Tech Talk with Netcore Cloud Founder on Bootstrapping and Scaling Startups

In the latest Tech CEO speaker series, Rajesh Jain MS’89, shared lessons from growing two startups into enormously profitable tech companies.

Nov 29 2023 | By Hangyu Fan | Photo Credit: Columbia Engineering/David Dini
Rajesh Jain gesturing to his audience. Attendees look on from their seats.

Columbia Engineering hosts Rajesh Jain MS’89 at recent Tech CEO event. Credit: Columbia Engineering/David Dini

Columbia Engineering’s Tech CEO Lecture Series returned Nov. 17 with guest Rajesh Jain MS’89, an entrepreneur who founded two highly successful tech companies.. 

A pioneer in Asia’s dot-com revolution, Jain obtained his M.S. in electrical engineering at Columbia Engineering after earning a B.S. in electrical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay in 1988. In 1995, Jain created IndiaWorld, India’s first Internet portals, which were sold for $115 million as one of the largest Internet deals. In 1998, he founded Netcore, which became one of the largest B2B SaaS marketing technology companies in Asia. Today, Netcore Cloud specializes in delivering AI-powered marketing automation and analytics solutions for brands, recently passing the milestone of $100 million in annual recurring revenue. 

Jain offered students practical advice on entrepreneurship and building what he calls “proficorns” – highly profitable companies that are bootstrapped, privately held, and extremely profitable. He also discussed his new book, Startup to Proficorn.

Starting Up: Fall in love with the problem, not the solution

Jain told students that successful entrepreneurs have to practice patience and face their failures without fear. “Many times I've seen entrepreneurs try for maybe a year and then give up,” he said. “It could be that you're just near the top of the first mountain.” 

He compared the journey of entrepreneurs to “mountains beyond mountains,” noting that there would always be new challenges and opportunities, and entrepreneurs must learn to find satisfaction in navigating the ever-changing landscapes.

Jain encourages students' continuous exploration of problems in every field, finding new ideas and creating new ventures. “The world is about some entrepreneur coming out there and making something better,” said Jain. “So, fall in love with the problem, not with the solution.” 

Scaling Up: Find your blue ocean in the red ocean

Jain drew a contrast between the competitive “red ocean” where many entrepreneurs vie for market share and the less competitive "blue ocean" where innovative companies are built on unique offerings and business models. Jain explained why it’s important to avoid competition by finding uncrowded niches or creating new markets.

He also discussed the importance of cultivating a strong organizational culture. In his view, the culture requires two elements: an icon and a storyteller, where the icon is the living embodiment of the company and the storyteller is responsible for reinforcing the culture by telling the stories of the company to new recruits. 

“If you are building a company to last, the culture that you build in the company becomes very important,” he said. “There has to be something other than salary that keeps your staff attached to your company.”

A smiling Rajesh Jain surrounded by four student attendees

Guest speaker Rajesh Jain MS’89 engages with student attendees at Nov. 17 Tech CEO event. Credit: Columbia Engineering/David Dini

Life Lessons: Write things down, reserve ‘me’ time and say ‘no’

Jain also shared his belief in the power of consistent reflection and communication. He recommended the students dedicate themselves to jotting down notes, preferably in the old-fashioned way with pen and paper. “Writing helps you remember better and helps you focus,” said Jain. He had finished a 300-page notebook in about two weeks. He also blogs daily to keep up with his thoughts on marketing, entrepreneurship, and life lessons.

Jain emphasized the importance of "me” time for mind-wandering, fostering creativity, and the productivity hack of saying “no” to prioritize tasks and maintain focus. These insights offer a holistic perspective on decision-making, communication, personal habits, and productivity for individuals navigating life and work.

About the Tech CEO Lecture series

The Tech CEO Lecture Series is a series hosted by Columbia Engineering, where students experience engaging talks that unravel the mysteries of the latest industry developments. Benoit Bazin, the CEO of Saint-Gobain, delivered the inaugural lecture in September.

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