What do you do when you have had a wildly successful career and are happily retired? If you are Carol Realini you spend some time doing global humanitarian work and then you start a new business venture! Carol, CEO and founder of Obopay, has found not only a second career but also a potential opportunity to shape the way millions around the globe access banking services. Here I discuss with Carol how inspiration on a trip to Congo has resulted in a new multi-million dollar venture.
SM: Carol you have had a great career. Can you give us a review of how you arrived where you are today?
CR: I was born and raised in San Francisco. I was a math major at University of California, Santa Cruz, after which I became a math teacher at San Jose State. At the time San Jose State was just starting up the EE department as well as the first master’s program in computer science. I earned my master’s degree in computer science during my spare time. The teachers in the program at that time were industry people from IBM and HP who taught classes at night. Computer science was a new field in the 1970’s.
After graduation I started my career as a technical person. I took a job as a software developer working for a mainframe company and developed operating system software. I spent 12 years there and in the early 80’s got involved with putting UNIX on mainframes. I negotiated the first UNIX agreement with AT&T who owned UNIX at the time. I was essentially involved in a startup within a big company. I got hooked on building new things and the innovation it required.
Once that happened I really decided my future was going to be with younger companies and with innovators rather than large companies. In my next position I went to a company just before it went public. It was a database company called Ingres. I was the Director of Product Marketing. After only 18 months at Ingres I was recruited to join a very early stage company called Legato Systems which was a Sun spinout. I was VP of Marketing and VP of Sales.
Legato was widely successful but after the first wave of product launches and deals I left to become the president of J. Frank Consulting in the early 90’s. In the later part of the 90’s I accepted my first CEO position for a venture-backed company which was Chordiant Software, and I raised over $30M for them.
SM: What was going on with your career moves? Where they spontaneous or did you have a focused direction?
CR: Each time I made a move I had a lot in mind. I took each opportunity and job seriously. Each role I took at a company represented a commitment to make certain things happen for that company.