Aditya Kothadiya founded Shopalize, which was eventually bought by 24, where he now works. Shopalize created the social shopping market, by enabling e-commerce businesses to add social sharing buttons to their products. It helped facilitate a new form of advertising, by allowing the buyer to spread the word about their purchase.
His training and degrees were in hardware, but Aditya saw more profitable opportunities in software. Since the same logic is necessary for both, he found the transition easy, and taught himself various programming languages.
In the early days of Facebook, he saw a need to bring social to e-commerce platforms, rather than bring e-commerce platforms to social. Right around the growth of Facebook and Twitter, around 2009-10, he saw other companies trying to sell on Facebook, and thought the reverse would work better.
The idea that would eventually become Shopalize took various directions before reaching its final form. The initial efforts were to allow end users to share what they had purchased on social platforms, but they were never successful. He held out hope, though, clinging to Winston Churchill’s saying that, “Success consists in going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”
As time went on, he saw that his best clients would be sellers, not buyers. He could create a profitable platform that would allow ecommerce sites to invite their customers to share. After approaching some small retailers, he decided that this definitely had a greater chance of success.
Just as he’d learned on his own how to program, Aditya learned the whole process by doing – especially in finding the right problem and how it had to be solved, and how to talk to potential clients. These weren’t things he picked up from books or classes.
When he joined his first incubator, he was almost talked out of his approach. But fortunately he went back and talked to potential clients, who convinced him that he was indeed on the right track. When he finally approached a larger potential customer, he was greatly encouraged when they told him that they’d be willing to pay a good amount of money for such a product.
At the same time, he still had visa issues to contend with. He was on an H1 visa, in process for his green card. In 2011, while he was still waiting, he took an extended leave from his full-time job without pay, but he could keep his visa status intact. A supportive employer – and a very supportive wife – as well as fortuitous timing in receiving his green card – allowed him to make a go of it. He returned to work after the leave, just to inform them that he would leave the company to work full-time on his startup.
His first cofounder received a great job offer just before they were about to go to the next step, and his investors backed off at that point. Fortunately he was able to get two new cofounders – one with sales experience and the other, a developer. However, while the business was growing, it was still slow, and they were considering shutting down. The developer was about to take on a full-time job although he would continue to help part-time.
Fortuitously, at the same time, Aditya was switching legal teams and it happened that their new lawyer had a client who was looking to buy a similar product. The lawyer made introductions and 7 showed interest in Shopalize. In the process, they got a good return for themselves and their investors. From there, Aditya also took employment with 7, but he still continues to have the entrepreneurial spirit, and expects to move into creating another business from scratch.
Still, Aditya doesn’t celebrate his success so much because he still hasn’t completely fulfilled his dream of building a multi-million dollar company, employing hundreds, and making a difference in the world.
Advice for Entrepreneurs
To those who constantly hear how hard entrepreneurship is:
- It’s not that hard, and you can always go back to what you did before
- When things get tough, you can always find expenses to cut back
- You have to invest time, but not a lot of money
To those who are told to just run ahead with their ideas:
- Think your ideas through in detail to figure out what you have to do
- do research, educate yourself
- work hard, read as much as possible, and devote yourself to it
- There’s lots of research available to help, so be sure to take advantage of it