Parth builds customer driven technology solutions for his hometown of Chicago, IL. Today he is helping drive the transformation of Chicago to a SmartCity through the development of Energy IoT with ComEd, an Exelon company. The Illinois Institute of Technology, his alma mater, calls him a serial engineer and entrepreneur. While a full tuition innovation scholar during his bachelors in civil and environmental engineering, he coined his first start-up GlobalPetals.com – a tech enabled logistics solution that automated the importing of luxury flowers. Civically grounded, Kapadia was 18 when he was recognized by the Indian Prairie District 204 distinguished honors alumni. Today Parth sits on the board of his first start-up as well as serving as a new product development engineer and entrepreneur in residence.
I was born on December 8th, 1990, in Chicago, IL. From the beginning, I had entrepreneurship in my blood, but I’ll get that to a bit later…
At first, my family struggled a bit just like most first-generation Indians. My mom’s first job was at a Dunkin’ Doughnuts and my dad was the maintenance man at a 12 room motel, often asked to do odd jobs, near Chicago’s Midway Airport. Their hourly wages didn’t pay much or offer health insurance but they were able to raise a two boys. My brother, who made to the big leagues as a physician, and me finally, engineer and entrepreneur extraordinaire. When I was 6 years old, my parents decided to move to Naperville, IL with more stable jobs and a more diverse and in depth schooling system. Work ethic is the gift they handed down to us now living in the south west suburbs of Chicago.
I like investing in stocks, real estate, and other start-ups with my friends. I’m also married to the wife of my dreams, Anjali.
Throughout my childhood, I was surrounded by entrepreneurs. My uncles owned various organic pharmaceutical manufacturing plants and farms for personal consumption and my cousins were partners in medical practices. My neighbors and family friends all franchised subways, owned gas stations, and liquor stores. I’m pretty much all Indian stereotypes rolled into one. On top of this, Kapadia, my last name means fabric and clothing merchant in Gujarat, the western Indian state my parents were born in. Although, we all had comfortable incomes, nobody in my family lived a “rich” lifestyle since it was all about grinding hours and work ethic.
Growing up, I was always thinking about what I could do to change my lifestyle. For years I couldn’t come up with anything, but during my first year at Waubonsie Valley High School, things started to become clearer.
My cousin, who was a year older than me, was selling modded Playstations. I saw that he was making a few bucks, so I started doing the same thing with my freshman classmates. Although, I tried to be a bit more careful by not selling burned video games. I quickly realized that I could only make a few dollars selling my services, so as a more profitable venture, I started selling holographic video game bundles. I would buy them for parts on eBay, fix them up and barter them off for better systems or cash.
Business was booming and a I made a few grand in profit.
Realizing that there wasn’t a long-term career in selling things that could be potentially classified as “illegal,” which later turned into Craigslist, I decided to get into a more realistic business. Buying and selling penny stocks.
High school was pretty easy for me in terms of school and with the money my parents saved up, they invested heavily in my education, even outside of school I had to do Kumon math and reading everyday throughout elementary and middle school. In college, I knew I wanted to do something technical even though my passion was business, entrepreneurship, and making money. I began googling around during before my high school graduation and learned that Harvard MBA school actually preferred accepting students with engineering bachelors degrees compared to anyone in business. I knew I didn’t want to go out of state so I could be an entrepreneur and continue taking advantage of my parent’s assets and cooking abilities so I decided to study Civil Engineering at The Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago. I mostly chose Civil because my dad’s interest in design vs. mine in simply building infrastructure. I thought I’d discover an artistic bone in my body and I’m still looking for it today. All in all, it worked out because math always my favorite subject in high school so the classwork wasn’t so bad. Everything in engineering school ended up being easily applied to building to solve customer pain points. I learned to combine guts with calculus, diffyQ, and Matlab.
Freshman year in college was a lot of fun. I met a lot of people and went to a ton of parties both on the campus fraternity homes and the nightlife scene in downtown Chicago. My freshman year GPA of 2.8 was a reflection of how much fun and colorful the early days of college were.
