Our founder story


My American Dream


Why I founded WildFire?

Growing up

A little history about me and why I came to US from India. I grew up in southern part of India in a big city called Hyderabad. Growing up, I always dreamt of having my own company. I got interested in it after seeing my Dad run his own company. He worked hard to put food on the table. He was very passionate in what he did. It helped me appreciate the fact that if you love what you do, hard work is just part of what you do and it comes naturally. My mom always pushed us (me and my brother) to do our best and to take risks. Very important lessons which helps me even today. This underscores the fact that how you go about your business in front of your kids helps mold them. Kids learn a lot from their parents’ actions.

When I was in school, I was always top in my class in academics. It helped me build my confidence. I soon realized that being top in your class is just relative. When I moved to high school, there were other smart folks in the class and I was lagging behind them. It did not bother me as I was always confident that this will not matter as I pursue my dream of owning and running my own company. I am thankful to my mom for instilling confidence in us.

I was very active growing up. Played Cricket (c’mon you should know what Cricket is) and soccer at school. It helped me stay fit all through my life as I understood the importance of being fit and loved being fit.

In 1995, I got selected into Chemical Engineering program in Osmania University in Hyderabad. This was my first step into adult life from a school kid. I have very fond memories of my days at this college and made quite a few of my very best friends here. Every one of my friends had big dreams. Most of them came from humble beginnings. Some of them wanted to do something great in their lives. Some would be happy just to find a stable job and get settled. Along with my friends, we had some of the best moments in life during this stage of our lives. Enjoy your college days and make some good friends. They come with free food and you don’t have to worry about insurance (your parents pay for it).

College

When we were in college, all our seniors wanted to come to US and pursue further studies. So, I followed them blindly and landed up in US in 1999 to pursue my M.S. This underscores the fact that when kids graduate, they need not have a perfect plan (in fact they don’t) but what they do and learn wherever they land (first job or new City) and how they adapt makes a huge difference in their lives. Continuing on, I came to a small town in Louisiana called Ruston. It was a shock to me culturally but being a small and friendly town, I was able to quickly recover and started focusing on my studies all the while questioning if I made the right choice leaving India.

I moved to NJ in 2000 along with few friends and joined M.S in Computer Science program at NJIT. This was again a knee jerk reaction as all of my friends ditched Chemical Engineering program and switched to Computers. We all quickly found well paying IT jobs in Wall Street. Pay was good but back of my mind, I questioned my move again.

American dream

I then learned about American dream. Immigrants come here in search of it and how many successful companies were formed in this process. In 2007, I finally decided to take the plunge. I used most of my savings, and bought a Solar installation company. The previous owner wanted to retire and decided to sell the company. It had 5 full time employees. The first year went very well. Revenues jumped from $600K to 1.2M. In the middle of 2008, things went south. Revenues started falling as consumers were skeptical about the financial markets and started spending less. Being a novice, I first thought of riding it out and wait for the markets and consumer sentiment to improve. In June 2008, I decided to sell the company and found a buyer. Late 2008, it was complete havoc in the financial markets. My decision to sell the company proved like a very good decision. Beginners luck! It was a narrow escape from a complete disaster. Without funding, many companies either shut down or went bankrupt.

I took some time off from founding my next company. I was also thinking about doing my MBA to learn the tricks of the trade but decided not to do it. All the while my desire to create another company grew stronger. After all, America is probably one of the very few countries where you can pursue your dreams if you love what you do. If you don’t pursue it here, you probably will not pursue it anywhere else!

In 2012, I founded Mutual Force. It is a SaaS company. I worked very hard to get this company off the ground. My wife is always supportive and it is important to have this support given the amount of time you spend with a company. Signed up big clients. All went well until I realized I was targeting a very small market. Mutual Force is a moderate success by any standards but since the market is small, I realized it was time to move on. Mutual Force was acquired in 2015 and I had a nice little exit.

WildFire

In late 2013, when I was working on another startup, I realized how AI is everywhere in our lives. Recommendations on Netflix, Google search contextual results, Siri and others. I realized AI will be huge and will affect every part of our lives. There was also lot of concern about AI taking away our jobs. At that point of time, I have also worked in big data and AI for some wall street firms and saw how they use AI for fraud detection and other use cases. I decided to start WildFire with a mission to help companies transform using AI and help people transition into this new world where automation and AI will be everywhere. I believe this will be my life long mission!

I believe I am like the Ray Kroc (McDonald’s founder) of AI (much younger than him of course). Ray had many attempts at a company before he found his true passion, McDonald’s.

Why pursue the American dream?

US is one of the very few countries where if you love what you do, work hard and be persistent, you are guaranteed to be successful. Success is a relative term. Being a Billionaire or Millionaire could mean success to some and having enough money to live a comfortable life and doing what you love means success for some. I belong to the later group.

In 2016, I became a proud citizen of this country. I will be always thankful for the opportunities.

It is the journey which I am enjoying the most and not the destination. And so the American dream continues. Do join me in my pursuit of the American dream and I wish you good luck with yours.

–Mahesh Varavooru