iMahal Interview Series: Rahul Roy
August 22, 2002
iMahal: Obviously at this point you must have been happy with your situation in America. Yet you moved on. It was Silicon Valley and you became an entrepreneur. What brought this on?
Roy: I got a job offer from Silicon Graphics. They wanted me to come in and run the MIS systems for them. This is before they went public. They offered me stock options, and I didn’t know anything about stock options. So I went there and only worked a few weeks. I was getting all these phone calls for other jobs. Somebody was doing good work for me. It was the banker for my prior employer.
His name is Don Travis, and he was my hidden mentor. He liked the way I presented myself and my employer when I interacted with people in his bank. And he knew that I had good skills in computers and accounting. Often when he had visited us and he was leaving the building he would stop and say, “Hello Mr. Roy, how are you?”
..here I am at Silicon Graphics, and here is this other offer..
Then one day around this time, he called me and said, “I have to set up my network, and I don’t know anybody better than you.” This was my entre to entrepreneurship. So here I am at Silicon Graphics, and here is this other offer. So I said to Don, “What do I do after I set up your network? It may take me a month, three months.” And he says, “Well, someone has to run it. I can hire you as the VP of Technology or something like that.” I thought about it and decided to take the consulting job, and worry about a full time position later.
iMahal: So this is an example of your willingness to take risks.
Roy: Yes, calculated risks. It’s not like you shut your eyes and shut your ears and there you go! I have never done that. So here I’m thinking, I want to be a consultant, but I cannot take the risk of consulting. In the back of my mind, however is the idea that when I am working on the network, I’m going to be getting and making other calls and contacts. I will be gaining expertise and collecting data about people who handle bookkeeping, who don’t have MIS, who don’t have network setups, who are not sharing data. All these thoughts are going through my mind. There was no Novell in those days. So I take this opportunity working for the Bank of Milpitas and I hired a few people.
..I’m thinking this is getting interesting..
At the same time I was making cold calls in my spare time. And I think in 4 months I had already scheduled jobs for 3 chain motels. They did not have sophistication as one should have. Then I found a lot of small companies, mom and pop shops, who could not afford all of the expensive solutions. I also found interested printing shops. All of a sudden I lined up 10 or 15 of these clients and I’m thinking this is getting interesting. So I go to Don Travis and get a salary increase from 54 to 75 – a lot more than my brother or any friend I had then. But eventually I told Don, “I will finish these next 90 days and I will train this guy I hired, he can do the job no problem, and I’m always available as a consultant. But I did pick up a lot of business while I was here.” He said, “That’s great! If you need any kind of money, let me know and I’ll lend you some money. Just let me know.” I’m thinking, “What else! My god — this is amazing!” I felt very fortunate; I had someone I could fall back to, somebody who owned a bank.
So now what happens is I pick up all this business as a consultant, and at that age, I was about 27, I acted like I was a bigshot. I was spending money. I bought an M3 [a BMW sport hotrod] which came from London as they were not available in USA at that point of time. I bought a home in San Jose and set up a little office of my own. You should have seen me in those days. I was everywhere. I was fun. My wife was happy. Everything was on me. So, that was fun for a while.