential solution to protect the vaccine supply. Post go-live, our solution was published in a leading global medical journal as the WHO and UNICEF’s gold standard for developing nations and it got us on-stage at Dreamforce.
From our first days as Salesforce consultants, we carried a deep conviction that people could solve any major challenge with the right technology. Our experience in Haiti was the first time we truly put those beliefs about innovation to the test—and it worked. That was the moment Zennify began.
Zennify embodies a lifelong dream of building a visionary technology firm that cares about solutions because it cares about people. We built a diverse team that seeks the unique, the unorthodox, and the unusual to keep a fresh perspective that drives meaningful innovation. We have created a place where people love their job because they see and feel the impact of their exceptional solutions every day; a place where they feel valued for who they are just as much as the work they do.
What’s your company’s vision and how do you live those words?
We are problem solvers and relationship builders that strive to create solutions, opportunities and sustained success for our people, customers, community and future generations. Our vision is to be the most trusted, impactful and inspirational advisor in the consulting ecosystem.
We do this in a few ways. First, by leading with our values, which revolve around integrity, authenticity, equality and passion. When you cultivate a team that believes in these principles, you get a company filled with good people who care about solving complex problems. Who respect others and the communities around us.
This shows up in our work with customers, and the kinds of programs and investments we make. For example, ZennLab is all about fostering innovation and passion in our employees. Our ZennEarth and ZennforGood initiatives inspire us to keep giving back.
Your background isn’t in financial services, but it’s the industry in which Zennify is most well known. This isn’t usually the case. How did you decide to specialize in financial services, and why are you so passionate about helping companies in this space?
Part of it is being in the right place at the right time, and part of it is where our passions lie. Because of our heritage, Zennify started out in the Health and Life Sciences (HLS) space and we still have a number of customers there. However, when Salesforce began to verticalize more heavily in 2015, we worked with them on a very high profile competitive displacement in financial services. When Salesforce was coming to market with Financial Service Cloud, they invited us in as a strategic partner based on that work, and it’s been a closer relationship ever since.
Our focus in this space also comes down to wanting to work on complex problems. The pandemic accelerated the need for financial institutions to transform quickly. When physical branches and interactions became inaccessible and customers increasingly began to interact with their financial services partners digitally, we were there. Financial institutions require IT/digital modernization to sustain and progress, and Zennify’s expertise as a trusted advisor and cloud technology expert can support these requirements.
Zennify has been a trusted partner for Salesforce since its earliest days, but nCino is becoming a bigger piece of your portfolio. What’s driving this demand?
As a trusted advisor to banks, it is critical that we can advise on solutions that enable not just a superior customer experience, but also enable operational efficiencies and employee experience. nCino is built on the Salesforce platform and is a natural extension into middle and back office operations, a space many of our customers need to digitally transform to stay competitive. They come to us looking for a skilled partner to tie together systems and provide strategic guidance on how to use these across functions to get results.
Your employee-driven innovation lab, ZennLab, contributes a lot of intellectual property to support your customer work. Why has this initiative been so successful, and what are you working on now in the Lab?
ZennLab is a spot on representation of our company culture. Our solution engineers, technical architects, developers, and more are incredibly passionate about the work they deliver. The idea of ZennLab bubbled up from within our organization as an opportunity to create even more of the solutions we love to create (some of it even being done on personal time) because of this passion. ZennLab is a place for our teams to assemble packaged solutions for common business problems. We aim to get our clients results fast, and these tools are critical.
ZennLab is currently working on several MuleSoft integrations with common core systems used by banks and credit unions. It’s amazing to see these solutions save months of manual work hours by automating complex processes!
Zennify walks the walk when it comes to diversity, equity and inclusion. Your leadership team is incredibly diverse, with women holding 60%+ of director level roles. What do you think is the key to your success when others have found this so hard?
I think it’s quickly evident to talent that we’re different from other consultancies out there when it comes to diversity and equity. We’ve been fortunate to have some amazing female leaders with us since day 1—some that have grown from consultants to C-level executives. This real world display of upward mobility and commitment to growing talent is partly why, I think, diverse talent wants to work at Zennify. We have invested in partnerships with grassroots and established programs to bring in talent that breaks employment cycles in communities. We have some incredible individuals with us that come from Merit America, Grow with Google and other programs, and it’s truly a blessing to be able to provide opportunities to such amazing people. There’s never any question that we treat any groups with anything less than equality.
You were recently named a 2021 Most Admired CEO by Sacramento Business Journal, and spend a lot of time coaching entrepreneurs in your hometown. Why is that so important to you?
When we started Zennify, tapping into the local community was a huge help for me. I believe in sharing what I can with budding local entrepreneurs. The resources in Sacramento are immense with a huge talent pool, diversity of backgrounds and ideas, community groups that support idea development and more. Also, we were fortunate in that local partners such as the Greater Sacramento Economic Council and Merit America who have connected Zennify to the amazing talent in the region.
Why do you think Tercera is a great partner for you on this journey?
Tercera values so many of the things we’ve built our company around: diversity and inclusion, being mission-driven, enabling a remote workforce, leading with an industry-specific lens to solving clients’ business challenges, and more. I think Chris Barbin and the Tercera team’s successful track record of building one of the first Salesforce consultancies for the enterprise, and its success in the cloud consulting space is a huge advantage to Zennify as we continue to scale. Their partners can offer insights and connections that will make us better.