If you sell your startup to one of the world’s biggest technology companies for nearly $4 billion, you could be forgiven for putting your feet up and whiling away the rest of your days in the sun. But that isn’t the way for many entrepreneurs — they’re addicted to fixing problems, and they often return to startup life either as a founder or an investor.
In the case of Jyoti Bansal, who sold app performance management company AppDynamics to Cisco for a chunky $3.7 billion back in January — one day before the startup was due to go public — he is actually coming back as both: a founder and an investor.
Bansal is today lifting the lid on a startup studio called BIG Labs (BIG is an acronym for Bansal Innovation Group), with a focus on helping entrepreneurs transform the seeds of a great idea into a long-lasting company. As the sole founder in the new venture, Bansal is investing $50 million of his own cash, too.
BIG Labs isn’t being billed as just another accelerator, however. Instead, it’s aiming to solve “extraordinarily difficult technology problems” by experimenting with new technologies and to find “viable products that can ultimately sustain new businesses,” according to a statement issued by the company.
The studio will basically adopt a “parallel entrepreneurialism” approach, whereby it will research, validate, and prototype a number of ideas at the same time. It will then seek to build new companies off the back of any successfully developed concept.
“After the sale of AppDynamics to Cisco for $3.7 billion in March, most people expected me to either retire or become a venture capitalist,” said Bansal. “But what I truly love doing is exactly what I did at AppDynamics: finding enormous problems, then building amazing companies dedicated to solving them. BIG Labs gives me the ability to do exactly what I’m most passionate about.”
In tandem with the launch, BIG Labs is also announcing its first project. Harness is a platform that promises to help engineering teams “deliver code to end users faster through the use of artificial intelligence.” For the record, Bansal is Harness’ CEO and cofounder alongside CTO Rishi Singh, formerly a DevOps platform architect at Apple. Harness is actually launching with $20 million in funding, and Big Labs is joined by Menlo Ventures as inaugural investors.
“At AppDynamics, our customers were happily using our platform to monitor their complex software applications, but almost all of them told me that the process for delivering rapid changes to those applications remained a huge problem,” added Bansal. “Software engineering teams need a platform that’s intuitive and powered by modern AI to meet demand for incredibly fast, high-quality releases.”
And this is a strategy he will use with other ideas that emerge from BIG Labs — he’s basically looking for cofounders with a proven track record to get in touch with ideas and carry out experiments with a view toward launching fully-fledged businesses. He’s also interested in bringing world-class software engineers on board to round out the effort.