Raj De Datta is the CEO and co-founder of BloomReach, the world’s first web relevance engine. Prior to founding BloomReach, Raj was an entrepreneur-in-residence at Mohr-Davidow Ventures. Prior to that he was the director of product marketing at Cisco. Prior to Cisco he was part of the founding team at telecom company FirstMark/LambdaNet, which grew to $80 million in run-rate revenues. Raj also worked in technology investment banking at Lazard Frères. He holds a BSE in electrical engineering from Princeton and an MBA from Harvard Business School.
Sramana: Raj, let’s start with your personal journey. Where are you from?
Raj De Datta: I grew up between India and the Philippines. I lived in the Philippines eight months out of the year and went to school there. I was in India about four months out of the year. I came to the U.S. for college.
Sramana: What were your parents doing that required you to be in India and the Philippines?
Raj De Datta: My father is an agricultural scientist. He was part of a lot of the research that went on around the green movement in the 1960s and 1970s. That is when people were afraid the world would run out of food, particularly countries in Asia with their booming populations. There was a lot of research done on crops, particularly at a center out of the Philippines that studies rice. That was where he was doing research. Being from India, we would go back during the interim periods.
Sramana: What happened after high school?
Raj De Datta: I went to Princeton for college. It was the first time I came to the U.S., and it was cold. I vividly remember landing at the Detroit airport and ordering a meal that consisted of the largest plate of food I had ever seen. I am sure everybody has that experience when they come to the U.S. for the first time.
I studied electrical engineering at Princeton and then added another degree in public policy and international affairs. I finished school in 1996. The Internet was in its infancy. I remember the pre-Internet world, but it entered my work life so early that I can’t remember work without it.
Sramana: We are the generation that brought the Internet to fruition and grew up in that time. We had the first generation of entrepreneurs working on transitioning it.
Raj De Datta: I remember the [time], in 1995, that I spent time at Bell Labs doing research. Netscape IPO’d during the summer and Bell Labs split from Lucent. The research I was doing at Bell Labs dealt with the problems they were having in processing Internet traffic through their modems. In dial-up Internet, the PBX structure Lucent was selling would drop all Internet calls. I was working to debug that, but the project was canceled because at that time they felt that calls were such a small percentage of traffic it would not matter.