Sophomore year came around and one of my best friends from high school, Michael Lyons reached out to me with an idea that would change the next 5 years of my life. We called it GlobalPetals. My first start-up was born and I could be an entrepreneur, again, but this time legally. Through the rest of college, I was able to flirt with dropping out while getting mostly As on all my exams. I ended up graduating with a 3.5 with honors, and spoke at my college graduation about not letting people’s thoughts ever impact mine.
GP was the single reason for my financial success today, aside from all the corporate money I’ve made, which I’ll hit on later, but it taught me about entrepreneurship from top to bottom. Revenue models, software development, legal and finance or in other words, full-stack engineering. I’m humbly grateful that I’m able to be a board member of my own company today and I’m honored to have received all the awards we did for the people we helped.
This is what entrepreneurship was all about, I thought. But like all good things, they have to come to an end. We called an exit strategy before fully automating operations and deciding to stop seeking new customers.
My girlfriend at the time and my wife now along with my parents wanted me to get a real job. They didn’t want me to travel as much as I had to with the start-up life and they wanted me to have a steady income instead of making money in waves. I decided to use my engineering degree for the greater good and joined ComEd, Chicagoland’s regulated electric utility. This was a calming experience to say the least. It made me feel grounded and well above water for once when I started in their new grad rotation program 6 months after finishing my undergrad. The stress levels were low and I got paid a lot of money for reading and learning about energy technology. The hourly rate for this job, if broken down, was insane for the time it took to make decisions. Big companies take weeks, months, and years to really do anything since their stakeholders and customers can be impacted in an instant.
I worked in a department called AMI Operations. AMI stands for Advanced Metering Infrastructure and the operations or a 24/7 network center. This was really the beginning for my marriage with IoT at a grand scale. I quickly realized that I was in the midst of a multi-billion dollar Smart City IoT deployment plan that Exelon Utilities had been working on for a long time. We were installing smart meters that touched every single person in the service territory. All people in the world use electricity right? How much electricity does one use everyday? How do utilities measure so many numbers everyday? I began to dig in a ruthless manner…
Traditionally, people called meter readers were employed to go house to house and record how much electricity had been used. That’s how one gets their electric bill in the mail once a month. Smart meters automated the need for humans to do that function. Now, all of your electric usage data is transferred in data packets to a remotely hosted cloud and stored on a server, hopefully somewhere cool.
I hope that all makes sense. On top of that, you need to add in corporate politics and enterprise level corporate infrastructure. Corporate politics exist because companies need to know who is doing what work. More so, large entities need to be on top of the smaller companies working for them as consultants , vendors, and contractors. It took me a long time to realize that start-ups and corporations operate in polar opposites. Possibly for a lot of reasons…although, we are trying to bring some start-up methodologies into the enterprise today, it wasn’t always like that and the struggle was real.
Anyways, in my spare time of those two years, I balanced home life, proposed to my long time girlfriend, and I created GridGenius, my new IoT start-up with a friend from college and a fellow engineer at the utility. Our idea was to somehow utilize smart meter data to drive energy savings within the home. It sounded a lot easier than it was but it’d basically started with a hub and app that people would use to make living in their homes better. At the center of this would be renewable power and blockchain to create a method to autonomously reduce everyone’s electric utility bills. All we had to do was translate all that into English and articulate to C-level executives on how we could go about and executing our vision. I knew what I had to do but didn’t know how to do it but knew that I had finally found my life’s passion and purpose. My civil engineering education, my entrepreneurship exposure, and the energy industry all suddenly made sense.
Apart of me wasn’t afraid to get back into the start-up game, but the other part of me felt like I needed to help the world instead of myself. This included me getting married, having a house, and maybe even eventually kids since that’s what everyone is supposed to do right? More so, I wanted to do the right thing and that is where working in a big company provides you a lot money, resources, insurance, and tools to go out and help a lot of people; with a platform. But with all the free food given out in the corporation I had to pick up working out, yoga, and mediation to stay positive within a daily routine, with no real direction at work, but more of a trust of being on the same team.
