Entrepreneurship after Formula Student

9 min read

Establishing your own company is a bold move; it takes a lot of thought, dedication, and consistency. With grassroots from a Formula Student background, these entrepreneurs believed in what they wanted and started establishing their own businesses. Their resilience has contributed to their success today.

We curated this list of six entrepreneurs who started out in Formula Student and entered into the world of entrepreneurship. Read on to know how they turned their vision into reality.

Nicholas Burgwin

FIBOS INC.

FS Background:

  • Electrical (Lead) – University of Toronto Formula Racing Team – 2006 to 2010
  • Technical and Timing Operations Lead – Formula North – 2012 to 2018
  • Design Judge – Formula Bharat – 2017 to 2020

Journey: Formula Student provided excellent exposure to the daily experience of entrepreneurship. Progress in FS is primarily dependent on an individual’s motivation to tackle a common problem and to find like-minded individuals that can work together towards that common problem. Formula Student helped me apply what I was learning in university to real world problems, and exposed me to real teamwork unlike group projects. In addition to providing key experience, FS provides an opportunity for individuals to grow their network with individuals from other disciplines and backgrounds. As you advance in your career, the value of a strong network becomes important and opens opportunities that you may otherwise not have been exposed too.

Tips for future entrepreneurs: My key tip for future entrepreneurs would be to start. Whatever the idea is, whatever the opportunity may be, just start. After you have started, communicate about what it is you are doing and what it is you want to achieve, with as many people as you can. Everyone you speak with will have different opinions and ideas, and as you develop as an entrepreneur you will begin to understand how best to utilize the advice and opinions you receive from others. When you are starting out, try not to alter your vision or idea based on only a single piece of advice. Collect it, reflect on it, and determine if that piece of advice is just a single outlier, or if that advice is common among others. Remember that as the entrepreneur, you are the one making the decisions and you are the one that must live with the decisions made.

My last piece of advice is that failure occurs often, and is a key part of the process. Do not let failure prevent you from starting again. Learning to self-identify failure and move beyond it will be important and remains something that I continue to work on myself.


Sarthak Piplani

ELETTRICO

FS Background:

  • Technical Lead, Engine & Controls – Team Defianz Racing – 2011 to 2013
  • Electronics Department – Oxford Brookes – 2015

Journey: Formula Student for me has been the main reason behind being an entrepreneur. It teaches you to hustle, work hard, be creative and manage a full-fledged racing team. Over the years I’ve learnt the art of being persistent and almost a decade later I am building performance electric go-karts for a world champion karting team, Praga karts. It’s all the same – designs, testing, business plans and all-nighters in the workshop. After FS, there’s not much else I would’ve liked doing and I am lucky to have made it till here.

Tips for future entrepreneurs: Persistence and hard work is key, there are NO shortcuts.


Rajat Jain

SUNFOX TECHNOLOGIES

FS Background:

  • R&D Lead – Team GEU Motorsports – 2016
  • Tech Inspector, Design Judge – Formula Bharat – 2017 to 2019

Journey: The journey started in 2016, when I participated in Formula Student India with Team GEU Motorsports, with our first ever FS car. I still get goosebumps reliving the day when we qualified to participate in the competition. All those sleepless nights of manufacturing your dream with your hands, arranging tons of resources from scratch, making people believe that you can even build a FS Car – were totally worth it. I think that’s the only life which an entrepreneur lives every day.

Formula Student helped me to learn how to hustle, struggle, work hard, push the limits and strive every minute, just to watch the wheels rolling. At FSI, I also found my team companion and core founding member, Nitin. The moment we watched our first ever car roaring, we felt so much confidence that made us think that “Yes, we can manufacture our own products!” And, that’s how my entrepreneurship journey started.

My company, Sunfox Technologies, is a Med-tech company. We help frontline health workers and cardiac patients with the world’s smallest and smartest cardiac diagnostic tool, Spandan.

Tips for future entrepreneurs: I have implemented a few learnings from Pat Clarke in my company’s product which made it a very interesting proposition: Always try to remove unnecessary parts and components from your product; it will reduce the risk of failure. This philosophy works every time which is is how we built almost maintenance-free machines in the medical segment. This approach has helped the company reduce the costs and currently, Spandan has the lowest BOM cost across the globe with yet high performance.


Michael Bakaic

FIBOS INC.

FS Background:

  • Technical Director, Captain, Steering & Suspension – University of Toronto Formula Racing – 2007 to 2012
  • Tech Inspection Lead – Formula North – 2013 to 2018
  • Design Judge – Formula Bharat – 2017, 2018, 2021

Journey: My journey on the entrepreneurial highway started as many good journeys do: boundless excitement, no printed map. A couple years after the last Formula Student event that I attended as a participant, I found myself looking for a new challenge. Work at the time was just work. I was spending too much time cohorting with an ex-FS teammate and our idle minds spawned new ideas of self employment. We found a nugget of an idea that we polished into business plans, technology roadmaps, and self confidence. Reflecting on the four years that have elapsed since our first official day is like looking at the road’s dashed yellow lines as they stretch backwards, merging into one. We like to think that we are in the driver’s seat, hands on the wheel. On most days you realize that the steering rack isn’t connected and one tire is flat. Smile, put on some shades, and hit the gas.

