Chetan Dube, the New York University (NYU) maths professor who founded information technology (IT) services company IPSoft Inc., is disrupting the traditional outsourcing model by replacing human engineers with robots that mimic the human brain. In an interview, he talked about building IPSoft, identifying its original team, raising money and failures. Edited excerpts:
How did you know it’s time to become an entrepreneur?
While reading (Greek philosopher) Plato, the feeling that a life without a mark might as well not have been lived, got reinforced. My parents had been role models. They had power plants and steel mills. I saw early on what it took to make entrepreneurship a success. You have to give it your all. As if driven by a compelling belief that there ought to be a cause bigger than you.
That all the endless travails, blood, sweat and tears are justified, just so that you could leave the planet a little better place than when you were put on it.
What did you look for while hiring the founding team? How did you put together the original team?
It takes brilliance and slight insanity to make it big. Fortunately, part of the faculty at NYU and colleagues at AT&T Bell Labs were well endowed in both realms. Success should be when the planet starts becoming a more efficient place through the leverage of autonomic and cognitive systems.
Did you fail in any of the pursuits? What do you think of failures?
Failure was in things we just didn’t do. Anything we set our minds on, we succeeded, but there were domains that we didn’t engage in. Failure to pursue those made us learn how we need to constantly challenge ourselves about the things that are not in our immediate horizon. Ability to see things outside our scope of view was a critical lesson.
Are there any lessons in raising (or not raising) money you have learnt?
There are two family-trust endowments that exempted us from need of external sources of funding. What we have learnt is that, public money or not, our stakeholders share the common belief that we should be striving for something more glorious than what can be achieved by quarterly reports.
How did you get the first customer?
Kaplan Education Centres was having a critical problem with their Vignette (Corp.) StoryServer, which other blue chip providers had not managed to fix. One of the big problems was that the StoryServer daemon would leak memory and grow in size till it crippled the process, particularly under heavy load.
We noticed the opportunity to introduce autonomics to fix the problem in a resilient way. Kaplan became our first customer and continues to be a satisfied customer.