A startup is like parenting, he says – and he would know as a father of two – because it's easy to underestimate how challenging it is and how much responsibility founders assume for overseeing a fledgling organization, day in and day out, across many stages of growth.
Startups are also like gardening in the sense that "you can't force a plant to grow" but "you can create the conditions to have it grow." In the same way, "you have to create a company with good values so that it grows," he explains.
Running a startup is even a little like cooking – if you follow Venkatesh's philosophy, at least – because your ultimate goal should be to create something that brings people comfort and enrichment. If you do, success follows.
A startup veteran
In case it's not clear from these imaginative analogies, Venkatesh has plenty of experience in the startup world. He has been enmeshed in it since the early 2000s, when he founded his first company. Macrometa is his third.
Along the way, Venkatesh has garnered a lot of wisdom about what it takes to found a successful company. One essential ingredient, he says, is building a business that solves a problem you personally care about.
In Macrometa's case, that problem is latency. Although most people don't take it personally when Netflix freezes for a few seconds or they have to wait for their banking app to load, Venkatesh feels problems like these deeply and authentically.
The reason why he hates latency so much, he explains, is that it "creates so much cognitive overhead" for human brains, which were designed to receive information in true real time. "When your brain is faster than your screen, you suffer."
"Life is short – latency shouldn't be the thing that screws it up for you."
Macrometa allows developers to reduce latency to the sub-millisecond level, even when they run applications that are geographically distant from the users they serve. By aggregating infrastructure from around the world into a global network that developers can access through a universal API, and eliminating the need to wait for data to move between cloud data centers before it can be processed and analyzed, Macrometa enables applications that are 100 times faster than standard cloud apps, Venkatesh says.
“That's a big deal,” he adds."The cloud is great at looking at historical data, but when you want to ask questions about what is happening right now, the cloud falls apart." Through Macrometa, Venkatesh hopes to solve this challenge by allowing developers to take full advantage of the convenience and flexibility of cloud architectures, without forcing users to suffer the high latencies that are part and parcel of conventional cloud computing models.
By doing this, Macrometa caters to a wide range of use cases – from enabling real-time analytics for marketing teams, to supporting real-time threat detection in cybersecurity, to achieving sub-millisecond levels of latency for telcos, to name just a few examples of what businesses are already using Macrometa to do.
Simple problems, complex solutions
The science behind Macrometa's real-time computing platform was developed by Venkatesh and his cofounder, Durga Gokina, who have published a number of papers and presented at academic conferences.
But figuring out how to enable real-time computing on a global scale was the easy part of building Macrometa, Venkatesh says. What was much harder was making the platform easy to use so that it would attract a large developer community.
"We didn't want to require developers to be 'rocket surgeons' to use Macrometa,” he explains. [A rocket surgeon, he clarifies, is a rocket scientist who is also a brain surgeon.] So, in addition to finding a way to aggregate global infrastructure in a way that makes real-time computing possible, they also created an API that developers can easily consume to access that infrastructure and launch applications.
Venkatesh is keen to emphasize that solving all of these technical challenges was by no means easy. Nor was creating a company based around the technology that he and his team devised. "Like any other startup, we’ve had failures – some of them spectacular," he laughs.
But a commitment to resilience helped steer the founders through these challenges. Venkatesh half-jokes that part of his resilience stems from his dogs, who "have absolute faith in me even when I make the wrong decisions." But he says his family, too, has played a central role in supporting him through challenging times across his career in the startup world.
So has a focus on cultivating self-awareness, which he calls "the single most important thing for founders." Startup leaders need to recognize that they are not always as important as they might feel at times. “Hard work matters, but something founders don’t always admit – and they should – is that a large part of success involves luck and circumstance.”
Of course, it's still important to make the best possible decisions as often as you can, he says. Although "no single decision is going to kill you or translate to wild success overnight," decisions add up over time, and founders need to assess how each small choice they make shapes the destiny of their companies – and their employees, their families and other stakeholders – over the long term.
Tackling the "next frontier" in computing
For now, Macrometa, which was founded in 2017, remains very much in growth mode. Venkatesh believes that edge computing and real-time computing are “the next frontier," and that there is an enormous opportunity for businesses like Macrometa to "become expansive companies that can truly touch every human being on earth" by helping to process data faster and more securely than is possible within conventional cloud architectures.
As Macrometa pursues this opportunity, Venkatesh expects the company to continue to grow rapidly and add plenty of new tools and features. But among the most important is tooling that "provides visibility into application performance from a carbon standpoint." In a future release, Macrometa hopes to unveil logic – which it also plans to open-source – that will shine a light on the environmental impacts of running apps in the cloud. "The world is burning and carbon offsets just aren’t cutting it,” he says. “We want to lead the charge in how developers build sustainable apps, and we want to show you exactly how many milligrams of carbon your app is emitting as it runs on the Macrometa platform or anywhere.”
Conclusion: Authentic advice from a dog's best friend
It's easy – and cliché– to talk about building a values-centric business that will change the world. But Venkatesh backs his statements with a level of authenticity that can be hard to find in the startup ecosystem. From latency, to sustainability and beyond, he feels passionately about the problems his company is solving. And while he eagerly points out his own imperfections, he is also committed to creating something great. “I just want to be as good as my dogs already think I am.”
Published on19 December 2022
Interview byKatie Norchi
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