Sunny has built a very interesting healthcare IT company, overcoming serious challenges. Inspiring story of a bootstrapped success.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start at the very beginning of your journey. Where are you from? Where were you born, raised, and in what kind of background?
Sunny Singh: Give or take, I’ve spent half my life in the US and half my life in India. I grew up in India and finished my undergraduate studies there. Then, I came to the US at the age of 23 to do a couple of Master’s programs. I did three jobs and then started Edifecs in 1996.
Going back to my roots in India, I come from a middle-class family. My father was an international ski hockey player. He played for the Indian team. That was his passion in life. My mother was a homemaker. She focused her life on the kids and our education and making sure that we got everything we needed.
Even though I started a venture in 1996, I always had the underpinnings of being an entrepreneur in India. I didn’t realize it at that time. College going kids typically don’t work. I, at one time, organized a concert with one of the most popular singers in India so I could generate enough money to come to the US because my parents couldn’t afford to send me here. While I was in college, we had a sports festival where all the IITs would come together. It was highly competitive. I ventured out and decided to supply the track suits for the teams. I did venture into those areas.
Sramana Mitra: You had entrepreneurial instincts all along.
Sunny Singh: Perhaps you can say that but at that time, I didn’t realize that was what it was. I’ve always pursued my passions. I think the underpinnings were there. When I did my first two jobs, I always used to get bored after the first year. There was nothing exciting waiting at home so I went soul searching and saying, “This is not how I should live my life where I’m not really looking forward to working.” I said, “I need to do something I believe in and that I can do on my own pace. I can follow rules defined by me.” That led to Edifecs in 1996. I settled on the software area which is my background.
Sramana Mitra: Just a quick few facts, where did you do your schooling once you came to America? What did you study and what were the three jobs that you had before starting the company?
Sunny Singh: In the US, I did a couple of Master’s programs from Montana State University. One was in Industrial Engineering and the other was in Computer Science. I got excited about software and decided that was what I wanted to do. My first job was in Montana with a company called Computers Unlimited where I developed their EDI integration system. This was basically integrations about how you, in electronic format, exchange business information between companies and business partners. It could be purchase orders, shipping manifest, or claims in healthcare. These were paper documents and how to put them in a standardized electronic format.
My second job was at a company called Expeditors International in Seattle. I had, at that point, decided to move out of Montana. I spent a lot of good years in Montana but not probably for a hungry young professional. I moved to Seattle. At Expeditors, I was managing supply chain budgets for them. It was a great experience because it gave me a good view into the worldwide supply chain operations because they sat in the middle of everything. They do logistics and move freight between countries. I spent three years there.
At that point, I started realizing that I wasn’t a corporate guy. I’m never going to be happy being a corporate person. I decided to do some soul-searching at that time. I said, “I’m going to start something on my own.” While I was doing that, a call came from Microsoft. They wanted help with integration. At first I said, “No, because I’m going to start my own venture.” Then he said, “Think about it.” I called him back and said, “I’ll work for you for one year.” I spent about a year in Microsoft. In the process, I solidified what I wanted to do as an entrepreneur, which was launching Edifecs. Those are the three companies I worked at. They were all in the EDI integration supply chain. I had a very good perspective of how companies of different shapes and sizes work.