Founder Visits Campus

October 23, 2013

ggd-picIf you’re a broke college student like me, you probably haven’t sat down and tried to choose the perfect personal financial management service. However, if you’ve searched for money management services, chances are you’ve run into the free web-based service With over 10 million users and more than 17 million financial accounts, is a very popular product that was developed by a couple of Duke University electrical engineers. The founding engineer, Poornima Vijayashanker, took a break from teaching at Duke and running her startups to give a talk in a packed lecture hall here at NC State last night.

I’ve noticed a certain trend amongst entrepreneurial engineers; a lot of them did not start off as “the lemonade stand kid” that most entrepreneurs always refer to. Poornima, just like Dr. von Windheim (, started off as an engineer who focused on the more technical side of engineering. But Poornima was not very thrilled at the thought of working as an R&D engineer. While she was living her life working to fulfill the goals and dreams of her employer, hundreds of tech startups were sprouting out all around her in the heart of innovation, Silicon Valley.

A few years after working for Synopsys, Poornima made the transition from an employee to a founding engineer with a fellow Duke engineer. She did not go back to school and get a degree in marketing or business administration. Instead, Poornima ditched her steady income at Synopsys and developed her entrepreneurial skills through the experience of starting from scratch. Some of the skills she developed while working with were:

  • Customer development
  • Fundraising/marketing
  • Recruiting turned out to be a huge success and it ended up being purchased by Intuit for $170 million. What surprised me more, however, was that Poornima went on to successfully launch two more startups (keep in mind that 90% of new businesses fail!). Why was Poornima so successful?

Some factors that helped with Poornima’s success were her large arsenal of varied skills (jack of all trades), her willingness to learn new skills, and the fact that it’s generally easier to start with technical skills and to supplement those skills with the mindset of an entrepreneur.

I can’t cover everything Poornima discussed on Monday night, but her blog,,  can provide you a peek into the mind of an entrepreneur who’s three-for-three when it comes to startups. You can also swing by The Garage this Thursday at 6:00PM to hear Tim Huntley, a serial entrepreneur, speak about sales and marketing.  See you there!

by Moaad Benkaraache, ’16

Read more from Moaad about all things entrepreneurship at “The STATEment.”