by Elana Varon

CIO 20/20 Honorees–Innovator’s Profile: Subrah Iyar of WebEx Communications Inc.

Oct 01, 20022 mins

Cofounder, Chairman and CEO

WebEx Communications Inc.

When Subrah Iyar pursues a customer, it’s not as a salesman but as a suitor. He is energetic, sincere and charming?and he doesn’t quit. “There is a leap of faith that early customers have to take,” says Vivek Randive, whose Palo Alto, Calif., company, Tibco, was one of the first to use the Web conferencing services offered by Iyar’s San Jose, Calif.-based startup, WebEx Communications. No one can predict whether such a relationship will work out. “We were buying into Subrah, his ability to lead, to manage,” says Randive, who is also a WebEx board member.

WebEx CEO Iyar and CTO Min Zhu founded the company in 1996 with some software Zhu had invented but couldn’t sell. They noodled for three years then scored with a set of inexpensive, subscription-based services that let users create online meeting rooms in which they can share documents and software applications with anyone who has a Web browser. Last year the company captured 58 percent of the Web conferencing services market, according to market researcher Frost & Sullivan.

Iyar, 45, has grand goals?to see his product used by “every consumer,” says the Mumbai native, who came to the United States in 1982 for its entrepreneurial opportunities.

Being the head of an online conferencing company doesn’t keep Iyar off the road. He travels eight to 12 weeks a year to meet customers. “Our kind of service doesn’t eliminate the need for face-to-face, because relationships are built face-to-face,” he says. But without WebEx technology, he would travel a lot more?and spend even less time with his wife and two young daughters. As it is, he says, “if you ask my wife, I’m mentally absent though physically present.”

Like many entrepreneurs, Iyar admits to being obsessed with his work but covets time to recharge. “I love to withdraw into solitude. If I go a week without getting that, I get totally frazzled,” he says.