Neil Patel

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In the vast ocean of technological advancements, some individuals stand out as pioneers, charting new territories and building foundations for the future. Srini V. Srinivasan, the co-founder of Aerospike, is one such visionary whose journey unfolds like a captivating tale of perseverance, innovation, and adaptability.

In this blog post, we delve into the intriguing interview transcript with Srini, exploring his background, experiences, and the evolution of Aerospike.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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    From India to Wisconsin: The Roots of Innovation

    Srini’s journey begins in the vibrant landscape of India, where he developed an open-minded approach—a quality that would shape his future endeavors. With a passion for computer science, Srini found himself at one of the top engineering schools in India, eventually landing in Wisconsin for his Ph.D. in computer science.

    Srini remembers having the choice to go to Wisconsin or Yale, but his interest was always in computer programming, which made the final choice easy.

    Little did he know that the cold winds of Wisconsin would lead him to the interesting world of computers with the complexities of operating systems and databases.

    The Database Odyssey

    In grad school, Srini started with operating systems and even had a paper on operating system principles at one of the symposiums. His shift towards databases was catalyzed by influential figures in Wisconsin, like Dave Dewitt and Mike Carey, who were pioneers in the field.

    The journey into databases became Srini’s passion, steering his Ph.D. research and setting the stage for his future endeavors. He remembers building apps on top of databases for almost 15 to 16 years.

    Srini did that in a couple of startups; one was in interactive TV. The other one was in mobile, ending up in Yahoo to run scalable mobile systems on top of existing databases.

    Srini realized that they needed to invent new databases, which he did: build a new database from scratch. He also noted the evolving requirements brought on by internet-based and mobile-based applications.

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    IBM and the Art of Innovation

    Joining IBM after completing his Ph.D., Srini found himself in a unique position within the Database Technology Institute. An IBM expert, Don Haderle, ran DTI and is currently an advisor to Aerospike.

    Being part of Don Haderle’s team allowed Srini to explore innovative ideas and apply them to products.

    Srini stayed with IBM for around four years as part of a small team of two to eight people. They shipped three products in just four years and essentially worked like a small startup but inside IBM.

    The key advantage they got was the tremendous resources that IBM could offer them, which gave Srini an interesting perspective.

    The exposure at IBM laid the groundwork for Srini’s understanding of innovation within a corporate giant. This experience blurred the lines between research and product development, offering a glimpse into the efficiency of a large corporation.

    Startup Ventures: Lessons from the Roller Coaster

    Leaving the comfort of IBM, Srini embarked on startup ventures, experiencing the highs and lows of the dot-com era.

    From IPOs to witnessing the fall of companies, these experiences taught Srini invaluable lessons about seizing opportunities, staying agile, and embracing innovation even in the face of uncertainty.

    Srini’s first startup, Liberate Technologies, was with six people, and they accomplished what would have taken 20 people and 3 years.

    They achieved their goals in six months, mainly because their overheads were low, proving once again what Srini believed all along–you don’t need a lot of people to build great systems software.

    Navio

    Next, Srini and his co-founder at Aerospike joined another company called Navio. They had a team that built a product that cable companies deployed. They took the company to an IPO and watched the stock appreciate quickly but also come down equally fast.

    That was Srini’s first glimpse of the full cycle of a company from being a startup going big and also failing. Although he left before the full failure happened, he took away important lessons about how technology moves. His next startup was acquired by Yahoo.

    Working on Mobile Phone Applications

    Srini went on to work for a company founded by someone who sold StarOffice to Sun Microsystems. This founder was passionate about building products for the mobile ecosystem.

    That’s where Srini learned how to work with teams from different locations, like Hamburg in Germany while being based in Palo Alto.

    They had teams that worked well together and had complementary skills that they brought together to build successful products. They went through not just technological innovations to build them but were pioneers in building everything in mobile technology.

