Rohit Valia – CEO/Founder of Cafyne

The interconnection of everyone and everything at all times. We are increasingly connected, whether through social networks or simply by the various channels of communication.

Rohit Valia is the CEO/Founder of Cafyne, Inc. He was previously Program Director for Big Data Analytics at IBM. He is an experienced technology and marketing executive, with over 15 years of experience in enterprise data center technologies with hands on software development, product management and marketing experience in security, Java EE middleware, virtualization and cloud computing. Before joining IBM Platform Computing, he was the Director for Sun Microsystems cloud services business unit and then the head of Oracle University marketing. He has been a speaker at numerous JavaONE and other technical conferences and published papers in IEEE and other journals. He is also the author of two US Patents related to Java co-processors and disconnected web client operations.

Where did the idea for Cafyne come from?

The idea for Cafyne came from watching young people living dangerously on social media. Whatever you do on social media stays forever and there are consequences. Those consequences get much bigger when you look at businesses in regulated industries. My background was in building software products leveraging large-scale system processing and I realized this could be combined to protect companies in regulated industries from the numerous dangers of social media. They have the most to lose. When you violate governmental regulations, you face consequences anywhere from fines to loss of licensing to imprisonment.

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Having team members in two time zones means I have to split my work day up to optimize my interactions. When I wake up, I immediately have to handle email from my offshore team before heading into the office. Then I catch up with the local team, reach out to customers, partners, prospects and so on. Once the work day is done here, I get to head home and spend some quality time with my family before starting off the day with the team in India. With a twelve and a half hour time difference, there are essentially two work days each day.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Bringing ideas to life requires thinking through problems. The main thing is to predict where the problems will arise instead of looking backward at problems that already existed. Old problems are not necessarily good predictors of new problems.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The interconnection of everyone and everything at all times. We are increasingly connected, whether through social networks or simply by the various channels of communication.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

As an entrepreneur, there are a lot of problems you have to solve on a daily basis, but you can’t solve them all. I try to make sure that I get at least 80% there and don’t get bogged down. That last 20% can cost you 80% of your time. Those are the types of decisions you have to make every day – what problems you’ll spend your time solving and what one’s you’ll have to touch and move beyond.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

Back in 1992, when email was a cutting edge technology, I was selling an email solution to businesses in the early days of electronic communication. As a young sales executive trying to beat on every door, I found that I had to work really hard to make that sale. However, by persisting, we found that our early entry into the market established our brand and proved that if you solve a key business need and bring value, people will listen. This is key for dealing with cutting edge technology – you have to cross the chasm by proving your worth.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I would seek out partnerships earlier on, rather than spending all my time trying to perfect the product. While you certainly don’t want to go to market with a half-baked product, there’s immense value in going out and building an ecosystem early on.

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

You have to bring a little bit of you and your expertise into everything you do. For me, this means building an innovative and differentiated product, not just from listening to my prospects, but thinking about the field. You’re doing what you do because you’re the expert in the field, and if you only listen to others, you’ll end up simply building what they want. You need to go beyond that to build what you think they will want tomorrow.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

It comes down to listening to your customers and understanding their pain points. Once you’ve taken your vision forward and built that product for tomorrow, you need to make sure that it is flexible enough to meet the challenges that your customers have today. That’s where the growth comes from. For example, we built Cafyne with all of its essential underpinnings – big data, analytics, machine learning – and then when we met with a financial enterprise, we saw that their challenges were slightly different. They were concerned about compliance with industry regulations, but they also wanted to engage with customers in a very specific way. We had to adapt to provide that functionality. Providing a solution to a problem is key. You need to be able to tailor your solution for the problem as it exists today.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

Being an entrepreneur is really challenging and rewarding. I was comfortable in my product knowledge, but now I’m navigating the world of owning a business. As I mentioned earlier, something I would have done differently is to form more partnerships. There is a great community of tech start-ups in the area and I wish I reached out to them more for business advice. It could have helped me avoid some early mistakes.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

There’s a proliferation of car and ride sharing services these days – someone should build an app to aggregate these services and provide a marketplace.

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The Amazon Echo. I can just talk to objects and control them, which humanizes them. Whether it’s something as turning off the lights when I’m leaving the house and my hands are full or communicating and interacting with content, the Echo really gave me insight into the potential of the Internet of Things.

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

Skype is a lifeline for working with a remote distributed team. When you have a team overseas, it all comes down to communication. And Google Now – it really keeps me informed of what I need to do where, what the traffic’s like, what the weather will be and so on. It offers a succinct and organized view of my life.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, and the Quest for a Fantastic Future. It shows that, with insight, you can change the way things work. It tells the story of Elon Musk, who has changed three different industries alone.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

The physicist Richard Feynman. He just has this ability to explain away the complexity and make the complex interesting to others.


Twitter: @rohitvalia