Over the next few days, I was struck by a number of parallels. Scouring the savannah for 10 hours a day to find the elusive leopard and black rhino is not so different from searching for product-market fit. Witnessing wildebeest struggling to cross the crocodile infested waters of the Mara river is akin to startup founders navigating the perilous waters of customer and financial challenges. Watching an offspring make it across the Mara bears similarities to selling your company. Life appears to follow a universal pattern!
Drishti has been acquired by a Fortune 100 manufacturer, with all terms confidential. I am pleased that Drishti will help take the acquirer “to the next level.” Simple math suggests potentially hundreds of millions of dollars of impact on manufacturing products used daily worldwide.
This journey has been an adventure—complete with challenges, joy, and pain—from the moment I sat down in my study to identify an untapped market opportunity. My goal was for us to have fun while significantly impacting GDP. I hope that Drishti has become exactly that—a pioneering company that has set in motion an order of magnitude improvement in manufacturing as evidenced by the results, the quality and ambition of our customers and acquirer as well as the growing “video AI” market driven by a slew of Drishti-inspired startups. A necessary goal, en route, was advancing the scientific world—by introducing spatio-temporal analysis of video streams (“action recognition”) at scale. As Andrew Ng once told me, “you took on a hard problem”—one that most of the followers still find challenging to solve!
What we accomplished at Drishti is world class and I take pride in our collective achievements. We transformed the “100-year old manufacturing problem” left to us by Frederick Taylor and Frank and Lilian Gilbreth, bringing manufacturing and manufacturing analytics closer to the digital age. I am confident that the acquirer will build upon this foundation. I can’t wait to see how they transform their far flung operations using Drishti’s technology and scale the movement that we initiated.
The field, however, is still in its infancy. Spatio-temporal analysis (aka, video analysis) will be pervasive in industries far beyond manufacturing where a growing number of startups are now playing—from hospital operating theaters to airport flight operation. One of my regrets, in selling now, is that we didn’t fully realize the vision that we had for Drishti. Perhaps, as my father always said, “leaving something undone provides an excuse to revisit it.”
This journey wouldn’t have been possible without the tireless work of the entire Drishti team over the years—without them, there would be no Drishti. My heartfelt thanks to every one of the ~250 folks for embracing the vision, for helping shape it, and, more importantly, choosing to join us on the journey. While I can’t mention everyone, I will highlight Manish, Peter, Kilho, and Ben at SRI and the Drishti founding team—Ashish and Krishnendu, as well as Ananth, Dave, Ananya, Sujay and Devashish—who bravely took on the challenge of building the future. The ~30 world class customers who embraced and helped shape our technology, including Ofer Ricklis/Flex, Raja Shembekar/Denso, Akiharu Engo/Toyota, Ankit Dhanadia/Edwards, Huri Mendoza/Hella, Kishan Chalumuri/Apple, and Steven Shepley/Deloitte. And, Marc Andreessen, Martin Casado, Frank Chen, Anik Bose, Jim Smith, Murali Nair, Jason Green, Gordon Ritter, Jake Saper, Phil Wickham, Ko Nakamura, Hiroki Matsuda, Uday Sandhu, Gayathri Radhakrishnan, Marco Marinucci, Tim Kazurayama, Dave Anderson, Jim Adler, Collin West, and Jeff Liker who chose to invest in us. Finally, the home team—Surekha, Chirag, and Pooja—who shared in the trials and tribulations of the entrepreneurial journey, from Surekha’s initial seed funding of Drishti to today, in a very deeply personal way.
As I gazed across the vast, treeless plains of the Serengeti, I reflected on the journey and the many questions in innovation and entrepreneurship it has raised. Does creating new markets require an entirely different set of rules, approaches, metrics, and investors than iterating on existing, established markets? Are there crucial concepts in entrepreneurship yet to be explored and understood—concepts like founder-investor and investor-market fit? Is revenue the sole metric that matters (and, everything else be damned!)? How do founders truly grasp the intricacies of VC calculus? How does one choose a non-founder successor CEO? And, how does the federal government restructure funding mechanisms to support the growth of technologies core to the country’s economy and future?
Building something substantial, tangible, and transformative like Drishti is amongst the most rewarding experiences I’ve had to date. I don’t yet know what lies ahead. Big game hunting? A continued commitment to driving innovation? Sharing the lessons I have learned? Time will tell, and I will certainly share my path once it becomes clear.
Until then, cheers! Please drop me a note, as I’d love to catch up with you…
*Note: “Safari” is Swahili for journey and derives from the Arabic word “safar.” “Drishti” is Sanskrit for vision and reflects our dual vision of transforming manufacturing using the next generation of computer vision technology.