Tenacity pays off for student

As printed in The Marketplace - 2018 - September/October

Sam PasupalakMany successful entrepreneurs can tell stories about failures or setbacks that preceded their eventual success. Sometimes the scale of the difference between the two can be breathtaking.

 

Sam Pasupalak’s journey is a prime example. Born in India, he reluctantly came to Canada for university after his father insisted. Early days in the computer science program at University of Waterloo were challenging, and his marks were mediocre. One day, he heard that Microsoft founder Bill Gates would be speaking at the university. The event was sold out, but somehow, he managed to talk his way in. Gates’ speech introduced him to unfamiliar concepts: entrepreneurship and start-ups.

Newly energized, he took an interest in artificial intelligence, an area where he excelled. He applied to Microsoft for co-op placements but was rejected three times.

Prior to graduation, he built a prototype artificial intelligence product in the Velocity Garage, a local tech business incubator. The company he co-founded from those efforts, Maluuba, developed a voice-
activated product that was used in millions of smart phones and TVs worldwide, including partnerships with Samsung, LG and Blackberry.

In 2017, Microsoft purchased the company for a nine-figure sum. On meeting Gates, he told the tech billionaire: “you didn’t accept me for co-op, so you have to buy my company at the end.”