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December - 2012 - issue > Entrepreneur of the Month
The Computer Networking Prodigy
Vignesh Anantharaj
Friday, November 30, 2012
In 1997, Peter Ogilvie, a computer engineer at Oracle was impressed with the way the newly employed young Indian lad at cubicle no 1301 handled the assigned networking chores. Although there was a hint of a sophomoric outlook to his work, he was still proving to be very effective and efficient. During the end of one working day, Biswas received a call from his mom informing him that she has reached the parking lot to pick him up. Intrigued “How old are you?” asked Peter. Biswas grinned and replied “turning sixteen in January” and logged out of the Oracle database to go home and feast on his mom’s pancakes.

Mastering Networking languages at Fifteen

Sanjit Zubin Biswas's interest in computer engineering started at age eight, when he began thumbing through his father's books on computers and surprisingly found them interesting. This was the beginning of a story belonging to a rare breed of prodigies. At the age of fifteen, he became one of the 500 teenagers in the country to score a perfect 1600 in SAT. Biswas had just mirrored the accomplishments of Microsoft’s co-founders, Bill Gates and Paul Allen, who scored 1590 and 1600 in SAT respectively.

After a successful SAT examination, he landed a job at Oracle with his smart and efficient thinking skills. Biswas holds the distinction of being the youngest person to work for the giant database management IT Company. He was fifteen.

When normal teens did part time jobs working at local café shops, Biswas was busy at the 13th floor of the Oracle headquarters in Redwood City to work as a computer engineer. He worked at Oracle till fall before embarking on a B.S. in Computer Systems Engineering course from Stanford University where he won many academic accolades and built his reputation as a genius.

Free Internet Access for Harvard

After few years, Biswas enrolled at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for PhD studies researching on Roofnet mesh Technologies. Using the doctoral research product on Roofnet, Biswas and his classmate, John Bicket decided to blanket the area between MIT and Harvard with wireless Internet access. To implement the same they gave free internet access to the students while placing radio equipment on their rooftops in return.

The difference between Biswas’s innovative router design and normal devices were the selective nodal signal transmissions wherein the best suited node was chosen to lead the signal based on the packet's destination and signal strengths. The innovation also took into consideration account changing network conditions, whether users were logged in, or a passing SUV blocking out a nodal signal.

The Invention that led to the Birth of Meraki

In 2006, the two Grad students showcased their research material at a Google conference where an impressed representative offered them an on the spot 1000 router order, followed by a nonprofit organization which wanted to know if their research could help provide Internet services to the poor. Evoked, Biswas temporarily discontinued his doctoral studies to work on this aspect of providing cheap Internet.

To produce such a large number of routers, Biswas and John traveled to Mountain View, CA to seek the help of a veteran product manager at EMC, Hans Robertson, to lay the foundation of Meraki in 2006. This was the beginning of the success story of Biswas and his groundbreaking cloud managed infrastructural company. Meraki would go on to create and specialize in wireless mesh networks that would link people to the Internet cheaply. John and Hans would eventually become Meraki’s CTO and VP of Cloud Management respectively.

Meraki used common inexpensive hardware components to produce Wi-Fi routers at around $50 while a normal industrial standard router cost 75 times more than Meraki’s router. The project was successful and connected customers across 125 different countries, providing broadband-speed access to the Internet for as low as under $10 a month. This made some hotshots in the vertical turn eyes and notice, not before long the technology integrated hardware and software firm caught the attention of Sequoia Capital. Sequoia would eventually go on to invest $5million and $40 million in series A & D funding respectively in Meraki, along with other funders DAG Ventures and Northgate Capital.

Leadership leads to industrial recognition

Under Biswas’s leadership over the years, the company took giant strides and achieved a $100 million bookings run rate, grew from 120 to 330 employees and did it all with a high growth curve in their profit charts.

This led to the networking giant Cisco setting their eyes upon Meraki. However, the CEO of Meraki was not an individual who was in the game for the money or the greatness and invincibility it offered. He wanted to make sure that Meraki’s products reached the common man in the simplest way possible. On 12th November, 2012, Meraki was acquired by Cisco for a whopping

$1.2 billion. Cisco believed that Meraki’s management software and leadership lead by Biswas would enable them to position its offering to mid-market customers who want to move their entities to become cloud based organizations with vertically increased scalability curves. Speaking about the acquisition, OJ Winge, senior vice president and general manager of the Cisco Collaboration Technology group said that Cisco loved Meraki the way it was and the company remains committed to preserving the specialties of the newest member to the family.

Cisco also announced that the Meraki team will lead the huge cloud networking wing of the giant and build new products with a continued emphasis on customer experience and innovation. This is a testimony of the respect and reputation that the founders have developed in the industry. The respect was earned through the humility and humbleness with which Biswas and his co founders lead Meraki in projects focused more on empowering the less fortunate rather than on companies of Fortune 500 standards.

Biswas today continues to do his job as he has always been doing, building amazing products with unmatched passion and dedication and providing the same to his most valued customers.
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