Engineer. Entrepreneur. Executive.

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About Prasad

Dr. Prasad Akella is an entrepreneur who has created technologies that empower humans throughout his career. He has helped create three massive market categories—twice in manufacturing and once in business social networks.

First, in the 90s, he led the General Motors team that led the creation of intelligent assist devices including “cobots”—collaborative robots. Cobots, the fastest growing segment in robotics today are projected to be a $12+B business in a few years, marry the power of robots with the cognition of humans. Second, in the early 2000s, as cofounder of the social networking pioneer Spoke, he envisioned & built the first massive business social graph—a category that is worth trillions today.


Today, as the founder of Drishti (, Prasad is targeting his third category creation. This time he’s asking “What happens if you combine the cognition of AI with the flexibility of humans?” There is $2.2T in US GDP alone that is interested in the answer.

Dr. Akella and his work have been recognized with a number of awards over the years including the National Association of Manufacturers’ Manufacturing Leadership Award, CBInsights’ AI100 List, Forbes’s AI50 List, World Economic Forum’s Technology Pioneer, GM’s “Boss” Kettering Award, IEEE’s Anton Philips Award, ASME’s Best Paper Award, 3 National Science Foundation grants. He has 5 US patents issued, with several more under review.

Prasad holds a PhD in Robotics from Stanford University (Edgar Meakin Fellow), an MBA from the University of Michigan’s Ross Business School (High Distinction, Beta Gamma Sigma), and a BS from the Indian Institute of Technology (HAL Award). 


Drishti, Founder, CEO, 2016—2021; Chairman, 2021—present 

Optessa, Board member, 2013—present

SRI, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, 2016—2017

Thomson Reuters, SVP, Product Management & Strategy, 2014—2016

Intermedia, SVP, Product & Marketing, 2012—2014

SAP, Global VP, SMB Marketing, 2007—2012

Cydelity, CPO, 2005—2007

Spoke Software, co-founder & VP, Platform Products, 2002—2004

CommerceOne, Director, Product Management, 2000—2002

General Motors, Staff Engineer, 1994—2000

MITI Mechanical Engineering Lab, NSF/STA Fellow, 1992—1994

Stanford, Research Assistant, 1986—1992

Honors and awards


25 leaders transforming manufacturing, Society of Manufacturing Engineers, 2021 [announcement]

World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, 2019 [site]

Small Business Innovation Research Award, National Science Foundation, 2017 [1746113]

“High Potential” Top Talent (top 1%), SAP, 2008-2011

Small Business Innovation Research Award, National Science Foundation, 2004 [0340340]

“Boss” Kettering Award, General Motors, GM’s highest technical innovation award, 2000

Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society in Business and Management, 2000 

“Who’s Who in Science and Engineering”, 1999 

Best Paper Award, ASME Material Handling Division, 1998 

GOALI Award, National Science Foundation, 1996  [9634813]

Extraordinary Achievement Award, General Motors, 1996 

Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society, 1996 

NSF/STA Fellowship, National Science Foundation, 1992  [9120395

Anton Philips Best Student Paper Award, IEEE Robotics & Automation Society, 1989 [List]

National Design Contest Silver Award, James F. Lincoln Foundation, 1986 

Edgar N. Meakin Fellowship, Stanford University, 1985 

J. N. Tata Scholar, J. N. Tata Foundation, 1985 

Lotus Trust Scholar, Lotus Trust, 1985 

HAL Silver Medal, Indian Institute of Technology, 1985 


CBInsights AI100 list, 2020 

Forbes AI50 list, 2020

Nvidia Top AI Startup, 2020 

World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer, 2019 [site]

“Hot vendor”in digital business platforms, Aragon Research (Drishti), 2018 


Published work

25 publications (Google Scholar)

5 patents issued (10 more under review)