Sramana: Paying off all of your college debt is not a bad exit from your first company!
Gaurav Khandelwal: I agree that it was very timely. It also gave me a taste for entrepreneurship. After I graduated, I went to work for a consulting firm in New York. I quickly found out that I could not just have that one job, I had to be doing something else. I would do side jobs like building websites. I learned about building a business large enough to fulfill my ultimate dream, which was to build a legacy. I spent the next 7 years working for the same firm doing business transformation consulting. I was working with clients like Johnson and Johnson, Boeing, and other firms of that size.
During that time-frame, I moved down to Houston, which is where I live now. The cost of living here is fantastic. I did not see a reason to live in the New York area when I flew all over the country for work anyways. I learned a lot during my time at that consulting firm. I saw the politics that takes place in large companies. I was always waiting for the next big thing to appear.
When the Apple App Store launched in 2008, that launch was groundbreaking. To me, it was something that would change the world. For the first time, people could truly detach themselves from the desktop. Having seen the tremendous growth of mobile devices in India, I knew that more people in the world would have access to mobile devices than people who had access to clean water or education.
I quit my job within 30 days of the app store being launched and started ChaiOne. The idea was to build mobile applications for the stodgy corporate world. There are a lot of legacy processes, technology and thinking in that space. I wanted to transform those businesses with mobile applications.
When I started the business, I did not have a large amount of money saved up because I had been supporting my family back in India as well as my brother’s education. A month after I quit my job to start ChaiOne, the 2008 economic crash happened. It turned out to be a great thing because I could find talent at a much cheaper rate than I would have found if the economy had been doing well. That turned out to be a good thing for us and we started building mobile apps and growing rapidly.
Initially we started working with small and medium sized businesses. Now we are building apps for Fortune 50 and Fortune 100 companies. Most of them have personnel in the field using mobile devices. Of course, the demise of Blackberry also coincided with our success because more and more companies started buying iOS devices which supported business transformation well. Some of the fastest growth occurred in board rooms, especially when the iPad came out. That gave us a window of opportunity to build applications for executives in board rooms.