Tell me about yourself and your journey as an entrepreneur.
I grew up in a tiny town in the interior of the state of Maharashtra in India. With both the parents’ teachers and the only option to be an engineer or a doctor, I chose to study engineering. Though I secured more marks for the biology group because my older brother convinced me that four years of graduate engineering would give me much-needed earnings right out of college. I did my undergrad in mechanical engineering and got a job in a very reputed forging company. That job was a dream come true, but I quickly realized that I am more interested in managerial positions than a shop-floor assignment. During those first couple of years, I also developed a strong urge to start my own business. While working on the shop-floor in the forging plant, I had an opportunity to work with a few German engineers who were implementing a robotic forging line. Looking over their shoulders, I started developing an interest in computer engineering. So after working for about nine years, from 1990 to 1999 in manufacturing, finally I got a job in a mid-size banking software company as a regional manager. That was my first managerial and computer engineering assignment.
I also did an executive MBA for three years and graduated in business administration. I started excelling in my career, got married, and had our first child. Being in the computer industry got me exposure to the global market. In 2003, my then employer asked me to relocate to the United States to support an acquisition they did of a small company in Billerica, Massachusetts. My wife, Prachi, daughter, Ketaki, and I traveled to the United States with two suitcases with the plan that we would return to India in a couple of years.
My primary role was to support the sales team in Billerica from the pre-sales technology side. In 2009 I became the President of the company, managing large teams, customers and made a couple of acquisitions. On the personal front, by then we had our second child, Revati, and the chances of returning to India started looking very slim. There was not a single day during these almost 20 years of a reasonably rewarding career that I did not think of starting my own business. An idea dawned on me while driving back from one such review meeting where a customer, who always acknowledged my team’s hard work but was never happy with the technology outcome, expressed concerns about what they are getting out of the data warehousing technology. The customer was looking for “ability to find information” while we were providing structured data reports. And a word popped up — Findability, which was not a widely used word in 2010. I decided to quit my rewarding job to build technology that will help businesses find information quickly and thus I started Findability Sciences. I got my first customer within the first six months, and my dream of becoming an entrepreneur began to come to reality just after 20 years. After starting Findability Sciences, I realized the world was in deep recession from the subprime crise. I didn’t give up, and I grew Findability Sciences from a single-person company to about 60 team members with no external funding or help for about six years. Technologically, we progressed a lot and built multiple layers of technologies on the initial platform, becoming an AI solutions company. In 2017 SoftBank of Japan offered to take Findability Sciences technology to Japan by forming a joint venture. They also invested in Findability Sciences, and it provided the right kind of support for business development and expanding our AI technology portfolio. We now have a presence in the United States, India, Japan, and Canada. Inc 5000 ranked Findability Sciences as the 1157th fastest growing company in 2020!
What obstacles has your company faced, and how did you overcome them?
Starting alone and bootstrapping the business for a person of my background was not easy. While I used all my savings in setting up the company, it was challenging to grow without any financial help, but I focused on costs and revenue and generated every single year profit. Findability Sciences products and offerings were at least 2 to 3 years ahead of the market, and it took a lot of time & energy to convince customers to use our products. We kept our focus and consistent efforts in demonstrating value to the customers through proof of concepts, by continually changing the business model, by adding innovative features.
Did COVID-19 Pandemic impact your business? If yes, how did you manage?
Yes, COVID-19 lockdowns impacted our company. The first significant impact was about employees working from home and having access to sensitive customer data. The lockdowns were sudden, and we had no time & resources to react to it like the whole world. Secondly, many customers stalled AI projects as they were not sure about the road ahead, but we managed all this with the utmost positive approach. We used resources time in enhancing our technology and launching new products. We used the time to educate and communicate with customers on AI technologies and their benefits. So while we had a dip in revenues for two quarters, we see an uptake in customer engagement from this quarter.
How did you get involved with TiE Boston?
I always admired TiE’s global community after reading and hearing about it all these years. Since I was bootstrapping my company, I had recommendations by many well-wishers to approach TiE and network with the successful and aspiring entrepreneurs. However, I could not get the time or opportunity to do so. All these years working on my own, I learned a lot about what to do and what not to. And last year, one of the very active Chartered Member of TiE Boston, who witnessed my journey for the last couple of years, recommended me to get involved and impart my knowledge and learnings with the aspiring entrepreneurs. I became a Chartered Member, and am now involved with the very energetic, active, and passionate community of TiE Boston
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
- No business idea is a bad idea, as far as you are convinced that you can change the world with that idea. If you are convinced, you can convince others!
- Sales cure everything.
- Keep one eye on cost.
- No decision is wrong or right unless you take it.
- It takes confidence to stand up and talk, but it takes courage to sit & listen.
What book recommendations do you have?
For every aspiring and existing entrepreneur, I highly recommend “Three Simple Steps” by Travor Blake and “Inner Engineering — A Yogi’s Guide to Joy” by Sadhguru.
Tell us about the book in which AI itself writes a chapter on AI
Jaspreet Bindra is a leading expert on digital transformation, Blockchain and other emerging technologies. Jaspreet and I met when he was leading digital transformation at Mahindra Group of companies in India. Last year Jspreet authored a book — The Tech Whisperer. This book demystifies and simplifies emerging technologies like AI, blockchain, Internet of things, virtual reality, etc., and narrates how companies can employ these to drive their digital transformation. When Jaspreet was almost finishing the writing, he called me one day to brainstorm on the ideas. He asked if Findability Sciences technology related to Natural Language Processing can write a chapter in his upcoming book. I took the challenge and two months down the line — An AI wrote a chapter about AI! Leading analyst and media worldwide took note of this chapter.