Sangeeta (San) Banerjee is the co-founder and CEO of ApartmentADDA.com, an Indian web application company. She holds a degree in electrical engineering from Guindy and earned her master’s from Louisiana State University. Prior to founding ApartmentADDA, she worked for Tata Consultancy Services from 1999 to 2003 and then went on to postgradate education. After graduating from Louisiana State University she worked for Capgemini in Chicago for a year before returning to India to work for SAP India.
Sramana Mitra: Sangeeta, let’s start at the beginning of your story. Where are you from, and what were the circumstances of your childhood?
San Banerjee: I am from Kolkata. I grew up in a very conservative environment. Where I was from, girls were not supposed to ride a bicycle. I went to school on the other end of the city, and I commuted to school by myself. I would ride a bicycle to a ferry, then once on the other side of the river I would take a bus to school. Many people felt that my parents were careless with their daughter’s safety, but my parents really wanted me to be self-sufficient. They wanted me to know how to take care of myself. My belief that I can do anything I want to stems from my parents. I used to face a lot of ridicule for riding a bicycle. They would tell me to stay off the road and tell me to keep my cycle on the playground. >>>
Girish Rowjee is the CEO of Greytip Software, a company that specializes in HR software. Girish is responsible for strategic direction, day-to-day operations, product delivery and international business. His “never say die” attitude and excellent analytical skills have made him indispensable to the organization. Girish holds an engineering degree from Sri Jayachamarajendra College of Engineering (SJCE), and he is a corporate member of NASSCOM and a member of TiE.
Greytip has pioneered the SaaS model in India. They have successfully bootstrapped a SaaS company while keeping their primary focus on Indian corporations. In spite of numerous challenges they have proven that with perseverance and strategic adjustments the SaaS model does indeed have a place in India. While valuable for everyone, this is a key case study for Indian entrepreneurs.
Sramana: Girish, what is your background? Where do your entrepreneurial roots come from?
Girish Rowjee: I was born in a small town about 300 kilometers from Bangalore. I did my basic education there before moving to Mysore. My family has generally been an entrepreneurial family. My grandfather ran a bus service between several small towns, which was the first time bus service had been made available [in that area]. He then branched out into several retail shops where he sold electronic goods. Today my father runs operations of the electronics retail business that my grandfather founded in 1937.
Sramana: After your standard education, the equivalent of 12th grade, you moved to Mysore. What year was that?
Girish Rowjee: I moved to Mysore in 1989. I enrolled in engineering courses at SJCE. >>>
Aaron Fulkerson is the co-founder and CEO of MindTouch, a company that offers a cloud-based self-service help center and knowledge-as-a-service platform. Prior to founding MindTouch he was a member of Microsoft’s Advanced Strategies and Policies division, where he worked on distributed systems research reporting to Microsoft chief strategy officer, Craig Mundie. Aaron has also helped launch several nonprofits and businesses outside the software industry. He has been a contributing writer at CNN, Fortune, GigaOM, ReadWriteWeb, TechWeb, CMSWire, and Forbes Magazine. He has been tapped by the White House to inform national education policy, and he has been invited to the eG8 to discuss international technology policy. He is a sought-after public speaker who has presented at dozens of technology and business conferences. Aaron graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill with a BS in computer science.
Sramana: Aaron, tell us where you are from and a bit about your background. What are the roots of your entrepreneurial story?
Aaron Fulkerson: I grew up in a small town south of San Jose, California. Back then it was very rural and was still a farming community. At the same time, Silicon Valley was starting to blossom. In the 1980s, as a kid, I would dial into bulletin board services. I also wrote quite a bit of code. I did all of this from the farm I was growing up on. >>>
Itai Sadan is the founder and CEO of DudaMobile, a company that turns desktop websites into mobile sites. Itai has over 10 years of experience in business development, partner management, program management, and development. Prior to founding DudaMobile, Itai was a director at SAP, where he managed the SAP Discovery System program and was in charge of relationships with IBM, HP, and Fujitsu. Prior to that Itai worked for Amdocs, Finjan, and InterSight. Itai has a BSc. in computer science & mathematics from the Ben Gurion University in Israel.
Sramana: Itai, let’s start with the beginning of your personal journey. What is the story that paved the way for your entrepreneurial journey?
Itai Sadan: I was born and raised in Tel Aviv, Israel. I did have a six-year stint in South Africa, where our family lived for a while. I went to high school in Tel Aviv and met the person who is the co-founder and CTO of DudaMobile during my high school years. After high school I went to the army and served in the anti-terrorist school. After I completed my three-year army service, I traveled the world a little bit. >>>
Keela Robison is the VP of GameHouse and is responsible for distribution and storefront businesses at the company. GameHouse is a division of Networks and operates leading PC casual games app stores, including GameHouse.com, Zylom, and Atrativa. GameHouse also markets and distributes multimillion-dollar casual game franchises in all the leading mobile app stores, including Google Play, iTunes, Amazon, and carrier app stores.
Sramana: Keela, let’s start with a bit of background on GameHouse. How would you introduce GameHouse to our audience?
