The Xerox effect: Former employees of the company are launching their own innovative startups

Shivam Srivastav March 21, 2017 5 min

Xerox is giving birth to a new breed of startups in India as some of its former employees launch their own innovative startups. While one of these startups — Videoken — has bought a technology developed at the company’s India research centre, another, NIRAMAI, the brainchild of two former Xerox employees, has innovated a cancer screening software for early detection of breast cancer in women. NIRAMAI said, however, that it not using Xerox technology in its solution.

Manish Gupta, former vice-president and director of the Xerox Research Centre in India — or, as he describes it, the Indian counterpart of Xerox’s legendary Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) — quit his job at the end of last year to set up video-based social learning platform Videoken.

Videoken is an online platform on which instructors can curate videos relevant to their respective fields in playlists and share them with students. Instructors can also add notes, include quizzes and access playlists made by their counterparts from around the world.

The two-month old startup can trace its origin to a research project called ‘Tutor Space’ headed by Manish at Xerox, which was started about three years ago with a team of five.

“While at Xerox, we focussed on why learning outcomes were so poor despite the increasing availability of videos online. We looked at engineering colleges and did pilot programs in five colleges. About a year ago, an entire course on machine learning at IIT Bombay was conducted on this platform,” Manish says.

Manish (extreme right) with the Videoken team

Towards the end of last year, Xerox split into Xerox and Conduent in order to trim the fat in the backdrop of a rapidly shrinking market for printers and copiers. The research centre came under the latter unit. After it became apparent that the future of the project was going to be impacted by organisational realignment, Manish offered to buy rights of the technology, which included 25 pending patents. Xerox agreed to sell it to him.

These are mostly technologies under research — involving big data analytics, machine learning and AI — that were deemed non-core to operations after the company split into two last year.

“Our focus is to invest in innovation and technologies that benefit Conduent’s clients and its business. However, some technologies, after they are explored internally, do not fit our desired Conduent business model. In these exceptional cases, we may decide to monetise them through alternate channels such as licensing,” Conduent, told FactorDaily.

Manish bought the technology and co-founded Videoken along with his friend Ashish Vikram, who was previously leading engineering for the ads group at Flipkart. He even managed to convince the core team to come along with him and work on the startup.

The platform also helps instructors track how many students have viewed, liked and shared the curated courses. The company will soon allow students to share their own playlists on social media, which can be viewed for free by others.

Apart from targeting educational institutions, the company is highly optimistic about its prospects in the corporate world. The subscription model is based on a cost-per-learner system, and it’s up to the organisation to decide how many learners they want to enrol in which course and to identify the instructors.

“While Videoken was initially targeted at educational institutes, we soon realised that there may be equal, if not greater, applicability for corporates. For instance, automation is being introduced in the services industry and this has led to a situation where the industry needs to reskill workers,” Manish said.

The duo, who also happen to be classmates from IIT Delhi, used their own funds to start Videoken. The company expects to get funding commitment worth $1 million later this week from various angel investors based out of India, US and Hong Kong.

Two other former Xerox employees — Nidhi Mathur  and Geetha Manjunath, have also gone on to innovate a cancer screening software that is used for early detection of breast cancer in women. NIRAMAI, which stands for Non-Invasive Risk Assessment with Machine Intelligence, was incorporated in July 2016.

Two other former Xerox employees — Nidhi  Mathur  and Geetha Manjunath, have also gone on to innovate a cancer screening software that is used for early detection of breast cancer in women.  

Geetha, the CEO of NIRAMAI, was previously the research lab manager (data analytics) at Xerox while Nidhi, the COO of the new company, was senior product manager at Xerox.

The NIRAMAI cancer screening solution uses a regular high-resolution thermal camera as a device and a cloud-hosted analytics solution to analyse the thermal images.

“We are aiming at developing a universal cancer screening method that is radiation free, non-touch, not painful and works for women of all ages,” the company told FactorDaily.

NIRAMAI is currently targeting the breast cancer imaging market, which it says will reach $4.14 billion by 2021.

“We all are witnessing increased numbers of younger women in the grips of cancer… Mammograms are not recommended for  women under the age of 40 unless they’re at high risk for developing breast cancer,” said Sarika Rana,  a cancer survivor and founder of cancer support group Anandi Sheroes.

The company says its cancer screening tool, SMILE, has been tested on 300 patients data from two hospitals and one diagnostic centre, and the early responses are promising. It claims that its breast cancer screening solution can detect tumours five times smaller than what the regular clinical exam can detect.

Xerox is synonymous with innovation, with the mouse, ethernet and laser printers tracing their origin to PARC. Although the company was not able to take full advantage of the innovations, it was the breeding ground for the likes of Steve Jobs  

And it could be a boon for women at risk of getting the cancer, because early detection of the disease can make a huge difference in the prognosis and survival rates. “Recently, one of the patients in our support group was detected with early stage cancer, underwent surgery and opted for a mammaprint (a genomic test that analyses the activity of certain genes in early-stage breast cancer), so we could avoid chemo in her case,” said Sarika.

Xerox is synonymous with innovation, with the mouse, ethernet and laser printers tracing their origin to PARC. Although the company was not able to take full advantage of the innovations, it was the breeding ground for the likes of Steve Jobs. And everyone knows what happened next.

This seems to be another kind of innovation the company is fostering and is something other technology companies can emulate.


Lead visual: Angela Anthony Pereira Updated at 9.40am on March 22: The headline was changed and parts of the text were changed to remove all references to NIRAMAI that might have implied that NIRAMAI is using non-core technology from Xerox. Nidhi Mathur, one of the founders of the company, clarified that this is not the case and that our article may be misleading. We have changed the text accordingly and regret the error.