SlideShare: When Accidental Events Lead To Greater Discoveries
Do you ever think about the way one becomes an entrepreneur?
Most entrepreneurs have a similar background, with parents brave enough to test the waters and launch a business from scratch. But some of them come from families with no entrepreneurial spirit whatsoever, and still, they manage to create something as big as other founders - sometimes even bigger!
That was the case with Rashmi Sinha, the founder of SlideShare. She had no intention of becoming an entrepreneur, but life has its way of making big things happen.
This is the story of how a former neuropsychology student became so successful as a SlideShare founder, that in 2012, Fortune magazine ranked her 8th on its list of Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs!
Read the entire story here:
Rashmi’s Origin Story
Although childhood stories are perhaps some of the most interesting parts of the process of becoming a founder and potential influence, Rashmi’s childhood story remains unknown. Even after the launch of SlideShare and its remarkable success, Rashmi has kept her past private.
What’s definitely fascinating is how she managed to enter the world of technology when she had more going for herself in a completely different area - psychology.
Rashmi was fascinated with the way the human mind worked, so she decided to dedicate all of her time to study it as much as possible. She has a bachelor’s degree in cognitive science from the University of Allahabad in India, but that wasn’t enough to satisfy her ambitious character.
The US had a lot more to offer her, so she decided to try out her luck there, and with her academic success, it wasn’t hard to enter into one of the most prestigious universities - Brown University. She proceeded to study neuropsychology there, from 1993 to 1998. Psychology was still her number one priority, but being a student at Brown was bound to change the course of her studies one way or the other.
Simple - computer science!
During her studies at Brown, she had a class on computer science by professor Andy Van Dam. Andy is the man who in the late ‘60s, together with Ted Nelson, invented the first hypertext system, Hypertext Editing System (HES), so his name was already pretty big in the Brown community. Rashmi knew that she had the privilege to learn and share ideas with a brilliant man and she used this opportunity to the maximum.
However, she didn’t want to abandon psychology, so together with Andy, she tried to find a balance between her current studies and future interest. Her major interest was HCI, the human-computer interaction, and how a particular design affects the way people perceive, adapt, and use technology.
After some time, she was hooked on the topic entirely. She even took a course on designing educational software, a knowledge that would turn out to be of key value for launching SlideShare.
Little did she know, the new millenium had something prepared for her that would entirely shift her professional development.
From Psychology Student To Technological Enthusiast in Two Years!
The ’90s were the years of the biggest technological changes in the world. The Internet was winning the race against conventional information delivery systems, and Rashmi witnessed the full swing of it.
A year after getting her PhD in neuropsychology, she was getting tired of all the paperwork and documents that followed with such career choice that she decided to make a career change in a completely different industry.
In 1999, she decided to move to San Francisco and try her luck at UC Berkeley as a researcher. She had a few topics that kept her mind busy and according to her stories, all she had to do to get a job was to visit the campus and show interest in researching the topics.
The doors to becoming a researcher and later on, a professor at Bеrkеley were completely open!
At Berkelеy she was completely focused on doing research on human-computer interaction, the importance of design for the perception of information, and similar topics. She was also a professor of human-computer interaction and statistics.
But after two years there, she felt like she was ready to do more, so she tried consulting.
This was her first step towards becoming the impeccable entrepreneurs she’s today!
How SlideShare Was Born?
Rashmi felt like she had enough knowledge and experience to start her own consulting business.
So, in April 2003, she launched her first project, named Uzanto. The name of the project came from the Esperanto word ‘user’, and that’s exactly what the company was built for. Uzanto was a user experience consulting company and Rashmi was more than capable in her role as a leader. She combined both her knowledge in technology and psychology to offer her services. It was a successful company that offered her the chance to work with eBay, Blue Shields, Yahoo!, and many other companies.
However, her ambitions went even higher than this. Her husband Jonathan Boutelle, who was a software engineer, stood by her and offered his part of the new project.
Together, they formed their new company - MindCanvas.
It all started in 2004, in one small office in Delhi, India. Their idea was to build software that would be used as a user experience and usability tool. Nevertheless, it took them some time to develop the final product and in 2005, they were ready to launch the B2B software.
The only problem they had was with the growth of the product - they couldn’t afford it at the time - but that didn’t stop them from pursuing their dreams of becoming successful entrepreneurs!
So, in 2006, they organized Barcamp in Delhi, where all tech-enthusiasts could come and gain or share their knowledge on all IT topics.
This is where the initial idea for SlideShare first popped into existence!
After the event, all the speakers wanted to share their videos and presentations with the audience. The only problem was there wasn’t an available option for sharing presentations. Sure, YouTube and Flickr worked just fine for videos and images, but when it came to presentations, there wasn’t an available software.
Rashmi and her husband saw an opportunity here and they immediately started to work on it!
SlideShare, The Beginnings, The Growth, The Success
Right after the Barcamp, Rashmi, her husband, and her brother Amit Ranjan began to work on their idea about a website where people could freely post their presentation.
After 6 months of working, they had a successful version of it. It was like YouTube but for presentations!
The official launch happened on October 6, 2006, and almost immediately, it became a sensation in the tech world! The first ones to use SlideShare were teachers, speakers, educators who wanted to share their knowledge on a certain topic with the rest of the world.
They set the headquarters in San Francisco. As Rashmi had said many times, there’s something in the Bay Area that gets you all excited about technology and this place seemed perfect for their company. They have offices in Delhi as well, and in total, they have around 30 employees.
SlideShare quickly grew into a large online community where people share and discuss presentations. It reached almost 30 million monthly visitors and more than 7 million presentations in its first years!
Right after LinkedIn launched its app, SlideShare agreed to integrate within the app. Since then, their business relationship grew quite strong and in 2012, LinkedIn acquired SlideShare for nearly $119 million.
Nowadays, SlideShare has more than 80 million users and it still holds the number one position for presentation sharing software. The most fascinating thing about the entire business idea is how Rashmi got it in the first place - not at all planned, but more successful than the average entrepreneurial stories!