When Vignesh Sundaresan landed in Canada in September 2013 to attend Carleton University, the then 25-year-old from India was like “a dog in the park,” he recalls, “running around and walking downtown just to get the feel of the city.”
Riding the length of the O-Train and tasting the infamous “beaver tail,” Sundaresan thought Ottawa was the most beautiful city he’d ever seen.
Two years on, Sundaresan admits it’s a bit comical. Always an entrepreneur at heart, he says Carleton’s Technology Innovation Management (TIM) program has made him a better person as well as a better entrepreneur.
As he graduates with a master’s degree in engineering this fall, Sundaresan has already established a successful company, BitAccess Inc., in collaboration with fellow entrepreneur Mohammad Adam.
The startup went live only three months after he arrived on campus. The following summer, Sundaresan applied to the American seed accelerator, Y Combinator, in California and received a $120,000 grant. By August 2014, the new company had raised $1 million through investors.
“If you look at my trajectory,” Sundaresan reflects from his family home in Chennai, India, where he is taking a break from the hard work of running a business, “it looks like I am in a dream. It was beyond my hard work.”
But TIM Director Tony Bailetti points to Sundaresan’s talent as a technology entrepreneur.
“Vignesh Sundaresan is a perfect example of a talented engineer who graduated with a master’s degree in one hand and a new technology business in the other. Vignesh applied theory for his new venture to earn the right to exist and search for a money-making model that is stronger than competitors’ business models.”
BitAccess, now a year-and-a-half old, produces the world’s leading Bitcoin Automatic Teller Machine (BTM). BitAccess promotes an easy interface, a broader vision of using new hardware and the fact that it is the only Bitcoin player manufacturing its own transaction hardware.
Sundaresan isn’t resting on his laurels, however. “We will continue to keep pushing new technology in Bitcoins, making sure the company can survive and grow. But the startup could go through any twist at any point of time,” he admits.
“We are usually naïve that when we build something, we become the creator and we feel entitled. But the problem is we have to create something people want, and build it to be sustainable.”
TIM, he says, provided the tools, connections and coaching he required to execute his technical ideas.
“I learned the practicalities of sustaining and growing a business.”
Sundaresan recalls he was influenced to be an entrepreneur by a relative who returned home from the United States with the proceeds of a $1-million sale of his company.
“I had no idea what it meant, but it struck me that you could become rich overnight. Of course, that’s not the case at all, but I became an entrepreneur because I thought this. I have since learned that as an entrepreneur you can follow your passion. You can control your destiny and you can influence other people’s lives.”
Sundaresan had attempted to set up startup companies in India before coming to North America. An independent consultancy in his home country pointed him to Carleton’s TIM program and Bailetti.
“They suggested this was the best program they knew about and I trusted them.”
Sundaresan says Bailetti “tried to get me out of my small box. He would get into your heart by connecting with you. I have come to know a lot of good people in life because of TIM. I feel like Ottawa is my home now.”