My first job after graduation was at SanDisk, circa 2007. SanDisk had done an IPO and grown rapidly to $5B in market cap and 3000 employees. That’s when I first realized it takes a village to build a successful company. The first 25 employees at SanDisk put their heart and soul into the company, and included luminaries such as George Samachisa – the guy who built the first production flash memory chip, Adi Cernea – the guy who invented the now famous ABL architecture used in most flash memory chips and Yupin Fong – the person who came up with the Yupin effect, one of the most well known physical phenomena in flash memory now. Some of them had already done great things before Eli Harari, the founder of SanDisk, hired them. Some of them were people who came into the company with little except talent and a good work ethic, and built their reputation within SanDisk. Almost all the first 25 employees worked as though it was their own company and were extremely proud of how they had built the company. I still remember how George Samachisa had his old badge from 10 years back showing him as employee #7. It had gone through the washing machine several times and was washed up and faded – but he band-aided it with tape and still walked around with it. I resolved during those days that when I eventually started my own company, I would try to replicate what Eli Harari did with SanDisk i.e. recruit superstars for the first 25 employees, who had the same intellect and motivation levels that SanDisk’s first 25 employees had.
Its 2018 now – Chowbotics is three years old and the company’s grown to 20+ full-time employees. Just like SanDisk, several of our first few employees have worked like its their own company and that’s played an important role in the company getting this far. To recognize these team members’ contributions, we’ve established a new position called a Foundee. The word, as you may realize, comes from Founder+Employee. It is meant to recognize team members who were hired as employees but have worked with the same commitment levels and high degrees of contribution that Founders provide, and have demonstrated this over multiple years. Its a highly selective position and one that we would provide only to the first 25 employees. Of course, this position would only be given to those who exemplify the core values of our company: people who give it their best shot, who keep improving all the time and who leave their egos at the door when they come in to work every morning.
I am pleased to announce Kugan Kathirasen and Sanath Bhat are our first two foundees at Chowbotics.
Kugan was our first employee. When he joined, I had built an Indian food making robot and raised some early money. I remember making him some Indian food with our robot when he interviewed – he munched it, laughed and said, “I’m in – this is cool”. We decided to pivot to making salad making robots for restaurants soon after Kugan joined. Kugan came up with the idea of using a carousel-based design and did a lot of the mechanical design work for the first two prototypes of Sally, as well as the production version of Sally. He’s played an important role in our China Development Center over the past year and a half and has been instrumental in getting our products shipped on time.
Sanath was our second employee. He joined soon after we had built our second Sally prototype. He played an important role in designing our production Sally version and has shown plenty of leadership with our customer demos and deployments. Another thing which stands out with Sanath is his maturity and level headedness for someone so young.
I believe both Kugan and Sanath will do great things in their careers. Its been my good fortune to work with such talented young people to build Chowbotics. There are a few others I believe will get this honor of being a foundee a few years from now, once we’ve seen them demonstrate their contributions over longer periods of time. We have a long way to go before we can call Chowbotics a success. But in my career, good things have always happened when I work with superstars like these who give it their all.