Growing Up Poor Made Ruchit Garg Stronger

September 24, 2013

1:00 pm

When Ruchit Garg was 10, his father died of cancer. He, his mother, and his two siblings moved into a single room in eastern India, 10 feet by 10 feet, and shared two single beds. Their life was changed in an instant.

“All that hardship made me a strong person,” he says. “My attitude is and will always be: we came up literally from scratch and, at most, if I fail, I’ll be back at scratch.”

Early on, Garg took an interest in programming and entrepreneurship. Around fourth grade, he would jockey for half-hour sessions on his school computers, playing with the floppy disk drive, making cartoons, and learning the Basic programming language. Eventually, his family saved up enough money to buy their own computer, complete with a 2 GB hard disk. He hacked passwords just for fun: he would always tell the users their passwords had been hacked and prompt them to create new ones. Since his mother spent some time working in a library, he could go there to read books about programming and computers.

At the same time, Garg had to do his part to make some income. At age 8, he rented out comic books to neighbors for spare change. When he finally got to college, he tutored to earn money for tuition. He says he’s always been “wired” to do something different and create things.

After working on a few startups, Garg took a job at Microsoft that would eventually bring him halfway across the world to Seattle. And for many who had grown up in poverty, that would have been enough: a more comfortable life, job security. Growing up poor would make them risk averse, fearful of anything that might lead them back to where they began.

But not so for Garg. Even after his wife became pregnant with their second child, he decided to quit Microsoft and start 9SLIDES in 2011, pursuing his creative urges. 9SLIDES lets you create presentations with an audio or video component, then embed, share, and email them.

Garg’s wife was still pregnant when they lost their health insurance. And Garg can’t afford a nanny – you might find him doing a conference call while feeding his baby. But his attitude is unwavering.

“That’s what my investors saw – whatever the idea is, this guy is fighting,” says Garg, whose investors include 500 Startups. “If at all I fail, we can do it again – and there’s always new things to learn every time you fail.”

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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