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Udacity Talks, Anand Rajaraman

When Sebastian Thrun leads into a Udacity Talks episode by referring to his guest as having “a life not dissimilar from my own,” it’s safe to assume viewers are in for a fascinating and insightful ride. That’s exactly what viewers of our most recent Udacity Talks episode enjoyed, as Sebastian welcomed Anand Rajaraman to the Udacity Talks soundstage.

Early Days at Stanford, in “The Zoo”

Some of the parallels between Sebastian and Anand’s career paths are obvious enough as to be instantly ascertainable from their respective bios, but Sebastian zeroed right in on something that might not be quite as often discussed—their shared connection to Stanford. Anand came to Stanford as a PhD candidate in 1993, directly from his studies in India. This was the same year that a certain Moscow-born co-founder of a certain rather large-ish company entered Stanford, also in pursuit of a Computer Science PhD.  

If for no other reason than to learn the context of the following …

“Sergey and I had cubicles next to each other in The Zoo.”

… you are heartily encouraged to watch the full episode!

Despite all of Anand’s successes as both a startup founder (with companies sold to both Walmart and Amazon!), and an investor (one of the earliest to invest in Facebook!), his stories around those early days at Stanford comprise some of the most fascinating portions of the episode. His insights into how early concepts around data integration were emerging, and how those concepts were then modified and adapted in response to the rise of the World Wide Web, contribute a really unique sense of perspective to the origin stories of now-ubiquitous things like online comparison shopping.

Student Questions

The real core of the Udacity Talks experience is of course the student questions that get posed to our guests by Sebastian, and the real value of this is to offer you a unique opportunity to hear directly from really influential voices about the things that are directly relevant to your lives, your careers, and your aspirations. This student questions portion of this particular episode got off to a great start with a BIG question:

“Hi Anand, can you please tell us your insights on Big Data, and its application for solving real-world problems in the near future?”

To which Anand responded:

“There is hardly a field of human endeavor that is not being affected by data, so it’s probably easier to pick examples of fields where data is not going to play a major role …”

at which point Sebastian chimed in with: “Religions!”

Udacity Talks

The excerpt above is a great example of the kinds of compelling—and unscripted!—conversations you get on Udacity Talks. Please enjoy the full conversation between Anand and Sebastian below:

Udacity Talks represents just one of the many ways that Udacity students come together as a community to learn, interact, and engage—both with each other, and with influential voices in fascinating fields. Entrepreneurs, investors, founders, designers, developers, dreamers, and doers; these are the kinds of people we connect our students with, and this is the kind of community you join when you enroll with Udacity.

“We live in a world where everything is possible right now. Don’t accept the status quo in anything. Just look at it from first principles, and decide for yourself.” —Anand Rajaraman, speaking on Udacity Talks


Discover what’s possible for YOUR life!


Christopher Watkins
Christopher Watkins
Christopher Watkins is Senior Writer and Chief Words Officer at Udacity. He types on a MacBook or iPad by day, and either an Underwood, Remington, or Royal by night. He carries a Moleskine everywhere.