Ubiquity Founder Profile: Yadhu Gopalan, CEO of Esper

Can you sum up what your company does in just one sentence?

Esper is DevOps for Devices. Specifically, Esper offers an Android DevOps SaaS platform that provides a mature cloud infrastructure for customers across industries who are building app solutions for mission-critical devices.

What is the story behind co-founding Esper?

After failing with my first startup right after graduate school, I learned that I needed a partner who wasn’t another engineer. My former Microsoft colleague Shiv Sundar was the ideal co-founder. It turned out that Shiv was already thinking of doing a startup, so we connected at the exact right time. We had both spent decades of our careers at the intersection of hardware and software and wanted to build something in that space. We began seed fundraising and started Esper in June 2018. (Editor’s note: Huge thanks to Avidan at Root for inviting Ubiquity to co-lead this inception-stage seed round).

When did you first get into this area of software infrastructure for devices?

During my time at Microsoft and Amazon, I built a mature infrastructure for deployment and management multiple times. I got a front row seat to the evolution of DevOps. In my earliest days at Microsoft we didn’t have DevOps, but we had test labs where we figured out how to evolve to rapid iteration. I saw DevOps for devices come to fruition at Amazon Go after spending a few years doing telemetry on AWS data centers. I learned how useful the DevOps mindset can be, and that idea is really at the core of what Esper is trying to do: achieve the maturity I built at Microsoft and Amazon for all companies who want to scale device fleets.

We think of nerds as people who are obsessed with something. What are you nerdy about or obsessed with?

I’m obsessed with building systems and how systems come together. Operating systems have many different components that are beautifully placed to make a usable product. If you peel those layers back like an onion, you’ll discover a file system, a kernel, and a graphic layer. All these layers come together to create an operating system that’s not obvious to the end user, rather they just knows it’s usable.

Esper CEO Yadhu Gopalan working an OS in high school as a hobby project

What’s your advice to budding technical founders who haven’t yet jumped off to launch their new company?

  1. An MVP is Not Enough: I wish I knew how much it takes to build something the customer really wants — not something customers can use in a hobby sort of way, but a product that customers can put into production when their livelihoods depend on it. For infrastructure products like Esper, a minimum viable product (MVP) is not enough. It actually has to do more.
  2. Be Customer-Obsessed from Day #1: Don’t take your first customers for granted, even if they’ll never be a huge customer. In the beginning, your customers are taking a bet on you as a startup, and you need to make sure that you’re delivering a product that’s solid and does what it’s supposed to do. Treat them really well and go above and beyond for them.
  3. Surround Yourself with Diverse, Challenging Perspectives: I’m very careful to surround myself with people who are not like me, especially folks who are willing to provide guidance on how a different aspect of the business should be done. I want people to contribute to decisions, so I strive really hard to be the last person to share my opinion in discussions. I don’t steer conversations because I want other voices to be heard loud and clear.

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Ubiquity Ventures

Ubiquity Ventures

Ubiquity Ventures is a seed-stage venture capital firm focused on “software beyond the screen” — turning real world physical problems into software problems.