Many 19-year-olds are just trying to navigate their first few semesters of college, but UA graduate Viputheshwar Sitaraman is running his own business and was recently named one of the Arizona Republic's "35 Entrepreneurs 35 and Younger."
Sitaraman, who graduated from the UA this May with a Bachelor of Science in molecular and cellular biology, is the CEO and founder of Explica, an automated news site that doesn’t put out articles, but rather turns news articles into infographics with “crazy visuals” and animations.
“We want the content quality of Vox—the quality is awesome, but we want the accessibility of Buzzfeed,” Sitaraman said.
Explica launched its site in July, but before that came years of work and preparation.
While in grade school, Sitaraman participated in and often won science fairs, but said one of the reasons that he won was because his presentation boards were “always presented very visually” with diagrams.
When he was 16 years old, Sitaraman started a blog where he made infographics about science news called Draw Science. The entrepreneur then ran a crowdfunding campaign to further develop his ideas while working on other apps such as now-defunct KorkBoard. After he graduated, Sitaraman went on to land an investment from start-up accelerator, Seed Sumo.
Now, after acquiring more investments, the company has a total venture capital of $500,000, according to Sitaraman.
Sitaraman said the company recently moved to Austin, Texas, where it is setting up offices and “getting ready for a pretty big run."
With its recent funding, the company is now working on developing narrow AI, or the automation of creating content for the site.
Sitaraman said this would include looking at what’s trending, who is looking at it and whether the website’s audience will be interested. From there, it would translate the information into a graphic.
Sitaraman’s interest in graphic design started when he was a child.
“I was just messing around most of the time, [and] never really considered it as a legitimate career,” Sitaraman said.
Sitaraman started at the UA at age 16, originally coming in as a pre-med student.
At the UA, he participated in the Honors College’s first-year project and worked with others Honors programs, according to Chris Nordensson, an Honors College associate communication specialist.
Nordensson said he met Sitaraman at a school event and noticed his determination to be successful.
“He was one of those students where school just seemed kind of like a secondary thing and yet he absolutely excelled at it,” Nordensson said. “So he took advantage a lot of the Honors programs.”
Through participation in different activities like the 1,000 Pitches Innovation and Entrepreneurship Challenge, Sitaraman realized his interest in business and entrepreneurship.
“I’ve always been pretty good at talking, but I didn’t realize that I could do sales and manage teams and all that kind of stuff,” Sitaraman said.
Sitaraman’s background in science also helps him with his business. He said at Explica, the team tests different products “aggressively” to find out what people are more likely to respond to. From there, Sitaraman said the company found its core of visual content works.
“I treat business as a science, and that’s the beauty of our team,” Sitaraman said. “It’s always about using the data to prove out something about some discovery and then build a business model off of that.”
Sitaraman said he loves being a CEO and he gets to fly around to different events frequently.
“I get to think on a much higher level than really anything I’ve had to do before in my life, so I’m always challenged and I have a lot of freedom,” Sitaraman said. “So honestly, life is pretty awesome.”
As for Sitaraman’s future, he said he is not looking to exit Explica soon and that he wants to make it “like a household recognized brand.” However, Sitaraman thinks Explica won’t be his last business venture.
“Anything that I decide to pursue as a business is based on market demand for it,” Sitaraman said. “I want to make something useful and useful to a lot of people, and so that’s all it is, is finding different ways to make the world a better, more interactive place with new user experiences.”
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