[Also check out my Entrepreneur Journeys book, Seed India – How To Navigate The Seed Capital Gap in India]
Sridhar Vembu is the CEO of AdventNet, which owns Zoho, a new on-demand office suite we’ve been hearing about a lot lately. I spoke with Sridhar about his rather unorthodox but quite successful entrepreneurial journey.
SM: I would like to start this interview by tracing your background. SV: I was born in India, I went to Madras IIT for my undergraduate and came to Princeton to do my PhD in 1989. In 1994 I joined Qualcomm in San Diego. My PhD is in electrical engineering, so I really do not have a software background. I worked on wireless communication which was my area of interest at the time. I worked with Qualcomm for two years. I worked on CDMA, power control and some very detailed issues on wireless communications. That is how I got started in the tech industry.
My brother, who was also there at Qualcomm as a software engineer, wanted to return home to India. Software is a great business to start in India, so he moved back to India and I moved to Silicon Valley to drum up interest in our fledgling venture, which later became AdventNet.
We ended up partnering with Tony Thomas, who had some network management software and was experienced in the area. We partnered and created a development center in India. I started selling it to customers in the Bay area, to Cisco and folks like that, and it was a great time to be selling that piece of software because there were a lot of networking companies getting started in the Bay area in the late 1990’s timeframe. That is how our company got started. The name of the company is AdventNet.
SM: Tony had written this software already and you got yourself the distribution rights? SV: He had written a very early piece, he set up a development center in India and we started adding more to that core. He had developed some software by himself, but we came together and developed it further.