Bobby Yazdani is the chief executive officer of SABA, one of the industry’s leading learning and talent management providers. Bobby holds a BA in applied mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley. In 1997 Bobby founded SABA, and he took the company public in 2000. Today the company has revenue of more than $100 million. In this interview Bobby talks about different ways of learning through mobile and social platforms and the adoption of his technology in enterprises today. Further, he shares insights into what he believes the future of education will look like.
Sramana Mitra: Bobby, let’s start with some context about SABA. I have been following the company for many years, so this would be an opportunity to introduce the company to the audience as well as bring me up to speed about your evolution.
Bobby Yazdani: A number of colleagues and I founded the company back in 1997. The core catalyst behind the company and our products was the introduction of the Internet and the subsequent shift of many enterprise business processes to the Internet. We picked the core quality enablement or training processes and asked ourselves how training processes were going to evolve with the introduction of the Internet, and how the Internet was going to impact the enablement and training of enterprises. That is how we started our effort. We essentially used the new technology and transformed a set of processes that already existed in the enterprise, and shifted them to the Internet.
SM: And those processes had to do with training?
BY: The primary term used is training, broadly speaking, but we realized very quickly that it was broader. Certification and compliance, sales training, sales enablement, channel enablement, channel certification, and so on are all part of it. All of a sudden we realized that it had become very broad and was manifested in many areas of business. It is global, not applicable to just a single job type per se. It covers a spectrum of industries. We started looking at the high-tech industry but quickly shifted to financial services, life sciences, and process management. We realized this was a much bigger market than we had originally thought.
SM: You are talking about the mid-1990s, as the Internet was evolving. What kind of evolution has the company gone through in the past decade?
BY: There are many dimensions to it. There is a technology dimension, there is a business model dimension, a leadership dimension, etc. The organization itself has evolved, markets have evolved and changed, and competitors have evolved and changed. Our challenge as a business – we have grown to around 1,000 people since 1997 – has also evolved. The question is very broad.
SM: Let me break it down a bit. In terms of business, whom do you cater to, and with what products? What has changed? Are you still an enterprise software company?
BY: We started as an enterprise license software company. We were always a B2B company. Over the years we have evolved from an enterprise software company to a cloud company. We are still licensing our technology, but as a service, providing bits and delivering them behind a firewall to customers. That is an example of our evolution: making technology available on the cloud as a service.