After a brief hiatus from entrepreneurship during his late teenage years, Vinay enrolled in college at Mizzou, where he studied Pre-Med Biochemistry. Although this was not his passion (more on that later), cultural and societal pressures for a stable future forced Vinay to adopt what he believed to be the most rational, promising route of study. It was during this time that his grandfather – once again – lit a spark in his entrepreneurial spirit.
Grandfather Rawlani had recently started a new business, AAA Galvanizing. While his concept was great and the market was strong, he had been struggling to find its customer channel. Luckily, this coincided with two elective classes that Vinay had taken in Computer Science; one of which explored business development and marketing. His professor, Dr. Gupta, doled out a hefty assignment: Identify a need, build a product, establish a business model and marketing strategy, and test, test, test.
Dr. Gupta was well-known for his work in geo-fencing, but had yet to establish a product. Inspired by the influence of his professor and grandfather, Vinay teamed up with classmate Jesse Papanek to further explore and develop geo-fencing. Together, they devised a method of digitally fencing in areas on the map using a series of coordinates to form a perimeter. Using this information, they were capable of adding or deleting any information into the chosen area. Because this pre-dated Google Maps (think Mapquest), they were unable to physically view the area on a map. They could, however, define any given area by its coordinates.
Over the course of a weekend, Vinay and Jesse worked tirelessly to code this project. Equipped with a strong knowledge of geo-mapping, Dr. Gupta was thrilled with their progress. There was no doubt that they’d made strides in the right direction, but several important questions still lacked answers. What was the value proposition? What is being sold? Who are the customers? How can they be reached? The business model was extremely underdeveloped, and the learning curve would be challenging, given the general lack of understanding around maps.
Although Vinay and Jesse ended their involvement upon graduating from Mizzou, Dr. Gupta continued to work on the geo-fencing project. Despite the fact that the product itself remained unchanged and Dr. Gupta, too, was unable to develop a successful business model, it was far from a wash. Dr. Gupta was invited to serve as a consultant for Google as they developed Google Earth, and the project re-ignited Vinay’s passion for entrepreneurship – a quality that pushed him to strive for excellence throughout medical school and in his career to follow.