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Bootstrapping a $7 Million Company in Houston: Gaurav Khandelwal, CEO of ChaiOne (Part 1)

Posted on Monday, Mar 17th 2014

This is an interesting strategy discussion about a company that is doing substantial revenue based on services, has productized a piece of its services business that is also generating over a million in revenue. Where next?

Sramana: Gaurav, let’s go to the beginning of your story. Where were you born? What kind of background were you raised in?

Gaurav Khandelwal: I was born in Kolkata, India. I came to the US for my undergrad. I grew up in a large city and I really wanted to experience something different, so I applied and went to school in a very small town in northern Indiana that was in an Amish community called Goshen College. Different universities come through India and interview students and applicants. That gives students a chance to meet with deans and hear about the schools. I met with several of them and this particular school was very interesting. They had a program that required every single student to spend a semester abroad to graduate. I had never heard of that before. I thought it was fantastic to know that every single student at that school had spent a semester in Indonesia, China, or some other country.

I felt that the culture and heritage at that school would be very rich. I really liked that so I decided to go to school there and study computer science. My parents did not pay for school, so I had to be enterprising and start businesses to pay for tuition. I did everything from selling kitchen knives to delivering pizza. Ultimately, I had a startup in my senior year of college which I was able to sell when I graduated.

Sramana: What timeframe was this?

Gaurav Khandelwal: I was in school from 1997 to 2001.

Sramana: What kind of business did you start that you almost ended up selling your senior year?

Gaurav Khandelwal: When we were applying for jobs our senior year, we found that it was difficult and problematic to go to all of these different websites. Monster had just started, HotJobs and CareerBuilder were out there as well. There were a lot of job sites. Then, when you did all that, your information just dropped into a database and you might get a phone call, but you probably would not. We built a recruiting social network where anybody that had an interview with someone at Microsoft or IBM would then upload the recruiter’s name and in exchange they would get access to other recruiters’ contact information. In this manner, all students who were job hunting could populate the database with recruiter information, and that allowed students to reach out to recruiters directly instead of going to job sites.

We did that for students on our campus and the site grew very rapidly. However, for me to stay in the US, I had to get a job and get a visa. I could not pursue the business because of that. I had to sell the company. I made enough to pay off 4 years of debt.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Bootstrapping a $7 Million Company in Houston: Gaurav Khandelwal, CEO of ChaiOne
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