Culture & Lifestyle / You Must Understand Your Failures In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal

You Must Understand Your Failures In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal

Culture & Lifestyle Jan 21, 2019

From creating Audiobooks.com to supporting other startups to currently being the co-founder of Coffee Oysters Champagne, one of Toronto’s coolest restaurants, Sanjay Singhal is fearless when it comes to working outside the box in the entrepreneurial game. What really makes Singhal noteworthy, however, are the peaks and valleys he has experienced in his personal and professional life, making his climb to success both relatable and invaluable. He shares with us his thoughts and why you must understand your failures in order to succeed: real talk from entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal.

Who Is Sanjay Singhal?

Hailing from New Delhi, India, Singhal grew up in  New Brunswick, Canada where he completed his first Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering at the University of New Brunswick. He went on to attain his Master’s of Applied Science in Electrical Engineering at the University of British Columbia. In spite of the years spent studying the field, electrical engineering wasn’t in the cards for Singhal, who realized that he “wasn’t a very good engineer.” And so, he went on to achieve his MBA in Marketing at Cornell University noting that “the MBA was a good way to start over.”

While Singhal held a number of different positions in the corporate world post-graduation, he admits that he was “…a bad employee and was fired four times.” Singhal’s resume, which is mighty impressive, is reflective of the fact that he has consistently been determined to be creative and step outside of the box, which has resulted in him launching various businesses over the course of his career. If you’re wondering what drives Singhal’s ambition, it’s his father, who was also an entrepreneur, making his choice to enter the business world, on his terms, something that was just “…in [his] blood.”

Throughout his career, Singhal has taken on a number of roles, including being a CEO, venture capitalist, innovator, business person, and an “angel investor” for new enterprises and people who are starting up their companies. In fact, Singhal has worked diligently to partner up with others to launch six businesses over his career and continues to fund approximately 20 new ventures.

As with everything else in his life, Singhal has gone against the grain of the South Asian community’s expectations, such as those surrounding divorce, to find happiness and we commend him for taking control of his life.

 

You Must Fail In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal
You Must Understand Your Failures In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal: Meet Sanjay Singhal, the entrepreneur who is shaking up the business world and South Asian taboos! Photo Credit: www.sanjaysinghal.com

 

Let’s Talk Business:

Audiobooks.com

Audiobooks are essentially the lovechild of technology and books—making it possible for people to listen to their favourite books no matter what you’re doing, thus ensuring that knowledge is almost always accessible.

Audiobooks.com was founded as a result of Singhal being fired from its competitor, Simply Audiobooks, which launched in 2003, at which he had initially been an investor and then Chief Operating Officer in 2007. Simply Audiobooks, built using Netflix’s idea of mailing out movies to subscribers, but in this case, it would be audiobooks. Singhal was fired from Simply Audiobooks in 2008 due to his investment in another business, Fusenet, but he remained on the Board of Simply Audiobooks.

Singhal’s latest investment, Fusenet made it easy to find and stream movies and television shows on the internet, without having to use complicated downloading software or worrying about viruses. After he was let go from Simply Audiobooks, Singhal became the CEO on Fusenet in 2009. The company had been growing quite a bit and would benefit from having a more official customer service operation. And so, Singhal approached Simply Audiobooks with an offer to buy the company in order to take advantage of their already established customer service department. Business was booming but technology changes quickly, and Singhal and his business partner in Fusenet, were becoming more interested in developing their service to allow people to stream their audiobooks through their website.

In 2011, Singhal was able to procure a hefty deal with Audiobooks.com  to use their brand, business model, and domain.

While Audiobooks.com (formerly a mash-up of Fusenet and Simply Audiobooks) made money, they still weren’t doing well, especially after Singhal’s business partner asked him to buy him out of his share of the company so he could pursue other interests. And so, he approached Recorded Books, who had already expressed their interest, about buying Audiobooks.com and in 2016, he sold Audiobooks.com.

