We interview super successful serial entrepreneur and philanthropist Sachin Dev Duggal about entrepreneurship, the tech industry and philanthropy. Sachin lives between Silicon Valley, Delhi and London and started his first business at the age of fourteen and is now the CEO and Co-Founder of shoto. He’s served as an Advisor to Queen Rania’s Jordan Education Initiative, on the board of India’s largest Music Retail store (PlanetM) and been actively involved in the Associate Chamber of Commerce in India.

How did you know entrepreneurship was for you? There are some things you only find when you experience them; entrepreneurship is just like that – you don’t know before – you only know when the journey is on route. I think in the end it’s the idea that you spend your day building something that you are passionate about that solves a problem or a set of problems you feel yourself. It’s a little crazy at times, you need to be comfortable being delusional and seeing the world with a different set of lenses. Having parents, especially my mom, who were entrepreneurs, meant that my upbringing also aligned to this way of thinking.

What was your first business? Building PCs when I was 14 and selling them to friends, family and beyond. Then I ended up accidentally building a software business that still operates (it’s going to be 13 in a few months)!

Sachin Duggal4

Tell us about your latest venture Shoto? Shoto lets you privately share memories automatically with the people who were with you – take Diwalli or Thanksgiving or Christmas – you will be chasing photos for the months to come (and I’m sure holidays and road trips are even worse). With shoto this problem is taken care of! We’re nearing a year old and have really started understanding photo taking behaviour in a completely new way.

What’s your view on Silicon Valley versus Silicon Roundabout? If I’m honest – other than hearing about SR I’ve not really experienced it. SV I live through every day now. So I’m probably not best to make a profound comparison but I’d say that it’s important to recognise each region is different and they all don’t need to end up being the same. They just need to exhibit certain positive characteristics – community, mentorship, access to capital and startup services (legal, accountancy, banking).

What’s India’s tech scene like? Outside of big tech (infosys, wipro) it’s still young, and I think fairly unstructured. Entrepreneurs are weaving their way through the maze but it’s exactly that – a maze. Access to Capital is great when you want to build a me too but limited when you want to go solve a big problem. This is potentially the biggest limiting factor for India’s tech scene coupled with the absolute talent challenge where there are just not enough skilled engineers who want to stay in the country. That being said, this is all part of the process and so compared to the years gone by, the scene is vibrant. On an absolute basis, it’s got a long way to go.

What’s your prediction for the next big tech innovation coming our way? Contextual Computing – Saurabh and I predicted the cloud way back in 2004 and this time we are betting big on Contextual Computing & Wearable – hint: they go together. What is contextual computing? The idea is we are looking for ways to provide insight to our users from the things they do daily – without asking them to checkin, review, click something etc.

Contextual is also about right data with the right level of abstraction delivered at the right moment in the right place.

What’s your advice to start-up entrepreneurs? Be determined. Solve a real problem. Keep it succinct – if it takes you pages or lines to explain your business or the product then you have a problem. Stay lean – even if you can get money wait till you can write down what you do in 6 words. Never say never – rely on your gut and stay focused.

What’s your advice to entrepreneurs going through fundraising rounds? It’s always harder, takes more time and the only thing that’s close to it is dating a girl. If you show too much interest the girl tears away; too little and she thinks your a bit arrogant – find that balance. Take into account it will always take longer, and have a Plan A B C.

What are your plans for the future? Change the world (oh and get married of course)

What do you hope to achieve with your foundation in the future? Educate 100 million children over the next 50 years.

You live in three countries. Do you have a favourite? San Francisco is growing on me, London is home. And Delhi, well mom lives there so it’s got to be part of the play.

If you could be stuck in an elevator with anybody, who would it be? I’d like to be stuck with Buddha – I have so many questions.

BOE Magazine