Draper Startup House
04:00 PM - 27 Oct 2019

Everyday hundreds of entrepreneurs pass through our locations worldwide. Every one of them with their own story, their own journey. Oftentimes, their journeys stick in my head, they inspire me, they ignite me, they get me back up when I struggle. A few days ago, I met Raj. And Raj’s journey stuck in my head. If Raj was able to keep going, then what was I complaining about?

Who is Raj? Well his full name is Rajendra Zore but he goes by Raj. He was born in India, the country where there is still a large divide between the rich and the poor. The country where your life path is practically defined by the randomness of which family you are born into. The winners of this lottery go to privileged schools, prestigious universities and land jobs at pre-eminent organizations either within India or overseas. The losers of this lottery, well, they just try to survive the poverty they’ve been born into. Raj was a loser of this lottery: he was born in the famous slums of Mumbai, the one you remember from Slumdog Millionaire, the one some of you might have visited on a tourist tour to see what real India is like. Raj’s father earned a meager 50 dollars a month, yes a month, and with that supported a large family. In these circumstances you wouldn’t expect Raj to have big prospects in life. But he defied the odds.

When he was five years old – or six, memories of those times can be a blur – Raj enrolled in the local public school. Being a kid from the slums, no one wanted to play with him. His classmates were from a higher social economic class. It didn’t take much for a five-year old Raj to realize that being from the slums was a terrible thing. Then and there, he decided he wanted a different destiny. So, he started studying and he took up sports. After years of hard work, his merits got him admitted to university. End of a fairytale, you might expect. Not so soon, Raj would say. He was forced to drop out because he didn’t have enough money to pay for the final year of college fees.

Back at square one, he took a job with McDonalds, where he cleaned toilets and sustained himself with the free employee meal plan. From there he went on to other odd jobs, ranging from call centers to background screening companies. As he advanced, he learned while doing, picking up skills along the way such as how to deal with customer problems. But then life threw another curveball. He lost his job.

Raj ended up being unemployed for two years. He was homeless and out on the streets. In India, without a college degree, there are very few professional career prospects. After two years of unemployment, he decided to move to Ahmedabad. In his head he had this idea to start his own company building websites for other people. But he didn’t own a computer. Not being held back by that constraint, Raj ended up borrowing a friend’s laptop. Every day he could use the laptop for one hour. Within fifty days of working on it one hour a day, Raj had built a website for his first client. Etica Studio, his first company, was born. Learning by doing, he taught himself all the technical skills he required to further advance. Fast-forward he started a new business: Host My Blog, a hosting solution for bloggers, and after that several other startups.

Today, Raj is the Chief Marketing Officer of RunCloud, a modern server management panel. He travels the world building digital communities for his company. He also travels the world and advocates for WordPress. He was also recognized as a power digital user of India in 2016. Born in the slums of Mumbai, Raj is now a truly global citizen, living a life of adventure and excitement. And knowing him, he is just getting started.

How did Raj do it? He has a clear model for success, which he built for himself. He believes all of his success can be attributed to three components. In his view, following this model can make you successful in whatever you want to achieve.

  1. Personal Branding
  2. Customer Advocacy
  3. Ethics & Transparency

People like Raj fascinate me. He defies all odds. He decided he had a choice, to turn whatever hand he was dealt into an advantage for himself. To keep fighting. To keep trying. To always get back up. When you speak with Raj, you soon realize he is self-taught, self-motivated and self-driving. He works relentlessly to improve himself – to grow his knowledge and improve his skills. He brims with positivity and confidence.

I love meeting people like Raj because they make me grateful for everything I have and inspire me to continuously improve myself. I have been in the slums of Mumbai and I cannot start to imagine how difficult it must have been for Raj to pull himself by his bootstraps out of the slums and become the man he is today. If Raj can do it, then I think you and me can also get through whatever difficulties we might have. May Raj’s journey stick in all of our heads as we continue our own.