Asutosh Katyal is a 22 year old tech entrepreneur at The University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign. He was nominated for the “Illinois Innovator of the year”. He shed light on why he was the most innovative student on campus:
I am actually the cheesiest and the most innovative student on campus. Really, I mean that and you will believe that in the next 4281 characters. I started my first company as a 17 year old while also at a boarding school in India, where my time was regimented between 6 am and 11pm but every night after 11 I would learn PHP. Soon, I assembled and led a team of 5 dedicated students that only slept 5 days a week to develop the platform the other 2 nights. We deeply cared to create something of value that people would actually use.
These immature, stupid, foolish but very dedicated kids built a complete photo-sharing platform with image editing (before Instagram). However, our teachers and superiors told us we were too immature to develop the service further, so we sold it to a sister company of Microsoft called Aurigo International. This experience benefited me so much though! I knew now what I wanted to become! It had a difficult spelling but I embraced it: I wanted to be an entrepreneur!
So with big expectations and with great excitement, I entered the campus of UIUC. As a freshman, I had two goals in life – 1. Entrepreneurship, 2. Party Hard! Yes, school was unfortunately not one of them. I combined the two and started a site called UIUSEE with 4 other students. It compiled geo-located tweets from around campus and represented them on Google Maps. On weekends, users would see patterns emerge out of Frat houses and bars and know which party was doing great and which not so much! We even presented it at the “Engineering Open House” (hosted by UIUC), and a representative of Microsoft loved it so much that he offered to help us out with the project. We pitched at Cozad venture well competition (a local entrepreneurship competition) and were unfortunately eliminated in the elevator pitch night. We lost faith in the project, and the team quit. This experience benefited me so much though! I now had 2 new terms in my vocabulary: “Team Dynamics” and “Resilience”.
As a sophomore, school became more of a priority. My goals had evolved to 1. Entrepreneurship 2. School and 3. Party! But not as much! I created another venture called Fyshbowl combining the first two (no more party): a geo-location messaging service that linked everybody in a building. Users posted requests to a real-time noticeboard for a building, and others responded to help. We launched in 7 dorms! One dorm was so hooked to it; we saw them create relationships with each other in new ways. People modestly paid each other to help with their services like bike repair! They also organized car-pooling in the newly launched Uber. This even attracted interest from Uber. We pitched at Cozad and were quickly eliminated once again. Unlike with UIUSEE, we persisted and kept growing the company for quite some time. However, we took the service down due to potential legal issues. This experience benefited me so much though! It taught me the importance of planning ahead, securing IPs, and how a product was just one part of a company.
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Right now, I’m working on another project called Datify. We bring the benefits of the Internet of Things to small businesses. We enable companies with a data-driven platform to effectively manage their resources. We spoke to 31 companies and many entrepreneurs from 1871, and four remarkable professors advise our project’s growth. We pitched at Cozad, but unfortunately were eliminated quickly again, again.
With my entrepreneurial experiences laid out, I truly believe I am the most innovative student on campus because I’m willing to take risks to create an enormous venture instead of a safer, smaller venture. Our team clearly recognized the potential of UIUSEE beyond parties: real-time analysis of tweets for disaster relief, breaking news, public events, and so many other applications. Apparently, another company see the value, Dataminr, now valued at $700 million. I, with many other esteemed professors and professionals, see the immense value in Datify, even if the Cozad judges do not presently. unlike with UIUSEE, we will persist and continually adapt to achieve our vision of a company that unlocks the power of a more connected world. I creatively solve meaningful problems and am constantly adapting my approach to accomplish my dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur.
Connect with Asutosh Katyal on Linkedin