Country of origin: India
Year came to U.S.: 1988
Education: BS, California Institute of Technology; MS, Electrical Engineering, Stanford University
Annual Revenue: $16.3 million
Hotmail was started with $300,000 and sold to Microsoft 18 months later for $400 million
TIME named Bhatia one of the “People to Watch in International Business.”
“The biggest risk in life is not to take a risk at all,” Sabeer Bhatia often tells his friends.
When he first arrived in the Unites States from India, he questioned the wisdom of that risk. He said of that time, “I knew nobody, people looked different, it was hard for them to understand my accent and me to understand theirs. I felt pretty lonely.”
Fortunately, the risk paid off. He earned a master’s degree from Stanford University but abandoned plans for a doctorate in favor of a job as a hardware engineer at Apple. Within a year he left for start-up Firepower Systems.
It wasn’t long before he and a former Apple colleague, Jack Smith, had plans to start their own business. At the time, there was no Internet-based email that could be used on any computer without downloading email client software. Their product, HoTMaiL (named after HTML, the language used to write webpages) was a revolutionary idea.
Draper Fisher Ventures was the 20th venture capitalist Bhatia met with and the first to invest. With $300,000, Hotmail was launched in 1996. In less than six months it attracted more than one million subscribers. Within a year it had nearly ten million users and the attention of Bill Gates.
Bhatia’s stubborn approach to negotiations surprised Microsoft and his partners. He explains, “In India you’ve got to negotiate for everything, even buying vegetables, you’ve got to negotiate.” On December 30, 1997, Bhatia’s 29th birthday, Microsoft bought Hotmail for $400 million in stock.
Since then, Bhatia has been involved in a number of technology ventures including Arzoo, NeoAccel, Live Documents, Blogeverywhere.com, Sabsebolo.com and AMP Technologies. In 2008, he purchased a struggling social media company, Jaxtr, and gave it a new direction. In 2013, Jaxtr Mobile was launched to offer global SIM cards to make mobile phone usage less expensive overseas for international travelers. He is developing a new technology that will warn farmers in India when their fields need to be watered without requiring the farmers to travel to the fields themselves, saving them valuable time.
In 2002, TIME named him one of the “People to Watch in International Business.” Sabeer Bhatia is likely to be worth watching for a long time to come.