Spotlight on NJ Tech Startups: Snap MyLife’s Jiren Parikh, Part 2


jiren_Parikh_CEO_of_Snap_MyLife

This is the second part of NJTechWeekly.com’s interview with Jiren Parikh, president and CEO of Snap MyLife. As discussed in Part 1, the Princeton-based company rose from the  financial collapse to launch in 2009 as Exclaim Mobility. In 2011 it was renamed Snap MyLife.

The firm’s vision is expansive. It is attempting to build an all-encompassing cloud service that connects mobile phones, Internet-enabled TVs and photo frames, PCs, Macs, tablets, notebooks  and even autos. The overall concept: to allow users to integrate, synchronize, back up, secure and safely store content on their devices and reliably access any of it from anywhere, regardless of the device or operating system.

Today Snap MyLife employs approximately 120, some overseas, and expects to expand its N.J. operations. It is developing a “multiyear expansion plan that would grow this company from the 100 people it is now to more than 250 by the end of 2013, with substantial revenue growth and profitability,” Parikh said.

In this part of the interview, we discuss Snap MyLife’s future plans and the company’s close ties to N.J.

What’s next for your products?

When we relaunched SmrtGuard as Snap Secure, we updated the user interface and expanded our geolocation features to help users find and manage lost or stolen devices, track their children’s whereabouts and broadcast their location and movements during a personal emergency. That made Snap Secure much more than just an antivirus/antispam app able to secure data. It became about personal and privacy protection, about making both your device and your family secure. You can set the phone to call 911 and send out your location information every 30 seconds via Twitter and text, for example, if you are in an emergency situation. All it takes is a few keystrokes.

You can put Snap Secure on your kids’ phones to know where they are at all times. You can either wipe your Android phone or log all the keystrokes of someone who has stolen your phone. You can even take a picture of the thief.

Next to launch will be our enhanced Snap MyLife. It will let you store, backup and retrieve photos, videos, music and any other files from anywhere and sync all your content from Internet-connected consumer electronics devices. And content will be in the original format and high-resolution. No matter where you go you’ll be able to access your photos, videos and music. We see this service as a cross between Flicker and Dropbox.

We are also relaunching Inkubook as Snap MyLife Creations, a photo book service that will be integrated into the Snap MyLife service. Then sometime over the summer you will see Snap Music, which will allow you to stream music from your home PC or Snap MyLife cloud service to any device. We have optimized the streaming so you won’t need Wi-Fi, and you can use a cellular network to access your music from anywhere. The service will also allow users to sync their Androids with iTunes wirelessly and share music playlists and sample songs with other Snap Music users.

What’s next for the company?

The company is expanding internationally. Right now the big focus is on Europe and Russia, and we will be moving into Latin America and Asia by the end of the year. We already have field salespeople in Brazil and are focusing on getting some deals closed there and in Mexico, Argentina and Columbia. Next year we plan to pick one region where the company is doing well and make it our focus.

As you can imagine, we are seeing a proliferation of device makers because it is now so inexpensive to launch a device with the Google Android OS. We think it is a great idea to begin working directly with device manufacturers themselves, in addition to selling directly to end users as we now do. Right now we sell through advertising on mobile phones and elsewhere. People click our ads and go to our storefront pages to see our offers and buy our products. We think that more, less expensive operating systems are on the way and that by making alliances with device makers in Asia we’ll be able to capture that market.

You already have some offices outside New Jersey, right?

The bulk of our employees are in Princeton, but we do have an office in Indianapolis, one in Madrid and about 35 people at an engineering customer service operation in India. We are in Madrid because Europe is very important to us. We signed an agreement last summer with Telefónica to launch on its global network, so we will be on all its networks in Spain, Latin America and all the O2 properties it owns throughout Europe, as well as the Vivo network in Brazil. We will be able to integrate with Telefónica as soon as it finishes building out its technology.

We are also in Spain because it has a workforce skilled in mobility technology, mobile content and mobile apps. Several of the largest mobile content providers in Europe are located in Spain. It’s a bit easier to find employees there, and the cost of real estate and systems operations is a bit lower.

Why is Snap MyLife headquartered in New Jersey?

I live in Philadelphia, but when the original company was started it was located in West Trenton. In 2008, when we were drowning in debt, we found inexpensive office space in Princeton that could accommodate a small number of employees. It was only with the help of the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (EDA) that we were able to restructure back in 2009. It was extremely helpful to us during our dark hours, and I made it a point to thank the N.J. EDA during our 2011 NJTC Growth Company of the Year award acceptance speech.

We took advantage of the R & D credit sales program that was available and also the net operating loss (NOL) program, which allowed us to sell our operating losses to companies looking to buy them. We’ve been able to find good talent here, perhaps not always for mobile or search or other tech areas, but general good-quality talent we can use. It can be tough finding engineering talent, but the quality of life is good here. We plan to continue to expand in N.J.

How are you financed now?

We self-financed our restructuring and growth since the spin-out. Our finances are excellent now, and we have been profitable in the past two years, so we’ve been able to develop a good relationship with Silicon Valley Bank and have the necessary debt capital and bank financing to expand rapidly as necessary. However, as part of our multiyear plan we could consider an equity raise.

Most companies are helped by professionals along the way. Would you care to name some of the people who helped you?

We do utilize strategic advisors and feel it’s important to have two or three function-specific advisors for guidance at any time. In addition to legal counsel and board directors, we currently have a number of experienced executives.

From restructuring to growth we’ve used David Sorin of SorinRoyerCooper who provide more than just legal advice. He gave us confidence and always provided ideas for us to grow or get what we wanted done. Ross Martinson of Edison Ventures (Lawrenceville) is a board director who worked hard to support us through the restructuring phase into growth mode. He was optimistic, yet very realistic about outcomes. Finally, I’d have to mention Boris Fridman, a board director at Crisp Media, (New York)  a former boss and friend who is always there to listen.

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