When Sanjit Biswas set up Meraki Networks in 2006 — he was 24 then — creating a billion-dollar company in six years may have stretched even his own formidable imagination. Formidable, because he came to the table with pedigree — a Bachelor of Science from Stanford University and a Masters and a Ph.D from Massachussetts Institute of Technology (MIT). (Rajeev Motwani, mentor of one Sergei Brin and Larry Page, who went on to set up Google, was Biswas’ mentor, too, at Stanford).
On Monday, Biswas took centrestage when his cloud computing start-up based in San Francisco got bought by Cisco, the networking giant, in a cool all-cash deal of $1.2 billion (Rs6,600 crore).
That would most probably mean moolah well in excess of $100 million (Rs550 crore) for Biswas personally, said local venture capital industry observers. Not a bad return in six years, considering the company was set up with $80 million (Rs440 crore) from investors such as Google, Sequoia Capital and DAG Ventures, the company’s website shows.
For Meraki, which offers wi-fi, switching, security and mobile device management – all centrally managed from the cloud, CEO Biswas was planning an IPO after hitting $100 million revenue run rate.
So his off-the-cuff reaction was to turn down Cisco’s offer a couple of weeks back.
Later, when the company board weighed matters in the context of poor market valuations in the industry and unsteady investment climate for expansion, it decided to take it -- even as Biswas & Co got to steer Cisco’s Cloud Networking Group.
For Biswas, that’s a long way from where it all started: the eureka moment happened when he was doing a project at MIT on rooftop networks called Roofnet Project with classmate John Bicket (currently chief technology officer of Meraki) along with Hans Robertson (vice-president of product management, Meraki).
Biswas was asked by an NGO if this rooftop wi-fi technology could be used to provide internet services to the poor.
He took leave of absence from MIT to co-found Meraki, with the intention to provide wireless internet services to the poor as cheap as $10 at a time when routers cost $1,500.
Today there are tens of thousands of users of the system across the globe.
By the way, ‘Meraki’ is Greek for ‘doing something with passion and soul’.