Suresh Sambandam of OrangeScape, Krishna Mehra of Capillary Technologies, Jaspreet Singh of Druva, Balaji Sreenivasan of Aurigo, Vivek Ravisankar of InterviewStreet - all have something in common, other than that they have been featured here for their accomplishments. They are all technology entrepreneurs who started their ventures in India over the past few years, built them to a significant level of success, and now they have all relocated to the US, or are in the process of relocating (themselves, not the companies).
We have mentioned just five names. But there are more. And the one common reason for the move is the US market. It's by far the biggest consumer of technology. "It's as big as the rest of the world in software technology spends - they over-invest in technology," says Mehra of Capillary, which built its cloud-based retail analytics and customer engagement business in India for the first three years. Mehra has established a team of five locals in the US and will himself move to the US in the second quarter of this year.
Aurigo's Sreenivasan says customers prefer to know that the CEO is in the same geography that they are in. "This is even more with enterprise software customers, who spend millions of dollars on their IT systems," he says. Aurigo provides project management solutions to big construction and utilities companies, and 80% of its revenues comes from the North American market.
"Ultimately, people buy from people. The passion that an entrepreneur has is unique and it is important that it be leveraged in the marketplace the company operates in. Building new relationships and nurturing old ones is as important as building the most innovative software. If a customer does not feel comfortable engaging with a vendor, it does not matter how many features the vendor's software product has, or what platform it is built on," Sreenivasan says. He also found that his sales team was more effective when managed closely rather than remotely with frequent trips back and forth.
Shekhar Kirani, partner in VC firm Accel Partners, says it's also easier for companies to honour a contract and resolve issues locally if the start-up has a US headquarters.
The Silicon Valley eco-system is another powerful draw for Indian tech entrepreneurs. OrangeScape's platform-as-a-service product allows people to create cloud-based applications and deploy them easily and quickly. But it's also a space that has seen the entry of big players - Microsoft, Salesforce.com, Google and IBM. To bring attention to his product in the midst of such competition, OrangeScape's Sambandam says he needed to be in the "global headquarters" of technology - Silicon Valley.
"In the Valley, venture capitalists, technology writers, technology consultants all combine to make good products successful. Customers also look at all that is being said about a product and adopt products that are expected to become global. And then the rest of the world picks them up," Sambandam says.
Aneesh Reddy, Capillary's CEO and co-founder who will continue to be based in India, echoes similar views: "The Valley has a lot of activity happening on the social and mobile front, and we wanted to be part of the action, rather than view it from a distance. The Valley also gives a lot of visibility and opens up possibilities for partnerships."
Samir Kelekar, founder of Bangalore-based IT security firm Zeno Security, is relocating to the US to explore licensing opportunities for technologies he has developed. He has a patent in the area of network security and two more are in the pipeline. "In the US, many inventors are able to navigate the patent system on their own without a lawyer's help. Also, it's so easy to start a business there. In India, I need a lawyer and a chartered accountant to help me keep pace with the new rules introduced. In Delaware, where I have an office, there are state-appointed agents to incorporate your company on your behalf if you are based outside Delaware," he says.
However, for all of these companies, India remains the hub of software development. Where there are multiple founders, typically only one founder moves to the US. And experts say that as the Indian start-up eco-system develops and as the start-ups mature, there may be fewer reasons for founders to be in the US. Dhiraj Rajaram, founder of analytics firm Mu Sigma, which is today a near $100-million company, shifted to Bangalore from the US, after establishing a mature US office.