When she founded Rubric in 1997, Anu Shukla became a practical visionary of the possibilities of e-commerce. Her approach to Web-based marketing software, which is today an indispensable component of a complete CRM solution, virtually invented e-marketing. The sale of Rubric to Broadbase Software for $330 million in March 2000, proved how true her instincts were.
Her roots, however, are far removed, both physically and culturally, from Silicon Valley. They began in an Irish Catholic convent in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains in northern India. The Loreto Convent, a prestigious boarding school where many of India's wealthiest families sent their daughters, was Shukla's home during the school year.
After graduating, Shukla attended st. Stephens College in New Delhi. A missionary college affiliated with Cambridge University, st. Stephens was an all-male institution until 1975, The International Year of the Woman. That year, st. Stevens admitted 40 girls and the following year another 50, one of whom was 16-year-old Anu Shukla. She earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in history in two and a half years.
"After I graduated I went to work for an advertising/marketing agency in Bombay for about a year to get some work experience," she says. At that point she made a trip to the United states with her father, who was president and CEO of India's largest bicycle company, to help him with a trade show. "It was my first major trip overseas," Shukla recalls, "and I didn't want to go home after two weeks. So I went to stay with an uncle in Youngstown, Ohio." While taking summer psychology classes, Shukla became acquainted with a management professor who helped her get a scholarship to an MBA program, which she completed in 1984.
A start-up company in San Jose Calif., California Micro Devices, read Shukla's Master's thesis and told her if she was ever in the area, to stop by and interview. "I promptly made it possible to be in the area," says Shukla. "I graduated on a Thursday and flew immediately from Pittsburgh to California and was offered a job a few days later. It was my first job in the California high-tech industry and I was very excited."
At Micro Devices, Shukla not only managed the marketing department, she was the marketing department. "They had never done marketing before," she says. "There was no way to go but up." The company went on to have an IPO within a year and a half and Shukla was written up in The IPO Red Herring. During this time she purchased her first home. "My boss said I must have no risk aversion at all," Shukla recalls. "That's probably true because I've worked at lots of small start-ups and the risk has never bothered me. Every company I've ever worked for was either acquired at a really good premium or they went public."
After several years and many successful business endeavors, Shukla took some time to reflect on her experience. She realized that every operational area of the company, including sales and service, had software automation to support its activities and improve productivity. "I was the only person in these corporations whose function was not automated," she says, "so I was doing things like budget and campaign management manually. Siebel was coming out with sales automation at that time. I thought something similar could be done for marketing automation."
Shukla launched Rubric in August 1997 in a San Francisco loft filled with used furniture, paying employees out of her own pocket. By September she had raised $5.6 million in venture funding because she was the only one doing Java-based marketing automation. She relocated to San Mateo and the rest is history.
Since selling Rubric, Shukla, now an American citizen, has taken some time off to travel and to investigate the market for her next big venture. Not one to rest on her laurels, she will launch her next venture in early 2001. Currently in incubation, the new venture is targeted at enterprise applications for wireless platforms.