Our March Spotlight features Ankit Jain, an entrepreneur from Silicon Valley. Ankit is the founder of tech startup Quettra, which was acquired in 2015 by SimilarWeb, where he is currently the Vice President of Product Management . He spent his formative years of life in Mumbai and moved to the USA in 1997 because his father, Hemant Jain, wanted to follow his American dream of working at a Silicon Valley startup. Three startups and two acquisitions later, Ankit's father passed on his entrepreneurial bug to Ankit. After studying Computer Science and Business at UC Berkeley, he joined a startup challenging Google at search and learnt a lot about building a high profile startup going after a very ambitious vision. The team was acquired by Google where they built a lot of what is now Google Play. In 2013, Ankit left Google to start his own company, Quettra, and was fortunate to have some of the world's best investors back him in building and innovative product with a power-packed team.
How do you tackle competing priorities?
The two strategies that have always worked for me are deadlines and understanding relative priorities. Like most of us, I get my best work done under impending deadlines which often means the competition between priorities is self-decided. The harder thing is to actually understand relative priority of tasks on an ongoing basis and keep completing the tasks at the top of priority list. The biggest challenge for me has been to make sure to balance short term and long term goals. Often, the most impactful work requires long term commitments and prioritization without short term dividends. And it is extremely easy to prioritize shorter term wins. In these cases, consistently having dedicated time for long term opportunities and priorities helps a lot.
What advice do you have for future Jain professionals?
Business is about relationships. Relationships are built by being a good person. A mentor of mine once told me, "Never say no to a first meeting." It is one of the best pieces of advice I've gotten. You never know what you will learn by meeting a new person and what new potentials can be unlocked. And this advice applies just as much to personal life as it does to professional life. I met my wife through a girl I went on a blind date with!
How do you deal with professional setbacks (if any)?
More often than not, stepping back and slowing things down has helped me a lot. A lot of setbacks seem larger than life in the moments when they occur and seeing the bigger picture and calculating next steps with a clear mind is often not as complicated as we think it is. I've experienced this with small projects as well as more complicated people-related matters. One example that comes to mind is when, early in the life of a venture that I was getting involved with, two of the four cofounders couldn't agree on the leadership hierarchy that was being set up. We were all extremely excited by the potential for the idea and our ability to bring the product to market but seeing the way in which the four of us were unable to resolve people issues showed us that our team dynamic was not right. Stepping away from the venture was a hard decision for me at the time, but looking back it was the right one.
Who has been your biggest inspiration in life?
Seeing my parents restart their life in their late 30s to pursue their dream has been a constant driver for me. It has taught me the importance of having dreams and doing whatever it takes to pursue them. In the case of my parents, they gave up a comfortable life in India, moved away from family and started at ground zero financially when we moved here. The biggest lesson I've learned from my parents is that achieving dreams requires perseverance, grit and an attitude that won't take no as the answer.
What are some upcoming ventures and projects you working on?
I am investing a lot of time diving deep into two technical areas: artificial intelligence and machine-to-machine and machine-to-human interfaces. My belief is that, in the next five years, we will be surrounded by smart devices that understand the world around us and are easy to interact with. These smart devices will process data and their surroundings in ways we cannot currently imagine; they will talk to each other and even be very powerful at communicating with us. What we have seen via products like Amazon Echo and Google Home just scratches the surface of what's possible on the voice side and the current generation of self driving cars and visual understanding is just a tease for what the next generation of AI will unlock for us. I'm very excited to be a part of this revolution of our digital world!