Even before starting WinHire, the SAP technology company that would eventually merge with Ameri100, Giri Devanur ’14SPS and winner of EY’s 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year in New Jersey, was no stranger to startups. He had successfully founded and sold several businesses, including a one-man-shop financial services technology venture that he grew into a flourishing company with over 1,000 employees.
Joining the innovation community at Columbia was a natural fit for the serial entrepreneur, and the experience became key to the development of his SAP startup.
Joining the Entrepreneurship Ecosystem
Devanur enrolled in the Executive Master’s in Technology Management program at Columbia’s School of Professional Studies (SPS) to take his skills as a technology executive and entrepreneur to the next level. While there, Devanur met Dr. Arthur M. Langer, Professor of Professional Practice and Program Director of the Technology Management Programs at SPS. Dr. Langer is also the Director of the Center for Technology Management at Columbia University. Having taught him in class, Professor Langer became Devanur’s mentor and, says Devanur, changed some of his fundamental thinking about the challenges he was facing with early-stage WinHire.
“Most startups fail because they’re not managed correctly,” said Langer. “We teach future executives how to strategize; how to build a company and manage that company. We’re very proud of Giri’s professional accomplishments and how he’s applied the mentoring and education that he received while completing the program.”
In addition to the collegiality of his cohort (which he has called “really intense and really friendly”) and the insights gleaned from the Personal Leadership Institute at Columbia, Devanur also found guidance in Columbia’s Lean Launchpad class and its instructor, Steve Blank. Blank – renown startup expert and Senior Fellow for Entrepreneurship at Columbia – challenged Giri, as he does, to go out and validate his idea in the real world.
So Devanur went. He talked to fifty companies, and by the end of the exercise, was convinced that the way forward was to focus on the services that would in 2014 become a part of Ameri100, which itself had only been founded 6 months earlier. Since the merger, with Devanur at its helm as CEO, has been financed into the millions and has gone public.
Devanur continues to be an active member of the Columbia innovation and startup community, coming back to speak at events and mentoring entrepreneurs looking to launch their ventures. He is also a member at the Center for Technology Management.
His current mentee, Ameet Chaudhury, ’18SPS, is working on his own startup Blu Water International. Blu Water International will deliver a disruptive water treatment solution enabled by smart systems. With the future in mind, it will provide a quicker, cheaper, and efficient solution in order to improve the reusability and reclamation of water. His plan is to leverage the solution to benefit the base of the pyramid population across the globe. The solution will also be applied to various industries that consume millions of gallons of water every day in their processes.
Chaudhury says that whenever he looks to his mentor, through a phone call, an email, or a meeting request, Devanur is eager to help. “Along the way, if I have any questions, doubts, need advice, Giri is always there – literally!”