I decided I could start by reaching out to a handful executives to pitch my idea of a business model. I got shafted instantly. I was told by some to wait my turn, to put more years in, and was shanked with intellectual property questions… I had no idea that their response would be aggressive and negative as it was. I was saddened by this at first but then quickly put myself in their shoes. Think about how the procedures they must have followed in order to get to the seat where they were sitting in now. Their everyday lives were swamped with meetings and here was this kid who thought he knew how to save their century old business that everyone in the world was trying to disrupt.
I couldn’t just go out and say, well this is how things are done in today’s digitized society, I actually tried doing this to an extent and was just thought of as rebellious. The line between getting fired and promoted to Chief Digital officer became thinner day by day….I was then approached by probably one of the more progressive executives in ComEd that told me about a start-up accelerator that was being financed by the mother company of ComEd, Exelon. They had an unregulated technology venture arm that was recently moved from the IT department to a new group called corporate sustainability and innovation.
I thought that was interesting and it was worth pitching myself to the Exelorate Growth Board of Exelon, which was really all the top executives within the enterprise. We pitched our idea to the program manager of innovation and his boss over the phone, which now feels forever ago, and they took apart our idea and brought it back to the bare bones of discovering real life customer pain points. I thought, that’s exactly where my idea started although, 2 years had passed and the IoT market was moving so quickly. I decided to take a chance on a big company innovating at the ground level and still working on building a progressive culture.
The rest is history, and I have been asked to keep what we work on in Exelorate at a stealth level to the outside world. Also, since Exelon was noticeably an energy company, they didn’t want us to limit ourselves to just that and really serve as worldly mediators to the board. The main driver, like any successful business, revenue, or in our case, pre-revenue. Pretty simple right?
No, this was far from simple and ended up taking years of blood sweat and tears with the board of the EGB headed by Chris Crane, the CEO of Exelon Corp.
Then I ended up a millionaire in my twenties. No I’m just kidding – it is never that easy in Entrepreneurship. My business partners and I got a bit lucky since after iterations of experiencing success or at least what we thought was successful. We were able to develop partnerships with some of the world’s most prestigious companies and travel the world. It all really came down to a mindset rather than tangible assets which became an abundance in general living in upper middle class America anyways…
This was only possible with the genius team we staff with hundreds of enhancements happening daily, meetings, and work ethic to drive a successful execution of products. Our company generated millions of dollars for one purpose and that was to make the world a better place.
I’ve always felt as if I’ve had so many options at all points in time. I’m married now and somehow convinced my wife that the pros of living with my parents outweigh the cons. Although, I’ve promised to get our own place if we ever decide have kids. That gives us a chance to discover what kind of couple we want to be. One that parties and eats out or one that sleeps early, works out, and cooks what they eat.
Today, we’re working on a few IoT solutions and validating them with residential customers in Chicago. Pretty much the same concept as selling holographic Pokemon cards, but this time, officially.
I also own this tech blog which monetizes incoming data, web traffic, and targeted advertisements to you!
Although I love being an entrepreneur, sadly I don’t think I’ll be able to do it forever. I probably have a few more good startups in me, but after that, I want to focus on the non-profit world. See, I was born with a gift: I am able to engineer solutions that help people live more seamless lives. My hope is I can take that gift and help non-profits build long lasting sustainable solutions that help people.
I hope my story inspires you to do something with your life. You don’t have to be rich to be happy. You just need to love what you do and love yourself while you do your thing.
Best of luck with your entrepreneurial career! And feel free to leave a comment if you have any questions.
Parth Kapadia is an entrepreneurial engineer for ComEd, an Exelon company. They are currently working on an energy IoT start-up in stealth mode. Prior to ComEd, Parth founded GlobalPetals LLC. A software that automated the importing of luxury roses to disrupt the floral industries lack of transparency between farmers and florist. A former innovation scholar at IIT, Parth currently resides in Chicago, IL with his wife, Anjali.