Samir Arora is a serial entrepreneur with a history that includes Rae Technology and NetObjects. Aside from being chairman and CEO of Glam Media, he is chairman (and founder) of Information Capital LLC. Glam Media offers a self-coined ‘vertical content network’ platform. The Glam Media network includes over 400 publishers, all of whom receive an extensive platform of services through their relationship with Glam. Here I discuss Samir’s entrepreneurial roots and his current efforts.
SM: Samir, where does your journey begin?
SA: I was born in New Delhi. I had traditional schooling but was also very serious about acting. I was on stage as early as six and have been in 30 productions. I also wrote some plays and musicals. In school I had a very strong focus on math and physics. My family is filled with business entrepreneurs, which is where I get my passion for business.
In my teens I was bit by the hardware bug. The first hardware kits became available and I became a hardware hacker. At the same time I was trying to figure out what my career should be. There was no computer science major back then, so I literally flipped a coin between architecture and chip design. The coin landed on EE so I went into electronics.
SM: Why did you come to the US?
SA: I originally came here to explore school options. I had already spent time working for Apple in India that was managed through Apple Hong Kong and Cupertino. I had previously done two years of an accelerated masters program in EE at BITS, and I left right in the middle of the program. When I moved to the US, my heart was still committed to working for Apple. Everything I had studied was so different from what I learned at Apple, so perhaps that is why I never committed to school. I did continue my education later: I received my diploma in sales and marketing at the London Business School and I did my executive management program at INSEAD.
I moved to the US at a time when the Mac was launched but not established. In late 1986 I did a white paper at Apple called Information Navigation: The Future of Computing. It was a thought piece that talked about how information needed to be linked together to be simple and browsable. Because of that paper, John Sculley asked me to work for him directly and supported my work on navigation and browsing applications.
SM: When were you at Apple and how long did you stay there?
SA: I was there from the mid 80s to the early 90s, just shy of 10 years. It was an incredible education. There were very few places where, at such a young age, you could command teams developing software on that scale. That job brought together the elements of design, technology and business.
SM: Why did you leave Apple?
SA: I left to start Rae Technology and create software for mobile devices. We built the beginnings of information navigation applications. One of the first products we built was Rae Assist, a personal information manager that was the first of its kind. It brought together the concept of having a calendar, contacts and notes all in one place. It was unique because it had a back and forward browser button. It was all based on an application which was a browser. We built the first navigation applications without Internet connectivity.
Rae was founded with Apple’s support, and we had two people from Apple on the board with me. A dear friend and mentor, Bill Campbell, taught me an invaluable lesson: there are only two types of companies. Either you are a department of a large company or you are a startup. There is nothing in between.