I love adventure. I’ve backpacked through six countries across Europe, traveled to Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Thailand, volunteered and taught at a school for the blind in Bangalore, India, rolled Cuban cigars in Havana, ran a half-marathon in Brooklyn, and went scuba diving among sharks off the islands of Turks & Caicos. I grew up skiing on the slopes of Vancouver. I support charity:water and Startup Visa. You can reach me at [rao d0t girish @t gmail d0t c0m] and follow me @girishra0.
Now the boring stuff :)
I tailored a double degree in biology and computer science here to quench my curiosities, worked on some bleeding edge computational biology here in Toronto for 15 months as part of the Human Genome Project, and then moved to NYC for more computer science here.
After watching my friends decide to pursue more education or join banks I decided to hold out. After the tireless hours and sleepless nights in the CS labs there had to be a future better than W*ll St. I couldn’t envision myself wearing a tie everyday while some prick yelled over my shoulder.
After a couple months of unemployment I joined a 3-person team at Sense Networks as the second engineering hire (co-founders were Tony Jebara, director of machine learning at Columbia, and Sandy Pentland, former head of the MIT Media Lab and current head of human dynamics research at MIT). At the time I had no idea what it meant to be part of a startup, but it sounded exciting and challenging.
We built a great team. I engineered v1 of our real-time location analytics platform, worked with our Chief Scientist to deploy statistical algorithms, built out our infrastructure from scratch, and as our team and data grew I helped engineer the Hadoop-based v2 of the platform. We also launched a couple pioneering mobile apps built on top of our platform and API, including CabSense. After missing a couple paychecks and a bidding war with Sequoia Capital, we raised a $5M+ Series B with Intel Capital.
That was a couple years ago. We built some awesome technology, but selling into top-4 mobile operators is tough sledding. I eventually left. Sense is still going strong though and they recently productized and launched that platform.
I’m now at Appinions an early-stage NYC startup in the social media analytics space. I joined as the 4th engineer and I have learned a ton. We launched our core product IX last year. Much of the core NLP technology comes out of Cornell research. We’re at more than 20 employees now and still growing. I code and lead scaling efforts of both our backend engine and our customer-facing application.
Simply put, we are Klout for Enterprise, but even better. Using our advanced NLP technology we are able to extract and match an opinion holder across news/blogs/social documents. Furthermore we’re able to extract the topic each opinion holder is discussing and we index all this data. We find influencers for a specific topic. A topic is defined by our customers using an arbitrary set of keywords that matches their campaign/brand outreach. Our system allows new topics to be created and processed in under an hour.
More than anything I’m passionate about the engineering we’re doing here. Lots of data from across the web (news, blogs, social, transcripts, etc) coming through our pipeline 24/7. We have multiple distributed components running 24/7 and 5 backend engineers who manage all of it pretty successfully. We use a lot of AWS, ElasticBeanstalk, SQS, Solr, Hadoop, MySQL, and a ton of monitoring/alerting using tools like Ganglia, Zabbix and some in-house code.
We practice agile methodologies and we are agile with our agile methodologies, continuously tuning our scrum and kanban techniques to meet our team’s needs.
I don’t believe in Java vs Ruby style debates. Everything has their own trade-offs. I believe in the pragmatic, not dogmatic, approaches to engineering. I believe in building robust systems that work today, tomorrow, and next year. I believe in teamwork, transparency, objective decision making, tenacity, and staying humble.
Work is play. I work on a couple things in my spare time too. A buddy of mine and I applied to TechStars with a startup we founded. We made it to TechStars For A Day but weren’t selected. I learned a TON though. One of these days I’ll write about it.
I’m still looking to catch the big fish but in the meantime I’m loving the journey and learning everyday.
The views expressed in this blog are my own and do not reflect the views of my employer past or present.