Serial Entrepreneur KK Kambhampati Cultivates Growth of New Jersey’s Emerging Tech Companies through Mentoring
TRENTON (August 13, 2015) – The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) today continues its series highlighting how New Jersey investors and entrepreneurs are making a difference to the Garden State’s technology community.
As an innovator, serial entrepreneur, investor and mentor, Krishnamurty “KK” Kambhampati, of Holmdel, has spent the last 25 years helping to shape New Jersey’s technology ecosystem.
“KK Kambhampati is the embodiment of the entrepreneurial spirit that fuels New Jersey’s technology leadership,” said EDA Chief Executive Officer Melissa Orsen. “He not only develops and invests in New Jersey companies, but also generously gives his time to ensure that the next generation of New Jersey entrepreneurs has a strong foundation for growth.”
After spending the first eight years of his career in technical and managerial positions at AT&T in Holmdel, Kambhampati left the telecommunications giant in 1998 to become a co-founder of uReach Technologies, also in Holmdel. The company was a leading provider of advanced communications technologies, platforms and services for small businesses. uReach was able to take advantage of the State’s Technology Business Tax Certificate Transfer (NOL) Program. Kambhampati and co-founder David Ittner grew uReach into an enterprise that generated millions of dollars in revenue annually, before selling it to GENBAND last year.
Throughout his extensive career, Kambhampati has dedicated much of his focus on mentoring emerging companies, including several New Jersey businesses. For nearly a decade, Kambhampati was an advisor to, and a seed investor in, Corente, an East Brunswick company that provided secure, cost-effective, global delivery software over the internet. The EDA provided a $1 million Edison Innovation Fund loan to Corente to be used as working capital to expand the company’s North American customer base and expand sales operations in North America and Europe. Corente also benefited the State’s NOL program. The company was sold to Oracle last year.
Kambhampati is currently taking a break between startups and is using this time to serve as a hands-on mentor and advisor to such businesses as FUSAR Technologies, located in Jersey City. FUSAR, which creates wearable technology to make action sports safer, participated in the State’s inaugural Founders & Funders event last year. An avid mountain biker, Kambhampati began advising FUSAR Technologies through his role as a mentor at TechLaunch, a New Jersey technology accelerator in which the EDA previously invested. Kambhampati has also been an advisor to telecommunications company Kirusa, based in New Providence.
Kambhampati earned a Masters Degree in Computer Science from Cornell University and a Masters of Science degree in Mathematics from the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi.
@NJEDATech spoke with Kambhampati about his experience as an entrepreneur and mentor in New Jersey:
What attracted you to New Jersey as a place to grow your businesses?
I was working at AT&T/Bell Labs in New Jersey. Given that Bell Labs, Lucent, Telcordia, Verizon, Vonage and other tech companies were in the area, we had access to a very relevant talent pool in New Jersey.
After starting UReach, we were able to take advantage of several incentive programs offered by the state, including the NOL program. In fact, we were fond of recommending that program to others in the state. I am happy to say that my investments have also benefited from the NOL program.
I have to admit there were many reasons to think about moving to Silicon Valley, but it is hard to top the quality of life, the arts, the greenery in New Jersey and I really love having all four seasons.
What advice do you give budding entrepreneurs just starting out?
It is a great time to be an entrepreneur. There is a lot of access to capital and the cost of starting a business is very low. Having said that, too many entrepreneurs are influenced by what plan they think will get funded right now rather than focusing on the fundamentals of the company they want to build. While the latter is harder, it is the better longer-term path for them and their investors. There is too much fixating on the style of the pitch and managing the message to please investors and not enough on the business model and business growth.
Growing a company is really hard work and rewarding at the same time, but it can become an extremely painful nightmare if one does not believe in the mission.
So, my advice for entrepreneurs is to be skeptical of business assumptions and make sure they think longer term and not fall in love with the latest shiny buzzwords. After that, they should be prepared to execute as quickly as they can and be prepared to course-correct as needed.
What recommendations do you have for other serial entrepreneurs thinking about giving back to the emerging entrepreneurs?
I think about what I do as not just giving back; I get a lot in return.
I had great help when I started out and I know how critical it was for me. I think the DNA of a company is formed early on and some decisions can have long-term implications. I am happy to be a sounding board to entrepreneurs. I spend quality time with founders on a weekly basis so that I can help real-time with decisions. My goal is to help them with problem solving and not try to solve problems for them.
My recommendation to others who want to help is not to underestimate what you will learn in return from this younger generation of entrepreneurs. They have mastered the art of the sharing economy and there are many things that come so naturally to them. So I recommend going into mentorship with an open mind and a willingness to learn and to question your own long-held beliefs. You will be rewarded by that experience many times over.
I am learning as much as I am giving, if not more, and enjoying every moment of it.
For more information about resources available to support New Jersey’s technology industry, visit https://www.njeda.gov/tls and follow @NJEDATech on Twitter and LinkedIn.