Pawan Deshpande, Son of Desh Deshpande, Launches Software for Automating Corporate Blogging
Having your son follow in your footsteps seems like a pretty good Father’s Day present. Pawan Deshpande, son of well-known Boston-area entrepreneur Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, is announcing the formal launch of his Cambridge-based startup HiveFire‘s software product today.
The younger Deshpande’s technology and market differ greatly from his father’s ventures (which include optical switch maker Sycamore Networks and Cascade Communications, a provider of wide area network switches), but Pawan says he’s learned plenty of entrepreneurial lessons over the years from both of his parents. “In a startup, entrepreneurs always have a full plate with limited resources,” Pawan says. “My father has a great ability to prioritize intelligently and make decisions quickly.”
HiveFire’s software platform, Curata, scans the Internet for content related to a company’s product or market, aggregates it, and sorts it by relevance. The Curata platform allows customers to curate the content and publish it on their own customized website. The technology takes the idea of a corporate blog in a different direction, and purports to help companies build a more authoritative voice on a particular topic or market, without having to create loads of original content.
Pawan Deshpande started his company in 2007, as a way to bring the artificial intelligence technology that he learned in his undergraduate and graduate-level computer science programs at MIT to the masses. His original vision was to use his system of machine learning and natural language processing to enable Internet users to build personal websites on subjects they are passionate about. “I thought it’d be great if I could empower the everyday user,” he says. “We’re putting all the technology under the hood.”
The technology later evolved to serve as a media-monitoring tool for businesses to gather and analyze the information on the Web about their companies and products, but he discovered through market research that other existing products already did this. Pawan later followed a customer’s suggestion to hone the technology for business-to-business providers as a way to reach a target audience.
The enterprise, business-to-business customers that HiveFire is pursuing are difficult targets for the first-time entrepreneur, Pawan says, but it’s an area of expertise that he’s been able to harness from his father, who sits on the board at HiveFire. “His experience and background have been really been helpful,” Pawan says of his father, who also founded MIT’s Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation with his wife Jaishree.
Today’s formal launch announcement is mainly intended to alert the public of HiveFire’s product. The company started signing on Curata customers early last year, and already has 40 customers for the software-as-a-service platform, which runs about $1500 a month, Pawan says.
One customer is Verne Global, a company out to build a completely green data center in Iceland. In the process, they’re trying to establish themselves as the authoritative source on such facilities, and are using Curata to build a website with that purpose. Pawan tells me that Curata’s gathering and sorting functions are especially applicable on a subject such as a green data centers, which typically encompasses content from both environmental publications and computing publications.
The Curata engine scans niche sources and bigger media outlets for data on the subject, saving executives the time of scouring publications themselves for related content. “If you’re a CIO or CTO you don’t want to have to go through all these,” Pawan says. “We pull together all that content and filter the most relevant.”
On the Curata dashboard, the customer can sort through the content the engine pulls in, and decide whether to publish it, feature it, or keep it away from their website. They can also create content original content to the website. The entire process takes an average of 19 minutes a day, he says. The dashboard also gathers analytics on how viewers are interacting with the data on Curata-powered websites. And it’s not only websites that Curata users can use to get their message out; the platform can also communicate with customers via e-mail newsletters, RSS feeds, and social networking sites.
Pawan wouldn’t say how much financing HiveFire has raised so far, but he did note that his father is an investor. He did say that while he’s gotten mentoring and an entrepreneurial example from Desh, his relationship with his father doesn’t differ all that much from other board members. “At home we talk home stuff, and at work we talk work stuff,” he says. “There’s a nice separation between the two.”