Focusing precisely on designing a product strategy always helps scale. iManage has focused steadfastly on the legal process and the workflow thereof.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your personal journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Neil Araujo: I was born in Goa. It was a Portuguese colony in India. I was raised there and had a great time. I left Goa to do my undergraduate degree in a different part of India. For the first time, I was exposed to people from 26 states in India. I got my undergraduate in EE and moved to the US to get a Master’s in Computer Science.
Sramana Mitra: Where did you do your EE?
Neil Araujo: It was from National Institute of Technology in Calicut. I came to the US to do my Master’s in Computer Science from the University of Illinois. In my first class itself, I ran into this person who had come back to do his Master’s after his first business was winding down. He was an entrepreneur. At that time, C++ was hot. We ended up taking the C++ class. Next semester, we started iManage.
Sramana Mitra: You graduated with a Master’s?
Neil Araujo: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: What happens after that?
Neil Araujo: We started the business. I was an immigrant, so there was zero downside.
Sramana Mitra: Your friend, whom you met in this C++ course, is the one who was driving the starting of the process of the business?
Neil Araujo: Yes, I joined him. He had already done one startup before. For me, it was my first time. My choice was to go do a startup or become a consultant in New York and make a lot more money. It was always important to do, for me, what I really loved. I was much more passionate about controlling our own destinies. I felt that, in the long-term, it would serve me better.
Sramana Mitra: What was the business that you co-founded?
Neil Araujo: It was iManage.
Sramana Mitra: What was the concept? At that point, what were you going to do? What was the value proposition?
Neil Araujo: The value proposition was very similar to what we do right now. If you work on very high-value documents that require a high degree of rigour in how they are managed, every comma and every space matters. The absence or presence of that can make a big difference to the interpretation of the document. The security in these documents is dependent on collaborating with other people efficiently. If you create them in a high volume and being able to do that efficiently is important to you, we are the tool that enables all of that. That was the value proposition.
Our clients were professional services firms, law firms, accounting departments, and bankers who work on high-value deals. These are people who sell advice in the form of documents. They need to manage that for efficiency, productivity, compliance, and ethical requirements. We were one of the first systems of that type in the market. Why we decided to enter the space was, right at that time, there was a paradigm shift that was happening. The ways you wrote software was changing. The kinds of tools that you use to write software was changing. We felt that we could come into the market, take a different approach, and leapfrog whatever was existing at that particular point in time.
Sramana Mitra: What year are we talking?
Neil Araujo: 1995.