City builder, Hotmail innovator, Sabeer Bhatia

20 08 2008 he was only 28, Sabeer Bhatia got the call every Silicon Valley
entrepreneur dreams of: Bill Gates wants to buy your company. At every stop, Sabeer’s guide helpfully pointed out the vastness of the Microsoft empire. The procession ground on until it reached Gates’s office. Sabeer was ushered in.

Bill liked his firm.

He hoped they could work together. He wished him well. Sabeer was ushered out and into a conference room with 12 Microsoft negotiators.” Sabeer recalls, “Very intimidating.” Microsoft’s determined dozen put an offer on the table: Take it or leave it, $160 million.

Sabeer said, “I’ll get back to you.” He later walked away with $400 million.

His heroes?

Articles of Sabeer tell that when he was a graduate student at Stanford, instead of hanging out on the fields, he was drawn to the basement of Stanford’s Terman Auditorium for brown-bag luncheons with growing-legends like Steve Jobs of Apple and Scott McNealy of Sun Microsystems. Listening to them speak, Sabeer realized:

“They were human. And if they could do it, I could do it too.”

And boy oh boy, he did! With $6,000 to his name, Sabeer had 19 potential investors slam their doors before he found success. He company he started was Hotmail, provide free e-mail accounts that can be over the web.

Commonplace enough today, but at the time, groundbreaking. In just under 2.5 years, Sabeer has built Hotmail’s user base faster than any company in history–faster than CNN, faster than America Online, faster than Seinfeld. (gasp!) By the summer of 1998, the company was signing up new users at a rate of 125,000 a day.

His greatest accomplishment?

“My greatest accomplishment was not to build the company, but to convince people that this is their company. I showed people how this would ultimately benefit them.”

What’s he up to these days?

Sabeer has been busy developing a new city in India called Nanocity. (What?)

Well if he were anybody but the man who revolutionized email, we’d call him nuts. He notes,

“We have three major goals for the Nanocity: To recreate the Silicon Valley, create state-of-the-art infrastructure, and do all this in a fashion that is self-sustainable and consumes the least amount of natural resources.”

Nanocity will be ready for occupation in 2010. Remember,

“They were human. And if they could do it, I could do it too.”





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