Jed has built two fat startups. This discussion delves into the nuances.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Jedidiah Yueh: The funny thing is, I never wanted to an entrepreneur. I started out as an English major in college. When I was in grade school, high school, and college, I was never interested in technology. I was the guy who always asked my friend to help me set up my computer.
Sramana Mitra: Where did you major in English?
Jedidiah Yueh: At Harvard.
Sramana Mitra: Is that where you grew up?
Jedidiah Yueh: I was born in New York, but I grew up in Southern California.
Sramana Mitra: What changed?
Jedidiah Yueh: Before I invented my first software product, I was a high school teacher. I was teaching high school at the end of college to help pay for college. I continued to teach high school right out of college. During one summer, I took a consulting role at a technology company. That’s what led to my first software product idea.
Sramana Mitra: Can you put a chronology on it? When was all this happening?
Jedidiah Yueh: I founded my first software company in 1999.
Sramana Mitra: The internet dot-com boom was happening and you were coming up with something against that backdrop.
Jedidiah Yueh: Yes. We started the company in 1999, but we started raising money in Silicon Valley in 2000 when the dot-com bubble was bursting. There was just an incredible amount of skepticism in the market, especially for a first time entrepreneur with no Computer Science background.
Sramana Mitra: What was the idea? What were you trying to do?
Jedidiah Yueh: It was a pretty technical product that was trying to transform data management and data backup. Back in 1999, companies backed up the same data over and over again onto tape. Tape is a very fallible media. There were already these proxies in the consumer market. You had MP3 players moving cassette tapes onto disks, and you had TIVO and other DVRs moving VHS tapes onto disks.
So my idea was to use software to move enterprise tape backups onto disks. In order to get that data to be small enough to make this cost-effective, we had to eliminate all the duplicate data across time and systems.
Sramana Mitra: Given your background, why did you choose to do backup of all things?
Jedidiah Yueh: It wasn’t a natural place for me to start. It was a very unusual beginning for me. I wasn’t interested in tech. I did that consultancy at a data storage company one summer. They were building network-attached storage CD-ROM jukeboxes basically building storage products. Because they were building a storage product, I had to learn about the storage industry. That’s what led me to my first product idea.