First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Jay Pavagadhi: While we are quite worried about things getting worse in the winter, we never lose our optimism for the world and our country. During this challenging period, my family and I spent more time listening to each other and having a daily discussion about a wide range of topics such as life, philosophy, politics, and technology.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded OLAK.
Jay Pavagadhi: Since second grade, I have always been fascinated by computers and how programming logic and elegant design meet in building computer applications. After studying for my Computer Engineering degree at Saurashtra University, India, I moved to California and completed my Master studies in Computer Science at the University of Southern California.
I consider myself fortunate because I got to work at great companies such as Apple, Yahoo, and Microsoft. During my tenure at Apple, contributing to the Siri project as a Machine Learning Engineer was personally satisfying, and I also got the chance to meet hard-working, friendly, and honest people.
After ten years in the Valley, I decided to focus on creating a medium where individuals can conveniently upload, share and manage their data to streamline their daily activities such as signing up for web services and making payments. I also wanted to enhance the transparency of data processing and privacy by giving individuals more control over the use of their data.
How does OLAK innovate?
Jay Pavagadhi: We understand that our industry, the Personal Data Store industry, is still in its infancy with great potential for aggressive growth in the coming years. We begin our innovation process by detecting pain points for our customers and trying to devise effective solutions.
Personal Data Stores are what we call two-sided markets and getting both consumers and businesses on board is a must to gain market share. If a consumer does not upload his/her data onto a PDS, then the banking service provider cannot derive any benefits from using PDS. The same is true for consumers: If third party businesses do not accept the exchange of data via PDS, then consumers cannot enjoy the practicalities and enhanced privacy we provide.
We were aware of this problem in the industry from the beginning. That is why we launched a new service that introduces auto-fill functionality so that consumers can quickly and conveniently fill out forms online. This solution helped us gain traction, and we achieved a 20% growth rate for our user base.
This growth was the catalyzer for us to launch a business integration tool which will be coming out soon.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Jay Pavagadhi: Leaving a stable and high-paid job at one of the most remarkable companies globally, Apple, was a difficult thing to do for me. But putting in all my effort into solving a problem that I care about mattered more.
I would say that I feel more satisfied with my work now as I am working on building a company that will enhance privacy and helps people manage their data conveniently.
My advice would be: Do not listen to all those who tell you to play it safe and chase after the highest-paid job in your career field. Try to ask yourself: Do I care about this thing enough to sleep less and work more?
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Jay Pavagadhi: Since I founded OLAK, I have focused all my energy on moving my start-up forward, and there are so many critical decisions to be made, such as hiring the right people, having meetings with VCs, and making sure we are on the right track.
Listening to music and taking long walks alone helps me reflect on the past and realize that stress and anxiety is just an essential element of any meaningful endeavors in life.
Considering that you are in an immature market, how do you plan to differentiate yourself and gain market share?
Jay Pavagadhi: We understand the double-sided character of the market we operate in and aim to serve the interests of both consumers and businesses. In addition to the services to consumers we talked about, OLAK provides the following benefits to businesses:
First of all, OLAK PDS ensures compliance with privacy laws such as GDPR and CCPA. Consumers can easily exercise their rights such as the right to deletion and right to rectification as businesses are notified instantly, eliminating manual handling with the reception of requests.
Secondly, OLAK PDS builds trust between businesses and consumers. Strong oversight over the collection and use of personal data means that consumers have more control and visibility into data processing.
Thirdly, our platform notifies the business immediately when data is updated. Obsolete data cost millions to companies each year, and we eliminate this problem.
Your final thoughts?
Jay Pavagadhi: Privacy and convenience are not trade-offs, and both can be serviced to consumers by using Personal Data Stores. PDS has material benefits to businesses as well. In a way, it is a win-win for both sides.
I also would like to thank my family, who had always stood by me when I made big decisions in my career.
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