Beerud Sheth founded Elance back in 1998. At the time, the concept was new and path breaking. Today, with freelancing becoming a gigantic part of the global workplace, the company is playing a massive role in matching businesses with service providers. You can also read our interview with Fabio Rosati on Elance’s evolution.
Today, Beerud is on his second company, Webaroo, which in turn, is on its second mobile messaging product.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your story. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of circumstances?
Beerud Sheth: I was born in Mumbai, India to an average middle-class family. My mom worked in insurance and my dad in steel. I was imbued with standard middle-class Indian values like working hard and studying well. If you study well, you could get away with a lot of other stuff.
Sramana Mitra: You went to an IIT?
Beerud Sheth: Yes, I got into IIT Bombay.
Sramana Mitra: Computer science?
Beerud Sheth: Yes. I was blessed with a good academic record. I was a top ranker in the National Talent Search in Math Olympiad. That was a phase I loved. A lot of Indian education system has rote memorization. Fortunately or unfortunately, I didn’t have a good memory. I had to really understand stuff well.
Sramana Mitra: It’s much harder to do actually than to understand things.
Beerud Sheth: It’s funny. Paradoxically, I did much better in the harder exams. I did terribly in the easier exams. IIT Bombay was a fun phase. Then, I went to MIT Computer Science.
Sramana Mitra: Did you stay for a Ph.D.?
Beerud Sheth: I’d like to say I’m a Ph.D. dropout.
Sramana Mitra: Me too.
Beeerud Sheth: I did my masters thesis. I didn’t want to be in the academia. The Internet hadn’t really taken off then.
Sramana Mitra: It was just starting.
Beerud Sheth: It was just all in the labs. I wanted to get business experience so I ended up spending about five years on the Wall Street. Initially, I did a lot of analytics. Then I also became a bond trader, trading fixed income mortgages and derivatives. Meanwhile, Netscape and the whole Internet explosion happened. Then, I started getting restless. I wanted to get back to the business of technology. That’s when we started Elance.
Sramana Mitra: That’s at the end of the 90s?
Beerud Sheth: Yes, end of 1998 was when we started Elance.