Xerox is fostering a new kind of innovation by allowing former employees to license "non-core" technology developed at the India research centre.
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.
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.
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