Nikhil Behl is a technology entrepreneur with 15 years of experience in the e-commerce space. He currently serves as the CEO of Zoostores.com. I was able to connect with him and discuss his endeavors as well as entrepreneurship in the Valley in general.
1. What inspires you about entrepreneurship and innovation?
When I was at HP, I spent most of my time on the consumer side and found it extremely fulfilling. I came to love businesses that dealt with the end user – the consumer.
After HP, I moved on to pursue my next endeavors – Zoostores.com. As an entrepreneur, you’re basically taking a blank canvas, defining the strategy, figuring out what needs to be done, testing lots of things to figure out what works best, diving deep into an issue, and problem solving. My favorite part is the that there is no blueprint and you have to use your creativity, brain & perseverance to make things happen.
With startups, you can quickly see the impact of your work and know if it is or isn’t going to work.The feedback loop is almost real-time. It is energizing to see the result of your work. That’s motivates me as an entrepreneur.
2. What got you started? In other words, when did you get “bitten” by the entrepreneur bug?
I have always been a self-starter. If I set my mind to do something, I find a way to make it happen. I’ve always gravitated towards new businesses & uncharted territory. Even at a company like HP, I found an opportunity to start and build a new business.
I grew up with a family of entrepreneurs, who gave me a glimpse into an entrepreneur’s life from a young age.
While growing up in India, both my parents were professionals who eventually started their own businesses. I heard many a story from them at the dinner table about the various pros and the cons of running and building one’s own business. I witnessed the jubilation that came with success and the anxiety that came when things weren’t going so great. I remember going to the office, traveling and sitting in on meetings with both of my parents; that’s when I got a taste of what it takes to succeed. I reveled in the fact that being a selfstarter gives you tremendous amounts of freedom and, last but not least, you have the opportunity to create value..
3. How is Zoostores.com setting the stage to disrupt your industry?
With Zoostores.com, we’re focused on niche products that fit a specific need. We found in the market there were very few e-commerce sites that enabled the customer to find exactly what they are looking for. Our solution allows the customer to discover and find products that fit their needs perfectly. We built both content and the capability to purchase and shop in that way.
For example: A mother might want her kids to share a room as it is a bonding experience. So she is looking for a bunk bed. However, the younger child really wants to be in the top bunk so she wants a bunk bed with a guard rail on the top bunk. Our store allows her to search with those parameters.
4. When things get tough, what keeps you going? What are some of your tricks? In other words, how do you stay sane?
Everything has to be put into perspective – you need to consistently ask yourself, “what is important at the end of the day?” When you do that it’s pretty easy. The life of an entrepreneur is certainly not an easy life – there’s an unparalleled happiness or utopia, then there are those incredibly challenging days. I think the majority of entrepreneurs have an incredible sense of belief in what they are doing and love driving change – that’s what keeps them going. This passion along with having a close knit family, extended family, and close friends keeps me going and reminds me why I’m doing what I do.
5. What is one [surprising] thing about you that most people don’t know?
I am an extremely competitive person and love most sports and am happiest on a golf course or playing tennis with my daughter or watching the 49ers play.