Sundeep Sanghavi – Co-founder of Data RPM

My typical day revolves around the five F’s: family, fun, faculty, finances, and fitness. These are the things that determine your ongoing personal and professional health.

Sundeep Sanghavi is a highly accomplished data technologist, innovator, and entrepreneur with over 20 years of experience using data to perform advanced analytics. Drawing from this expertise, Sundeep co-founded DataRPM with the goal of helping his clients maximize their customers’ lifetime value through retention, acquisition, monetization, and personalization. The company was named “Best New Big Data Solution” by the American Business Awards and “Cool Vendor” by Gartner in 2014.

Prior to DataRPM, Sundeep founded Razorsight, a leading provider of cloud-based analytics solutions for communications service providers. Under his leadership, Razorsight experienced 11 consecutive years of growth and raised more than $30 million in venture capital.

Sundeep is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago and currently resides in Redwood City, California, with his wife and two children.

Where did the idea for your company come from?

The idea for DataRPM came from the founders questioning the amount of “data insanity” we saw in the marketplace. All three of us had spent more than a decade generating or saving billions of dollars for enterprise customers using data, and once we noticed the major data insanity that enterprises are facing, we set out on a mission to solve it.

“What is data insanity?” you may ask.

To answer that question, we have to start with a philosophical statement from renowned physicist Albert Einstein: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

“Data insanity” is spending billions of dollars looking at the same data the same way over and over again using different tools and expecting different results! Businesses today are spending significant incremental dollars on big data platforms and tools just to look at the same data that they’ve always been looking at. This results in a negative ROI.

Our mission at DataRPM is to remove the insanity and incorporate something we call “data fusion,” helping our customers to RAMP (retain, acquire, monetize, and personalize) and maximize their customers’ lifetime value. Data fusion is a machine learning process that takes customers’ (first-party) data and mashes it with open data and third-party data to provide insights they’ve never seen before. It’s like a data management platform with a machine first approach.

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

My typical day revolves around the five F’s: family, fun, faculty, finances, and fitness. These are the things that determine your ongoing personal and professional health.

How do you bring ideas to life?

Most of my biggest ideas come to life through hackathons. This is where real fusion happens. It’s not just about the developers anymore; it can be a marketer, a product manager, the admin — but they all come together for a single purpose, and the results of that fusion are just incomparable to the traditional methods of bringing ideas to life. Needless to stay, it’s so much more fun!

What’s one trend that really excites you?

The Internet of Things.

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

I’m a big believer in “taking the stairs.” I don’t believe there’s any one habit that makes me more productive. I also think focusing on the five F’s every day will make every entrepreneur more productive.

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

Stuffing newspaper as a kid. It made me humble, and it made me appreciate the sacrifices my father made to help me have a better education and stability.

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

I would be super razor-focused and listen to my gut and experience rather than only listen to the market. I admittedly drank the big data platform Kool-Aid knowing that I, too, was stuck in the “data insanity” bubble. Being a platform player sounds sexy, but as a good adviser to me, Bruce Cleveland from InterWest once said, “You have to earn the right to be a platform player.”

At first, we didn’t do that at DataRPM. We lost some time and traction by making this mistake, but I’m glad we’re back on track.

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

It has to be that I’m constantly building the culture of the company. Company culture is a living and breathing thing. You can’t just put it on the walls, in emails, and in PowerPoints and expect it to happen. You have to build it, maintain it, and earn it.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?

Challenging the status quo with “What if?” internally and externally.

Internally, we’ve continued to hire people who are smarter than us to keep raising the bar. Externally, we’ve surrounded ourselves with smart people by having a board of advisers that features individuals from Cloudera, Facebook, Cisco, and EMC — to name a few.

I remember being at a bar with a bunch of friends and telling them that I would love to have the CTO and co-founder of Cloudera as an adviser. They all laughed at me, but sure enough, six months later, Amr Awadallah not only was on our board but also invested in our company.

When you hire people who are smarter than you and surround yourself with an advisory board that’s even more talented, it helps the company grow in every way — not just sales.

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

I think as an entrepreneur, you have to be OK with failure. If you’re not failing, you’re likely not pushing yourself hard enough or, for that matter, heading in the right direction. The biggest lesson I learned out of that, though, is that you have to fail fast. Don’t be afraid to try something, but be ready to learn from it and move forward afterward. We now tell our employees that it’s better to fail than to wait for failure.

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

The IoT and block chain are going to be the most dominating trends over the next decade. Anyone who can tie the two together from a data exchange perspective could be more successful than Steve Jobs. It’s that big! But it requires studying the space, figuring out the standards, and building the platform. But please don’t go build yet another platform. Just work with Amazon Web Services. They have it all figured out!

What is the best $100 you recently spent?

A kayaking session with my family. I’ve studied a lot of entrepreneurs’ family lives, and many aren’t in the best shape. Doing outdoor activities like kayaking with my family allows for bonding time without any work-related interruptions. I can get in fun quality time with them, especially because there’s no screen time in the water!

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

We use tons, but the one I love the most is LinkedIn. By far, it’s the most useful app/software I’ve ever used. The data is fresh, the network is relevant, the recommendations are fantastic, and the reach is global.

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

“Take the Stairs” by Rory Vaden. While I haven’t completely implemented it into my day-to-day life, I’ve seen the impact of it dramatically.

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

The hero of all heroes has to be my father. He knows what it means to sacrifice, adapt, be agile, be strong, love, have family values, have an entrepreneurial spirit, and never give up. I’ve seen it all firsthand from him.

Pandurang Shastri Athavale (also known as Dadaji, or “elder brother”) is one of the greatest Indian philosophers and spiritual leaders who explained the meaning of a life in a scientific way. To me, his philosophy is life-transforming and life-elevating. It not only satisfies intellectual curiosity, but it also enhances the emotional, aesthetic, moral, and spiritual dimensions of the human personality. It enriches life and gives meaning and purpose to the human existence.

Michael Jordan is all around me: in my thinking, my hard work, my ability to bounce back from failures, my persistence, my perseverance, my humility, and my ego. He’s still at the top of my list to be the motivational speaker at our annual company kickoff!

Elon Musk is a major figure in my life because I drive a Tesla even though I can’t afford it! It’s purely for the engineering of this absolutely perfect car.

Finally, Marc Benioff has been an influencer for me. I first met him at an AlwaysOn event in 2006 while on a panel. One would think that’s the last time I was able to get hold of him, but not really. I drop him an email every few years, and he always responds. Folks may have a different opinion of him, but he’s super humble and just a great guy. Besides that, he built an empire when everyone told him he was crazy. Talk about challenging the status quo!


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