Having worked with some of the major tech collectors of personal data, Jay Pavagadhi decided to flip and launch a venture to help people protect their data and limit access to it.
What’s your story?
After being raised in India and graduating as a Computer Engineer, I moved to California in 2009 where I received my Masters in Computer Science at the University of Southern California. Over the past ten years, I have worked on incredibly impactful projects such as Siri, Yahoo Mail, Bing, Azure & Exchange Mail at big tech companies such as Yahoo, Microsoft and Apple. About two years ago I decided to play a role in building a better infrastructure for data privacy and launched my own venture OLAK.
What excites you most about your industry?
We are on a mission to help people reclaim their property rights over the value they create: their personal data which fuels so many of the breakthrough technologies we use.
Personal data is a critical ingredient for the proper functioning of many technologies such as personalized ads and recommendation systems and I believe that people should have a say in how their data is used.
Furthermore, a personal data store alleviates privacy concerns because it places the control in the individuals’ hands and it increases transparency since individuals can see who does what to their data and share it with others. Secondly, it gives people the simplicity of sharing and updating their data with just one click via a Personal Data Store.
When people feel in control of their data, they are more confident to share it with third parties thus giving businesses access to more data. There is an ever-increasing demand from businesses to have access to rich sets of personal data to improve products, advance existing technologies and provide more personalized services.
By eliminating privacy concerns, the personal data store industry can pave the way for further improvements in technology and innovation and benefit both businesses and users.
What is your connection to Asia?
I was born and raised in India and lived there until I moved to California. In a sense, Indian culture is an inseparable part of my personality and I have many connections that I acquired through my education in India.
Favourite city in Asia for business and why?
Penang Island located on the northwest coast of Malaysia is a hotspot for businesses, particularly start-ups. The government support and access to skilled labor make it an attractive location to start and run a business.
Furthermore, Penang offers a convenient place for businesses that adopt remote-working in the post pandemic era we live in. With its astonishing coastlines, delicious food stores and fascinating street art, Penang is great for employees to enjoy in their free time.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
“It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link in the chain of destiny can be handled at a time.”
Paradoxical as it may seem, you can easily get so lost in the long-term vision that you lose your focus on short-term goals and miss your targets. Being patient and dealing with problems one at a time while solidifying a long term mission is critical to the process of building a great company.
Who inspires you?
Alan Watts, the British Philosopher who played a huge role in popularizing oriental wisdom in the west, has always fascinated me. Not only was he able to explain complex topics in a clear way, but he was also quite good at seeing through the shortcomings of western societies and remedying those by introducing eastern philosophy at a time when it was not known by many.
What have you just learnt recently that blew you away?
It took 35 years for a spacecraft we sent up in 1977 to leave the solar system. The fact that we are so minuscule in this universe yet so impactful fascinates me.
If you had your time again, what would you do differently?
I would work as a volunteer in an underdeveloped country and connect with the less fortunate. There is no substitute to having a genuine impact on individuals’ lives and solving their problems.
How do you unwind?
Listening to audiobooks and podcasts about ancient wisdom gives me a whole new perspective on health, wealth and how to live a meaningful life.
Taking long road trips is another activity that gives my mind a break.
Favourite Asian destination for relaxation? Why?
Definitely Munnar. Taking a walk in the Eravikulam National Park which offers a great view of the tea plantations and endangered species while listening to music gives me peace of mind. It is kind of an exercise for my brain.
Everyone in business should read this book:
‘Zero to One’ by Peter Thiel gave me a whole different perspective on starting a business and more importantly, how to run a successful business. Rather than focusing on your competitors, this book encourages you to find a niche market in which you can achieve monopoly power.
Shameless plug for your business:
OLAK will make personal data as tangible as your purse, pencil or even your car. You can lock it in a safe place and share it with others if need be.
How can people connect with you?
Social Media Links?
To hear how entrepreneurs around the world overcome their challenges, search your favourite podcast platform for ‘CallumConnects‘ to hear a 5-minute daily breakdown.
Callum Laing is an entrepreneur and investor based in Singapore. He has previously started, built, and sold half a dozen businesses and is now a Partner at Unity-Group Private Equity and Co-Founder and CEO of MBH Corporation PLC. He is the author of three best-selling books ‘Progressive Partnerships’, ‘Agglomerate’, and ‘Entrepreneurial Investing’.