The insider's guide to the Jerome Fisher Program at the University of Pennsylvania

How One Class Launched My Start-Up Career

In the fall of 2014, M&T alumni Rohan Bopardikar (’15) and Arvind Tyagarajan (’16) were juniors just starting the on-campus recruiting process. Like many M&T students, they were exploring opportunities with existing companies in both the business and engineering sectors. However, after taking an entrepreneurship course with M&T Director Emeritus Dr. Hamilton, their trajectory quickly changed. Rohan shared his start-up story with us below.

How It All Started…

My roommate Arvind Tyagarajan and I were both M&T juniors. I was studying Computer Science and Finance, and Arvind was doing Systems Engineering and Finance/Management. After going through the typical On Campus Recruiting (OCR) that first semester, interviewing for various positions at investment banks and private equity firms, we both realized something. We were just following the path of the “typical Wharton student” without thinking much about what we really wanted to do with our lives. We were moving forward blindly instead of working backwards from an end goal.

Meanwhile, we both were taking a class that same semester focused on entrepreneurship. This course was taught by Dr. William Hamilton, a serial entrepreneur and now Director Emeritus of the M&T Program. For us, this class was captivating and I was able to visualize myself working as an entrepreneur. Even though it would take just as much (and likely more) time than working in finance, there was something about it that excited and energized me more. At that point, working around the clock didn’t feel like such an arduous task. It was this experience that prompted the birth of our journey into entrepreneurship.

Our First Steps i

 

nto Entrepreneurship

Of course, wanting to start a company is one thing, but actually starting one is quite different. First, we needed a disruptive idea.

Fortunately, I had done work the past summer exploring technological innovation in retail for a venture capital firm in Palo Alto. And, I had taken an interest in AI, which at the time was a revolutionary technology. In my Wharton classes, I was learning how most technologies follow an S curve, where they grow slowly at first, then exponentially, and finally taper off. Experts said we were approaching the end of the S curve that marked the revolution of mobile devices but were at the very beginning of the one marked by AI. I knew it was critical to get in early for something with the potential to make such a drastic impact on the world. So, I started researching.

Over that spring semester and the early parts of the summer, we began talking to friendly industry experts about whether or not our ideas had legs. Many liked our approach and connected us to others who could help more, slowing moving us forward.

I soon began to realize there was really something there and became more aggressive with completing my coursework. I knew if I wanted to succeed, I would have to be “all in” on the idea. Looking at my credits, I realized I had the opportunity to finish both my degrees in just three years. After talking to some mentors, I decided to step on the gas so I could focus full-time on the startup.

Getting Off the Ground

During the summer of 2015, Arvind and I stayed at my parent’s home in Silicon Valley, CA and worked tirelessly. By midway through the summer, we settled on an idea and founded our company, iSight.ai.

iSight.ai helped merge th

 

e gap between online and offline analytics for retailers, using AI. While online, retailers could get a lot of data on their marketing campaigns, but there was a disconnect between this and the data they had to optimize offline marketing campaigns, which still constituted a lot of a retailer’s budget. We used AI to take the limited data in the offline world and try to make sense of it, so retailers could better target their customers, customize offers, etc. In a sense, we wanted to bridge the gap between online and offline advertising/marketing for retail.

We worked diligently on building out our product. With my computer science background, I focused more on building the AI portion and its technical aspects. Arvind handled business development and managed the website. We followed the lean startup model and, once we had a minimally viable product, began to approach customers.

Launching into the Next Phase

We were getting a lot of interest from different customers when we encountered Razorthink. Razorthink, a larger AI company, was interested in our cutting edge technology, and we ended up selling it to their consulting arm.

After the sale, I joined Razorthink full-time and am working in the CTO’s office to help bring our technology to market and manage their US clients. I also manage a team dedicated to releasing a new, cutting-edge AI solution. Arvind moved onto an exciting opportunity at an AI healthcare startup called LeanTaaS where he is working as a product manager.

Though it was a tough decision to sell, we realized Razorthink was the best way to bring our technology to market and scale it, as they had the resources needed. Additionally, I’m gaining valuable experience by being part of a larger organization with lots of really bright people, while still getting to immerse myself in AI, a field I really enjoy.

While I still do a wide variety of things at Razorthink, I now have a marketing team, sales team, engineering team, and product team to help develop the technology and bring it to market. In the past, I had to do all of these functions myself plus more! It’s been great to be in a place where I can see our technology, and myself, grow.

 

Rohan Bopardikar (M& T’15) holds a B.A.S. in Computer Science and B.S. in Economics with a concentration in Finance. After selling his AI company, iSight.ai, he moved to work in the CTO’s office at Razorthink, helping bring his technology to market, and managing their US clients and some exciting new solutions they are developing.

When asked about being an M&T, he said: “There’s nothing like being around such like-minded, driven people. Some of my best friends to this day are my M&T classmates. Being able to study a combination of engineering and business has proven to be extremely useful, and I still use knowledge from both my degrees at work every day.

I would like to thank the M&T program, especially (past M&T Administrative Director) January (Wuerth), Dr. Hamilton, and my M&T classmates for supporting me through this process. I could not have achieved the success I have had without their help!”

 

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