“My journey was as unexceptional as you can imagine,” says Rukkus CEO Manick Bhan, in describing how he got to $1 million annual revenue rate in transactions before raising financing. Read on for the whole story.
Sramana Mitra: Let’s start by going back to your very beginnings. I want to hear about where you were born, raised, and in what kind of background.
Manick Bhan: Both my parents come from Kashmir. They raised me in Baltimore, Maryland. That’s where I was born. I’ve grown up mostly in the United States. In the very early days, I liked to take things apart. When I was nine, they bought me this bicycle. The first thing I did was I opened the whole thing up. I took out all the screws and basically dismantled the beautiful bike. They were a little horrified about it because it was a birthday present. This has been pretty constant in my life. I like to take things apart and figure out how they work.
Sramana Mitra: I take it you studied engineering in college.
Manick Bhan: You would think so. My educational journey to get to this point has had a lot of twists and turns. Throughout elementary to college, I was always very good at math and science. I got interested in astrophysics and understanding how the universe works. I went to high school in New Jersey, right outside of Princeton. I ended up getting a full scholarship to go to Duke University where I studied Chemistry, Neuroscience, and Music.
I tried not to think about what I wanted to do. I just tried to explore and find things that resonated with me. I had a feeling that it might not be medicine. Early on, I wanted to put myself in the shoes of a medical doctor and see what it’s like. I realised that if I were standing in his shoes, it’s not the right profession for me. I was also trading stocks. I went to the Duke Business Library and pulled out every book on the shelf about the stock market. My parents had traded stocks a little bit. They were both scientists, so they were doing it for fun.
My roommate was a day trader while we were at Duke. He gave me the bug. I pulled out all these books and studied them cover to cover. I thought, “Now that I’ve read these books, I think I know what I’m doing.” I started investing in options and not so much in stocks. If you put a thousand dollars into a Google option and Google does well tomorrow, you can go from $1,000 to $10,000. That level of accretion was really exciting. I always thought that I was good at it. In that respect, I probably wasn’t. Sometimes, small events guide the next five to ten years of your career.
That was definitely one of those moments where I got into it and I ended up getting a job at Goldman Sachs. What I really loved about the experience that I had there was I had the ability to understand how global businesses work. You get the ability to understand how different world economies function together and how events in one country can impact business here and you see how connected everything is. You can go really deep. They have knowledge base of everything you want to study. In fact, my boss wants me to learn and grow. I was really curious.
When I started at Goldman, I didn’t know anything about bonds but ended up joining a desk that did. It was mathematically more rigorous than I expected. It worked out really well and I really loved it. I worked with a variety of companies. I joined just after the credit crisis. I was an intern before the credit crisis and then joined after the crisis. I got to see two different flavours of how the market works. Before the crash, they worked one way. After the crash, it was a very different theme.