[Techie Tuesdays] Soham Mondal – The story of a geek turned entrepreneur
This is an excerpt from an old conversation with Soham Mondal, founder of Triveous Solutions, a mobile app company. He had just quit Cisco and had chosen to start up and work full time on his mobile app, Sky Recorder.
Me – Are you sure about this? I mean, starting up and all sounds like a lot, man.
Soham – I’ve decided.
Me – Are you sure?
Soham – You know, at Cisco, I’d sit in a conference room and look at a phone and I could come up with 16 different ways in which it can be better. And at a big company, there is no way for me to be able to do it. Now I can do something about it.
If not for the conviction with which he said it, I wouldn’t have bought that line. I mean, it’s a great line for an entrepreneur to say, right? But since that day, every time I met him, he would show me his app and the new updates that he pushed out to the app. His passion towards what he was doing always intrigued me and I always knew that it came from his love for building things.
So, today, I’ve decided to pick up my Techie Tuesdays pen and write down the story of a quintessential techie, who couldn’t be kept away from programming for too long, even if it meant forgoing the comforts of working at a corporate like Cisco.
Meet Soham Mondal, Android expert, proficient in sound technology, design guru, entrepreneur and friend.
Early days and the importance of an inspiring teacher
Soham’s first introduction to computers was at school. He says, “Back then, 6th and 7th class syllabus used to have a lot of theoretical computer classes, which I thought was fascinating. The ability to do and create whatever you want to was quite exciting. I started off with coding on LOGO and BASIC, and the nagging at home for a computer had started.”
Soham used to play around with basic web technologies like HTML and JS. He says, “Back then HTML was the thing! Making a website was such a fad back then. We didn’t have a place to host our sites, so we used to do it on our own machines and work with basic 56kbps modems. It was a lot of fun.”
But it wasn’t till his 11th class, where he remembers his computer science teacher. Soham says, “He was really inspiring and he allowed and encouraged us to build applications of our own. He was the reason why I grew from being a casual gamer to picking it up more seriously. A real inspiration.”
So did this make him take computer science at college? – “Oh, absolutely! I had told my parents that I’d do computer science or do nothing. Because, and I’m not showing off, I wanted to do something that I was good at and I really enjoyed doing.” he says.
The second reason which Soham credits to adding fuel towards his passion towards technology, is his college, Manipal Institute of Technology. He says, “To me, college was a lot more than just earning a degree. I met a lot of interesting people who were like minded. Take my roommate for example. More than the fact that he was from where I was (Jamshedpur) we bonded on the passion that we shared with respect to technology.”
Soham was one of those work hard and play hard kids at college. While his CGPA is a whopping 9.06, he was the kid whom you’d find at the game parlour, playing a multiplayer game. He says, “We used to play around so much, like it was a whole new level. We knew scripts to buy weapons while you’re running in a game like Warcarft or Counter Strike.”
His interest in coding grew in leaps and bounds in this time. Soham says, “There were absolutely no restrictions in Manipal. I built a complete messenger application that worked over LAN for a mini project. But unlike other colleges where there is a scope for a project, we were allowed to do whatever we wanted and all of my time at college was like that, which I enjoyed a lot. You’d find me hacking all the time at college.”
Exam time at Manipal was a stressful affair. Soham says, “The streets of Manipal were deserted during exam time. Everyone took their academics pretty seriously. But I used to look forward to them, because I was doing a course that I loved.” And his CGPA shows.
This landed him a job at Cisco.
Cisco and the Android love affair
Soham shared that he never expected that he would get into Cisco. He says, “My grades were good, but I never thought that I would get into a big company like Cisco. It was a big name and the job was that of a consultant and it was a lot of fun. I got to see how the other side of business worked. I got to travel a lot and meet a lot of new people. It was very exciting in the beginning.”
While he acquired expertise in networks and audio engineering, Soham didn’t code much. He says, “I really missed programming and you couldn’t keep me away from it. So here I was, thinking of startup ideas that would require me to have at least 5 Crores in funding to get underway. I picked up coding for Symbian and within a few weeks of it, I was utterly frustrated with it. There was absolutely no documentation for the platform. So I ditched it, just a little before it died.”
It was round about this time where he got introduced to the Bangalore Android User Group. He says, “One of the members persuaded me to take up Android and this time around, I love the platform for how open it was. I got together with some members in the group and we started working on an app. In this time, I found out that I was really enjoying developing the front end of a phone app. It was something that I didn’t know I would enjoy.”
Soham is today known for his keen sense of design with Android apps, along with being a great developer himself.
After working on a recorder app by working on weekends during his Cisco days, he decided to quit. I was always skeptical about how a whole startup can be built around a recorder app, but Soham says, “You know, it is such an undefined standard and the apps on the market either have technical flaws, or design ones or both. But Sky Recorder is going to be much more than just an app. It’s going to be a platform built around sound recording.”
While he’s building this, he and his team at Triveous is financing itself by Freelance projects. Some of those projects include working with the likes of Khosla labs. Soham says, “Its probably not the best way to finance a startup, but now we’ve got one part of the team just looking at the freelance projects and the other just at the product.” (Stay tuned for that, as we bring you some interesting updates on the app)
Work with communities
On a sign off note, Soham shared that engaging with a community and helping to build it is very beneficial on the long run. He says, “You know, everything that I’ve been able to do on my own is because of BlrDroid. Be it being able to speak at international conferences or going to Google I/O and presenting my app to those guys or working with people like Khosla labs. I really think people should work with communities.”
Catch up with him on Twitter
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