Muddu Sudhakar of Aisera: “Invest in people”

There are many things that attribute both positive and negative disruption, but when it comes to technology, I strongly believe all disruption is good. For example, what Tesla is doing is a very positive disruptor and also that the financial industry is moving more toward a technical and approachable space as well (Rocket Mortgage, for […]

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There are many things that attribute both positive and negative disruption, but when it comes to technology, I strongly believe all disruption is good. For example, what Tesla is doing is a very positive disruptor and also that the financial industry is moving more toward a technical and approachable space as well (Rocket Mortgage, for example).

As a part of our series about business leaders who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Muddu Sudhakar.

Muddu Sudhakar is a successful entrepreneur, executive, and investor. He is the co-founder and CEO of Aisera, the industry’s first proactive, personalized, and predictive AI Service Management (AISM) solution that is purpose-built to automate tasks and actions for IT, HR, Facilities, and Customer Service. Muddu has a vast product, technology, and GTM experience and knowledge on enterprise markets such as Cloud, SaaS, AI/Machine learning, IoT, Cyber Security, Big Data, Storage, and chip/Semiconductors.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

I was a student at UCLA and Yale, where I met forward-thinking computer science professors that led me to meet with people like David Patterson, John Hennessy and Judea Pearl (Nobel Prize winners in AI), and Professor Leonard Kleinrock (Father of the Internet). I heard the stories of how Silicon Valley startups got started, inspiring me to begin my adventure.

Fast-forward to today, I have founded five startups; all of them were successfully acquired and provided 10 times in returns for investors. My experience in a variety of markets, including the cloud, software-as-a-service, artificial intelligence, internet-of-things, cybersecurity, big data and semiconductors helped me establish these companies.

Along the way, I also acquired operating experience with startups as chief executive officer at Caspida, Cetas, Kazeon, Sanera and Rio Design, and as senior vice president and general manager at public companies ServiceNow, Splunk, VMware and EMC. This helped sharpen my leadership skillls and prepare me to create the companies that would make a difference.

My most recent venture is Aisera, an artificial intelligence service mangagement solution. Having a master’s and a Ph.D. in computer science was very important in creating Aisera, especially from a technology perspective. Given that Aisera is focused on artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cloud technologies, my education from UCLA has been of tremendous value. Among others, I benefited from the classes I had with UCLA professors Judea Pearl, Leonard Kleinrock, and Andrew Kahng in the areas of algorithms, neural networks, machine learning, networking, and distributed systems.

Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?

I once had a pivotal conversation on how AI Customer Service would change the lives of people and how we interact with businesses forever. The context was how the people behind the call centers are real people and there are some places in the world where the conditions of call centers are very poor. I resonated with these people and wanted to make a difference. I wanted to be an agent of change! That was just one way I wanted to disrupt the industry of the typical call center and change it to where AI would help make their work lives more positive. The days of the typical customer support representative are outdated. It’s time to treat the people who support so many businesses and their customers differently and think differently about it. I want to boost their life and work experience as they are often stuck in unhealthy work conditions and have these real people move up in their careers and make a difference in the organizations they work for. There had to be a better solution and I did everything I could within my skills to make a major change for this industry.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

My first startup was in 1999–2000, and I didn’t know how the Venture Capitalist (VC) money would work. I thought VC money would be a last wager; I thought of it like a Casino House. Once I had the funding, I thought VCs would continue to fund. I soon realized it wasn’t an endless supply of money (despite what people may wish). I also didn’t initially know the milestones involved. The whole process was very foreign to me. In 1999, I didn’t know what I now understand fully today. This influenced and set the tone for how I plan today. The financial engineering/planning is something that isn’t taught in most educational systems. You have to really experience it to understand it. Also, because of this, I invented ZCD (Zero Cash Date) and now use this for every monthly financial forecast.

We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?

I learned so much from Andrew Kahng — professor at UCLA, for AI and Computer Science. I soaked up knowledge in algorithms and theories. Additionally, the late Rajeev Motwani was an astonishing mentor to me.

The impact those mentors made on my life was the philosophy that I needed to build something that will have a long-lasting impact. I learned that I needed to solve a problem that will have a lasting effect for many years to come. I also learned not to take small bets — take large bets. Go after big problems to resolve to really make a difference.

In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?

There are many things that attribute both positive and negative disruption, but when it comes to technology, I strongly believe all disruption is good. For example, what Tesla is doing is a very positive disruptor and also that the financial industry is moving more toward a technical and approachable space as well (Rocket Mortgage, for example).

Disruption and change is always good. Technology disruptions are always good. If you don’t like something within technology, then instill public policy.

Can you share 3 of the best words of advice you’ve gotten along your journey? Please give a story or example for each.

  1. Ram Shiram once told me “create or build a company that has long-lasting value.” Go after problems that can make an impact and a drastic change. Make a difference, go after a difficult problem.
  2. Invest in people. You have to keep investing in people. People are very important.
  3. Product and technology should speak for itself and should do itself justice. The product and technology has to stand tall. Google vs Yahoo, the product was really good.

Lead generation is one of the most important aspects of any business. Can you share some of the strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?

Face-to-face interactions, building trust, and online demand generation from multiple channels are all ways I’ve practiced to generate great leads. LinkedIn takes 20 touch points on average to develop a qualified lead. It’s about the consistency and being persistent that will result in the outcome of positive lead generation to support the type of organization you’re desiring. Don’t give up and stick to it ever day.

We are sure you aren’t done. How are you going to shake things up next?

I want to shake up the IT Service Desk and Customer Service industry. Big forces don’t always want to be disrupted — with perseverance and the most advanced technology, we will get there. I do it because it will improve the lives of consumers and business users.

Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking? Can you share a story with us? Can you explain why it was so resonant with you?

I truly enjoy Tom Taulli’s webinars. The insight and depth of the conversations are magnificent, and I admire his work in developing knowledge around artificial intelligence.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Yesterday is but today’s memory, and tomorrow is today’s dream.” By Kahlil Gibran. This is meaningful to me because I’m always thinking about the next steps or the way technology will be changing our future.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Me Too Movement and Black Lives Matter are important to me and I support their missions.We need to stick with these groups and show support. People should support diversity, creativity, uniqueness of every individual and creed.

How can our readers follow you online?

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!

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