A few months ago, Surya Panditi was living in a nightmare but today he has happily reinvented himself as a cofounder of not one, but two, consumer tech startups.
Earlier this year, he was working as Cisco’s senior vice president and general manager of the Service Provider Networking Group, a unit responsible for some of the company’s most advanced networking products.
Someone had posted a website about him filled with libelous accusations about his personal and professional life. We won’t repeat them, but will say they involved his romantic and work-related relationships. They also included the name and photo of another innocent person.
Panditi had been struggling to get this website removed for about two years, but was caught in the Catch-22 of such anonymous sites. He wrote to WordPress and even Google and got no response.
Sites like WordPress generally won’t remove controversial websites without a court order, WordPress confirmed to Business Insider at the time. And the courts won’t issue such orders until the anonymous person can be found, or at least a legally expensive manhunt and attempt to find the person was completed.
So, Panditi threw up his hands, hired a lawyer and launched that manhunt. In the process he tried to unmask a Cisco whistleblower, known as Corporate Renegade, who was famous within the company for leaking gossip to Cisco blogger Brad Reese.
We caught up Panditi recently. He told us he never found the anonymous troll, and Corporate Renegade’s secret identity remains intact. But he was successful in getting the website removed.
On top of that, after Business Insider first told his story, it went viral and he recieved a surprise outpouring of support from others, who also benefited from this mission.
“I was contacted by a vice president of another large company in the Valley who had a similar experience,” he said. “The bigger story is when you can anonymously say things that are untrue, there’s not a whole lot people can do. In Europe, there are ‘right to be forgotten” laws. We don’t have those.”
As part of his original mission to find the troll, Panditi uncovered 24 similar websites filled with similar accusations about other executives. These were others that worked at Cisco, as well as people employed by EMC, Ericsson, HP, Juniper, Microsoft, Oracle, and Symantec.
Since his fight began, all 24 of those websites have been removed, a search of them conducted by Business Insider has shown.
If that wasn’t a happy enough ending, there’s more. Earlier this month, Panditi publicly launched one of two new consumer startups he’s since cofounded. (He left Cisco in October when Cisco undertook a massive reorg that reportedly affected 25,000 people.)
By December, he was up and running with Fancify, a keyboard app for the iPhone that lets you beautify a text message with special fonts, colours graphics. Although the first step is an app, Panditi tells us that he hopes Fancify becomes s platform that can do for texting what graphics did for email.
He’s also working on a second startup, still in stealth, in the travel industry.
He’s feeling happy, he tells us. Having spent most of his career selling computer equipment to enterprises he likes learning about the consumer side of the tech industry.
“I’ve made a significant change in my life, reinventing myself in a later stage in career.”
And it feels pretty good to vanquish a troll along the way.