Vinod Gupta is a rare and shining beacon of a well-rounded, self-made, and morally motivated businessman of Omaha Nebraska. As the brains behind the uber-successful database technology company, Gupta parlayed an impressive $100 bank loan, into an eventual $680 million sale of the company. From there, after he amassed decades of operational experience, he leveraged this priceless insight into Everest Group, his current venture. The family-operated business specializes in providing venture capital within the realm of database technology, provides operational support and education for underperforming assets, and assists struggling companies to eventually become profitable.
Not only does Vinod Gupta maintain a semblance of modesty about him, he also devotes a vast amount of his fortune to give back to various causes close to his heart. As education has played a key role in his upbringing, Gupta has devoted massive resources to building a girls’ school in his village, 2 schools at his alma mater in India, and has created several fellowships for future students entering the fields of business, management, and science.
How did you get started within the world of business?
Essentially, I quickly recognized a void in a particular niche market, and took it upon myself to fill that need! Upon completing my formal higher education, I became employed within the marketing department for a mobile home manufacturing company. I was asked to compile an exhaustive list of national businesses that would potentially want to purchase my company’s product, and when I discovered that such a list was not in existence, I set out on the journey to create such a product. Upon the completion of this initial database, I took out a $100 bank loan, which I utilized for direct mail marketing of my business-to-business databases, and immediately began to receive pre-orders from various vendors within the business of mobile homes. Recognizing that the need for this type of specific list may exist throughout other scopes of businesses, I knew that I had a desirable business model! From there, my first business was created, and called American Business Information.
Prior to GPS and Google, I grew these databases to be able to provide only pertinent information, categorized, and available for purchase. The company experienced massive growth, restructuring, and name changes to reflect the change in magnitude. Eventually named InfoGROUP, the company was sold for $680 million.
How have you seen your business change within the last few years?
As technology continues to change, so does the scope of my business, and the expanding need for database technology across new platforms. Within the previous few years, the world has undoubtedly experienced a huge tech boom, and with it, the need for location mapping, and database technology at the touch of a finger. For my business, this has meant an increased desire from clients for things like databases of restaurants within proximity to certain landmarks, numbers of hotels within a specified region, etc. From the rudimentary GPS of ten years prior, to today’s newest iPhone, these technologies essentially rely on the high tech version of what my company was doing decades before.
What changes within your business are you looking forward to seeing in the future?
As artificial intelligence continues to grow, and become more streamlined, the market will continue to open for database technologies on a much more global, instantaneous platform. With technology becoming more intuitive, I am looking forward to seeing the ways in which this intuitive approach will be able to provide real-time information for individuals who may not even know what they are necessarily looking for.
How do you maintain productivity on a day-to-day basis?
I try not to get too caught up in day-to-day operational needs of my company, or of a particular company with whom I am working. To ensure long-term success, I have found it absolutely necessary to be able to focus on long-term goals, metrics, and growth. In order to be able to actively pursue those things, one must devote the time, energy, and thought those goals deserve. This is undoubtedly difficult, if not impossible, to do whilst balancing day-to-day operational tasks. Thus, I feel it is crucial to develop a strong core team of players for each company, who are actively involved in correctly handling these daily activities.
How can you motivate these staff members to perform at peak levels?
The key to maintaining a strong core team is not only to engage the individuals very frequently, keeping them abreast of company related news, but to also make them feel as though they are part of the overall “bigger picture”, if you will. Showing someone that you value their input, as well as seeing them as being integral toward the success of an operation, motivates individuals to perform at peak levels, and to feel good about the results they produce. Additionally, I certainly believe in rewarding the loyalty, dedication, and continued hard work of the individuals who are responsible for the success of a company.
How do you work to actively grow your company?
At Everest Group, we are always interested in amassing underperforming assets, learning about potential database technology focused startups, and growing the portfolio of the company. However, I am very careful in selecting the companies that we choose to work with, and the manner in which we work to turn a failing company, into a profitable one. In terms of marketing, believe it or not, I have found great success in direct mail marketing efforts. Though everything is digitally based in today’s society, I think that email marketing is almost always dispensable. It is almost second nature to automatically delete marketing emails, whereas a physical piece of collateral is more difficult to discard without even giving it a short glance.
How do you work to turn a struggling business, into a flourishing one?
Well, each business is vastly different, and there are a number of measures for success. However, I have found that if a business offers a solid product, great service, or an exciting technology product, there are usually aspects behind-the-scenes that are causing a less than stellar reputation, or financial status. Thus, it is then our job to determine what factors are adding up to the lackluster performance, and to work on changing those factors. Sometimes, all it takes is advancing the technology utilized by a company, and investing the capital in order to bring the company forward. Throughout other times, the key lies in restructuring managerial, operational, and leadership teams, or in providing adequate training for these key players. Finally, customer service also plays a tremendous role in the success of a business. In this case, we set up, support, and maintain high-level customer service centers that are focused on a top-notch customer satisfaction standard.
What advice would you give to others interested in pursuing an entrepreneurial lifestyle?
I would encourage today’s youth to certainly venture into an entrepreneurial lifestyle, and to hone in on specific niche products, services, and technologies they feel passionate about. However, I would certainly also advise budding entrepreneurs to carefully take risks, and utilize some sort of risk-reward formula to determine how sound a particular financial risk may be. For example, taking a large risk while devoting large sums of funding for something is vastly different than taking an even larger risk while devoting less sums of funding. In today’s world of tech, entrepreneurs sometimes take these large risks with investor funding, not considering the ramifications it can have on their business ventures on a long-term scale, and the notion that they could potentially lose all funding for an otherwise sound company, based solely on one poor decision.
What role has education had on your development, professional life, and personal existence?
My father was a doctor, and though he was extremely busy with his many responsibilities, he devoted a large amount of time to help me study. He was a great tutor, and instilled in me the importance of a good education, and the value that such an education will undoubtedly have throughout a lifetime. For that, I am grateful, and have carried that understanding since childhood. Thus, I took my education very seriously, and wanted to succeed. Upon receiving my Bachelor’s degree at ITT in India, I received a scholarship to study at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, where I received my Master’s degree in Agricultural Engineering and Business.
Upon completing my education, I have found great success within the business world, and have always attributed my education toward this success. Thus, I continue to find it imperative to provide the same educational opportunities for individuals who seek education, and would potentially not be privy to the same educational experiences. Though various philanthropic endeavors, I have been fortunate enough to provide advancement for students via internships, and physically provide them with the spaces needed in order to learn within the classroom setting. I am incredibly proud of this work, and find that being able to provide opportunities for future generations is the most meaningful part of success.