Sramana: When did you graduate from college, and what did you do after you graduated?
Paras Chopra: I graduated in 2008. Even though I studied biotechnology, I remained very involved with computers the entire time. My area of concentration for biotechnology was computational biology. In that specialty I would model biological problems using computer programs. I would write programs to simulate protein functions, or anomalies in genes. That morphed into using big data sets.
I started reapplying all of my knowledge of artificial intelligence to this line of study. I did a lot of work with neural networks and genetic algorithms within this data set. As a result of that, I became very interested in data mining and analytics.
During my school years I read an essay titled ‘How to Start a Startup.’ It was very well written and it made me realize that I needed to do a startup. During my college days I tried three or four different startups. Now that I look back at them I realize they were really just projects. I would do one every time we had a three- or four-month break. One of my startups was Kroomsa, which was a music portal which promoted independent Indian music. That was my first brush with doing a startup.
Sramana: During college you were able to toy with an idea to see if you wanted to build a company out of it. Did you morph one of those projects into a full-time startup after gradation, or did you get a regular job?
Paras Chopra: I knew I had to do a startup, so I tried a lot of things. I never did anything alone, but we never had a business model. We always had cool ideas without business direction. After college I went ahead and got a job as an R&D engineer for Aspiring Minds, and I worked in that role for about a year and a half.
Aspiring Minds is a company that makes employment tests. At that time it was the only company to make computer-accessible testing of that manner in India. It is similar to a GMAT where the difficulty of the test adapts to the capabilities of the test taker. That really played well to my analytical skills because it further developed my machine learning capabilities. The company was started by one of the seniors who did his masters at MIT.
I always knew I had to do a startup. After about a year and a half, I had a cool idea. I made a rational list of my interests. I spent about a month or so just listing what I liked to do. That let me arrive at some key areas of interest. One of the top themes that emerged for me was marketing optimization. That combined my interest in analytics, technology and marketing. That was the genesis of Wingify.