This interview with Tom Leighton,chief executive of Akamai Technologies, a web content delivery company, was conducted and condensed by Adam Bryant.
Q. You were an academic before you started Akamai. Tell me about that transition.
A. I grew up never thinking I’d be a C.E.O. or even in business. I never really had a desire for the limelight, per se. I liked working on research questions that were at the intersection of mathematics and computer science — solving a problem that nobody had solved before and then establishing that you had the answer with mathematical proof. I just loved doing that, and so my goal was to be a professor, and I ultimately became a faculty member at M.I.T. But it was more interesting to try to do something that would have a broader applicability, and I probably did have an itch in that direction.
Danny Lewin, my graduate student, and I entered the Sloan School’s business plan competition, and that’s how we started getting exposed to the process of creating a company. Ultimately, we took what was a big plunge for us, because we were academics — not just academics, but theoretical academics.
Q. You brought in a C.E.O. to build the company, though.