Positioned for Success
However, his experience led to a change in perspective. “In a big company, there isn’t as much opportunity to make decisions that lead to improvements in a technology.”
Rohit had come to Canada in 2012 to pursue an MBA focused on entrepreneurship at the University of Victoria. During his program, he undertook a Mitacs Accelerate internship with Limespot, a small e-commerce start-up with five employees, a far cry from his experience at Blackberry.
“At Limespot, I attended board meetings and met with investors. I conducted market research, wrote business plans, and learned about IP protection, patent filings, equity structure, and share distribution.” he explained. “I learned about the start-up culture and what it takes to succeed.”
Taking the next step
Buoyed by his Mitacs internship, Rohit and a classmate, Samarth Mod, launched FreshWorks (originally AirSenze), a technology company that creates location-based apps aimed at simplifying business processes using the global positioning system (GPS) and beacons.
What sets FreshWorks apart is its unique platform that enables it to create mobile apps much faster and cheaper than their competitors. Typically, robust location-based apps can cost $25,000 to $50,000. The company's platform is able to create an app for a fraction of the cost, around $5,000 to $10,000 in as little as three to four weeks.
It just takes one small success
Rohit and his business partner came to a realization common to tech entrepreneurs:
“Developing a technology is easy,” he says. “Making sales, understanding your customer and finding people who will write cheques are hard.”
Fortunately, he has the attitude and determination required to guide a start-up through the difficult early years. “You don’t have to be successful every day. You can fail constantly, but you just need to succeed once. I look back at where the company was a year ago compared to today. Now, we have two investors, an office, five staff — things have really improved.”
Rohit’s determination led to a partnership with a provincial government department and the development of a dike and dam inspection app for inspectors. A pain point for inspectors was the requirement to submit lengthy, handwritten paper reports after each inspection. Rohit saw an opportunity to develop a user-friendly app that facilitated online reporting. GPS technology records the time and location of the inspection; workers simply sign in, record their observations, add GPS-tagged images, e-sign the report, and press “submit.”
“I knew that the inspectors all had smartphones and knew how to use apps like Facebook and Twitter. So I was confident that they could adopt this new technology,” he explains.
With the success of FreshWorks, Rohit has made Canada his home. He is certain that he wouldn’t have started the company without the experience from his Mitacs Accelerate internship: “I’d probably be working in a big company, lost in the shuffle. My Accelerate internship set my career in motion.”
Mitacs would like to thank the Government of Canada, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, along with Alberta Innovates Technology Futures, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, Research & Development Corporation of Newfoundland & Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, and the Government of Saskatchewan for their support of the Accelerate program.