Money has never been a significant motivator for David Gorodyansky, who instead has sought to do something meaningful. Inspired by his grandfather’s stories of fighting for freedom in World War II, he wanted to impact the world.
He saw the opportunity when he and a friend recognized the security risk people faced when connected to free Wi-Fi. AnchorFree was started to provide free, secure Wi-Fi worldwide. Gorodyansky’s goal is to help a billion people, and he is willing to sacrifice some revenue in order to assist others.
More than 200 million users in 190 countries have downloaded the company’s flagship product, Hotspot Shield. It is a virtual private network that keeps Web-surfing data anonymous to hackers and snoopers — making it impossible to track users’ activities online.
Hotspot Shield also unblocks restricted or censored online content from sites and apps such as Facebook, YouTube, Google, Skype, WhatsApp and Gmail, disrupting censorship efforts.
Examples of the role Hotspot Shield plays in circumventing government restrictions include 70,000 daily downloads in Venezuela since conflicts started in February, and more than 1.6 million users in China.
Success did not come easy, however. AnchorFree struggled to find funding during the recession. Although Gorodyansky was able to secure funding, the experience convinced him that he needed to become profitable to avoid relying on outside funds.
Gorodyansky also invests in businesses and donates to causes making an impact in the world, including GlobeIn.com, a marketplace connecting artisans in developing countries with buyers in the developed world.
He also invested in and co-produced a documentary, “#ChicagoGirl,” the true story of a 19-year-old girl from Syria who played a significant role in the Syrian revolution from her Chicago home. Using Hotspot Shield she was able to share information with protestors in Syria.
When Suresh Vasudevan joined Nimble Storage as CEO in 2011, he decided to delay a product release that would have crippled future growth. Instead, the company launched a parallel investment in a complementary, faster-to-market product that has become a key driver of revenue growth.
Nimble Storage provides the industry’s most efficient data storage platform — flash-optimized hybrid storage architecture that improves application performance while simultaneously simplifying business operations and reducing costs.
One of the most innovative software programs released by Nimble Storage is InfoSight, which allows the company to review customer-deployed systems from the cloud in real time, meaning Nimble Storage can predict customer support calls even before the phone rings.
The culture at Nimble Storage has been built around innovation, looking to change how the storage market operates.
Vasudevan believes in hiring highly motivated people and that the most significant factors for employee happiness are competitive pay, great managers, a rewarding work environment and a sense of trust and belief in the company’s future. The management team includes “a set of bookends,” meaning that it contains an entire spectrum of thinkers from risk takers to more conservative mindsets.
Referrals are critical to the hiring process — 95 percent of salespeople and 70 percent of engineers hired in the past year came from referrals. The employee referral program has been an important investment and reflects the culture of respecting and rewarding employees. Employees are surveyed on a quarterly basis, allowing Vasudevan to regularly track their level of satisfaction.
The Bay Area News Group ranked nimble Storage ninth among information technology companies in a list of top workplaces in the Bay Area.
Vasudevan is known for “walk and talks,” and open communication and information sharing are at the core of his leadership principles. He also favors a collaborative, problem-solving leadership style.
founder and CEO
As CEO of a fast-growing software company, Jyoti Bansal of AppDynamics, Inc. has demonstrated his leadership and entrepreneurial skills.
He moved to Silicon Valley at age 22 with $200 he borrowed from his father. While working as a software engineer he achieved 11 patents and envisioned technology that would help businesses effectively monitor operations. Bansal quit his job to start AppDynamics, making pitches to venture capitalists during the day and building the technology at night.
Bansal anticipated that businesses would migrate to online transactions and software systems and developed a platform that enables them to “watch” each line of software code and use that to gain real-time insights into user experience, operational performance and business impact of software applications. He called this new technology “application intelligence.”
AppDynamics created a “customer-first” business model, Enterprise Customer Success 2.0, which used incentives to have support engineers focused on customer success rather than utilization rates.
Bansal credits talent recruitment and retention as a key factor in the company’s success. He was recognized by Forbes in 2013 as a top cloud computing CEO to work for, and AppDynamics was voted one of the top 50-midsized companies to work for in America in 2014. The company recently received a rating of 100 percent from employees in a Glassdoor survey of overall satisfaction.
AppDynamics also works with organizations such as Girls Who Code to promote women in science in engineering.
Bansal is involved with Asha For Education, an organization dedicated to change in India through a focus on basic education as a critical requisite for socio-economic change. All AppDynamics employees are encouraged to give back to the community, and the company offers two weeks of paid vacation for volunteer work.
Performant Financial Corporation
2012 Award Recipient