Sanjay Parthasarathy spent 19 years at Microsoft, working in a variety of executive roles, even hiring now CEO Satya Nadella into the software giant’s product group in the early 1990s. In 2009, Parthasarathy retired and traveled to India where he started thinking about the next chapter of his life.
“I worked alone for a year and talked to everyone who would spare time to discuss my ideas,” said Parthasarathy. The best of those ideas was Indix — a software startup he founded in 2010 with the ambitious goal of building “the world’s largest and deepest product database.”
The 48-year-old exec — who in the 1980s captained the Anna University cricket team before going on to earn a Masters at MIT —officially launched Indix last October. To date, the business intelligence platform has been adopted by leading retailers who are using it to track pricing of goods being sold over the Internet, including those of competitors.
In a way, Indix is an online inventory system — a comprehensive listing of what’s for sale online, how much items cost and how those prices are fluctuating. In that way, it’s similar to the analytics platform that Kirkland-based iSpot is building for television commercials.
Venture-backed and growing, Indix now employs 44 people in offices in Seattle and Chennai, India. We caught up with Parthasarathy for this installment of Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature presented by Comcast Business.
Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We organize, analyze and visualize the world’s product information so everyone can act on it.”
Inspiration hit us when: “I was watching this presentation at the TED conference in Oxford, England. If ‘software is eating the world,’ then algorithms are a big part of that. So, why not build algorithms that could look at every piece of product information on the web and generate insight into things that you know you know, things that you know you don’t know, and also things that you don’t know that you don’t know?”
VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “Bootstrap first, angel next, and VC after that.”
Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “What we call ‘product data science’. Indix has developed patented machine learning algorithms to collect, structure, and organize products and product-related data, in addition to a real-time, customizable analytics platform.”
The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Have the engineering team based in Chennai, India.”
The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Priced our product too low to start with.”
Would you rather have Gates, Jobs, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Gates, because I’ve enjoyed working with him in the past.”
On Satya Nadella’s appointment at Microsoft: “Satya’s always had the ‘bigger picture’ and a ‘broader picture’ view of things and his first few weeks have shown that he does hew to the bigger and broader view, and appropriately so. His use of the UW Washington rowing team as an analogy for Microsoft getting its ‘swing’ back is an example of the bigger and broader picture view. He will continue to use learning from history, sport, poetry and other fields to examine and understand Microsoft’s situation and way forward. So far he’s done things right and used the right words and cues.”
Rivals should fear us because: “We attempt to solve crazy hard problems.”
We are truly unique because: “We know how to collect, organize, analyze, visualize, personalize, and platformize product big data.”
The biggest hurdle we’ve overcome is: “By starting with the hardest product categories, we built a way to scale our solution independent of the product category.”
What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Pick an area you don’t know much about so you will come at the problem without the expert’s baggage.”