Neil Patel

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Few stories are as remarkable as those of individuals who’ve carved their path to success against all odds. Today, we have the privilege of unveiling the captivating journey of Rupesh Sanghavi, a bootstrapped founder who defied conventional norms to build a thriving empire from scratch.

Rupesh talks in detail about his experiences building a company to over 400 employees on a $150M revenue. He also reveals how he maintained his focus on sustainability and culture when building, scaling, and financing his venture.

Listen to the full podcast episode and review the transcript here.

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Growing Up in India

Born and raised in the vibrant landscapes of India, Rupesh’s childhood was a tapestry of ingenuity and resourcefulness.

Growing up in a pre-internet era, where opportunities were scarce and competition was tough, he learned the art of making the most out of limited resources—a skill that would later define his entrepreneurial journey.

Despite the cultural pressure to pursue traditional career paths like medicine or engineering, Rupesh embarked on a journey to pursue his engineering dreams. Little did he know that this decision would act as a catalyst for his future endeavors.

Further Education in the US

Rupesh’s trajectory took an unexpected turn when he secured a 100% scholarship for a Master’s program at Texas A&M University, marking the beginning of his love affair with the land of opportunities—the United States.

He recalls how the university gave him additional law compensation or money to study change.

Rupesh was understandably impressed by how they treated foreigners, which came as a welcome surprise since not many cultures are as generous and open as the US. Rupesh can speak from experience since he has traveled to over a hundred countries.

Arriving in the US with nothing but determination and a thirst for knowledge, Rupesh found himself immersed in a world brimming with possibilities.

His initial years were a whirlwind of challenges and triumphs as he acclimatized to a new culture, excelled in academia, and laid the groundwork for his future endeavors.

Just 18 months after graduating from the University with a 4.0 score, Rupesh got his first job in California doing simulation engineering for a company called Invensys Wonderwear.

Recognizing the Untapped Potential of the eCommerce Space

The turning point in Rupesh’s journey came when he stumbled upon the untapped potential of e-commerce. A simple transaction opened his eyes to the vast opportunities in the digital field, sparking the entrepreneurial fire within him.

When purchasing a book for his wife, Rupesh realized he could buy it for $50 and sell it for $1600 instantly at zero wait time. Balancing his corporate job with his newfound passion, he embarked on a journey of exploration and self-discovery.

The leap from corporate stability to entrepreneurial uncertainty was not an easy one for Rupesh. It took several attempts before he mustered the courage to bid farewell to his job and dive headfirst into the world of entrepreneurship.

The early days of building his company, Ergode, were marked by relentless experimentation, transformation, and constant adaptation. Essentially, Rupesh was transitioning from being a chemical engineer and computer scientist to eCommerce selling.

Like a tire being changed while the car is in motion, Rupesh navigated the challenges of entrepreneurship with resilience and determination.

He recalls how he was changing the business model and pivoting every three to six months. He was constantly tinkering and fine-tuning to exactly what he wanted to do.

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Running Ergode Single-Handedly

Rupesh candidly admits that at the time, he didn’t understand working capital or profitability, nor did he have a sophisticated system for running the company. He continued rolling the profits back into the business and buying more items to sell, not realizing that he was creating invisible money.

At one point, Rupesh started to think about why he wasn’t making any money. Since the company was still in its early days, he was managing every aspect, ranging from strategy to accounts, cleaning the premises, and shipping books.

Ergode’s Business Model

Ergo’s business model revolves around transforming traditional American brands into digital powerhouses. Rupesh reveals how transitioning the business landscape from physical to digital involves a lot of work.

Ergode works with various businesses and brands, buying their products and selling them online. It helps companies and brands grow not as an agency but as a retailer or a retail partner.

If they identify a mutual opportunity, they explore the possibility of an acquisition if the founder is ready to exit. Or, they work out how to work together.

Using this strategy, Ergode has acquired 15 businesses in the last three years. It also works with more than 100 brands as a reselling partner.

In this way, the company has assisted in the growth and survival of multiple brands. That’s how Ergode has transformed into a formidable player in the e-commerce landscape.

Until the pandemic in 2020, Ergode was scaling well and was cash-positive. Its working capital was coming out of the profits it was generating over several years.

The company never really needed any external investment since it gets paid much faster thanks to its relationship with some of the major players in the marketplace, such as Walmart and Amazon.

