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K.B. Chandrasekhar
Friday, November 21, 2008

Age 39
Place of Birth Kumbakonam (Tamil Nadu)

Residence Cupertino, CA

Family Wife Sukanya and 3 children

Came to the U.S. 1990

Education B.Sc. B.Tech, Anna University

First job Wipro

Company started Exodus

Year did an IPO 1998

Year became millionaire 1998

Favorite charity Education and sanitation

Lifetime goals Make a difference; create something.

Net worth Over $500 million

Philosophy of life Don’t give up.

Most inspired by Mahatma Gandhi and people who achieve the impossible

Most excited by South Indian food

Most expensive thing ever bought House under construction

If he had known all the travails that lay ahead of him, entrepreneur K.B. Chandrasekhar says he may not have started a company at all. But he never knew until it was too late to turn back.

Raised in conservative Chennai, Chandra always wanted to start a company. Some time after he joined Wipro in Bangalore, Chandra attempted a startup, but was thwarted by the lack of venture capital. In 1990, he moved to the United States to head Rolta India and grabbed major new clients including Ford, Digital Equipment Corporation and Borland for the software-consulting firm. In the back of the mind, however, Chandra frequently toyed with the idea of a startup, now in the high profile, but highly risky, arena of Silicon Valley.

Two years later, Chandra set out to live the Silicon Valley dream. He started Fouress Inc., a consulting firm that specialized in networking, serving clients like Sun Microsystems and Lockheed.

Once the Internet entered the picture, together with Fouress partner B.V. Jagadeesh, Chandra started Exodus, a company that provided companies MIS (management information services) solutions.

The dramatic change in Exodus’s line of business came with the 1994 launch of the Netscape browser. Chandra recalls that the full impact of what the browser could do to the world hit him almost immediately; he realized that the Internet would grow exponentially, and together with it, the market for Internet services. Besides, companies such as Robertson Stephens, an early client of Exodus, were already beginning to demand more Internet services.

That is when Exodus swiftly shifted to the Web-hosting market, reaping the first-mover advantage.

Although Exodus was headed in the right direction, Chandra and Jagadeesh committed entrepreneurial errors. Among the biggest was their “presumption” that venture capital would eventually come. It didn’t — and Chandra says the pair were shocked by the cash-burn Exodus suffered. That is when now-legendary financier Kanwal Rekhi bailed them out with a cash infusion of $200,000. His caveat: focus on the Web-hosting business, and bail out of everything else.

Before long, Chandra and Jagadeesh had turned the company around, and as business boomed, they hired professional managers including IBM veteran Ellen Hancock as president, later promoting her to CEO. Today, Exodus’s market cap is fast approaching $25 billion; Chandra’s still sizable stake in the company is valued at over $500 million.

Although the wealth has not changed Chandra’s lifestyle, it has permitted him to do things that he could never otherwise imagine, he says. He has funded a center of excellence at his alma mater, Anna University in Chennai; he is also funding a sanitation project in rural Karnataka.

“Once an entrepreneur, always an entrepreneur” is an adage that Chandra bears out. He recently unveiled a new venture, Jamcracker, which will offer companies a desktop solution for managing a variety of ASPs (application service providers). Chandra has also invested in more than a dozen other startups.

Bala Murali Krishna

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