Tips for future entrepreneurs: Get after it


Sarthak Mahapatra

VALERIO ELECTRIC

FS Background:

  • Team Associate & Captain – Inspired Karters FS – 2017 to 2020

Journey: I joined the BITS Pilani’s FS team as a Sponsorship and Marketing Associate in my first year. I mainly worked on raising funds and in-kind sponsorship to ensure that the team has enough resources to make a competitive car for the events that year. As I gradually started working with the entire team, my interest in the technical domain grew, and I joined the Electronics subsystem.

In my sophomore year, a small sub-team was formed to focus on FS Electric and participate in the Annual FSEV Concept Challenge being held at Ather Energy’s headquarters in Bangalore. The project would be a massive challenge, as we had no idea how to design an EV. Still, the team was motivated to give it a shot anyway, and I was sure the time spent in preparing for such a competition would be a great learning experience in itself. Ideas began to flow, and a couple of months and several iterations later, we came up with what we thought was a good enough design.

Our design securing 2nd rank all over India was something we had not expected at all, and it gave the entire team confidence to shift to building an electric vehicle in the coming years.

During my third year, I led the whole team to design and manufacture BITS Pilani’s first EV prototype. My past experience of working with both – the technical and non-technical subsystems gave me unique insights to manage and guide the team efficiently.

Being a part of Formula Student has changed my perspective on leadership and team building. I understood the importance of having a mission and specific goals to keep such a diverse group working together. I realized that it is essential to understand each individuals’ worth and channelize their strengths and weaknesses to fit within the entire team’s dynamics. It made me more risk tolerant and gave me the confidence to start my own company eventually. I soon co-founded Valerio Electric, which focuses on providing charging infrastructure and solutions to empower electric mobility in India.

Tips for future entrepreneurs: Don’t be afraid to try new things and experiences. Each new undertaking will change your perspective about the world and expose you to wide-ranging problems you need to solve as entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurship is a team effort. Surround yourself with talented people you trust and enjoy working with, as they are the ones who might eventually end up joining you as co-founders and will work towards a common goal.


Sweekruth Shetty

HEIMDALL CONSULTING & THE KORNERSHOP

FS Background:

  • Team Captain, Drivetrain, Sponsorship – Ashwa Racing – 2014 to 2018

Journey: The Formula Student journey for me was like none other. I had a brilliant team and was part of a project with more than 15 years of experience in FS – Ashwa Racing. The team was my family and we did everything together. Personally, I was responsible for the drive train system (technically), Human Resources and the Sponsorship team. Eventually I became the Team Captain during 2016-2018 race-season.

Apart from my regular duties, I also undertook roles in logistics, finance, project planning and design decisions. Formula Student gave me the platform to explore my skill set, enhance it and apply it practically across both technical and managerial domains. Moreover, working on the Business Plan Presentation for years on-end and competing with some top teams at Formula Bharat 2018, gave me a good idea on how to approach business and start one of my own.

Before moving on to the business aspect of my life, I would like to mention that throughout my FS journey, I was under the guidance of Mr. Arun Raj Subbaraj – my mentor for 4 years – who showed me the principles and the approach to become industry-ready, whilst also making sure that that my personal development was on the right track.

For two and a half years, I started as a role of a Business Development and Sales Executive at a startup. During my time, I learned the ins and outs of the business and the market it was operating in. As the company started to grow, I moved into an analytics role which slowly shifted into a role where I was building the software stack of the company for its sales, marketing and product teams. After the company reached a very sizable growth in terms of revenues and the overall company size, I started getting calls from a couple of friends and business associates to help them implement software solutions for their business. At which point I thought to myself, why not do this by myself as a standalone service? And that is how Heimdall Consulting was born.

It’s been a year since I started the company. Business has been good; I have made good business relations with a few clients. I had also planned on starting another digital driven venture – The kornershop which is similar to Dunzo but was designed keeping in mind ‘kirana’ stores at the base of it (But that’s a story for another day!)

Tips for future entrepreneurs: You will never have all the answers nor all the questions at the beginning. Find good mentors, good business ideas, good trustworthy team members to do it with and persevere even if the going gets tough. But the bottom line is start now and just go for it. A solid business plan comes in handy. Good luck!


We would like to thank all these individuals for their contribution towards this blog piece. Entrepreneurship holds a big place in Formula Student; every student in a leadership position understands the difficulties that come with managing a team, making difficult decisions and producing a final working product. All these skills provide a critical base for an entrepreneur.

So when are you launching your startup?


Collated By: Renita D’Souza