Bootstrapping Ergode

What sets Ergo apart is its unwavering commitment to remaining bootstrapped—a rarity in an industry dominated by venture capital. As Rupesh recalls, the only time they needed funding and upfront cash was when they started acquiring businesses.

However, Rupesh also realized that investment and capital come with a lot of conditions that could limit the company’s growth to an extent. That’s why he focused primarily on growing the brands, profitability, and vendors that the company works with.

Although Rupesh has had offerings of unsolicited investment inquiries, he has confidently turned them down. He is committed to acquiring more brands and growing organically, building a robust assembly line along the way to ensure effective integration.

Storytelling is everything, which is something that Rupesh Sanghavi was able to master. Being able to capture the essence of what you are doing in 15 to 20 slides is the key. For a winning deck, take a look at the pitch deck template created by Silicon Valley legend Peter Thiel (see it here), where the most critical slides are highlighted.

Remember to unlock the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

Empowering the Workforce

Rupesh explains that even after acquiring a brand, they are not the owners, nor do they take over the manufacturing. They take extra care of perfecting and mastering the assembly line concept, but the actual manufacturing is in locations like Asia, Mexico, or the United States.

The in-house team takes care of every task, from search engine optimization to digital marketing, customer surveys, research and analysis, and creating social media posts.

As Ergode continues to expand its footprint, Rupesh remains steadfast in his vision of empowering his brands and employees.

With over 450 employees spread across the globe, Ergode boasts a diverse and vibrant culture where innovation and collaboration thrive. Rupesh reveals how the Ergode team comprises people from Japan, India, the United States, and the Philippines.

From unlimited access to sports rewards and reimbursement for training courses to equity ownership through ESOPs, Rupesh ensures that every member of the Ergode family is nurtured and valued. His focus is on offering motivation, incentives, and compensation in eight different ways.

Tokens of appreciation like clay chips imprinted with names, weekly rewards like smartphones, and celebrating festivals and birthdays are other perks that go a long way.

Vision for the Future

In the coming years, Rupesh would like to see that they have worked with at least 100 brands that Ergode has saved from oblivion, and perhaps, a hundred plus of those stories that it is fully capable of executing.

Rupesh also wants to create millionaires and ensure that the people working at Ergode benefit. He realizes that money cannot solve the world’s problems but definitely helps reduce or alleviate some of them.

A third goal is to be a net exporter of products from the United States. Although Ergode exports significantly, its international sales are less than 20%, which Rupesh thinks can easily grow to 56%. His vision is to see American ideas and products become popular worldwide.

In Retrospect

Looking back on his journey, Rupesh reflects on the lessons learned and the milestones achieved. If there’s one advice he’d offer to his younger self, it’s the importance of embracing technology and perseverance.

In a world where every company is a technology company, leveraging innovation is key to staying ahead of the curve.

And when faced with adversity, the power of perseverance will see you through the toughest of times. Rupesh’s unwavering determination and unyielding spirit are truly inspiring.

From humble beginnings in India to scaling the heights of entrepreneurship in America, Rupesh’s journey is a testament to the boundless possibilities that await those who dare to dream.

Listen to the full podcast episode to know more, including:

  • From the bustling streets of India to the corridors of academia in the United States, Rupesh’s journey is a testament to the power of resilience and resourcefulness in overcoming adversity.
  • Balancing the expectations of his Indian heritage with the opportunities afforded by American culture, Rupesh embraced the challenge of navigating cultural crossroads to carve his path forward.
  • The serendipitous discovery of e-commerce sparked Rupesh’s entrepreneurial journey, leading him to leverage his engineering background to unlock the potential of digital commerce.
  • With unwavering determination, Rupesh took the leap from corporate stability to entrepreneurial uncertainty, embarking on a journey of self-discovery and innovation.
  • Against the backdrop of a venture capital-dominated landscape, Rupesh’s commitment to bootstrapping Ergode reflects his belief in sustainable growth and independence.
  • At Ergode, every employee is valued and empowered, with a culture that fosters innovation, collaboration, and personal growth.
  • Rupesh’s journey teaches us the importance of embracing technology and persevering through adversity, paving the way for success in the ever-evolving world of entrepreneurship.



For a winning deck, see the commentary on a pitch deck from an Uber competitor that has raised over $400M (see it here). 

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The Ultimate Guide To Pitch Decks

Remember to unlock for free the pitch deck template that is being used by founders around the world to raise millions below.

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Neil Patel

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