Indian Immigrant Led Us Software Companies
He married the young woman, Ruth Pike, in 1980 and started a family with her. He signed on as employee No. 17 at what became software giant Oracle Corp. He started his own software company, Gupta Technologies Inc., in 1984. Initially successful, this venture failed in the mid-1990s as Oracle and Microsoft Corp. in its niche.
“For the first time in my life, I felt like a failure,” Mr. Gupta later wrote.
He got another chance in January 1998 when he was named general manager of Keynote Systems Inc. A pioneer in selling software as a subscription service, Keynote gave companies a way to measure the performance of their sites. website. Mr. Gupta expanded the business and sold it in 2013 to Thoma Bravo LLC for around $395 million.
In recent years, Mr. Gupta has assembled a team to develop a free app called Reading Racer to help children learn to read.
Mr. Gupta died on April 19. He was 72 years old and had been undergoing cancer treatment for two and a half years. He told friends that, faced with severe pain and bleak prospects for survival, he was ending his life under a California law allowing doctors to prescribe an assisted death drug.
Umang Pavel Gupta was born on August 23, 1949 in Patiala, in the state of Punjab, in northern India. His father was a civil servant in the Ministry of Labor. His mother was a left-wing activist whose causes included organizing miners. His parents separated and young Umang attended boarding schools before enrolling at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, where he graduated with a degree in chemical engineering in 1971.
He chose Kent State, Ohio for his MBA studies largely because he could support himself working there as a teaching assistant. He then worked briefly at Copperweld Steel Co. before moving to IBM. While working for IBM in Ohio, he spotted his future wife in a bar and asked her to dance. Raised near London, she was also an immigrant. They started dating, but Mr. Gupta felt the pull of his homeland.
“It was either Ruth or India,” he later wrote in The New York Times. “I went back to India to make a decision.” He returned to the United States in mid-1978 and tried to start a business. After failing to interest venture capitalists, he joined Larry Ellison’s relationship software, later known as Oracle, where he helped write a business plan and became vice president.
In 1984, Mr. Gupta left Oracle to found Gupta Technologies, later called Gupta Corp., which offered a new type of database software for personal computer networks. The company went public in 1993 and reached a market value of around $400 million, then plummeted. Mr Gupta told the Wall Street Journal he had a net worth of almost $100 million for a few days.
Oracle considered acquiring Mr. Gupta’s company in 1994, but he couldn’t stand the idea of selling what he called his baby, a decision he later regretted. In 1996, he resigned as CEO and left the company.
“My father once told me, ‘No victory is final and no defeat is fatal’,” he said. “I hadn’t been paying attention.”
Stung by what he considered a failure, he traveled with his family across America – he was particularly fascinated by a history museum in Deadwood, SD – and read a book a day for months. “I started thinking about all the things I should have done for the company to survive me,” he said.
One of his conclusions was that he should have hired people willing to challenge his ideas. “Decisions cannot be based solely on what the founder knows or his instincts,” he said.
He joined the Keynote Systems board of directors in 1997 and was named CEO a few months later. The company successfully went public in 1999 and then raised additional capital, helping it survive the dot.com collapse.
While running this company, he encouraged board members to give him critical feedback, said Raymond L. Ocampo Jr., who was a director at Keynote. “He didn’t want a yes,” Mr. Ocampo said.
Mr. Gupta is survived by his wife, Ruth Gupta, as well as two children, three grandchildren and two sisters. His philanthropy included donations to the Indian Institute of Technology and to an immigrant gallery at the San Mateo County History Museum in Redwood City, California. The Guptas also funded Raji House in Burlingame, California to provide services for children with developmental disabilities. It is named after their son Raji, who died at the age of 2.
Shortly before he died, Mr Gupta set up a foundation to continue supporting the Reading Racer app, which he developed with a team including Melanie Lam and Rodrigo Cano, both graduates of Carnegie Mellon University.
During his cancer treatment, one of his little pleasures was to rinse his blue Mercedes CL600 at Ducky’s car wash in San Mateo, California. He assured friends that, given his thrifty nature and uncertain prognosis, he was careful not to buy too many car wash coupons. .