FounderTalks: The Story And Mission Of Navigus
We’re ecstatic to be featured by CrazyEngineers in their exclusive interview with our Founder & CTO, Shivansh Tyagi. In this comprehensive interview, Shivansh talks about his childhood, professional career, Indian education system, students’ dilemma of choosing a career, motivations behind Navigus and more.
About Crazy Engineers:
CrazyEngineers is an ecosystem of professional engineers and students spread across 180 countries. They provide guidance to students on various streams, and treat engineering as problem-solving than just a degree.
Their blog post series on the ‘Founders Circuit – The Venture Capture Series’ features kick-ass startups and this time around it’s Navigus. Here we go with the interview:
CE: Tell us about your growing up years and family background.
Shivansh: I was born and bred up in a small village in the Himalayan foothills district of Haridwar. My father is a lawyer and mother a homemaker, though the majority family occupation is agriculture and food processing.
I did my schooling from St. Gabriel’s Academy, Roorkee located at the border of Bengal Engineer Group cantonment (a Corps of Engineers of Indian Army) and Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee (erstwhile University of Roorkee and Thomason College of Civil Engineering). I was introduced to programming quite early in 1992-93 when I was introduced to LOGO and BASIC languages. Those were the days when there were no graphical interfaces and you interacted with computer using typed commands. I remember using PC XT/AT and Compaq 386 with almost 50 Mhz processor and 128 KB RAM.
CE: Why did you choose IT engineering at COE Roorkee and the subsequent CCIE in Micro and Nano Sensors Fabrication from IISc.
Shivansh: I was very clear about pursuing engineering, as from a very early stage I had wanted to build systems/products that would help solve problems at scale. I had a choice of the University of Pantnagar, CoE Roorkee and Dehradun Institute of Technology. I was again certain about the branch as I wanted to be in the field of computer sciences. Pantnagar was remote and in terms of exposure to industry or proximity to other good engineering colleges or universities, was outflanked by COE Roorkee; DIT was relatively new and was more expensive if you opted for accommodation on campus (though later on, I learned painstakingly that they have a much better placements cell). I have been a proponent of learning through application and devoted quite a bit of my time on the campus towards building various applications and systems. One of those was selected by IBM as one the best in a nationwide challenge and landed me and my project partner a call for IBM’s Extreme Blue.
I had been in the field of mobile devices, IoT during my professional career after college and wanted to understand and make inroads towards robotics and swarm intelligence (being the technologies of the future) hence I enrolled at IISc for the program Fabrication of Nano and Micro sensors.
CE: How was your experience working at Huawei and MobStac?
Shivansh: I worked as a software engineer of the Protocol Stack team for the R&D department at Huawei. It was my first job post college and I was extremely excited, but for the first time, I realized how big a part team and collaboration dynamics could play in employee motivation and engagement.
It was at this point of time when I connected with Ravi Pratap and Sharat Potharaju who were working on building a solution for Mobile publishing as most of the content created back then was tailored for big screen computers and there was a huge opportunity considering both iPhone and Android were launched in 2008. I became the first official employee at MobStac and an angel investor in the company couple of months later. We got The Hindu as our first enterprise client and meanwhile launched a mobile publishing product for Bloggers.We got selected as “Hottest Startup” by BusinessWorld and funded by Accel Partners and Mumbai Angels. In 2013 we pivoted towards hyperlocal/Internal Positioning Systems using Bluetooth Low Energy devices.
CE: Why did you choose to work in the field of education? Why Navigus?
Shivansh: In past century our perceptions and expectations of education have not changed much, we are still mired in the industrial revolution era notions as schools and colleges being the churning mills for the labor force (no matter how qualified or technically skilled). We push people into various fields terming “industry trends” & “market demands”, without much thought to a student’s aptitude & motivations.”
