Raj Narayanaswamy is the co-founder and CEO of Replicon. He has over 15 years of software development and senior management experience. Narayanaswamy has a bachelor’s degree in computer science degree from the Indian Institute of Technology, Chennai, and is an active member of the high-tech business community. Lakshmi Narayanaswamy is the co-founder and co-CEO of Replicon with a focus on strategic initiatives for global operations. Prior to starting Replicon, she worked as a software engineer for Verity (formerly known as FTP Canada). She holds degrees in computer science and electrical engineering.
Sramana: To begin, would you please provide a bit of history and personal background related to your career path to becoming entrepreneurs?
Lakshmi Narayanaswamy: I am from a small town in India. I did my undergraduate studies in electrical engineering in Chennai. After that I went to the University of Calgary in Canada where I earned a computer science degree. After graduation I began working for FTP Canada, which eventually became Verity, although I am not sure that the company exists anymore.
Raj Narayanaswamy: I come from India as well. I graduated from IIT in Chennai in 1986 with a degree in computer science. I was one of two people who decided not to go to the U.S. or pursue a master’s degree. I worked in India for about a year before I took a job in the U.K. for a year. After that, I went to Canada to work on a four-month contract in Calgary. That turned into a four-year term in Calgary. I met Lakshmi in 1991, and we got married and made Calgary our home.
We founded Replicon in 1996. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to start the company. We were young and just decided to go do it. We moved the office to San Mateo, although we do still have operations in Calgary. We grew the company there until 2008. We also have an office in Bangalore, India.
Sramana: What was going on in the competitive landscape that prompted you to start the company?
Lakshmi Narayanaswamy: We were both working for software companies. The consumer space really started to become popular. Websites and email became consumer products. Even grandmothers had websites and understood URLs and the other buzzwords. We felt that the consumers were driving the Internet and were very comfortable using email. However, when we got to work all we saw was client/server. Companies were not engaging with the Internet technologies. There was a lot of apathy toward popular consumer applications.
We felt there was a real need for the products the consumers were adopting to be used in the workspace. Internet technologies lend themselves to group-based collaboration and communication. We felt it was a big opportunity. We both talked about it for a while, and then on the spur of the moment we decided to start a company. That is how we started.
Raj Narayanaswamy: We were young and we saw companies like Netscape go public. We felt it was simple to write a business plan, get money from VCs and then have a billion-dollar company. We were young and felt we had to do the company now or never. We both quit our jobs at the same time and just started the business. We were a bit naïve, not really knowing what we were getting into. We went looking for venture capital in the Yellow Pages.