Ever the entrepreneur, Singhal was also ready for a change of pace and a new challenge and he “thought it would be fun to go into venture capital and [he] got an offer [he] couldn’t refuse” from 500 Startups.

 

You Must Understand Your Failures In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal
You Must Understand Your Failures In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal: Singhal had achieved great success with Audiobooks and hoped to help others realize their dreams by moving onto his next project! Photo Credit: www.thestar.com

 

500 Startups

500 Startups is a venture capital firm on a mission to discover and back the world’s most talented entrepreneurs, help them create successful companies at scale, and build thriving global ecosystems.”

Singhal launched The 500 Startups Fund in Canada in 2016 and is currently the company’s Canadian Venture Partner.  Previously, Singhal had been involved with the American chapter of 500 Startups and had wondered why there wasn’t a fund in Canada. 500 Startups offered Singhal the enticing opportunity to spearhead the Canadian fund if he were to sell Audibooks.com in the future. And so, he did!

 

You Must Understand Your Failures In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal
You Must Understand Your Failures In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal: Singhal asked the tough questions about why Canada didn’t have a 500 Startups fund and ended up getting to launch the Canadian fund! Photo Credit: www.nbif.ca

 

So, What’s Singhal’s Story Anyway?

Published in 2018, Singhal penned his first book, Zero To Tesla: Confessions From My Entrepreneurial Journey, which documents his winding and bumpy path on his road to success. In fact, Singhal’s memoir candidly covers why 1998 was a tough year for him. His second company, Nikean, developed the Nikean X-1, a mobile device that had e-mail capabilities—the first of its kind in the market. However, Singhal had not been able to secure funding for his product that he had been lavishly spending on to pitch the product to potential investors and had racked up $500,000 CAD in debt, including his credit cards, phone bills, suppliers, and more, in the process. The business had failed, and he had no choice but to pack his bags and head back to New Brunswick. To fix this mess, in 1998, Singhal declared bankruptcy. At the same time, Singhal was going through a divorce and struggling with managing his mental health.

He persevered and wrote this book to help future entrepreneurs avoid making his same mistakes, while also sharing helpful advice.

When asked about the book, Singhal felt that penning his memoir would be an interesting way for his children “…to eventually learn about their dad.”According to him,  Zero To Tesla, puts his successes and failures under a microscope, and while it focuses mainly on his intriguing professional development and entrepreneurial efforts, it is also peppered with personal anecdotes.

The book also document’s Singhal’s struggle with his mental health, an unmentionable topic in the South Asian community. According to Singhal, it took him “a long time to accept that [he] had a disease.” As Singhal didn’t want to accept the diagnosis and dismissed his bipolar as being crazy. However, after he had come to terms with his disease “and took the right medicine, things got better, fast.” Singhal acknowledges that mental health “is a taboo subject in the South Asian community, [and he’s] had many people tell [him that he] shouldn’t have talked about it in the book.” His response to these people is exactly what the South Asian community needs to hear: understanding mental health and breaking down the associated stigmas “is not going to get [happen] unless we start talking about it, and letting people know that you can still succeed.”

That being said, Singhal highlights three key points that he hopes people take away from Zero To Tesla:

  • “Everybody fails, and learning to cope with adversity is fundamental to long term success. People should talk more about their failures.”
  • “Success in life or in business is about surrounding yourself with the right people.”
  • “Being bipolar isn’t something to be ashamed of. It’s a disease. Take the medicine.”

Aside from the crucial advice that Zero To Tesla provides to entrepreneurs, the book takes on a philanthropic role as the money gained from the sale of the books are contributed to the League of Innovators. The League of Innovators is a “…Canadian Charity [that] aims to assist those who seek to climb the ladder of success in entrepreneurship.”

