About This Show
Nextcast is personal success lessons from technology thought leaders. Watch and listen to this web series featuring long-form interviews with successful entrepreneurs and technology thought leaders, hosted by tech visionary Jeff Dickey. Featured regularly on GeekWire.com, the show is rapidly gaining a reputation as a must-watch for technologists across the Pacific Northwest and in the Bay Area.
Most Recent Episode
Stephen Purpura, CEO of Context Relevant
Sep 7 14
Context Relevant CEO Stephen Purpura is working on the leading edge of big data — helping companies use their data more effectively. But Purpura, whose company scored $21 million from Bloomberg Beta, Madrona, Vulcan and others earlier this year, followed a career path many of his peers advised him against.
After working at Microsoft, Purpura decided to go back to school, earning a degree from Harvard and studying at Cornell before returning to found his own company. He describes being CEO of Context Relevant as “one of the most exciting things that I could do in my life.”
At Context Relevant, Purpura and his team are leaders in the field of big data and automated machine, exploring a space few other companies have investigated so deeply. Explaining why he loves his position, Purpura says the big idea behind Context Relevant is “to analyze data without hiring an expert.” [1:40]
Though an executive now, Purpura’s focus has always been on the technical. He explains that he wanted to be more than an “empty suit” who couldn’t explain how a product worked. “The only way you can do interesting new things and really explore the space is to get in and do it, he says. He adds: “If you do not understand [the tech], it is really difficult to lead a team effectively.” [6:40]
Before he was a startup CEO, Purpura spent several years at Microsoft, though he knew he wasn’t meant for that environment for long. “At bigger companies I sort of felt stifled,” he explains. As a CEO, “I get more ability to…be my inner child, in the sense that I get to do what I want as long as I can back it up and actually make it happen.” [9:00]
On leaving big companies to pursue further education, Purpura explains that many of his technical peers told him he was making a mistake. “Many people believed it was a blunder for me to go back to school,” he says. But he counts this time as a blessing. “Let’s face it: when you work at Microsoft or when you work in the industry, you sort of get a point of view, and you put blinders on that point of view. And what I was able to do in the middle of my career was redefine my point of view.” [11:00]
When asked if he had advice for other startup founders, Purpura emphasized the importance of being in the right market. He shared a story from an earlier startup where they failed to find a big enough market for their product, from which he ultimately learned that it’s better to find a great solution to a pro