What’s the inspiration behind Sentry AI?
Uday: My garage was broken into, not once, but two nights in a row! According to the police supervisor, this happens all of the time because the cops don’t get called when the crime is happening, but long after. This is true even when there are security cameras and motion alarms.
That was my eureka moment! If we had a virtual security guard powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) to watch these security cameras for anomalous behaviors and immediately alert the home or business owners, we can prevent crime! I actually pitched this idea to the police officer and he offered me an investment straight away. That's when I knew I was on to something.
Farhat: AI has always been my passion. As an undergraduate in the late 70s, I published numerous papers related to vision and machine learning. I was fascinated by this topic. While AI technology has been revolutionized since then, my passion to be a part of cutting-edge technology has not changed!
What about this industry excites or challenges you?
Uday: It has been a personal passion of mine to democratize access to cutting-edge technology. When I learned we were depending on decades-old approaches to security, I decided to solve the problem. I had previously worked on computer vision AI software for fall detection, and I was able to connect the dots between this experience and my personal experience being robbed to think through a solution.
Farhat: There are plenty of technology startups dedicated to improving workplace efficiency. There are also many in healthcare working on improving our health. Yet security is an area that has often been overlooked, despite it being a global issue. We believe that with our combined experience, we can make a difference here.
This is not your first time founding a company. What do you think is the most important skill founders need to succeed?
Uday: Agility. As an agile startup, the one thing we have that large companies don’t is the ability to adapt and survive any challenges we may face. For example, we keep tweaking our product and messaging to find the winning formula that best reaches our customers, employees, and investors. We can do this a lot quicker than any incumbent can.
Farhat: What attracted me to Sentry was the passion, dedication, empathy, and integrity of Uday. Startup founders need to have both a solution to fulfill an unmet need and the ability to build a motivated organization. This requires both outstanding leadership and management skills at the top. Uday has both!
Startup founders need to have both a solution to fulfill an unmet need and the ability to build a motivated organization. This requires both outstanding leadership and management skills at the top.
How did you two meet?
Uday: A common friend introduced Farhat as a potential adviser, and I pitched him the Sentry story. He liked it and became an investor and adviser. I was impressed with Farhat’s experience, work ethic, and his curiosity to learn everything about our company, the team, products, and customers. I asked him to join us as the co-founder and COO and he obliged. I admire Farhat’s quest for perfection, and that has definitely brought out the best in me.
Farhat: I had been mentoring and investing in startups when a friend of mine introduced me to Uday and Sentry AI. I was impressed with Uday and we have tremendous mutual respect for each other.
How do you handle risk and competition?
Uday: As they say, if there is no risk, you are too late, and if there is no competition, you are too early! We started Sentry at just the right time, when deep learning became commercially viable in security monitoring. While there are a few emerging competitors, we have full confidence in our own abilities, and we welcome risk and competition as essential to evolving an optimal solution for the market.
Farhat: Startups are inherently risky. We thrive on risk and see it as a challenge to overcome. Competition just makes us better. We believe that we have the best AI solution in the business, so we view ourselves as competitors as well.
You were on Meet the Drapers! What was that experience like?
Uday: It was an incredible opportunity to stand in front of the legendary VCs from the Draper family and tell the Sentry AI story. Unlike any other pitching session, Meet the Drapers is very informal; it’s really like chatting with them in their living room!
One fun story from the shoot: as soon as Tim Draper announced that we won the first episode, I screamed so loudly that my 6-year-old daughter came running into the room to see what happened. The cameras captured the moment wonderfully and the producers decided to include it in the show!
What’s your team culture like?
Uday: Family. We are all different in our own ways, but stick together to solve difficult problems with a lot of care and respect for each other.
What is your superpower?
Uday: Persistence. I can hold a yoga pose, hike in the Himalayas, run a marathon, build a startup—all because I can persevere on a mission for a very long time.
Farhat: I perform better under pressure!
What’s your kryptonite?
Uday: Wastage. I can’t stand wasting resources and people underutilizing their talents.
Farhat: Mediocrity! For mathematicians, “average” is a “mean” word! Everyone can be superb if they are passionate and dedicate their efforts to the unique skills they possess.
Do you have any other hobbies/things you like to do in your spare time?
Uday: Yoga, reading, and running. I am a certified yoga instructor. I love reading books, especially related to science, science fiction, and humor, and I like hiking outdoors.
Farhat: I'm passionate about golf and play regularly. I love how focus is key to success and how it is a mental game to control your own body mechanics!
If you could give yourself one piece of advice 5 years ago, what would it be?
Uday: It is never too early or too late to learn or try anything. If you have an idea to make a difference, start a venture right away.
Farhat: Never give up!