 

You Must Understand Your Failures In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal
You Must Understand Your Failures In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal: If you’re looking to delve into the world of entrepreneurship, Singhal’s book is a good place to start for some sage advice! Photo Credit: www.goodreads.com

 

Coffee Oysters Champagne: Sounds Like A Party To Me

Singhal’s latest venture, a restaurant called Coffee Oysters Champagne (COC), after beginning the labourious construction process in January 2018, finally opened its doors later that year in November. COC was co-founded by Singhal and a good friend, venture capitalist, and restaurant designer, Steven Daicos. Originally, the idea for the restaurant hinged on offering “single-farm sustainable specialty coffee,” according to the Toronto Guardian. And so, you can feel free to swing by and jumpstart your day with a quality cup of joe.

However, Singhal and Daicos decided to add two more menu items that would also be served up as a specialty item, as the name COC suggests. Interestingly, the launch of COC is a first for Singhal, who is a tech junkie. And so, according to LinkedIn, it is no surprise to learn that the technology that COC is using, in combination with “systems and training,” works to establish a “‘Fourth Space'” that seeks to improve and individualize each patron’s experience. Being the tech-savvy entrepreneur that Singhal is, it looks like he is aiming to capitalize on the untapped potential of the customer service industry with the use of technology. 

 

You Must Understand Your Failures In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal
You Must Understand Your Failures In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal: Singhal’s latest venture Coffee Oysters Champagne is quickly becoming the go-to place for the city’s tastemakers. Photo Credit: Sanjay Singhal

 

 

 

You Must Understand Your Failures In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal
You Must Understand Your Failures In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal: Start your day off with a delightful sip (or two) of quality coffee at COC! Photo Credit: Sanjay Singhal

 

One of the most unique things about COC is the elegant look of the Parisian-inspired venue and the ambience, reminiscent of a speakeasy, that it effortlessly creates. According to Singhal, the décor was inspired by the movie Midnight in Paris and guests can expect to see staff dressed the part, inspiring art, lush velvet, and to be taken great care of.

While COC’s name makes it clear that these three menu items are what the location specializes in, by no means is that the only thing that they will be delivering on, but you’ll just have to go and see for yourself!

 

You Must Understand Your Failures In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal
You Must Understand Your Failures In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal: These oysters taste as good as they look, trust me! Photo Credit: Sanjay Singhal.

 

The venue, located at 214 King St West, nestled within the Financial District is a hotbed for the clientele that they are seeking—hip and happening people who will definitely need a dose of coffee in the morning on their way to the office. And spend a hard day’s night for a shucking good time with friends, family, or on a date over fresh oysters and champagne. Did I mention that COC has the most extensive collection of champagne in Toronto?

Singhal’s advice, especially if you’re venturing over on an evening or Saturday night: expect to stay longer than you expected. You’ve been warned!

 

You Must Understand Your Failures In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal
You Must Understand Your Failures In Order To Succeed: Real Talk From Entrepreneur Sanjay Singhal: There’s more than meets the eye at COC. But you’ll have to figure out why Torontonians are raving about COC by checking it out yourself! Photo Credit: Sanjay Singhal

 

What’s next for Singhal?

One thing is for certain: this entrepreneur still has a ton of ideas milling about in his head that he will look to bring to fruition in the years to come. For example, Singhal explains that “the mental health area is big for me and [I am] setting up a charitable foundation to fund research into treatments.” Excitingly, Singhal alludes to the fact that the foundation is “doing amazing things for anorexia and depression, and is looking forward to telling people a lot more about it in 2020.” As well, another book might be in his future, as after “having started a lounge and eventually more nightlife venues, life is getting pretty interesting” for the savvy entrepreneur, and he is sure to have lots of new material to pull from.

 

Main Image Photo Credit: www.thestar.com

Devika Goberdhan

Devika Goberdhan

Author

Devika (@goberdhan.devika) is an MA graduate who specialized in Political Science at York University. Her passion and research throughout her graduate studies pushed her to learn about and unpack hot button issues. Thus, since starting ANOKHI in 2016, she has written extensively about many challengi...

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