Keela Robison: GameHouse is a company that has been around in the casual game space for over 10 years. We started out distributing PC downloadable games. We distributed games as a third-party title, and we also created games in-house as a studio. That business continues today. We have three different PC website portals. The largest is GameHouse.com, which is focused on North America. We also have Zylom.com, which has a collection of European sites. We also have Atrativa, which is focused on Latin America with an emphasis on Brazil. >>>
Ido Schoenberg is the chairman and CEO of American Well Corporation, a provider of online healthcare and telehealth visits. Ido has a lengthy track record of successfully leading technology companies in the healthcare field. In 1996, together with Phyllis Gotlib, he co-founded iMDSoft, a provider of enterprise software that automates hospital critical care units. He grew the company into a market leader with a multinational install base in the U.S., Europe, and East Asia. In 2001, Ido joined CareKey Inc. as chief executive officer and took the company through its acquisition by the TriZetto group. Ido served as TriZetto’s chief business strategy officer until his departure in the summer of 2006. Ido continues to serve as the chairman of iMDSoft’s scientific advisory board. He received his MD from the Sackler School of Medicine.
Sramana: Ido, let’s start by reviewing a little bit of your background.
Ido Schoenberg: I was born in Israel. I am a serial entrepreneur in the healthcare space having started four companies to date. The first company I started was iMDSoft, which I founded with Phyllis Gotlib, my wife. We sold that company about a year ago. >>>
Sinclair Schuller is the CEO of Apprenda. With his two co-founders, Schuller has secured $16 million in VC funding to date. Investors include NEA, Ignition Partners, and High Peak Ventures. Apprenda delivers private and public PaaS to enterprise developers. Sinclair serves on multiple venture networks and speaks nationally on the topics of enterprise IT efficiency, cloud computing, and next generation enterprise architectures. Before Apprenda, Sinclair held positions at Morgan Stanley, Eden Communications, and consulted for the State University of New York’s (SUNY) vast IT systems. Sinclair holds dual bachelor of science degrees from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Sramana: Sinclair, let’s start with the beginning of your personal story. Where did you grow up?
Sinclair Schuller: I am a first generation American. My father is from Romania and my mother is from Italy. They immigrated to the United States in the late 1970s. My father’s family has a tradition of entrepreneurship. I was born in New York City but was raised in a very rural area in upstate New York. I had 20 people in my high school graduation class.
Growing up in a rural area is a bit different. There was not a lot of science culture to be exposed to. I had to figure things out on my own. My father was very interested in science and had started medical school but was unable to complete it for various reasons. He went on to start several businesses in Manhattan before we moved to upstate New York. >>>
Arvind Agarwalla is the founder and CEO of FACT Software. Arvind founded FACT after recognizing that in the mid-1990s computers were primarily sold to automate accounting practices, yet they did not have a standard software package to accomplish the accounting functions. Now FACT has been established for 25 years and helps small and medium enterprises become more efficient, productive, and profitable.
Sramana: Arvind, let’s start with the beginning of your story. Of course you are from Kolkata, my favorite city. What kind of circumstances did you grow up in? You are one of the earliest product entrepreneurs in India. Tell me more about your story.
Arvind Agarwalla: I wind the clock back prior to my birth. My family moved to Kolkata in 1900. Entrepreneurship runs in our genes. We were a large industrial family, and like any large industrial family we had our share of brother vs. brother rivalries. My grandfather was thrown out of the family in 1955 when my father was 16. We went from owning an airline, steel plant, and a piece of every industry in the country to becoming paupers overnight. >>>
In 2008 I wrote an article for Forbes, How Amazon Could Change Publishing, talking about the drastic need for disruption in the book publishing industry.
Since then a growing number of authors have turned to indie publishing platforms such as Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) to launch their businesses. Today indie authors are becoming brands and businesses unto themselves, too. This article highlights three such authors.
Jasinda Wilder spent most of her life studying, performing, and teaching music, theater, and dance, so the transition to writing fiction was a natural one for her and her husband and writing partner. Self-publishing was a choice born of necessity for the author team, who found themselves in a financially dire situation and realized they had to turn their lives around fast. From their research, they felt Amazon had reinvented the notion of self-publishing via KDP. Jasinda’s first book, “Big Girls Do It Better,” struck a chord with readers and the couple quickly earned enough to save their house from foreclosure. Their breakout title, “Falling Into You,” quickly reached #1 on Amazon and #5 on the New York Times list and, within the first six weeks alone, they hit more than $1 million in sales. On June 19, 2013, they published the sequel, “Falling Into Us,” which skyrocketed to #22 on the Kindle Top 100 list in just one week and continues to climb.
Sramana: What was your first product?
Amith Nagarajan The first product suite that I built were component tools that allowed people to build user interfaces more rapidly. Back then it was based purely on Microsoft Windows. It evolved quickly from there.
Sramana: What path did you follow to get the company launched and find your first customers?
Amith Nagarajan I put the first set of products that I built were put out on the Internet as shareware. It is the same idea as the freemium model. I packaged up a set of tools on usenets which were similar to discussion forums. People could use them for free for 30 days and after that timeframe they had to purchase a license key. >>>