Rahul Gandhi has been on both sides of the table, building, financing, and scaling companies. His venture MakeSpace has brought the next evolution of innovation to a very big industry.
During our interview on the DealMakers podcast, Rahul shared his early start to entrepreneurship, the challenges of creating and sustaining a business, the truth about building your own business, and his top advice for other new startup founders.
The Number One Factor In Startup Success
Rahul’s parents immigrated from India to the US, and landed in a small town in New Jersey. This is where he grew up and learned the inside scoop on entrepreneurship from his father.
His dad started out working in the hospitality industry. He would commute by bus from New Jersey to New York City to work at the Hilton. The grind and long hours soon inspired him to acquire his own restaurant franchise, with the hope of spending more time with the family and his kids while they were young.
By the time Rahul Gandhi was 10 years old he was working at his father’s Arby’s restaurant. He got the chance to interact with customers and be behind the register. He found it to be a magical experience. Especially learning about customers by listening to them. He began recognizing them and their patterns and could preempt their orders, already knowing what they wanted.
It is this one thing; being able to listen and serve customers what they want that has not only been the foundation of Gandhi’s success, but all of the best businesses we encounter.
However, if you’ve ever been in the restaurant industry, you know it can be tough. It’s competitive, capital intensive, and requires you to get just about everything right. As many entrepreneurs have experienced, every time they tasted a little success, they would go after it and try to grow. Then they experienced the rollercoaster, of being flush one month, and potentially being on the verge of bankruptcy the next. As a kid that could mean dad bringing home a handful of Nintendo games one day, and then nothing.
Witnessing this turmoil initially led Rahul to want to pursue anything but being an entrepreneur himself.
Driving Forces & Learning The Fundamentals
Rahul says he was inspired by really big companies that had managed to survive many decades by reinventing themselves, like GM and IBM. Eventually, his passion for delivering better consumer experiences and building something would take him back into entrepreneurship. Yet, as he went to college and began his career, he was more focused on learning and creating sustainability in his life.
He worked retail and hospitality jobs to pay his way through school. Then he was given the opportunity to work in investment banking when he graduated. It was a chance to learn more about business fundamentals and finance so that one day he could build a lasting business of his own.
This role led him to work with a team from AOL and helping them transition from a dial-up internet company to monetizing their software with content delivery and ad platform.
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