In our next installment of the Meet a Member series, we heard from TiE Boston Charter Member, Alden DoRosario, Co-Founder/CEO at DreamPick. Former Co-Founder/CTO at Chitika, about his journey and what led him to TiE.
Tell me about yourself and your journey as an entrepreneur.
I grew up in a tiny State in India named Goa famous for its beautiful beaches. Growing up, I loved two things: math and sports. At one time, I had a chance to play Table Tennis professionally, but like all Indian kids those days, fell back to becoming an engineer. As luck would have it, I chose Computer Science, which was a growing field at that time. After graduating from VNIT Nagpur, I worked in India for two years before coming to the US. In my initial years in the US, I worked as a senior research engineer and in parallel completed my MS in Computer Science from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. I now live in Holliston, Massachusetts with my wife Michelle and 4 kids.
The roots of my entrepreneurial journey were sown after the 2003 Internet bubble burst. While I had no intention of starting a business, my partner Dr. Venkat Kolluri convinced me that in America, we needed to OWN — rather than work for someone else. That got us thinking and after borrowing $7 from our wives, we started Chitika. It took us 18 months to make our first $1, but after that, we managed to launch our first product in the contextual advertising space which was dominated by Google Adsense.
As luck would have it, we were blessed with one of the greatest mentors one could hope for, on of TiE Boston’s founding members, Dr. Desh Deshpande. Desh pointed the way and we executed like beavers. Over the years, with zero dollars of additional funding, we bootstrapped our way to become №2 behind Google Adsense in the contextual advertising space. Last year, I started my latest venture, DreamPick, which is hoping to innovate in the daily fantasy sports space. We are planning to launch in the US market soon.
How has the pandemic impacted you?
I give two analogies to describe how to behave in this COVID world and the current situation. One is a cruel analogy, which is whenever there’s a nuclear bomb, the thing that survives is the cockroach. Startups and entrepreneurs that behave like a cockroach and can take advantage of this new scenario, they survive. I started a new startup last year. If COVID was not there, I had zero chance of doing this because the rules of the game would completely stifle my chances.
Have you noticed that when in a Patriots game, whenever it starts snowing or raining heavily and the conditions are horrible, somehow Tom Brady and the Patriots would perform much better? Why? Because even though the conditions are horrible, the other team is suffering a lot more than they are. That’s the mindset that an entrepreneur needs in an environment like this. So even though the environment is tough, it is a lot tougher for your competition. And if the competition is not able to adapt, that’s a great thing for you, right? This is exactly what happened when we started Chitika, which was right after the 2003 internet bubble burst. When everybody else was getting slaughtered, closing down, and people were rushing out of the internet, we were the fools who were rushing in.
How did you get involved with TiE Boston?
My journey with TiE and entrepreneurship was very interesting because we were not smart entrepreneurs — we were dumb entrepreneurs. Most smart entrepreneurs have an idea and then create a company around it. We had no idea, but we knew that we wanted to own, so we started a business and hoped that in the process we would come up with a good idea. Once we started the business, it became very obvious to both of us engineers, that we didn’t know anything about business; I believe at that time I didn’t even know how to spell the word business. At the first TiE event, one of the TiE members asked for a business card and it wasn’t until that moment that I realized that I needed to have one. Along the way, we were very lucky that Dr. Desh Deshpande took us under his wing, which to us, was by far the greatest gift that fell into our laps. Beyond a great mentor, every time we had a challenge, someone in the TiE network or by attending TiE events, like TiECON, we were able to be connected to someone in the TiE network who was able to help. Whether it’s sales, whether it’s intellectual property, whether it’s fundraising, whether it’s marketing, whether it’s engineering, whether its overall strategy, whatever it is that your need is, you can find the right people at TiE.
How has your involvement in TiE changed along your entrepreneurial journey?
My interaction with TiE has changed in two ways. One is as far as access to the network, now I have a good idea of who is good at what, so as I’m forming my startup, instead of blindly going to TiECON East walking the halls, I have a better idea of who to reach out to for business plans, strategy, hiring, development, and have all of these zoom calls lined up. TiE has an entire spectrum of people from the guy who started his company today, to the billionaires who have exited. So as you evolve, and as you grow, you can adapt accordingly. The second thing is, as I had mentioned, we were extremely lucky that Desh Deshpande took us under his wing, and what that taught me is the value of giving back. Currently, I’m mainly involved with TiE ScaleUp as well as TiE Angels.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs facing adversity?
Adversity is a given. So, rather than beating down adversity, learn to live with it. Any startup founder who is not comfortable with adversity shouldn’t get into the startup space. One of the things we learned very quickly is, don’t celebrate the highs too much, and don’t get too depressed with the lows, just take it in stride.