December 7, 2009
Venture capitalist Ram Shriram elected to Board of Trustees
By Kathleen J. Sullivan
The Stanford University Board of Trustees recently elected Kavitark "Ram" Shriram, founder of Sherpalo Ventures LLC, a Menlo Park venture fund, to a five-year term.
The board used electronic ballots to conduct the election, which took place in November. Shriram will take his seat at the board's Dec. 7-8 meeting.
Including Shriram, the board will have 32 members, three fewer than its limit of 35.
"Stanford is fortunate to welcome Ram Shriram to the Board of Trustees," Leslie Hume, chair of the board, said in an email message.
"Through his involvement in the Education and Engineering schools, and the Parents Advisory Board, Ram has proved an exceptionally thoughtful and generous volunteer, with a deep commitment to Stanford's mission. His expertise in business and technology and his broad global perspective will be of great value to the board."
Founded Sherpalo Ventures
Shriram is the founder and managing partner of Sherpalo Ventures, which he established in 2000.
The venture fund, whose website features a photograph of Mount Everest, takes its name from the Nepalese mountaineers – known as sherpas – who guide visiting climbers to the top of the highest peak on Earth. Shriram combined "Sherpa" and Palo Alto – home to venture capitalists and startups alike – to create "Sherpalo."
He said the mountain represents the heights entrepreneurs must climb to succeed in the rugged business of developing and commercializing early stage technologies.
"Young companies face numerous challenges as they seek to grow and gain traction," the Sherpalo Ventures website says. "For founder leaders, it is invaluable to have an experienced Sherpa guide to share the load and make success come a little easier, perhaps a little faster and with fewer mistakes."
Sherpalo has invested in a variety of startups, including Bump Technologies, which allows people to swap contact information, photos and music files by simply "bumping" their phones together; StumbleUpon, which helps people discover and share websites; FlightCaster, which predicts flight delays; and ZumoDrive, which uses "hybrid cloud technology" to provide unlimited storage on computers and smart phones.
Currently, Shriram is focusing some of his funding efforts in India, where his interests include social entrepreneurship, education, energy, sanitation, and telecommunications infrastructure.
Born in Chennal, India
Shriram, 52, was born in the port city of Chennai, which is located on the Bay of Bengal on the southeast coast of India. The city, once known as Madras, was renamed after India won its independence from Britain in 1947.
He earned a bachelor's degree in commerce from the University of Madras in 1977.
After graduating, Shriram moved to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he worked for Bell-Northern Research and its sister company Nortel Networks Corp. In 1983, the job brought him to Silicon Valley.
Shriram became a vice president of Netscape Communications Corp. in 1994, the year the web browser company was founded. (It was acquired by America Online – AOL – in 1998 and later disbanded.)
In 1998, Shriram became president and chief operating officer of Junglee Corp., a Sunnyvale startup whose search engine – developed by former Stanford computer scientists – allowed online comparison shopping.
Later that same year, online retailing giant Amazon bought Junglee. Shriram became vice president of business development at Amazon, working for company founder, Jeff Bezos. Shriram left Amazon in January 2000 to start Sherpalo.
Shriram is a founding board member of Google Inc., which two former Stanford students – Larry Page and Sergey Brin – started in 1998, and 24/7customer.com, which provides business process outsourcing from Asian call centers.
He is married to Vidjealatchoumy "Vijay" Shriram, and the couple has two daughters, both of whom are students at Stanford.
The couple has served on Stanford's Parents Advisory Board since 2006. In addition to various philanthropic programs in India, they have endowed the Shriram Family Professorship in Science Education in Stanford's School of Education.