Twenty-somethings Kevin William David and Ramakanth Dorai from the city on how they literally ‘chased’ their dream of setting up a start-up
Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. Everything else is secondary. — Steve Jobs
Many of us have read Steve Jobs’ famous Stanford graduation speech, but how many of us have followed it? Well, here are two young Chennaiites in their 20s who’ve done just that. Meet Kevin William David and Ramakanth Dorai who have turned their back to the rat race and plunged into entrepreneurship.
The adventure started last June when Kevin and Ramakanth started developing Wallet Kit, an application that allows companies to deliver any kind of card or ticket such as retail loyalty cards, discount vouchers, travel tickets and event passes, directly to consumers’ mobile phones. They quickly realised that most of their early customers would be in the U.S. Says Ramakanth, “Considering there are more smartphone users in the U.S. compared to India, we wanted to go there.”
Before they could do that, they had to convince their parents.
Kevin says, “Our parents were apprehensive. Eventually we convinced them.”
No giving up!
Having overcome the first hurdle, the duo now had to get funding. They decided to apply to 500 Startups, a Silicon Valley-based incubator. Kevin recalls, “In mid August, we saw a tweet from Paul Singh, a partner at 500 Startups, saying he is touring India to meet up with entrepreneurs. We emailed him the product details and our profile, and requested an appointment with him. He replied asking for more information, but did not give us an appointment.”
What might have been a setback to others did not deter Kevin and Ramakanth. They stumbled upon a picture of Paul Singh on a high-rise building, and got a clue about his whereabouts. Ramakanth says, “We found out the hotel and caught a bus to Bangalore. The next morning, we were waiting at the lobby of the hotel.”
Patiently, at that. It was evening and they had still not met the investor. Kevin exclaims, “I finally saw a person looking like Paul Singh approaching the lobby, and we both followed him. After he paid up the bills, we approached him. He had a brief glance at our product, but had to leave immediately for the airport.”
They got to know that his next destination was Goa and that he was travelling all by himself. Not giving up again, they asked him if they could join him in the cab ride to the airport to which Paul agreed. Ramakanth shares, “We explained the product in detail during the cab ride. When we reached the airport, he said he would definitely give us a serious thought and would get back to us. In three weeks, he emailed us saying we were selected.”
The two are currently in the U.S. as part of the 500 Startups incubator, networking with mentors, potential customers and getting introduced to other investors, all while sweating it out to develop and promote their product. Ask them how is it to work in Silicon Valley, and they say, “They respect your skill set and idea, irrespective of your age or work experience; it’s more encouraging and welcoming than in India. The experience is rewarding. But, we have a long way to go, and hopefully we will make it happen successfully.”
Their message to budding entrepreneurs? “Even when it seems like the familiar path is blocked, there is always an alternative method to reach your goal.”