Inspiration- How the seed was sown:
I always wanted to do something different and never wanted to follow the crowd. My 1st inspiration was when IPL started-specifically the auction. I was in 7th grade and until then I just wanted to be rich. Basically, I thought if someone is purchasing a player for 11cr, how much money will the owner be making to afford him?
I started googling about team owners and MUKESH AMBANI popped! From his stories, I learnt about his legendary father, Sir Dhirubhai Ambani, the man who built an empire from scratch. Dhirubhai Ambani has always been an inspiration since then. His work and contribution to the society made my motive pivot from earning money to serving people and providing employment.
When the iPhone was launched in India, the media went into a frenzy. I did a little research on it and I was then introduced to the brilliance of Steve Jobs. His stories motivated me to do something in life rather than just follow what others are doing. His mission became my mission as well – to change the world with technology and make life easier. This made me realise that I was living under a rock until class 9.
PS:I hadn’t heard much about others, these were my only role models along with Bill Gates(Richest man on earth) till late 2009.
The Journey Began:
In 2010, the movie ‘The Social Network’ made a huge impression on me. Ironically, I too had gone through a break up with my then girlfriend and to get over her, I wanted to make my own facebook :P. But that didn’t happen(obviously), rather I along with two of my classmates (Nihas and Suhas) ended up making a website exclusively for students where they can share assignments and homework for free. We named ourselves the EDU-TEAM.
Nihas was the rich guy, Suhas was the tech geek and I was the business guy. We developed a cloned Linux OS on Suse studio in class 9 and started selling it to our schoolmates (We knew selling open source was illegal but we didn’t care much nor did we bother understanding the legalities involved). We named the Linux OS as EDU-OS. It was a huge hit and our reach grew accordingly , and I also ended up dating couple of girls from different schools and our reach grew accordingly.
We had to stop our work as we entered 10th grade. Hence Edu-Team was shut down.
I got a decent 9.6 CGPA in 10th grade and went for a post-vacation IIT-JEE coaching but got stuck in a mechanical life without any productivity.
I screwed up my IIT-JEE along with my boards and ended up in a state of depression.
Back on track:
In a remarkable turn of events, after not clearing IIT-JEE, I read a lot of inspirational stories to come out of my depression. All the startup entrepreneurs’ failure-to-success stories boosted me up a lot. So, I got associated with YourStory in Bangalore and attended Apps Friday event at their office.
I connected with some of their contributors and through them with some investors and then Harshul Srivastava, the Co-Founder of The Asian Entrepreneur from Harvard (via Facebook stalking). He looked at my profile (unofficial CV) and on August 31, 2014, I was hired as an Intern to promote and market The Asian Entrepreneur .
By November, I got into the company as a permanent member handling Content and Interviews. By the end of the 2014, I was promoted as Owner of Social Media, completely handling Twitter and LinkedIn and later Facebook as well.
In January, I had an opportunity to join The Asian Entrepreneur Conference and meet the other Co-Founders from Harvard. It was a great experience discussing about expansion and development strategy of the company. We had talks about cartoons,the 1990s and technology.
It was my first time interacting with great personalities in such a casual manner. And all of them said: “Congratulations! Welcome aboard Akhil! ”
I learnt a lot from interviewing entrepreneurs and listening to their experiences. In this way, I also get to connect with the “big shots” from different firms across the world.
On April 8, 2015, I received a pre-birthday gift: equity shares of the company and that’s how I earned my first share and became a stakeholder at the age of 18.
After a couple of months, the Board decided to promote me .On the 29th of June, I was promoted as the Chief Marketing Officer of Asian Entrepreneur Media Group.
With plenty of contacts and experiences under my belt, I decided to start my own venture to solve the basic problems faced by students.
I connected with CrossIntern to bridge the gap between students and companies , but things didn’t end up really well. I also worked with a couple of other firms, but that didn’t turn out well either. I helped TEDx curators to organize TEDx events and pivoted into the event industry.
I shared my intention and vision with Akshay, a junior from school. He immediately agreed to join hands and together we decided to build a company running along the lines of event coordination,internship and digital marketing.
We got connected with the founder of WomenCabs.com for The Asian Entrepreneur’s feature Interview, but ended up hiring him as an advisor and mentor for our venture. He suggested that we focus on one vertical rather than three which we ignored because of the “I’m the CEO, B***h” attitude. Later, after meeting with other entrepreneurs and when we had deflated a little,We decided to follow his advice and stick to one vertical,Event-Tech. So in October 2015, we chose the Event vertical and to stand apart from others, we integrated technology solutions into it (NFC, IoT, VR ). We bought the domain ‘www.notnull.co.in’ and posted job openings on social media platforms. Sharath Huddar(Current CTO), from ISE pinged us within 3-mins of our posts, and expressed his interest in a collaboration. After a rather convincing telephonic conversation he became the first team member at our venture. Our new venture was named ‘notNULL’. Our goal : To empower people to do what they love doing.
We were then joined by other friends together, we developed a tech team of seven. Later we developed Content team, Business development team and Marketing team. All our members were our school and college friends who shared our mission- TO PUT A DENT IN THE UNIVERSE and BRING IN A POSITIVE IMPACT.
Today we are a small team of 25 students, working on what we love doing. We are a very small bootstrapped venture, but running at 200% growth rate in revenue for the past 3 months.
PS: How we ended up with such a catchy name:
When Akshay(my co-founder) and I, had just started our venture, we were confused as to what to name it.
One day while I sat in the Data Structure Class (3rd Sem), for which I wasn’t prepared , the saying “Turn your Weakness into Strength” popped in my head. I then decided that the next word Mayuri Ma’am says will be the name of my venture. BOOM the next word Ma’am said was “not-NULL” . The rest is history!(actually our present and future:P)
Alma & Anusha (notNULL Content Curaters )
Amala & Ankita (Sir MVIT Magazine Editors)