As I reflect on my journey, I am amazed how far technology has evolved. I recall my favorite and most memorable lesson in school was in my science class, where our teacher taught us about Darwinism. I never thought out of all the things I learned, it would be Charles Darwin who would leave a lasting impression on me.
His quote, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” This has made a lasting impact in the way I look at creating and building amazing companies.
Business is no different than natural life. In my opinion, it is perhaps more primitive. And, that’s why this quote has become a mantra for me as to what entrepreneurship is all about.
In 1999, I started my first company ClickAgents. It’s differentiator in the market place was it was a performance based network introducing the cost-per-click model which would later be adopted by Google & Yahoo. Soon after I turned 18, the company had exited for $40 million. Even after the acquisition, many others continued to capitalize the market for whatever short term they could.
In 2004, I started my second advertising technology company, BlueLithium. It was nothing like ClickAgents. Rather, its only similarity was it too belonged to the vertical classification of digital advertising. I choose to build BlueLithium to introduce behavioral re-targeting to the world. It was acquired by Yahoo! in 2007 for over $300 million.
In 2009, I launched RadiumOne. Its focus was to be a leader in programmatic advertising by leveraging social data. From that idea I developed, ShareGraph, and was awarded 10 patents issued by the USPTO.
In 2014, unbeknownst to me at the time, I launched my biggest success yet, Gravity4, a big data marketing cloud.
It, too, like my previous three companies – is within the advertising sector. But, it has innovated miles further in product offerings, technology and is solving a much bigger problem. With programmatic expected to account for around 67% of display advertising globally by 2017, our focus has shifted to deep learning, as it is essential to solve pattern recognition and data correlation issues. Industry scientists and large media companies are utilizing image, speech and Natural Language Processing (NLP) to overlay deep learning to match the ads on the basis of emotion and context of simple keywords. Much of this was not possible when I started RadiumOne. The computational advances for digital advertising to use machine learning and deep learning happened just in the past 3-4 years ago.
I consciously chose to keep Gravity4 focused as a plug and play platform that was ready for IoT (internet of things), Mobile, Video and AI – something none of my previous companies were in position to do. Introducing Mona Lisa A.I. within our integrated marketing stack, sets us further away from Oracle, Adobe, and the Salesforce Marketing Cloud.
Gravity4 also has launched AI powered Chatbots in Asia, where branded chatbots are part of the programmatic ecosystem.
You see, there is no point in building something that you have already built. What is the fun in that? As a savvy entrepreneur, you must always keep your finger on the pulse of the industry. You must always know how your sector is changing and change your business with it. I made a conscious decision from day 1 to set Gravity4 apart from all 3 companies and followed the technological changes within the emerging technologies not only within the US, but I focused to grow the business outside of it in 19 countries. I focused much of my attention on the emerging trends and how to adapt them to Gravity4 before someone else did. After all, all the research points that entrepreneurship is growing in emerging markets, where China and India are leading the pack and Africa is predicted to be the next hot spot.
At each of our Gravity4’s international offices, the culture is such that teams establish and launch new products on quarterly basis. Some fail and some succeed – but that is part of evolution. I am a strong believer that a company that builds its culture on innovation is on the path for growth. The companies that fail to innovate become on the road to obsolescence. Blockbuster, Blackberry and Kodak all used to be the industry leaders, even dominators of their high point. But they all fell behind as their challengers innovated and these companies did the same thing over and over, year after year – till the consumers and their preferences led them to the emerging challengers.
I am proud of my team at Gravity4 that has focused on creating new products and services that people value and allowed us to become thought leaders in software that challenge the status quo. We are not using the cutting-edge technology to reinvent a potter’s wheel – rather we are making the wheel worthy to be installed on an autonomous car.
I feel honored to have launched Mona Lisa with my team, as I realize this to be the most disruptive innovation in my career thus far. The journey to here has been a fulfilling one. I have learned when we keep innovation at the center of a company’s day to day culture, it will find its ways to innovate not just in the products, but also help elevate the thought leadership in an industry. I suppose along with the Darwinism, President Kennedy said it best, “A rising tide lifts all the boats.”