Deepak J. Chhugani is the founder/CEO of Nuvocargo.com, a digital-first freight forwarder & licensed customs broker helping companies seamlessly move cargo across the Americas. Deepak was born in Kenya, is an Ecuador native, and of Indian parents. He is a Y Combinator alum and a former investment banker in both USA and Latin America.
1. What is Nuvocargo?
Nuvocargo is a technology-enabled freight forwarder, helping companies move cargo across the Americas, starting with US/Mexico.
2. How did you come up with the idea of Nuvocargo?
After going through Y Combinator with another idea, I had raised a seed round, hired a team, and was focused on growing that business. Unfortunately – it wasn’t working and the more time I spent in Silicon Valley with YC, the more I realized I was working on the wrong thing given my own personal background & unfair advantages.
Instead of giving you a corny story of how I “solved my own problem” – the reality is I went and looked at massive markets, business models I liked, and businesses that I felt could be very exciting in the context of cross-border between the US and Latin America. This approach is not popular in Silicon Valley but here I am ~10 months in – and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. I think the narrative of “solving your own problems” for young would-be entrepreneurs is outdated from the early 2010s where every simple consumer idea could reach scale – that is not the case today.
In the end, I chose something close to home. My father built a small business in international logistics for 30yrs, which is what led him (born and raised in India) to move to Ecuador – which is where I grew up. This business combines my background, my passion for Latin America, and my excitement for startups & building businesses! I love it!
3. What obstacles did you have to overcome to get to where you are today?
I think pivoting our business from thelobby.io to nuvocargo.com is the hardest thing I’ve ever done professionally and personally. I had to let our entire team go, deal with investors who I felt I’d disappointed, and start over, even though we kept YC’s funding and most of our investors chose to stay and support the pivot. That was probably the biggest obstacle – but in general, I’ve been lucky to have great friends & mentors to keep me excited & grateful throughout most of the journey.
4. What makes you different from your competitors?
Technology and a local & cultural understanding of both the US and Latin American markets.
5. How did the Y Combinator experience help you and your company?
YC was life-changing. Most of all for me it was a forcing function to realize that all that truly matters is building a good business. As mentioned above, I think without YC it would have been hard to figure out I was trapped in a business that I was not well suited for and it would also have taken me a long time to figure that out if not for going through the program and forcing ourselves to grow as fast as possible in a short period of time.
6. What advice would you give to young budding entrepreneurs?
This advice is for *Silicon Valley outsiders*, not the people who live in SF and worked in VC and have 1000 friends in startups. If you, like me, came from a world unrelated to startups, the fastest way to break in and put yourself in a position to be a successful founder is to go work at another break out startup. I did not know this and even though I bullied my way here, I would have gotten here faster if I had known how much that can help you skip the early challenges of being a founder (access to investors, connections to founders who know tons of other founders, a network of engineers/designers/lawyers/contractors, etc., and more).
We would like to thank Deepak for speaking with us today.