Sramana Mitra: I’m asking you to be a bit more specific to your domain of expertise. You have a long background in VMWare and you’re doing something that is heavy in cloud infrastructure. Are there more discrete problems that you have seen that if you were starting a company today, you would solve that problem?
Ajay Gulati: The platforms have become easier. If I look at the problems, I feel the problems fall into specific areas like marketing and sales. In most of these areas, people are looking for better solutions. One area where I feel a lot of companies struggle with is doing marketing.
Sramana Mitra: That is a very crowded field. This is why I’m asking you specifically about the infrastructure side because we cover the application side very heavily. Marketing technologies on the cloud is a very crowded field.
Ajay Gulati: If I look at infrastructure itself, I feel that people are becoming more and more focused on either a public or a private cloud. I actually think if you’re trying to build another company today, I would rather focus on a layer on top of infrastructure and not just on infrastructure.
Sramana Mitra: You’re saying that the infrastructure side is pretty well-taken care of. That is not where you see a lot of open opportunities. At least, not from your vantage point.
Ajay Gulati: Yes. Infrastructure is becoming more and more of a standard thing. There aren’t that many opportunities left in there. Building services on top of it, that is where there is definitely a lot of room.
Sramana Mitra: That is also crowded. This is a conversation that I have constantly with entrepreneurs in our program. We are in 2017. The Internet is already almost 25 years old. A lot of stuff has happened already. A lot of software has been built. Even on the cloud, a lot of stuff has been built. Today, you have to find a gap. It’s not like you have broad white spaces available left, right, and center.
Ajay Gulati: These kinds of gaps in my mind are not such broadly visible gaps that you can just think for some time and you would come up with some great ideas. Gaps would appear from people’s real experiences. Let’s say somebody goes through an experience where they feel the pain of getting appointments with doctors to be very hard. Then they can come back with a service saying, “Here is a way to provide better matchmaking between doctors and patients for this specific kind of use case.”
Sramana Mitra: But then the moment you come up with idea, the next immediate advice is to do the competitive analysis because there are other people who have thought about that. There’s already probably 15 companies doing the same thing.
Ajay Gulati: You have to see a pain that you are seeing yourself. There may be some companies in the same space. Frankly, it’s not easy to look at a company and see what they are doing is exactly what you are trying to do. A lot of companies claim too much. You can still find specific ways of doing things.
Sramana Mitra: Potentially. The other thing that I’m a big believer in is niches. There are niches where there are opportunities that are very precise opportunities that you can scope out very cleanly and solve specific customer problems.
Ajay Gulati: If you look at even Dropbox. When Dropbox started, there was already Google Drive and other drives. The way they delivered the solution, the ease-of-use, the way they connected all the devices became a differentiator.
Sramana Mitra: To some extent. I don’t think Google Drive was that mature. They were starting out at the same time roughly speaking. Google Drive was not as mature when Dropbox started. If Google Drive was as mature, it would have been hard for Dropbox to have the kind of uptake that they did.
Thank you for your time.