Founder of TIBCO,
Owner and Chairman, Sacramento Kings
Palo Alto, CA
Born in Bombay in 1957, Vivek Ranadivé is often referred to as the “man who knows everything”. Ranadivé is the youngest of three children. From a very early age, he dreamt of attending Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He learned of MIT through a documentary he watched. And at 16, he was accepted to MIT. Ranadivé completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT in electrical engineering. Whilst at MIT, he even started his own UNIX consulting firm. And following brief stints at Ford Motor Company and Linkabit (a network equipment provider), he enrolled at Harvard Business School for a MBA in 1983.
In 1985, Ranadive launched ‘The Information Bus Company’, better known as TIBCO. As a hardware engineer, Ranadivé once noticed a bus, where cards are plugged in to run different functions. He had an idea. What if such a bus existed in digital form instead of a physical fixture. This insight and development had a dramatic impact, to say the least. Some of Ranadivé’s first customers were financial services institutions. Investment banks had just began researching new systems for streamlining the flow of relevant data. Ranadivé was staggered to see how complicated and cumbersome these existing systems were. His software consolidated all data to a single desktop and provided information in ‘real time’. Not bad for an architecture that was earlier functioning on an assortment of monitors, spaghetti of cables, and strategically placed fans to avoid overheating. Before long, Ranadivé’s Teknekron Software Systems was automating every major trading floor. In 1994, Ranadivé sold the company to Reuters Group PLC for $125 million, which now operates separately as TIBCO Finance Technology, Inc.
Ranadivé believes his time with Teknekron prepared him really well for the Internet revolution. He saw trading floor automation as a microcosm of what can be achieved in different industries. He started diversifying, specifically targeting industries where there is an abundance of information. Today, TIBCO provides software to high-tech manufacturing industries, telecom giants, energy providers, retail chains, e-business houses, and the list goes on and on. Some of TIBCO’s clientele includes Intel, Motorola, Cisco Systems, Enron, Delta Air Lines, and Yahoo! The beauty in Ranadivé’s business model and product is not one of creativity, but of inevitability. Every business wants to grow, but ask any entrepreneur and you’ll notice they hate losing customers more than winning new customers. The sophistication introduced by TIBCO systems enabled businesses to better cater to customers, target audiences based on tastes and preferences, and introduce methods and techniques that would avoid losing customers. And all because of delivering information across networks in real time. Simplicity truly is beautiful. In 1999, TIBCO tied up with CBS Sportsline to deliver real-time news and updates on all NFL, NBA and PGA events. The success was overwhelming and led to an IPO on NASDAQ. TIBCO continue to perform. And after recording annual revenues of $920 million in 2011, Ranadivé decided to accept an offer for TIBCO Software from Vista Equity Partners for $4.3 billion.
Ranadivé’s next venture was a private social network for world leaders, TopCom. “Mr. Real Time” was devoted to creating a platform that connected some of the world’s most powerful business leaders, intellectuals, and political leaders. Essentially an extremely secured version of “Facebook for global leaders”, it was designed to expedite contact between these figures to better respond to crisis situations. Following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, Ranadivé noticed the delay in communication and action. After consulting with Naoto Kan (Japan’s then Prime Minister) and his successor Yoshihiko Noda, TopCom was launched at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in 2012.
Ranadivé sees technology as a tool. As an instrument of luxury. Combining that with his passion for basketball was a no-brainer. His intelligence of the sport and his triumphs in the ‘Little League of Basketball’ were already well-documented by Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker. He owned a share with the Golden State Warriors for a mere 3 years and became the first person of Indian descent to own a NBA franchise. And when in 2013 it was reported that the Sacramento Kings might move to Seattle, he stepped in and led the efforts to acquire 65% of the Kings. Having missed the playoffs for 7 consecutive years, Ranadivé faces a tall order to revitalize the team and develop the brand globally. He considers the business of basketball more than just a sport. He has constantly brought technological advancements not only to the team and staff but also to bolster the fan base. We all know the Moneyball story. Many teams since then have embraced statistics as a means to recruit and perform better. But Ranadivé saw the bigger picture – how an existing technology (statistics), foreign to sports, turned the course of baseball forever. Sound too familiar? After all, that is how TIBCO was born. A full circle indeed. Ranadivé excels at this. To quote Gladwell, he’s ‘David’. He makes his own rules. You bring him a lemon, he transforms it into 2 lemons and a ball of topaz. While you sip your lemonade, he’s already looking for his second ball of topaz.
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Riches, Sam. “This Man Wants to Make the NBA a Social Network – And Take It Global.”Wired. Conde Nast, 26 Dec. 2013. Web. 17 Feb. 2016.