Savraj Singh


I've tried to do something a little different here, and I've written up a short bio in the style of wikipedia. Hope you enjoy it!

Early life and education

Singh was born in the United Kingdom to his aerospace engineer (dad) and molecular biologist (mom) parents, who decided to move to New Jersey when he was two. Growing up in the 80s and 90s in suburban New Jersey, Savraj and his brother Shamsher were regular American kiddos -- playing Nintendo, Super Nintendo, and finally N64. Savraj attended public schools and gained early notoriety in fourth grade, when he landed first place in the science fair for his research into aerodynamics: Which wing shape provides the most lift?

Popular Science was a magazine Savraj eagerly awaited each month, and he was inspired to code on the family computers -- first a Commodore 64 and later an Apple Macintosh SE with a 2400 baud modem. Yes, he traveled the dark world of dial-up BBS's. He was an early adopter of Prodigy, Apple's eWorld, and then America Online. Under his screen name, aerodyno, he would quickly burn through the 5 free hours of usage he was allotted each month.

After leading his middle school technology bowl team to victory for three straight years, he attended The Lawrenceville School after being encouraged to apply by his public school teachers.

He flourished as a student and excelled academically while piling on the extracurriculars. Notably, he was president of the orchestra and editor-in-chief of The Lawrence, the weekly school newspaper. In his senior year for "senior skip day," he wrote a network worm that would message the entire school hourly with an OS level prompt on Mac and PC: "Class of 1999 rulez!" Thankfully the school administration took it lightly and he proceeded on to Princeton University.

At Princeton, he earned his Computer Science B.S.E. during the first dot-com boom and bust. After the market crash of 2000 there were only about 25 students who stuck it out in the CS department -- everyone's name fit on a mug in a large font. Unlike most CS majors Savraj also loved electrical engineering, and originally thought he was going to be an electrical engineer until he realized that CS was the easiest and most enjoyable way for him to graduate. He was the only CS major that took Car Lab, a much-dreaded course and rite of passage for all EE's in 2002. Among his favorite classes was another EE course: High-Tech Entrepreneurship.

Career

$TUDENT-CODER

While in high school and college, Savraj ran a successful web design business. His first client was his friend Rachel's mom, Dr. Rosemarie Moser, who needed a website for her psychology practice. A switch flipped when he realized the potential of his hobby as he handed over a 3.5" 1.44MB high-density floppy for a crisp check in high school.

At Princeton Savraj got a taste for startups when he worked for Dan Von Kohorn and TJ Mather at ThoughtStore.com in the summer of his freshman year. ThoughtStore was lightyears ahead of its time -- it's goal was to allow users to monetize any IP they uploaded. He worked out of their apartment on E 41st Street in NYC as one of three engineers. They toured office space just as his internship ended.

In his next two summers, he was a software engineer working on "big data" for Dr. V. Balaji at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Lab, and then the Neuroscience of Cognitive Control lab, where he created a Neural Network Visualization tool in ActionScript for Dr. Jonathan Cohen.

He started applying for fulltime roles in the fall of his senior year. Though his Microsoft recruiter believed he was destined to be a software development engineer (SDE), his interviewers were convinced he'd make a better program manager, so Savraj did a second interview loop for PM, got an offer, and joined Microsoft in the Fall of 2003.

MICROSOFT PM: USER EXPERIENCE

The Office User Experience Team welcomed him on board as planning was underway for the most visionary version of Microsoft Office -- Office 2007. As one of just a handful of program managers on UEX under the guidance of Julie Larson-Green, Savraj shaped a smooth transition from menus and toolbars to the new "Ribbon" user interface -- now an industry standard in desktop applications today. He was recognized for his work and was one of the youngest speakers at Microsoft's TechEd and PDC conferences. Savraj got to understand software development at scale (buzzword alert) and traveled to connect with customers, write specs, and interface with teams across Microsoft.

He made great friends, worked under amazing leaders and with amazing peers, took various training classes (especially the Dale Carnegie Leadership Course), and learned how to swim and snowboard.

STARTUP DREAMS @ YCOMBINATOR

Anyway, he'd meet regularly with his friends and they'd pitch startup ideas to each other. As computer scientists and true hackers, they were all adherents of Paul Graham's thinking before it was cool. His roommate and pal since freshman year Kalid Azad had already left Microsoft in 2006 and was hard at work on instacalc and betterexplained. In 2007 Savraj, Lee, and Kalid left Microsoft to join the summer 2007 batch of YCombinator.

