We’ve shared many Bootstrapping Using Services case studies with you here, as well as in the book on that topic. This one is particularly interesting because of the absolutely awesome business model that Nilay and his team have implemented. Read on!
Sramana Mitra: Let’s go to the beginning of your personal journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Nilay Banker: I’m from India, born and brought up in Ahmedabad, which used to be a sleepy town when I was born and growing up. It has now blossomed into a sprawling metro. It’s one of the five largest cities in India. I had a very interesting childhood. I grew up in a family of professionals. My father is an architect. My mother is a doctor. Pretty much, every person in my family is a professional with very few people who are not doctors. I consider myself a black sheep in the family.
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a doctor as well until one fine day, I got my hands on a computer and started making computer games. That’s when I fell in love with computer science. Within two days, my life changed. I no longer wanted to be a doctor. I was very fortunate to get the right opportunities at the right time in my school years and in my career.
Sramana Mitra: Did you do your undergraduate in India?
Nilay Banker: Yes, I did my undergraduate in India. I got an opportunity to get my Master’s in Computer Science at Stanford. That is what brought me to the US. I had a fantastic couple of years at Stanford. I’m still very connected as an alumnus. A lot of my colleagues have gone on to do great things in Silicon Valley and elsewhere.
Sramana Mitra: You did Computer Science at Stanford?
Nilay Banker: Yes.
Sramana Mitra: What years were you at Stanford?
Nilay Banker: I graduated in 1994 so I was there from 1992 to 1994.
Sramana Mitra: What happened after you graduated? This is the beginning of the commercial Internet. My career in Silicon Valley also started around that time. What did you do right after Stanford?
Nilay Banker: Exactly. That was the days of the first browser. This was even before Netscape was born.
Sramana Mitra: Mosaic, yes.
Nilay Banker: Yes. It’s very interesting how the email generation and the Internet generation was born at that time. Interestingly enough, I remember the days of Compuserv and AOL where we connect to those Internet services through modems with a telephone line. I remember doing all my reservations for vacations through Compuserv. Where we are today is just fantastic. That’s where the journey began.
My first job was with Oracle in California. I got an opportunity to do some significant things in a really small group in Oracle. In those days, Oracle was a much smaller company. I believe it had less than 5,000 people. Now it has over 120,000 people. I got to see the growth at Oracle as well. More importantly, I worked in a very small group which worked and developed things like a startup – the feel of what a startup is, how you stay up for 16 hours a day, then developing a product, and getting millions of dollars of revenue.
In those days, there was no product. There was no direction. We just came up with ideas on the fly. What started off as just a skunkworks project ended up being a very successful product at Oracle. It was part of the application server group. That has now become their web center portal product, which has a lot of success in the market. I remember the days when the team grew from three people to 120 people. That was just a fantastic experience for me.