We’re noticing a trend that I have written about in the past: SaaS-enabled BPO, also called Do It For Me (DIFM) technologies. The interview discusses the trend in some depth. Other stories on the subject include our case studies of AthenaHealth, Sabrix, and LatentView Analytics.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born and raised and in what kind of background?
Anil Kaul: I was born and raised in India.
Sramana Mitra: Where in India?
Anil Kaul: I was born in Kashmir.
Sramana Mitra: You grew up in Kashmir as well?
Anil Kaul: A little bit. I did my undergraduate in engineering from NIT, Kurukshetra. Subsequent to that, I did an MBA at University of Delhi. After that, I came to the US and did a Ph.D. in Marketing at Cornell.
Sramana Mitra: Give me the years. When did you finish your undergraduate? When did you do your Ph.D.?
Anil Kaul: I finished undergrad in ’87. I finished my Ph.D. in 1995.
Sramana Mitra: What happens after Cornell?
Anil Kaul: I decided not to go into academics. I joined McKinsey in New York as part of their marketing science team. The idea behind our team was to use data to help McKinsey make better strategy and recommendations for their clients.
Sramana Mitra: How long did you stay there?
Anil Kaul: Four years.
Sramana Mitra: That brings us up to 1999?
Anil Kaul: Yes. I was very keen to be an entrepreneur so I left McKinsey to join a startup in the Bay Area called Personify. We were the first company to do analytics with web data.
Sramana Mitra: At what capacity did you join Personify?
Anil Kaul: This was basically a bunch of technical people and I joined as a business lead helping them build up the product. It was a small company with about 20 people when I joined them.
Sramana Mitra: How long did the Personify work last?
Anil Kaul: We did well. We raised about $80 million in venture capital and had about 120 clients. We almost went public during the dot-com period. Once the bust happened, our offering got delayed, and most of our clients started closing down as well. Eventually, the company closed down.
Sramana Mitra: You were on-board for the whole time?
Anil Kaul: Yes. I left a little bit before the company was closed down.
Sramana Mitra: What year did you leave Personify?
Anil Kaul: 2001.
Sramana Mitra: So you stayed only two years in Personify?
Anil Kaul: Yes. This company was one of those dot-com companies that came from nowhere. We were 240 people within two years and had a valuation of about $1.5 billion.
Sramana Mitra: We know a lot of those stories. Then in 2001, you left Personify. What did you do next?
Anil Kaul: I spent a little time trying to figure out what I will do next and started Absolutdata that year.