Tell me about yourself.
I grew up in India. After doing my BS in Computer Science from the Indian Institute of Technology in 1993, I worked for Hughes Software Systems and then came to the U.S. Since then, I’ve mostly been working in the wireless and telecommunications space. In the 1990s, I worked with a startup that was focusing on wireless infrastructure. We built RF components and radio software that ended up being the first TDMA digital system. Before that, the phone infrastructure was mostly analog, so it was great to be part of the transition from analog to digital. Then I worked with another startup company called Excel Switching, where we built a complete, fully programmable Class-5 telephone switch. Excel got acquired by Lucent and became the world’s first commercial Softswitch. The next company in my journey was Starent Networks, focused on wireless infrastructure specializing in different mobile data gateways, high capacity & high performing mobile routers, and packet core-network equipment. There were around three hundred people when I first joined. Over the course of the next few years, it grew to over a thousand people. We did a great IPO and it was later acquired by Cisco. I was leading the multimedia development there, working on newer technologies such as 4G and WiFi gateways. I started building my patent portfolio and thinking about new innovations that would solve customers’ real-world problems.
One day I was driving back home from work and there was a point in my drive where my call would always drop or lose audio when I still had full signal strength, indicating network congestion and capacity issues. The problem is even worse in rural areas where it’s too expensive to put up cell coverage. Based on my personal experiences and seeing others with similar problems, I wanted to come up with a product that would solve the capacity and coverage issues that operators are facing today. Around 2010 I did my executive MBA from Babson College. As part of my MBA, I attended a conference at Harvard Business School where I met our CEO Steve Papa. After a few months of talking and sharing ideas about ways to improve coverage, we became co-founders of Parallel Wireless in May 2012. Parallel Wireless technology made it possible to enable mobile coverage in rural areas that operators were not providing. We established the first office in Nashua, New Hampshire, and grew the team to several hundred in the next few years with development centers in Pune, Bangalore, Israel, and the UK. When we first launched our product in Europe with a tier1 operator in 2014, we received several thank-you emails from residents of the area. One mother had to previously drive her daughter hours away to a library to complete her homework because they had no internet connectivity where they lived. Our technology made it possible to get them coverage, so the mother didn’t have to drive her daughter every day. She happily thanked us and even wanted us to extend the coverage for people in other areas experiencing similar problems. It’s amazing to see the positive impact that Parallel Wireless has had on others around the world.
What obstacles has your company faced and how did you overcome them?
Growing our team was a challenge because we needed very specialized skills. We were able to use our network to a great extent to find the talent. We created an innovative, open, honest, and transparent culture and successfully retained talent.
How did you get involved with TiE Boston?
I became a TiE Boston Member in 2012 when I started Parallel Wireless. It was a great place to network, meet like-minded professionals, and exchange ideas. I still carry with me the startup information and next-step advice I got from TiE. It’s a great source of information for startups of all different stages who want to take their company to the next level. Now that I have more bandwidth, I hope to help folks in similar situations who want to start a company and provide the kind of help I got when I joined TiE while I was starting my own company. I would like to participate in some of the upcoming events and use that experience for the next steps in my own journey.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Throughout the journey of growing a business, there will always be challenging moments but it’s very important to learn from those mistakes. Perseverance is a crucial component — there are always ups and downs. Continue to have faith and never give up. If you are at the point of even starting a company, you have already crossed a level that very few people reach, so you can figure out the next set of challenges. Think problems through — whenever there is a problem, there is always a solution waiting for it. I really enjoyed the entrepreneurial journey even though there were challenges. I love to learn something new every day, whether it’s through reading or by seeing how people handle things differently. It doesn’t matter where you are or what stage of the career you are in — it’s always good to learn. It also doesn’t matter who you are learning from. I learn from my son, from what those on my team are doing, or from new people who come on board and present interesting ideas. There’s always an alternative way of doing things, so I like being able to adapt to make things work.