Press "Enter" to skip to content

At two buzzy US startups, Indian-origin founders

In Silicon Valley, where the race to become the next breakout global app can be relentless and absurd, two apps have captured the zeitgeist the most in the past few months—financial trading app Robinhood and voice-led social media app Clubhouse. If the first has just been the ground zero of an apparent mass insurrection against high finance, the latter is witnessing the emergence of a social media minus the bots and the viciousness and the paid propaganda, centred around the authenticity and intimacy of voice.

Both have been co-founded by entrepreneurs of Indian origin. Baiju Bhatt and Rohan Seth, co-founders of Robinhood and Clubhouse, respectively, are both Stanford alumni and in their 30s.

Also Read | Why Mumbai’s mojo lies beyond its locals

Their rise marks a shift from the Indian-American dream of past decades, when the ideal career path would see a techie secure stable jobs at large and profitable IT companies and rise up the ranks. While Indian-American executives have had a dream run helming storied tech companies—Google, Microsoft, IBM and Adobe are all currently led by such leaders—success stories as founders at major startups have been less common.

Bhatt, a first-generation immigrant and part of the American-Indian billionaires’ club, spearheaded Robinhood to an $11.7 billion valuation with its latest billion-dollar funding round. Seth’s Clubhouse turned unicorn this year within less than a year of founding, and is enjoying quite the moment in the sun, finding favour with tech and Hollywood elites who like to drop in into rooms and participate in conversations. Elon Musk, Drake, Tiffany Haddish and Mark Zuckerberg have been in Clubhouse rooms, making it the buzziest social media phenomenon of the moment.

“Indians are part of the cultural fabric of Silicon Valley today, and there is a mild stereotype that an Indian will be successful owing to their legacy with tech in the Valley. In the 80s, Indians did face heavy discrimination, and they were considered ‘outliers’. But the community came together and uplifted each other,” said India-American technology entrepreneur and academic Vivek Wadhwa.

In the 1980s, American venture capitalist and co-founder of Sun Microsystems, Vinod Khosla, became one of the first Indians to make it big in the Valley.

While Indians are now part of the ‘Big Boys’ club at Silicon Valley, women and African-American founders still face discrimination, Wadhwa said.

While eight-year-old Robinhood disrupted brokerage fees through concepts of free and fractional trading focused on millennials, Clubhouse is bringing access to free-speech and making power figures more accessible to global audiences through its app.

Through fractional trading, Robinhood allowed users to invest in top stocks of Amazon Inc., Alphabet Inc. (parent of Google) for as little as $1.

“The authenticity of what founders are building shows in the Clubhouse product. With the medium, it is taking distractions away from video and giving access to global free speech. Inclusivity is the theme for Robinhood as well, giving access to individuals to invest freely, democratizing the market. These firms are changing user behaviour in a big way,” said Priya Rajan, managing director, Silicon Valley Bank, which has invested in more than 30,000 startups with $116 billion in assets. Read from source….