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BW Businessworld

‘Esri’s Annual Revenues Exceed $1.1 Billion’

In the late 1960s, when he was 21 years old, Jack Dangermond’s curiosity and a dozen attempts at computer programming, gave the world the first digital map. BW Businessworld’s Regina D. Mihindukulasuriya chats with the Esri founder

Photo Credit : Ritesh Sharma

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In the late 1960s, when he was 21 years old, Jack Dangermond’s curiosity and a dozen attempts at computer programming, gave the world the first digital map. BW Businessworld’s Regina D. Mihindukulasuriya chats with the Esri founder.

How did Esri begin?
In 1969, my wife Laura and I founded Esri with $1,100 of our own savings. Esri is a Geospatial Information Systems (GIS) software creator which makes digital maps for enterprise clients. Esri has always been on the bleeding edge of innovating digital maps. You know those maps from tech giants like Google and Apple? They are possible because of the work Esri has been doing for five decades now.

Esri has grown and we continue to do so aggressively. We now work with over 3,50,000 businesses and governments around the world. As the world market leader, our share averages over 40 per cent in operating countries. Our clients include the White House, Reliance Communications and State government agencies of India.

Esri’s annual revenues exceed $1.1 billion, and we have always been a privately held company with no external investors whatsoever. Nor do we intend to seek outside investment or be publicly listed.

You and your wife (Laura Dangermond) are estimated to be worth $4.2 billion. How does it feel to be a billionaire?
I suppose it’s good. Part of that is because I live a frugal life. When I started Esri, I was living in my car, eating beans and drinking water. Not throwing money away on champagne. And I continue to live a simple life.

I like money because it lets me do my work… I like spending money like crazy on innovation. We spend about 27 per cent of our revenue on R&D, that’s compared to Microsoft’s 11 per cent or so.

To be successful, you need to do three things, be able to sell your work, continue to do your work and be paid for your work. Most often entrepreneurs will be able to do only one or two of these three things.

I succeeded because I was good at all three things and, chaotic as it is, I’m able to switch from being a researcher, to a marketer to a seller or whatever role, I must embrace as an entrepreneur in rapid time. That’s been part of why I succeeded as an entrepreneur.

Google tried competing with you, but bowed out to form a partnership with Esri. How does that feel?
Competition is healthy. That’s my frank view. And we thrive off of it. I don’t think Google intended to take me on. Google is the leader in mapping for consumer applications. But when they became interested in creating mapping and GIS software for enterprises, they did venture into our market. If you’re not spending a quarter of a billion dollars like we are on R&D, it’s hard to compete. So they found out it’s more complicated than they thought. So they backed away from it and asked us if we would work with them.