Every year there are more and more areas of study and specialization, and with the overload of information and knowledge, it’s taking a much longer time for a student or professional to acquire a requisite set of skills to contribute meaningfully to a field. Whatever alternate solutions exist for choosing courses and colleges are unreliable with little to zero authenticated data on colleges, are just lead generator for colleges/universities with no empathy towards students. Navigus provides a comprehensive solution built upon authenticated data gathered from colleges/universities all over the nation. It identifies a student’s level of strength and will across a multitude of attributes and provides a set of recommended exams, courses and colleges that maximizes the probability of long term career success for a student.
CE: Tell us about the other key people in your organization
Gaurav Singh who is responsible for mathematical modelling and algorithm design has research experience from IIT Madras and was previously working with VMWare’s for its virtualization technology platform.
Nishant Gaurav has been a UI developer since early college years, he helped create engaging interfaces for a college social network startup before and has been part of Entrepreneurship Cell IIT Bombay.
Bhashkar Sharma is responsible for engineering platform, he is one of the earliest engineers at MobStac and has been building products since seven years now.
Kriti Sarda has worked with both education field giant like Pearson Education and data product startups like Unbxd in the field of marketing and has an intricate understanding of marketing novel tech products.
Mayur Bhansali is our design lead an NIFT and NID alum and has headed design projects for companies like Prozo, Nokia Experience Lab, Hindustan Unilever et al.
Shivam Sahai is our UX architect who has almost a decade long experience in architecting tech products and systems, and is the author of white papers and posts on UX research.
CE: Could you explain the technology behind Navigus?
Shivansh: There are two broad areas of technology focus at Navigus, these are
– Data Science for private peer reviewed data gathering network
– Artificial Intelligence specifically neural network models for attitudes, aptitudes and mapping them to courses, colleges and professional career paths.
The reason to use these technologies is simple: no human can possibly do transformations and processing around millions of data points to recommend the most optimal set of courses and colleges and very accurately identify areas of strength for a student.
CE: Tell us more about your first product the ‘College Connector’? How does it work?
Shivansh: College Connector addresses two of the most important concerns when it comes to identifying career paths and choosing courses and colleges :
– Identify and weigh attitudes, aptitudes, motivations of a student and matching the fine balance with the deeply granular and authenticated, independently gathered data from colleges across the nation.
– Unbiased and precise recommendation of courses, colleges and career paths with student centered business models with zero promotion or collaboration of colleges.
CE: Who are your biggest competitors in this domain? How do you maintain an edge over them?
Shivansh: There are no one to one competitors that offer the same product or service. There are substitutes like online forums and directories and friendly neighborhood education counselors, but their proposition is a very small subset of what we intend to offer.
CE: How would you pitch Navigus to a potential client and an investor?
Shivansh: To a client(parent/student) “We will help you identify the career path that will play to all of your strengths and which will let you thrive in the long run, while saving you all the money, time and effort that you would have spent evaluating courses and colleges and changing career streams later on”.
To an investor “We are working to tap into a market segment where the size of sub niche of a niche segment is 4 million users and growing at 15% per annum (engineering undergrad applicants in India two years ago), we have a great team with clear business models and clearly defined sales and marketing channels, this presents an opportunity for a real sustainable business (not just valuations) which has clear signs of growth for the next two decades”.
CE: Any message to your readers?
For parents and educators:
We need a system that asks each child, “How are you intelligent?” not “How intelligent are you?” (quote by education reporter John Merrow)
For students and fresh professionals:
You face an uphill task, the amount of information and knowledge that you need to acquire is piling up each day and world is under rapid and unforgiving change, I have seen ample of professionals changing course of their career after a decade at immense personal and monetary costs, so it’s of paramount importance that you choose your career paths with utmost care evaluating and balancing and matching all of your attributes and the attributes of the various professional/academic fields.
At Navigus, we understand the long lasting impact this decision will have on your future and are determined to solve this problem for you. Navigus will guide you to a career full of satisfaction, growth and purpose just cut and stitched for YOU.
(Originally published on CrazyEngineers.)