Gyana is an artificial intelligence (AI) start-up launched by Oxford Saïd MBA alumna, Joyeeta Das. Gyana uses a sophisticated algorithm to combine big data and complex data analytics to identify and record patterns across cities and present them in an interactive format. Its customers include consulting firms, marketing houses, media firms, government agencies, consumer goods companies and real estate developers. Gyana’s functionality has also been used by US space agency NASA and the UK Ministry of Defence.
Prior to joining the full-time MBA in August 2014, Joyeeta worked as a software engineer at Cisco Systems. She quickly grew to project manager and finally programme manager. At weekends she was an entrepreneur, funding and exiting two companies, including developing the prototype for Gyana.
By the time she got to Oxford, she had been well and truly bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, but she needed the know-how that would help her turn her big idea into a big business.
‘I had the prototype and I had the eureka moment and now I wanted to make this prototype catch fire and go crazy. I couldn’t wait for it to happen, but once you hit the ground you realise how difficult it is to recruit people, get the necessary capital and convince your first set of customers and investors,’ she says.
‘You also need a huge amount of confidence and emotional strength because the number of refusals that you receive as an early-stage start-up is ridiculous. Everyone tells you that your idea will not work because if it did then why didn’t someone else do it before you. You are constantly battling refusal,’ Joyeeta continues.
The staff and fellow students at Oxford helped her navigate the choppy waters that can sink many start-up businesses. Since its launch, Gyana’s progress has been stratospheric and none of this would have been possible without the help and support of Oxford Saïd, she admits. ‘It gave me an incredible opportunity to meet so many different individuals from around the world. My class was the most multicultural class that I had ever sat in – out of 270 people, only seven were British, so it really opened up my mind.’
She continues: ‘the Dean has been a mentor and he has helped me directly understand many complex issues around setting up a business. Professor Thomas Hellmann and fellow professors have been amazing. They empathised with me and I’m still friends with many of them. So it’s an incredibly affectionate and close relationship that I have with the School.’
As well as giving Joyeeta the knowledge and support to grow her idea, the School also proved to be an invaluable networking tool. One of her co-founders is from her MBA class, her first seed funding was from the family of a fellow MBA student and a number of members of the Gyana team were recruited from across the University.
She was also introduced to another important member of the Gyana team while studying for her MBA. ‘I met our CTO, who is the brains and the vision behind the AI platform, in Oxford – he is also my husband,’ says Joyeeta.