Sramana Mitra: You’ve already crossed $5 million revenue. Why did you raise money from Accel India?
Nenshad Bardoliwalla: Two of the four founders are actually Indian, but that’s honestly incidental. Prakash and Dinesh have known each other since 1999.
Sramana Mitra: I can see why Dinesh would be interested in something like this. I’m just surprised by the structure. Accel Partner India was set up to fund venture in India. It’s a bit odd.
Nenshad Bardoliwalla: As you know, the relationship and trust you have with whoever is going to fund you and the ability to weather the bad times is very important for building a great company. Prakash and Dinesh go back many years. He’s somebody that we trust to always put the best interests of the company forward. That has been the case.
Sramana Mitra: He has experience in analytics so I can see why he would be drawn to something like this. What do you see as the trends? Where would you point entrepreneurs to go look for open problems?
Nenshad Bardoliwalla: As I mentioned, I think the inexorable trend for all information technology is towards democratization. If you look at the adoption of the radio, then television, and then cellphones, the amount of time it takes to reach one million, ten million, 100 million was increasingly shorter every time there was a transition. If it took 10 years to reach a million people for radio adoption, it took five years to reach five million people for phone adoption. What you’re now seeing is, the iPhone is getting deployed to 5 million people on the first day of sales.
If you believe as we do that there is an inexorable trend towards democratization of information technology, the disruption opportunities are to find that in any segment of software or hardware that you find that has been successful in the previous generation. If 10% of the people were able to use CRM systems before, what can you do to a product so that 50% of addressable people could use it?
In the data preparation sector, what we do is something that has been in the hands of the elite few for 20 or 30 years. There are companies that are already successful selling to the elite few. The opportunity that we took and I think the big opportunity for us is going after the analysts. But really every one of us is actually an analyst. If you go to buy a new stereo, you go to Amazon.com and you look at the pricing and reviews. You may go to consumer reports and do the same thing. You may ask five of your friends. You’re gathering information and then you have to reconcile that information. Amazon may say that this is quite a good model. My friend says that this is actually not a good model.” You’re aggregating and combining that information and then ultimately you make a decision that results in a purchase.
If you take the logical extension of what we’re doing, our vision is a lot broader and extends to the notion of information on demand. I shouldn’t even have to figure out where the data is, clean it, and transform it because with enough people doing these types of activities, we should be able to assemble a data set and just give it to you. We’re going from the 1% to the 25% of people who can do this type of work.
If you take the vision even further, think about how any common person can do the task that today is in the hands of a much smaller group and you will see opportunities that abound everywhere. I think that mental model can be applied to any set of problems either in the enterprise or in the consumer world. How do I make this address ten times more people? That’s the opportunity that you have to change the world. For us, it’s information. For others, it would be any area that they have a passion about.
Sramana Mitra: Very good. Thank you for your time.