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Lokvani Talks To Ameeta Soni

Ranjani Saigal

Ameeta Soni is the founder and CEO of Aanza. Aanza’s web based Product Lifecycle Management solution and consulting services help companies maximize market shares and revenues by helping them plan, develop and launch the “right” products faster.

Ameeta has extensive strategy and marketing experience and has been instrumental in the success of many new technology ventures. Before starting Aanza, in her roles as VP of Product Marketing & VP of Marketing at ChannelWave Software, a venture-backed start-up, she helped grow annual revenues from $400 K to $10 M and attract $30 M in venture capital. Previously, she was president and founder of Altek Consulting, a management-consulting firm providing business strategy and marketing expertise to technology companies. Prior to founding Altek Consulting, she held senior marketing positions at Computer Identics, The BOC Group, Genus and Varian Associates. During the course of her career, Ameeta has successfully taken several new products from concept to market and developed new markets leading to several hundred million dollars in sales.

Ameeta is chair-elect at the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge and charter member of TiE-Boston. She serves on the board of the Massachusetts Association for the Blind and is an overseer at the Museum of Science, Boston. Previously, she served on the board of the Society of Professional Consultants for three years. She is a frequent speaker/panelist at the Conference Board, MIT Enterprise Forum, WPI Venture Forum, MIT Sloan School, TiE-Boston, etc. She has been published and quoted in several business and trade publications.

She earned her MBA from the University of Chicago, her MS from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and her B.Sc. from St. Stephen’s College, University of Delhi.

Ameeta spoke to Lokvani about her life, her company and her contributions to causes she cares deeply about.

Lokvani: What motivated you to become an entrepreneur?

Ameeta: I think it was always in my blood. I had planned to go back to India and start a polymer unit after completing my M.S. degree in Polymer Science & Engineering and MBA.. But then I met my husband to be, fell in love and got married. He wanted to work in the US. So my India plans did not go anywhere. But I think the interest in entrepreneurship never went away. I am really pleased with the entrepreneurial opportunities that I have had.

Lokvani: Can you tell us a little about your latest venture, Aanza? What need does it address?

Ameeta: More than 75 % of all new products fail in the market because of reasons such as lack of understanding of customer needs and poor cross-functional communication. Fewer than 5% of development projects have complete customer requirements before beginning the product design. The Aanza software addresses these problems to accelerate time to market for the “right” products. It provides a, collaborative web platform that aligns product teams and partners, workflow and document management, real-time alerts and integrated best practices that

Lokvani: What is the secret of success in keeping the company going in a down economy?

Ameeta: We have a sound business model. We have been aggressive in identifying and leveraging strategic business partnerships. We now also have an additional source of revenue by providing consulting services in addition to the software. Most importantly I think we are addressing a critical need.

Lokvani: You are the Chair-elect of the MIT Enterprise Forum of Cambridge. Could you tell us a little about this forum and how it differs from TiE-Boston?

Ameeta: This forum specifically fosters technology entrepreneurship. There are many events that are educational and enable networking. I am also a charter member of TiE-Boston. The MITEF works closely with TiE so that they complement each other’s activities rather than compete.

Lokvani: Any special advice for women entrepreneurs?

Ameeta: I really never have felt special being a woman entrepreneur.At the same time, I appreciate the special value of organizations like the Commonwealth Institute and Springboard that focus on women entrepreneurs. I think the advice to any entrepreneur - man or woman starting a company is the same: Identify the business problem you are trying to address. Understand why your team is the right team to solve it. I can never underestimate the value of building the right team.

Lokvani: You have a very busy career and yet you have taken the time to be part of the Mass Association for the Blind (MAB) and to be on the board of the Museum of Science (MOS). How do you find the time?

Ameeta: Life is always busy, but we need to identify priorities. I love technology and hence being active in the MOS board of overseers was a natural choice for me. I really like the ideas that the new president of MOS, Dr. Ioannis Mioulis is bringing to the museum.

Regarding the MAB, it is a cause that reaches out to me. In India I used to go and read to the blind. Watching the blind children play cricket in India was a very significant moment in my life. Many visually impaired people have run in the Boston Marathon. I am so impressed with how the blind accomplish great things that are often difficult for people with vision to do.

Lokvani: You have two wonderful children and both you and your husband have careers that keep you busy. How do you manage everything so well?

Ameeta: I think it is all about the right team. We all know what we need to do and I think we are all very supportive of each other.

Lokvani: Is there a special quality that you can attribute your success to?

Ameeta: My mother worked very hard to instill a strong sense of independence in me at a young age. This was especially important given my father’s death when I was ten. I think that independence has helped me gain self worth and feel confident and comfortable going forth on any venture. I thank her for that and as I raise my own children I hope I am able to instill that sense of independence in them.

Lokvani: Any final words of wisdom for our readers?

Ameeta: While forging ahead in your career, do not forget to identify opportunities to give back to the society. Get involved in the community around you. It is a rewarding experience while allowing you to contribute your talents.

Lokvani: Thanks so much for your time.

Ameeta: Thank you.

Note: Here is a list of the various organizations that Ameeta mentioned in her interview.

MITEF: www.mitforumcambridge.org

MAB: www.mablind.org

Museum of Science: www.mos.org

TiE-Boston: www.tie-boston.org

Commonwealth Institute: www.commonwealthinstitute.org

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