Most companies still take as long as three days to compile critical reports on finances, inventories, and customer accounts. But real-time business data is vital for companies such as United Airlines, where any glitch is quickly multiplied across 3,300 daily flights. On December 1, the airline announced that TimesTen Inc.’s software for “day of operations” information had saved it $46 million in 2003.
From Marie-Anne’s original entry:
Tell us what you do and the specific challenge you faced.
Women in Silicon Valley have a storied history of entrepreneurship and this woman is no exception. This nomination is for Marie-Anne Neimat, VP of engineering and a co-founder at TimesTen of Mountain View, Calif. Born in Egypt, Marie-Anne emigrated with her family to the U.S. in the 1960s, settling in Southern California when she was 16. Intimidated by the irregularities of American English, she focused her attention on math and science–an area she pursued with new found meaning and determination. This determination led Marie-Anne to Stanford and then to UC Berkeley for her PhD in Computer Science. In the early 90’s, Marie-Anne led a group at HP Labs looking to design a system to take advantage of forthcoming 64-bit architectures. The end result was a high performance data management system that could process massive volumes of transactions and deliver instantaneous response. Marie-Anne saw that this had the potential to bring the vision of real-time computing closer to reality.
What was your moment of truth?
Inspired by the possibilities, Marie-Anne approached HP management about spinning out TimesTen as a separate company. This was an unheard-of move within HP as most technologies from the Labs are transferred directly over to a product group or shelved. While most technologists struggle to communicate effectively with their senior management, Marie-Anne is the rare exception who can speak comfortably on either the technical or business level. Navigating the hierarchy of HP for ten months, Marie-Anne presented the business case for a spin-out and she got her wish–albeit with one caveat–she had to secure outside funding. Using her own savings account, Marie-Anne set out to build a company that closely matched her personal values, inspired by the legendary H-P Way of innovation, quality and respect. With no formal business management training, Marie-Anne faced three urgent tasks: 1) develop a business plan; 2) pursue outside funding; and 3) recruit a stellar management team. An old mentor compared this momentous task to “eating an elephant” and provided Marie-Anne with a bit of advice that always stuck with her (revealed in The Parting Tip).
What were the results?
While soft-spoken, Marie-Anne’s passion for TimesTen is contagious. She quickly attracted investment from tier-one VCs including Lightspeed, Morgenthaler and Mayfield Fund. In a world of “me-too” technologies, TimesTen is truly different. TimesTen’s technology fits a very specific customer need where real-time is a business requirement, not just a differentiator. Real-time infrastructure software is poised for substantial growth as companies seek to streamline operations and become more responsive, yet few commercial products exist to address the market. As a result, TimesTen enjoys over 200 brand name customers and OEMs including Amdocs, Aspect, Avaya, Cisco, Deutsche Bank, Ericsson, Lehman Brothers, Nasdaq, Nokia, Sprint and United Airlines.
What’s your parting tip?
“You eat an elephant just like anything else–one bite at a time.”