Please tell us about yourself
I was born in Mumbai and raised in Chennai, India. My dad is a hard-core engineer, who has always been and still is my inspiration of an ideal engineer. My mom is a home-maker. She is a polyglot and one of the smartest women I have met. My recent home has been San Jose, where I moved about two years back.
What did you want to become growing up and what did you go to school for?
I was really one of those people who wanted to become everything! My dreams changed quite often as a child. One day when I was around 13, I strongly believed that fashion designing was my calling just because I chose the right shade of blouse for my sister! Luckily, my father, the wise man that he is, always kept it real. When I was in the last year of high school, I stumbled across a two-page introduction on Remote Sensing. And voila true love found! I did my undergrad in Geomatic Engineering from Anna University. I flew to the USA to pursue my masters in Geospatial Science and continued there for my PhD degree with specialization in Remote Sensing.
In one sentence, who/what are you?
A jack of many trades and master of some. I take absolute joy in going outside my comfort zone and doing new things. Normalcy bores me.How would you describe your business in one sentence?
I am the co-founder and chief-technology officer of a startup called Sturfee. I am in the process of building a highly technical team that is working towards building core computer-vision based augmented reality technology for streets.
How did you get the idea for Sturfee and what made you venture out on your own?
Before Sturfee, I was working as a Post-Doctoral researcher at Oak Ridge National Lab (if you don’t know them, they are the dudes who initiated the Manhattan project and made the nuclear bomb!). I was working on writing algorithms that would mine intelligence data from high-resolution satellite image. My current partner and my then-boss would always have this engaging discussion of how much geospatial data is available and despite a lot of commercialization, how under-utilized it is outside the clique of geographers. In the course of one such discussion, we realized how valuable it would be for augmented reality and saw a business opportunity. We explored it a bit more and spoke to a number of people. We had the good fortune of consulting with Google’s StreetView Director Luc Vincent. He was impressed by the idea and kind of validated/blessed it. We decided to quit and move to the bay. We started as a small three people team and had absolutely no contacts in the valley. I used to talk to anyone and everyone who would listen. I used to attend a lot of events in the beginning. Then, quickly learnt to weed out the useful ones from the not-so-useful ones. Slowly, our network grew and so did the company.
Describe your daily/weekly routine.
I have a packed schedule and I love to keep it that way. I wake up at around 5.30 AM and take the dog for a run. I get to work at around 8.30AM and then I just get things done. I am very focused for the next 10 hours. I come back and hit the gym and get some cooking going. During the weekends, I usually try to do some fun projects on my raspberry pi or sketching. My husband and I love watching movies, so we try to catch one or two over the weekend.
Do you or have you used a coach, mentor, or a mastermind group? If so, how did you find them?
I do not have or had a coach/mentor. But I do have Luc Vincent, Google’s Street View Director as an advisor for Sturfee. I met him through my academic contacts.
Share some of the growing pains in your industry. Some failures, setbacks that you faced and how you dealt with or overcame them.
I am a scientist by training. The biggest issue scientists in general have is –they are bluntly honest and just lay down the facts. I am realizing that diplomacy and correctly phrasing sentences will go a long way in getting the job done.