Ankur Modi left India at 17 to study Computer Science in Germany. Now an ex-Microsoft data scientist and engineer, he has recently founded StatusToday, a company which aims to protect information-sensitive companies from data loss/ breach by humanizing cyber-technology.

Leaving India

Q. What made you decide to leave India at such a young age?

 A. I always knew I wanted to study computer science, but the opportunity to do so in India was limited, and it was difficult to get in to the places that offered it. It was therefore worth applying to competitive places abroad, and it was then a case of calculating backwards in terms of self-financing and scholarships. I was absolutely not willing to compromise on the course, so around the age of 14½, I starting preparing my profile for the scholarship exams.

Leaving Microsoft

Q. You worked for Microsoft for several years, both in Denmark and in Ireland. What was the impetus behind breaking away from Microsoft to launch your startup StatusToday?

 A. I really loved all the work I did for Microsoft, both in Ireland and in Denmark, but I was getting to be what I would term as “too comfortable.” I realised that I was getting a lot of exposure to the industry and knew I could apply my skills to something bigger. I was at a crucial juncture in Microsoft: I was doing very well, and knew that if I didn’t leave now, I never would.

Q. How big a risk was this?

A. Massive. When you quit an established job position, you don’t just lose the salary (and London certainly kills the bank account!) – you also lose the influence and career progression that you would have made in the years to come.

At this point I didn’t even have the idea behind StatusToday, I just knew this was the right thing to do. A lot of people ask me whether you need to have a well-defined concept of your startup before quitting your old job and life, but I don’t think you always do. Sometimes you have to take the leap first.

Status Today

StatusToday1

 Q. How successful has your enterprise been so far?

A. We are very lucky in that it is only in the last 6 months that the necessary technology has existed – we are at the cutting-edge of technology. Interest, even at the very early stages, has been phenomenal. It helps that security has been in the headlines recently with the Ashley Madison and TalkTalk scandals. Names like Amazon and Sky have expressed an interest, but it is still too soon to capitalise on this. There is a lot of demand, so now it essentially comes down to our execution.

Vision

Q. I see that you were recently awarded a certificate in Psychology from Oxford. How important is it to keep updating your skills and enhancing your knowledge and expertise?

A. I had already done a large amount of work in Psychology – understanding and analysing human behavioural patterns is central to the operation of StatusToday. However, I did not have a formal qualification in it, so undertook the course, which I really enjoyed. I try to take some new certification every year to improve myself – last year I studied enterprise finances. Just think – after 5 years you could have learned 5 new things. It doesn’t necessarily have to be educational – I took up piano a few years ago.

What is essential is that you are doing these things because you are interested in them – there has to be a personal perspective, rather than just doing something purely for your CV. The most successful people do what they do because they love it.

Q. Can you give an example of how this translates in your enterprise?

A. Yes, our vision is that the founders of StatusToday are paid either no salary, or the lowest salary in the whole company – we are doing this because we believe in it, and we would rather pay the people we hire. Imagine if in a company the everyday worker had a higher salary than the CEO – how much more motivated and invested in the company’s success would that worker be?

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