Jyoti started as a first-time entrepreneur trying to do a fat startup. Read how he managed to navigate the chicken and egg, and build a Unicorn-level success. Superb story!
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?
Jyoti Bansal: I was born and raised in a small town in India.
Sramana Mitra: Which town was this?
Jyoti Bansal: It’s in the state of Rajasthan. I grew up there. My dad had a small business. I grew up having a good exposure to the basics of the business. I’ve always liked science and math. I went to one of the good engineering schools in India. I studied computer science there. This was a long time ago when India didn’t really have a very active startup scene.
I was always very fascinated by startups. I wanted to go to Silicon Valley where all the startup activity is. Normally, when people graduate from school, you come to Silicon Valley or do a Master’s and then get into the industry. I just wanted to work in startups. I needed to find a way to go to Silicon Valley and work at a startup. I came here pretty much straight out of school.
Sramana Mitra: How did you get into a startup straight out of school? Did you find something through your career development office? How did you find a startup to work for?
Jyoti Bansal: I started applying to a lot of companies in from India. There was not a proper channel to find a job in a Silicon Valley startup from India.
Sramana Mitra: Now it’s easier. What time frame are we talking about?
Jyoti Bansal: This was in 2000.
Sramana Mitra: The market was down.
Jyoti Bansal: I graduated in 1999, and then I was here in early 2000. The market was still getting past the peak but the downturn was just starting. It’s good to see how the industry goes up and comes down.
Sramana Mitra: When you arrived in Silicon Valley in 2000, what did you end up doing?
Jyoti Bansal: It was a small startup started by a few Ph.D.s from MIT and Stanford. I was working there as an engineer. This was when the downturn was just starting as well. I worked there for a few years. You learn. It wasn’t very successful. It was sold as an aqui-hire into Microsoft through a couple of acquisitions.
When a startup doesn’t succeed, you learn a lot. If you are building a great technology, but no one wants to buy it, there’s no point in doing it. It still takes the same energy, same effort, and same dedication and passion, but it won’t result into a business outcome. That was my lesson number one.