Why I left Cisco to build an Electric Vehicle

Why I left Cisco to build an Electric Vehicle


Recently, I was speaking to a room full of engineering students about technology trends, business model disruptions and global leadership. At the end of my talk, I asked if anyone had any questions. From the back of the room, someone shouted: “What inspires you?”

Never at a loss for words, I must admit that question stopped me in my tracks. I suppose as busy as we are these days, we don’t actively go looking for inspiration. Inspiration is one of those things that is hard to describe. When we are inspired by someone or something – we just feel it. We feel a new energy to explore, a new motivation to achieve and a new sense of confidence to advance.

I could have come up with any number of mundane responses like – my work inspires me; or my family inspires me; and so on. Instead, I answered the question with an honest, “Hmm, I need to think about that one.” And I gave that question a lot of thought!

I asked myself, what inspired me to make the choices I have made in my life?

For starters why did I choose to leave an amazing career last fall leading a smart team at Cisco? What inspired me to join a global start-up called NextEV USA as the CEO?

At my core I’m an engineer. I am always curious about how things work and how I can make things work better. I decided to leave Cisco because I was eager to improve our every day experiences; and maybe even make entire industries work better using technology. I still needed to think about what I wanted to do next, so I began talking to people who were doing amazing things in interesting industries.

My son is a recent college graduate and so I had a lot of ideas about making the process of education better. I started thinking about how technology can play a role in changing this monotonous, discontinuous process for learning and make it much more personalized and lifelong. The basic tenets of education haven’t changed for centuries: students sit in a lecture hall, read books, write a thesis or two, take tests, get graded and repeat this… until the system decides they are educated enough to go out into the real world. Well, we have to save that topic for another day!

The other area I thought that needed change was transportation or mobility. This is another industry that hasn’t changed much since inception. Think about it – as a consumer we encounter many pain points at every stage of buying and owning a vehicle. How can physical mobility be transformed in the age of the Mobile Internet?

While I was exploring these areas with other like minded people, I met Willam Li, the founder of NextEV. William founded NextEV in late 2014 because he was grappling with the same questions I was – how to make mobility a joyful experience. William shared with me his vision for creating a “user enterprise” looking at the vehicle not from the wheels up, but from the user out. I was intrigued.

We talked about the opportunities to rethink an entire industry as the physical mobility platform (the vehicle) converges with the digital mobility platform (the mobile Internet). In the next decade, the car will be the smartest device that people will own and NextEV wants to bring the mobile Internet experience to the vehicle. In other words, why can’t your car be as easy to own, operate, update and personalize as your smart-phone? Our conversation originally planned for forty-five minutes ran into a couple of hours. I was inspired!

In mid-December, I joined NextEV as the CEO for the U.S company, as well as the Global Chief Development Officer and Board member. I am honored to join NextEV and thrilled about the challenges ahead of us. NextEV is a global start up with operations in Shanghai, China; Munich, Germany; London, U.K; and San Jose, California. Not only are we looking to change the face of electric transportation, we are doing it as a global company from the start. As a U.S. citizen born in India, I enjoy working across cultures and collaborating with a diverse set of people with a myriad different backgrounds.

Now, we are looking for people who will help us bring NextEV’s vision to reality. If you are curious about how things work and how to make things work better – join us! If you enjoy solving big, complex problems to make the world better by collaborating with wicked smart people – we are inspired by you.

What inspires me? Bold dedication!