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Sabeer Bhatia
Friday, November 21, 2008

Age 31
Place of Birth Chandigarh, India

Residence San Francisco, California

Family Single

Came to the U.S. 1988

Education B.S. California Institute of Technology, M.S. Stanford

First job and career Firepower Systems Inc.

Companies started Hotmail Corp., Arzoo.com

Year did an IPO Sold to Microsoft - 1997

Year became millionaire 1997 (Last day of the year)

Favorite charity CRY (Child Relief & You)

Lifetime goals To let loose the entrepreneurial and intellectual spirit of India and bring about monumental change in the country.

Net worth $200 million

Philosophy of life The greatest risk in life is not to take a risk at all.

Most inspired by Steve Jobs

Most excited by Cindy Crawford

Most expensive thing ever bought Ferrari (besides the home)

A little over two years ago, Sabeer Bhatia sold Hotmail, a free Web-based email offering, to Microsoft Corporation and walked into Silicon Valley hall of fame. A number of things about the deal captured the public imagination, not least the image of a young man from Bangalore, with next to nothing in his pocket (not to mention his bank account), playing hardball with the world’s richest man. But the deal also had profound lessons for the industry.

Although Yahoo, Amazon.com and America Online all preceded Hotmail as hot Internet companies, Hotmail created one of the first smokin’ deals in the fast-emerging Internet arena. The acquisition, which came with the big price tag of $400 million, by Microsoft — a company heretofore lukewarm to the Net — was seen as a clear sign of the importance of the Internet. The deal also raised morale at countless startups as it became apparent that startups, more than ever before, would drive Internet growth, not established behemoths. Consequently, it aroused unprecedented enthusiasm among startups. Even today Bhatia remains the poster boy for Internet success, all the more so for the Indian wannabes.

Bhatia grew up in Bangalore where he attended St. Joseph’s School. He briefly studied at the Birla Institute of Technology, Pilani and came to the United States on a CalTech transfer scholarship at the age of 19. Even for the highly accomplished IIT types that come from India it was an achievement of extraordinary merit, because the number of CalTech scholarships awarded each year are few — and even these are won only after passing a test that is considered one of the toughest in the world.

It came as no surprise, then, that Bhatia fared well at CalTech and went on to Stanford for his M.S degree. Upon graduating, Bhatia briefly worked for Firepower Systems Inc. before joining Apple Computers where he met his Hotmail co-founder Jack Smith. The two, enthusiastically exchanging business ideas, were frustrated when they were unable to exchange email at work. The company’s networks didn’t let them connect to America Online, and the two didn’t want to use the office email system to communicate their private plans. The obstacle they faced gave rise to the Hotmail idea: Web-based email, offering millions of office workers privacy at work.

As the story goes, Smith called Bhatia on his cellular phone to share the plan for Hotmail, whereupon Bhatia, recognizing the potential magnitude of the concept, asked his friend to hang up and call back on a secure line lest somebody get wind of their plan.

Even though Bhatia is said to rate highly the “power of the idea,” by the time he sold the company to Microsoft, he emerged as a sharp-shooting businessman with extraordinary tactical and negotiating skills. He drove tough bargains with venture capitalists and in the end refused to be cowed down by Microsoft’s hagglers. He told writer Po Bronson later that he braced himself for a meeting with Gates by saying to himself that the world’s richest man was after all just a human being, like himself. Bhatia worked at Microsoft for a little over a year after the Hotmail acquisition, leaving as his entrepreneurial spirit again took over. He is now the CEO of Arzoo Inc. A field hockey player when in college, Bhatia has been benevolent to the poorly paid players of the national team.

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