Meet Ripul Agarwal, founder of S(u)ave. According to Ripul, Suave stands for “charming, confident and elegant”. As founder, Ripul tries to embody all of these qualities, but he has others too. He’s well-travelled, intelligent, dedicated, and, although it took him a while to realise it, every inch an entrepreneur.
Ripul was born in Agra, the City most famous for being home to the Taj Mahal, and growing up, he rarely thought about England, other than a passing admiration for the country’s cricket team.
However, with the help of Stephen Page’s Startup Funding Club, Ripul has been able to secure the entrepreneurs VISA that he needs to continue to grow his business in a country that provides unparalleled incentives for investors to fund start-ups.
With the funding that SFC has provided via its SEIS investment vehicle Funding Alpha, in collaboration with Fund manager Innvotec, Ripul has the FCA regulated investment he needs to qualify for residency in the UK, and he is turning his dream product, S(u)ave, an easy to use content curation and collaboration tool, into a reality that has the potential to attract a global audience. Here’s his story:
“I never thought it was possible I would end up doing my University Degree in the UK”, Ripul say’s, which is hardly surprising when you consider that from an early age he was working 18 hours a day, trying to perfect the Physics, Chemistry and Maths skills he needed to gain entrance to the Indian Institute of Technology, India’s most prestigious University, one that Ripul compares to the world-renowned MIT in the US. Millions of Indians dream of studying at IIT, and it is no surprise that the entrance criteria are some of the toughest in the world.
In the event, Ripul “cleared” Maths and Physics, but failed to secure the 70% mark he needed in Chemistry. His father, an entrepreneur with his own educational business, acted quickly on behalf of his son, securing him a place at Sheffield University to study engineering. Ripul was surprised, “I didn’t think we could afford it”, but took it all in his stride.
One of the highlights of his time at Sheffield (he gained a first class degree) was the year he spent on industrial placement at Reckitt Benckiser in Slough, where he worked as a Business Analyst in the IT department. He quickly began to take responsibility for projects, winning the respect of his peers and trust of his managers, and soon found himself travelling to Poland, Sweden and Denmark helping to implement and deliver global IT initiatives.
What followed however, taught Ripul a harsh lesson about the reality of working for a large Corporate. Having “caught the finance bug”, Ripul opted to progress his career at an Investment Bank. He describes the interview process as a “nightmare”, however after “7 or 8” face to face meetings, he was finally offered a position in the IT department, although the difficulties didn’t end there.
Ripul found the job at hand bureaucratic, less stimulating and not aligned to his expectations. The final straw was being asked to leave London and re-locate to Belfast, so he decided to cut his losses and take redundancy instead.
Ripul began to develop an idea he had hatched at University, a tool that allows students to “save as you go” when researching a project on the web, storing information in an external folder to return to later, solving the problem of losing valuable information and insight because you lose track of the location where you had found it.
“It was hard at first”, Ripul confides; he visited Universities in London, putting up posters around the campuses asking students for feedback; mirroring his families’ determination to succeed, when they were taken down, he simply put another one up.
Eventually he was contacted by Luigi Gerard Martini, aka Gino, Chair in Pharmaceutical Innovation at Kings College London, who shared Ripul’s vision about how big S(u)ave could become. Via early engagement with students at major British Universities around the UK, S(u)ave has the potential to become the first choice resource of a generation of emerging talent, creating a loyal and influential user base.
Most exciting, however, is the size of the potential market in India, where his father’s firm has the right connections to launch the product and ensure it becomes part of the student community’s consciousness.
Ripul has a strong technical team in place thanks to his experience working in Europe. His CTO is based in Moscow, and his lead developer in Macedonia. Together, the team have created a product that is interesting Oxford University, an institution that represents one of the highest stamps of quality in the sub-continent. He expects to begin Series A funding next year, and is planning a marketing push with the team, scheduled for September.
Ripul acknowledges the unique opportunity he has earned through his hard work, talent and persistence; by understanding market dynamics in both India, and the UK and Europe, he can look to the future with confidence.
Ripul Agarwal is an Ex Investment Analyst and the founder of S(u)ave, the online data collection tool. He describes himself as a grafter, ed-tech enthusiast, electronics engineer, head hustler and cricket lover. @ripulagarwal
Stephen Page is founder of Startup Funding Club which provides funding for companies which meet SEIS criteria. To discuss investment opportunities or entrepreneurial VISA’s with Stephen and his team, visit their website www.startupfundingclub.com