My Story (Entrepreneur/Founder)
Nikesh Parekh was born in 1965 to an Indian immigrant family in Ohio that later moved to Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Pittsfield had limited diversity with very few Indian families. In order to connect with a wide diversity of student body, from all over the world, Nikesh chose to attend Harvard University in Boston.
After graduating from Harvard, Nikesh moved back to Mumbai to do social service in women and children’s health clinics in the slums; research vaccines for malaria; as well as travel and meet his large extended family spread throughout India. Nikesh returned from India wanting to be a doctor. While waiting to hear back from medical schools, he started working at Credit Suisse First Boston in health care investment banking for a year. He found the investment banking work to be incredibly challenging and exciting. So, he declined the invitations to attend medical school and instead decided to attended Harvard Business School.
In the year 2000, after earning his MBA, Parekh moved to Seattle to work for a seed stage venture capital firm, Second Avenue Partners. After working at Second Avenue Partners for two years, Parekh joined one of their portfolio companies focused on internet real estate called HouseValues. Parekh was instrumental in growing the revenue at Second Avenue Partners to $100 million and taking the company public in 2004.
In 2007, Parekh joined Madrona Venture Group as an entrepreneur in residence. At the same time, Parekh also became interested in cleantech and partnered with professor David Baker at University of Washington, to start a new company called Bio Architecture Lab. Bio Architecture Lab used synthetic biology to engineer microbes for converting seaweed to biofuels and renewable chemicals. Parekh was the CEO of this venture and raised more than $35 million in financing.
In 2010, Parekh returned to internet real estate and joined ActiveRain – a social media and blogging platform focused on real estate – as CEO. ActiveRain was successfully purchased by another real estate platform called Market Leader. Parekh ran product and strategy at Market Leader which was purchased by Trulia for $380m in 2013. At Trulia, Parekh ran rentals, mortgage and new construction. Trulia was purchased by Zillow for nearly $3Bn in 2015.
After leaving Zillow, Parekh connected with Jeff Gerber, the founder of iConclude and Chief Architect at Apptio. Given the rise of the cloud and advances in Machine Learning, Gerber and Parekh decided to launch a new SaaS company called Suplari . Suplari aggregates supplier data and uses artificial intelligence to help companies optimize their finance and procurement teams. Suplari is backed by Madrona Venture Group, Shasta Ventures, Amplify Partners, Two Sigma Ventures and Workday.
Parekh’s curiosity about his ancestral roots lead him to attending one class on South Asia every semester at Harvard. At the end of college in 1995, he earned a fellowship to go to India for a year to participate in service projects in Mumbai. He lived in his grandfather’s apartment and did research on Malaria. Parekh feels that it was one of the most defining year of his life.
For each company that Parekh launched, he believes the most defining moments and biggest rush have been gaining the first real customer.
Parekh feels that ActiveRain was the hardest work experience of his life. After replacing the founder as CEO, the company experienced significant turnover of the team and he had to rebuild the team, change strategy in a short period of time, with limited cash.
Parekh believes that every entrepreneur wakes up every day with a doubt. He believes that the journey of an entrepreneur is equal parts excitement and terror. He feels that every entrepreneur needs to have the stomach for imperfections, errors in judgement and the grit to continue to learn and improve.
Parekh feels inspired every day by his family for their unconditional and enduring love, kindness and patience during his long entrepreneurial career. Parekh is also deeply inspired by the founder and former CEO of Southwest Airlines, Herb Kelleher, who opened up the air travel market to the masses. Kelleher’s no holds barred, kooky management style as a chain-smoking CEO willing to arm wrestle a competitor to settle a trademark dispute (even one lost badly) is legendary.
If I could do it again…
Parekh believes that in the grand scheme of thing, regrets, if any, are minor. He feels he is very fortunate and grateful for the opportunities he across in his life. He says his professional journey has been a journey of saying YES to opportunities that came across organically. He did not plan a career path but made the best use of opportunities that he committed to.
What I’d like to share with other entrepreneurs
Parekh would like every budding or existing entrepreneur to realize, internalize and accept that entrepreneurship is all consuming and s/he should expect very little work life balance while getting a new company off the ground.
What I’d like to share with investors
It comes down to building and managing a great team.
What I’d like to share with the state/government
Parekh believes that the government should make it easier for people to start businesses – from reduced overhead and regulation perspective. He believes that having access to great talent is critical to the success of businesses. Parekh would like to see improvements in immigration policies to allow smart people graduating from American universities to stay and work in the US.
What I’d like to share with the youth
Parekh wants to remind the youth that life is a lot longer than they think it is. A typical work life is about 40-50 years. He encourages youth to work on making relationships; get diverse experiences, think about where they want to be in 10 years. He wants to remind youth that integrity is a very important building block for a long, healthy career.
Parekh commends TIE Seattle for a great network of entrepreneurs, executives and engineers.
TiE Seattle veteran Vijay Vashee has been a great mentor and sounding board to him on business and life for the last 18 years. He has also had a great relationship with Shirish Nadkarni who has been a mentor in the past and is now an investor in Suplari. TiE member Soma Somasegar is on the Board of Directors of Suplari and has been very helpful.