There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who settle for what is handed to them and those who actively yearn to become better, faster, and smarter. We were lucky enough to meet the latter, Rameet Chawla, the famous fashionable guy on Instagram and successful Founder of Fueled.
You may recognize Rameet from Instagram, come across him at Burning Man, or know him as the man behind Lovematically. New York Post even dubbed him as “the most stylish man in high tech.” But there is a lot more to this gregarious fella than what his fully grown beard may seem like at first.
Rameet’s creative eye, financial know-how and an urgency for smarter technology has helped him turn Fueled into a mobile app dev shop worth an estimated $30 million. At the same time, his humility and dedication to support young startups has provided an incredible platform for Fueled Collective, a coworking space, and Fueled Ventures, an investment fund that is co-owned by the Fueled employees. (Read on for how this awesome business model works!)
“As an underlying theme, my past gigs were some form of a marriage between technology and innovation with a business layer on top of it.”
“In middle school, I would randomly sell stuff to kids. I started with candy and I developed a clientele so I was almost always sold out before the bell rang. I continued to sell, this time chewing gum, but slowly realized that no one knew that I had it (hello, marketing issues!) so I started giving gum sticks out for free. After days of handing out 120 sticks and buying out local Publix and grocery stores, one day, I decided to start charging 25 cents for a pack. I would sell a minimum of 100 packs every single day.”
Besides being a natural salesman, Rameet started a business for burning and customizing CDs, got his real estate license, designed brochures for his mother’s real estate company, did a short stint at a Jewish bakery and more importantly, invested into public equities – his first portfolio dates back to 6th grade! In short, he was interested in secondary markets and was a computer geek.
Good Ol’ Days
Rameet was born in New York and ended up moving to Boca Raton, Florida at the age of seven. The most defining period in his life was the two years he spent at a British boarding school in The Himalayas before joining high school in Boca Raton. While the latter included frequent trips to the country club, the former meant staying alive and covering basic necessities (#throwback to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs). Yet, Rameet’s present work ethic and business acumen are very much the product of his past attempts at building businesses in his youth.
Upon graduating from New York University in 2005, Rameet entered the glamorous world of finance. Bankers were hot back then! During his two years at Merrill Lynch, he managed primary markets. “It was weird working at a big company. My performance wasn’t equating to the hours I was putting in. I would over perform and still get yelled at for being late to work. It was unsatisfying and so I quit and became a freelance designer. That year, I made $30,000 and cleared nothing. It was humbling because I went from having a comfortable lifestyle to having to miss birthday dinners. It was crazy to see that shift.”
His advice? Don’t quit your day job right away. Quit only when you think the amount of time you’re spending on your own business is unethically cutting into the company’s time. New businesses usually take longer so ride out your full time job for as long as you can – it’s paying for your lifestyle!
Business of Fueled
What started as an eight-person team in 2011, Fueled has now grown to 80 full time and 20 freelance employees with offices in London, New York, Bordeaux, and New Castle. At the intersection of business, design, and technology, Rameet and his team build award-winning mobile apps and tech products for an array of clients including Barneys New York, QuizUp, Afterlight, Verizon, Warby Parker, Gilt, and many more. But the Fueled business model is unlike a typical agency or dev shop.
While product development differentiates Fueled from other industry players, the company’s diverse investments have shaped its brand reputation amongst clients. Here’s how: Fueled is the umbrella agency where 80% of the company builds digital products, mainly apps. The agency operates under Fueled Collective, a physical co-working space that currently houses 35 startups. Due to its success, Rameet and his team are turning it into a franchise and will soon be rolling it out across the U.S. with a goal of selling out 40 locations by 2017.
“I am trying to create a brand around lifestyle and a place to put our money that is safer than just in startups.”
With a finance background, there is no surprise that Rameet has a full proof plan for the cash that the agency spins off. This is where Fueled Ventures comes in. 50% of the cash is invested in startups that Fueled and Rameet believe in – Blue Bottle, Makespace, Hyper Loop to name a few. The best part? Half of Fueled’s portfolio’s equity is given to employees so that not all of their eggs are in one basket. The remaining 50% is invested in hard assets like real estate. To cater to a lifestyle brand, this portion of investments will work towards managing hotels as co-owners in upstate New York, Nicaragua, and Mexico. Employees will be able to work remotely at these locations and get access to the properties as yet another perk (have we convinced you to apply for a job yet?). Lastly, Fueled’s relationship with clients is temporary but an important one. Fueled will be creating a staffing firm that helps its clients make smarter decisions while recruiting product managers and developers.
The Like Phenomenon
We couldn’t leave Rameet without knowing the secret behind his popular Instagram account and 25K followers. Little did we know, there is an entire backstory for it! A few years ago, Rameet launched Lovematically, a technology that automatically liked your friend’s photos from your feed. “The idea behind this was that we should love everyone’s photos! It was a positive spin on human psychology. I wrote an article about the effect it had on my account over three months until Instagram shut it down. Then, I experimented with selfies and would post photos of myself. My likes and followers count kept rising and I thought to myself, people are crazy but now, I have brands sending me products to promote and people will yell across the street saying, I love your Instagram feed. So, really, it was just a bunch of experiments that have summed up to what you see now!”
“I want to be able to walk into a room with floating arrows hovering on people’s heads that show every person’s name and a little context of who they are. When that happens, we’ll be like, how did we not have that before?!”
When we asked Rameet what motivated him, he says, “artificial intelligence scares most people but it excites me. I love that voice recognition is close to 95% and that we’re going to get to 99%. Our voice as an interface will change! I also don’t think wearable technology on our face will be socially acceptable for a long time. Look at what happened to Bluetooth tools and Google Glass – people simply don’t like wearing tech on their face. More importantly, I’m looking forward to have greater control over, and smarter conversations with my computer in the future. It’s an active frustration and I hope we get there soon!”
If you’d like to connect with Rameet and talk business, tech and design or shamelessly get some fashion advice, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo courtesy of Rameet Chawla + Fueled.