Ok enough jokes, switching to first person writing mode...
CONTEST MACHINE

"You guys are making the classic startup mistake. You're three engineers, wading into an industry -- contests and giveways -- and saying you can do it better. But has any one of you run a contest or giveway?" asked Paul Graham, founder of YC. That was super prescient advice, and I remember we chose to not really consider it. Lesson learned!

There are several great stories in here: our YC interview experience, our amazing peers in our Summer of 2007 batch (Arash Ferdowsi, Drew Houston, etc), how we got our first customers (beauty bloggers), and the hard lessons we learned about startups. At one point, the software we wrote was collecting tens of thousands of contest entries per day for some of the most beautiful women in the world. I really need to process this period and write a book.

From the engineering side, I remember opening page 1 of the newly printed Ruby on Rails docs, so we were early. YouTube and Facebook had only recently launched, and the original iPhone debuted close to our demo day.

Long story very short, Lee went to business school after the summer, and Kalid and I ran with ContestMachine for a while, but we didn't reach a self-sustaining point. Kalid joined another startup, and I was left to consider what to do next.

LET'S SAVE THE WORLD, 1 WATT AT-A-TIME

As contestmachine faded I faced a fork in the road: I could return to being normal and working for the man, or starting/joining a new startup. Whatever it was, I wanted to work on something that helped people and leveraged my EE and CS background. The year was 2008 -- the election campaign was in full swing, and energy effiency was all the rage. I remember then-candidate Obama saying "we each need to take steps to save energy," and I wondered "how much energy am I using right now?" I searched for apps and tools to answer this question but none were available that were easy to install, and none pushed live consumption data to my iPhone.

With a bit of EE/CS magic, I managed to build a prototype that non-invasively and safely connected to my home's utility meter and then produced a live feed visible on my phone. I trekked up to Cambridge, MA to pitch it to PG for the next YC batch.

Another long story short, I was accepted solo-founder in the Winter 2009 YCombinator Batch. I raised a small angel round post-YC, and we were off to the races. We did a kickstarter campaign, shipped devices and have had thousands of users around the world. I wrote device firmware and created high-performance cloud software that handles billions of incoming data points -- helping people track and save money on energy. We were ramen profitable but never caught wide adoption. To this day, wattvision continues to serve its niche of customers.

INTERNET SMOOTHIES?

In late 2016, Jay Bhatti, my friend from Microsoft's Dale Carnegie leadership course, said I should work for a startup in NYC. I responded flatly: "No." He then approached me at my office a week later and handed me a smoothie. "Hey that's really good, where did you get that?" I asked. "Daily Harvest. it's the company you should meet up with -- go meet them in NYC." "Well it's tasty so... OK."

I scrolled up to NYC on the train and met the most amazing, enterprising team ever -- the original 8-person Daily Harvest team under the leadership of venerable founder and marketing/branding/soft-skills tour-de-force Rachel Drori. From Rachel I learned that the agency-built tech stack was crumbling under what I felt was pretty light load. I was surprised to learn that the checkout page took 60 seconds to complete after you clicked "Checkout" and that the public-facing site slowed to a crawl when just two CX agents logged in, among other things. In short, tech was limiting the company's progress.

I excitedly joined the team as the first engineering hire and CTO to unlock rapid growth. Building and leading the engineering team at DH was probably one of the most exciting experiences of my life (so far). I created the platform that powers the entire company, with the help and guidance of the amazing people I was fortunate to hire. My team grew to 15 people and the company was over 100 when I left in Feb 2019.

Next, I took some time off and began consulting for startups, including temboo.com (started there in Jan 2020) and bubblegoods.com (Dec 2020). Through the COVID-19 pandemic I was fortunate to be gainfully employed by clients that let me build cool stuff from the comfort of my glowing computer screen late at night.

STRICTLY CLEAN-LABEL LYFE

In April of 2021, I joined the rock-star team at BUBBLE in a full-time capacity. I'm there now, and also working late into the night. :) It's a fun gig, and I have some amazing co-workers and supporters, including two italian greyhounds that are always there to comfort anyone in need. Here's an article covering it -- "Health Food Company Bubble Hires Savraj Singh as CTO" -- in WWD. Here's a mirror on MSN.

Well, that's all for now. Thanks for reading! Oh - one more thing -- if you're curious, you can see my little writeup about running the Sikh operating system.

last_updated: 2021-05-24 evening