Falon Fatemi ’07 got a flying start into the high-tech heart of Silicon Valley. As a sophomore at SCU in 2005, she parlayed an internship at Google into a full-time job at the tech company, then a relative fledgling. Her responsibilities soon included working on strategies for Africa and Eastern Europe.
Even with 3,000 coworkers, it didn’t take her long to realize that at age 19 and still an undergrad, she was the youngest employee on campus. “I was the baby, but most people didn’t know how old I was,” she says. “That came out later.”
It was an excellent launchpad for a tech highflyer. But it was the next chapter, after six years at Google and YouTube, that provided the aha moment behind her recent emergence as an entrepreneur. As a consultant working with startups and investors, Fatemi began to realize she had a knack for connecting people, companies, and resources, with often very profitable results.
Indeed, surveying the fruits of a half-dozen years of mercantile matchmaking, she says she calculated that her introductions had led to many millions of dollars in investments, sales, and mergers.
What if there was a way to build a product that could do similar introductions at internet scale?
That, Fatemi says, is the vision behind Node, the company she founded in 2015 and for which she serves as CEO. Node uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to try to bottle the kind of secret sauce that came naturally to her. The company’s algorithms trawl the recesses of the internet to uncover opportunities between potential customers, collaborators, and markets that would likely otherwise never be discovered.
Products like Google’s flagship offering excel as search engines, she says. Node aims to take search to another level: It’s a “discovery engine,” revealing things users wouldn’t even know to search for. Node’s focus is on helping clients in sales and marketing for now—though Fatemi says its technology may one day recommend the next hire, job opportunity, or date.
The 30-person company exited “stealth mode” in summer 2017, revealing more than $17 million in funding from investors, including billionaire Mark Cuban, star of the television show Shark Tank and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, who is among Node’s biggest and most involved investors. “This is a game changer,” he told Bloomberg Television.
Business and entrepreneurship run in Fatemi’s family. Her father, Homi Fatemi MBA ’83—a longtime adjunct faculty member of SCU’s Leavey School of Business—is a Silicon Valley veteran; her mother is a real estate investor. In Iran, where her parents grew up, her grandmother founded an ambulance system, akin to the 911 network here, Fatemi says.
Hard work was central to the family ethic. As she was growing up, her parents had two rules for summer vacation. She and her brother had to study ahead in math and science. And they had to have jobs that furthered their career potential.
Even leading Node, Fatemi keeps herself involved in extracurriculars, like writing for Forbes.com and offering fundraising tips for female entrepreneurs, ideas on how to leverage AI to improve customer service, and how to identify an overhyped product. For fun, she likes to go to wine country and Vegas with her husband, a fellow techie and a former professional poker player. But work is its own reward.
“Node is my baby,” she says.