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ServiceNow Developer David Loo Returns to His Roots to Accept CSE’s Distinguished Alumni Award

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From his childhood home near the South China Sea to the singing eucalyptus trees overlooking La Jolla’s scenic shoreline, University of California San Diego alumnus David Loo (BS ’91) has zigzagged continents to earn a world-class education and launch global companies, including ServiceNow. Loo recently returned to the university’s Computer Science and Engineering Department (CSE) to accept its 2024 Distinguished Alumni Award.

The department recognized Loo, who graduated in 1991 with a degree in computer engineering from the Jacobs School of Engineering, at its fifth-annual Research Open House. Loo was presented the award by Department Chair Sorin Lerner as part of the day-long event, which highlighted graduate student and faculty research and provided networking opportunities.

"This award reflects how valuably UC San Diego served me and the quality of education I received,” said Loo.“When Dr. Lerner called me, I was caught completely off guard.  My surprise quickly turned into a feeling of gratitude and honor to receive this prestigious award.”

David Loo picture
Computer Science and Engineering Department alumnus David Loo speaks at the department's Research Open House in January.

A serial entrepreneur throughout his 35-year career, Loo is a founding developer of ServiceNow and, more recently, the cofounder and CEO of Perspectium. Loo’s journey from student and part-time employee to CEO of his own company began with hands-on instruction at UC San Diego and transformative life lessons from CSE faculty.

“This is where the seed of ambition was sown. This is where my curiosity was nurtured, setting the path for me to become an entrepreneur later in life,” said Loo at the awards ceremony.

In his remarks, Loo shared some of his fondest memories from his time at the university. Besides comradery with classmates and all-nighters in the lab, he recalled stress-relieving naps in Geisel Library – or the “mushroom building” – and “refreshing” sprints and bicycle rides through the eucalyptus trees to get from class to class.

A 35-year Career in Retrospect

Loo began his professional journey while still an undergraduate at UC San Diego. To help with education expenses, he worked 20 or more hours a week as a database administrator at the UC San Diego Cancer Center.

In a Q&A with the Jacobs School of Engineering, Loo shared his trajectory from a first-generation immigrant born in Malaysia to founder of his own company that grew into a global enterprise with Global 1000 customers and about 80 employees.

“Going to UC San Diego wasn’t what I was expecting. It was better,” he recalled in the Q&A. “I was thrown into an open collaborative environment and allowed to fail. That experience set me up for the rest of my life.”

When Loo graduated in 1991, unemployment was at an all-time high, and his early career was pockmarked with economic downturns and more than one failed software startup. He persevered through long hours, low (or no) pay, and a string of bad luck.

“Some would think this is the worst that could have happened, but in retrospect it was the beginning of my journey to always move, challenge myself, adapt and push forward,” said Loo.

Despite significant setbacks, Loo found himself hooked on the “startup life.” Along the way, he created reusable software components, helped develop and later patent a pattern matching algorithm for credit scoring

Eventually, Loo joined Peregrine Systems in Del Mar as a Product Architect. The position in a public company provided financial stability just as Loo was beginning his family and became a turning point in his career.

ServiceNow group picture
ServiceNow group photo at Solana Beach. (Loo is in shorts, holding the surfboard)

Loo grew as a software engineer, advised Global 1000 companies world-wide, and gained a mentor, Fred Luddy, CTO of Peregrine Systems. Luddy and Loo would later partner to build ServiceNow into a public company.

After leaving ServiceNow in 2012, Loo started Perspectium Corp, a SaaS company that offers systems and application integration solutions in the cloud. The company’s platform provides real-time, scalable delivery of data while maintaining speed, security, and privacy. Loo sold Perspectium after eight years to pursue his next endeavor.

The Value of Networking

In the Q&A with the Jacobs School, Loo acknowledged that his time at CSE taught him the importance of being self-sufficient and, at the same time, part of a larger collaborative team.

“The professors were there to guide you on what you need to do and provided freedom to attain your outcomes and goals. It was really clear that it was up to you to succeed,” said Loo. 

This mindset continues to shape Loo’s professional path. At the open house, Loo discussed his plans to launch yet another startup, His newest endeavor reflects his ongoing commitment to innovation in the tech industry. develops a platform designed to assist AI researchers and developers in creating and deploying machine learning models through customizable workflows.

Once again, he is relying on valuable connections from a lifetime of networking to guide his next steps. And he has enthusiasm for another new initiative at the university: the Laboratory for Emerging Intelligence (LEI) led by CSE.

This is where the seed of ambition was sown. This is where my curiosity was nurtured, setting the path for me to become an entrepreneur later in life.
David Loo

LEI, spearheaded by CSE Professor Mohan Paturi, aims to identify key challenges, formulate credible ideas and approaches, and promote student-led innovation in the areas of artificial intelligence, program synthesis and high-performance systems.

Loo has been tapped to serve as the laboratory’s first advisor, as well as an adjunct instructor, roles he will relish as they will allow him to be around inspiring, forward-thinking researchers, faculty members and students. 

“The CSE department, especially Dr. Paturi’s LEI team, is a great sounding board for my current and next ideas.  Looking at difficult engineering problems through an academic lens allows for fresh approaches and inspirational discoveries,” said Loo.

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