    Srini and his team created products for brands like T-Mobile, Blackberry, Nokia, and iPhone, witnessing its launch. He considers himself privileged to have participated in some of Yahoo’s golden years and was praised by Steve Jobs for his work with the iPhone.

    Srini remembers being selected by Steve Jobs since his team developed the best possible emails, complete with real-time notifications whenever an email arrived in the inbox. However, they had to work out the challenge of the battery running out of power when the phone chimed with notifications.

    Aerospike Emerges: A Database for the Future

    The birth of Aerospike was marked by a reunion of past colleagues, including Brian Bulkowski, whom Srini had worked with at Liberate. Their collaboration led to a groundbreaking idea: leveraging SSDs for real-time data storage.

    Srini worked with Brian and Dave Flynn, the founder of fusion.io, to expand the real-time footprint of data by storing them on SSDs and not just in RAM, which gives users a submillisecond response time. This speed is much better in order of magnitude of performance at high throughputs.

    At their first discussion, Srini was convinced that they could build a system that is 10 times faster and more capable, with a much higher performance than existing systems but also 10 times lower in cost.

    This cost-effective approach could translate into savings worth millions of dollars. Srini’s passion for database technology and solving real-world problems brought him back to his roots, and Aerospike was born.

    Adapting and Expanding Horizons

    Aerospike’s initial focus on the ad tech market paved the way for rapid growth. However, the team’s foresight led them to diversify into financial services and telecom.

    Srini’s ability to identify market shifts and adapt Aerospike’s offerings ensured the company’s continued relevance and expansion across various verticals.

    Srini remembers that they had already acquired three customers before closing their first funding round. Around four or five years later, their concept attracted the interest of PayPal, Nokia, and another one of the largest brokerage firms.

    This interest promoted them to expand into financial services, telco, and other services. Srini and his co-founders got another round of funding and expanded into around seven to eight different business verticals. They continue to generate revenues and scale significantly.

    As Srini explains, they rolled most of the revenue back into the company and have relied on lean methods to sustain growth. To date, the company has raised $75M in funding, which Srini agrees is just a start, with much more to come.

    Storytelling is everything, which is something that Srini V. Srinivasan was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

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    Aerospike’s Role in the Age of AI and Future Insights

    As AI becomes increasingly integral to businesses, Srini envisions Aerospike as a key player in real-time AI applications. With a focus on precision and decision-making based on real-time data, Aerospike aims to be the backbone of mission-critical applications in the AI space.

    Reflecting on his journey, Srini emphasizes the importance of focusing on developer adoption. While Aerospike excelled in performance and operational aspects, Srini acknowledges that prioritizing ease of adoption could have accelerated the company’s growth.

    Conclusion

    Srini V. Srinivasan’s journey from India to Wisconsin, from IBM to startup ventures, and finally to co-founding Aerospike is a testament to the resilience and innovation required in the ever-evolving tech landscape.

    As Aerospike continues to shape the future of real-time databases, Srini’s story inspires aspiring entrepreneurs to navigate the seas of innovation.

    Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:

    • Srini V. Srinivasan’s journey from India to Wisconsin showcases the importance of an open-minded approach in navigating the ever-changing tech landscape.
    • Aerospike’s inception stemmed from the ingenious idea of leveraging SSDs, promising unparalleled performance and significant cost reduction in real-time data storage.
    • Srini’s experiences at IBM offered a unique perspective on innovation within a large corporation, shaping his understanding of efficiency in the tech industry.
    • During the dot-com era, startup ventures taught Srini invaluable lessons about seizing opportunities, staying agile, and embracing innovation in the face of uncertainty.
    • Aerospike’s initial focus on the ad tech market and subsequent diversification into financial services and telecom demonstrates the importance of adaptability in a dynamic business environment.
    • Srini envisions Aerospike playing a crucial role in real-time AI applications, becoming the backbone for precision and decision-making based on real-time data.
    • Reflecting on Aerospike’s journey, Srini emphasizes the significance of focusing on developer adoption as a key factor in accelerating company growth.


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    Neil Patel

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