Gunjan Sinha is the executive chairman of MetricStream, a governance, risk, and compliance SaaS (software as a service) company used by many of the world’s largest companies.
At heart, Sinha considers himself an entrepreneur. His first venture, WhoWhere? Inc. sold to Lycos in 1998 for $133 million. “I’ve created lots of companies,” he says. “That’s been my journey. Besides WhoWhere? Inc. there was eGain, which is a CRM software company that is publicly traded on the NASDAQ. The common thread is that I see myself as a problem solver, and this I owe to my engineering background, because I’m constantly defining a problem, then breaking it down into smaller and smaller pieces until I can solve it with technology.”
Engineering is an excellent background for an aspiring entrepreneur, he says, and not necessarily for the reasons many might think. Engineering gives you a way to take on problems very early in your career, making it much easier to make the leap into starting your own company. “If you want to get into the game, you should get in sooner, rather than later.”
Sinha was the son of an electrical engineering professor and was admitted into one of India’s most competitive technology institutes, IIT - New Delhi, but knew early on that he didn’t want to be an academic. “Even in Delhi I knew I wanted to be an entrepreneur. At IIT, I dabbled in creating a business, then I came to California (in 1989) because I wanted to be at the very heart of the Information Technology industry.”
After completing his B.Tech in Computer Science, he was accepted into the University of California, Santa Cruz’s M.S. in Computer Engineering program. “Proximity to Silicon Valley was what I was after,” Sinha says. “California was radically different. I had seen the brochures, of course, but I hadn’t ever visited before and the campus was so beautiful.”
Far from the grueling exams of IIT, Sinha found himself in a program where he was free to experiment with ideas. “It was very special for me,” he says. “Because finally I was getting a real taste of entrepreneurship. I got to experiment with the kind of problems that I wanted to solve and think about how I wanted to build my career as an entrepreneur.”
After succeeding in launching multiple successful businesses, Sinha has redefined his definition of entrepreneurship a little. Profit is important but isn’t the only thing.
“Entrepreneurship should create social value too,” he says. Sinha is proud of his philanthropic work as chairman of Child Family Health International and his service on the US-India endowment board from 2010 to 2017 working closely with the US State department in helping drive innovation between US and India.
Sinha is keeping quiet about his next step. “There has been a lot of serendipity in my career,” he says. Instead of coming up with a master plan, he’s content to wait for the next entrepreneurial vision to arise.