Continuing with our Bootstrapping Using Services theme, we bring you a story from London.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start with some back story. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised? What kind of background?
Ajay Patel: I was born in London about 42 years ago. I’ve lived here all my life. My origins are actually Indian. My father is from India and my mother was born in Fiji, but she’s of Indian descent.
Sramana Mitra: What about school? I imagine you went to school in London.
Ajay Patel: I went to school in London. I studied at the University of Manchester where I did my degree in Computer Science and Mathematics. Then I did a postgraduate degree at the London School of Economics in Management Information Systems.
Sramana Mitra: That was around mid-90s when you were coming out of university?
Ajay Patel: I came out of university in 1994, yes.
Sramana Mitra: What did you do at that point?
Ajay Patel: At that point, I realized that I had no knowledge about business or finance. I joined Pricewaterhouse (PW) as it was known then. I trained as a Chartered Accountant. I spent four years at PW. Then I took a role at Merrill Lynch and then Morgan Stanley as a derivative risk analyst. I only spent about three years between those two organizations and I realized that the corporate life wasn’t for me. It wasn’t creative enough. I didn’t really enjoy the politics to be honest.
I joined a startup Internet investment bank. It was a new company that received $25 million in funding. I spent 18 months there. The company grew to about 150 people and then it went down to about 40. I learned how not to start a software business. It was a great learning experience. After that, it was the start of the HighQ journey.
Sramana Mitra: What year was that?
Ajay Patel: That was in 2001. The other company was trying to create an online investment bank. There were seven modules. One of the modules was the ability for employers and bankers to share files online. I saw that piece and thought there was something there. I guess that was the idea behind HighQ. I said, “Let’s focus on this piece and let’s do it properly.” My best friend from university, Veenay Shah, used to be a corporate lawyer and he was at the same company with me. We saw these law firms developing, what they called in those days, deal rooms. Lawyers deal with many documents and share these with their clients. Email wasn’t going to be good enough because of security and also the volume of documents they dealt with. They were building in-house deal rooms. They weren’t particularly good. They were very expensive. Even upgrading and maintaining all of that was a bit of a hassle for them.