Sramana: What was your next career step after your successful project for the State of Texas?
Mohammed Farooq: In 1999, a guy called Manoj Saxena started a company in Austin and I became his first employee. I joined them on a journey of entrepreneurship. When I was working for the State of Texas in the Governor’s office, I had the option of joining the presidential campaign and move forward in government. The project I had been working was wildly successful and I had the chance to take on other projects. Instead, I chose to join Manoj as he built a new company.
The dot com and B2B boom was very intriguing. The passion was creating new technology. I did not know what it meant to build a new company. It was about being part of something new and exciting. It was about being part of something different. There was a sense of vision and changing stuff.
I was very young when I joined Manoj. I had come from a very large organization and was now part of something very small and agile. I played multiple roles. I started in product management before spending time in marketing and finally being placed in sales. I then led M&A and the company was acquired by Commerce One. That was my journey. That is where I learned what entrepreneurship was and how enterprise software companies are built and marketed. I learned how the product is sold. I learned how M&A works and how transactions happen. I saw all aspects of incubating, seeding, and growing a business from Series A to Series B to Series C to an M&A. We raised $45 million and sold the business for more than $100 million.
Sramana: What are your lessons learned from that experience?
Mohammed Farooq: There is a lot of unpredictability about what will happen tomorrow or even today when you are in a startup. You need to have the ability to live in that environment. You have to find a way to move the ball forward at all costs. If you can’t do that then you can’t be an entrepreneur. It was shocking in many ways but it was also very thrilling.
Manoj was a brilliant marketer. He was doing all of this for the first time as well. That was his first startup. It was interesting to see him go through all of that at the same time. We were very successful and I ultimately joined Commerce One through their acquisition. Manoj left after a little while which left me running the product strategy. I led the strategy for building the SOA platform for industry with SAP. Gartner positioned it as the first SOA platform for the industry.