Times of India profile

Goa’s start-up entrepreneur looks for crowd funding from Kickstarter for a smart clock

TNN | Sep 11, 2015, 07.48 PM IST

Panaji: “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Used by Apple in one of its earliest advertising campaign, they sum up the innovation and genius of innovators such as Steve Jobs, Richard Branson and Linus Torvalds. And if you dare, add Goa-resident Jason Fernandes to the list. Besides sharing the ability to think different, the three seasoned businessmen also feature in Fernandes’ school yearbook, and the youngster is keen to emulate them.

A son to two acclaimed artists, it is difficult to describe Fernandes’ life without resorting to clichés. How else does one describe someone who has a list of awards to his name and nearly half-a-dozen startups on his resume? He is on a mission to crowd fund his start-up on the Kickstarter platform and is looking to raise $350,000 as initial capital for his new venture, SmartKlock Inc, a company which has created a platform to receive and manage notifications through an RFID-enabled clock.SmartKlock Inc's flagship device, SmartKlock One - a platform to keep track of notifications and updates - is useful to any industry that involves monitoring multiple metrics of information simultaneously, such as the finance, medical or even fitness industries,

The key trait that strikes you when you meet 32-year-old Fernandes is his ability to sense opportunities. Fernandes was born with dyslexia, dyscalculia, dysgraphia and hyper activity attention disorder. “I was determined to prove my detractors wrong,” the habitual entrepreneur narrates.

“I can’t sit still and for me it gets boring once things are normal,” the start-up entrepreneur explains while talking about moving away from RecordTV, the first legal Internet based TV recorder in the world which he co-invented with his brother Carlos Fernandes. After six years Fernandes took a break to start his own venture while his brother continues to run RecordTV in Singapore.

RecordTV featured on the Red Herring 100 Global list joining previous winners such as Google, YouTube, Skype, Yahoo!, Netscape, and Salesforce.com.

For Fernandes, the best accolade to date is the acknowledgment as an innovator by none other than Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, which came in December 2014 when he shared his idea about SmartKlock One.

Eager to see if SmartKlock Inc made sense, Fernandes wrote to Wozniak in September 2014 about his plans, never expecting a reply. Not only did Wozniak write back to him, he also sent a rarephotograph of the Apple co-founders sitting with the Apple 1 prototype, which encouraged Fernandes further to pursue his venture.

“The very first multicolored iMac was released in 1998, it was the beauty of its design, form and function that began my obsession with Apple,” Fernandes mentions.

Critics would argue that Fernandes has a long way to go in emulating the entrepreneurial genius’ that Jobs, Branson and Torvalds are. But if the lists of awards are anything to go by, it is not hard to see the connection.

Fernandes won the Startup@Singapore award, the first national technopreneurship competition at Singapore. He also won the “Best Business Plan” award from Sybase Singapore in the Global Entrepreneurs Challenge at Stanford University, California.

Fernandes’ first business venture, as he puts it, began in kindergarten. “I commandeered the play horse and I began to charge students to ride it,” he sheepishly divulges.

At the age of 7, he hit upon an idea that most of us would only wonder why we missed. “I began buying teeth from my classmates after they fell off so that the fairy god mother could give me money,” the political science graduate explains. Perplexed by the rapid number of fallen teeth, his mother soon found out about his business dealings and put an end to it.

Using his own experience, he started a non-profit organization called LDkids.org, a support group and information centre for learning disabilities. He also established ZeoCities, a web portal offering free email, websites, search engine, news and chat, all this at the young age of 15 years.

“I got hooked to computers at the age of 12 or 13, when we got the 486DX2 computer at home,” the Candolim-resident said.

His work with LDKids.org garnered him the Childnet International Award in the individual category and he even found a special mention on BBC Newsround for his work.

After completing his IB diploma, in addition to an American High School diploma in 2001, Fernandes was selected for the Stanford Education Program for Gifted Youth and after a fairly rocky start, he graduated with a Bachelor in Arts degree from the University of Texas.

He was a founding member of the four person team that developed PerceptiveI that developed innovative technology targeting the eCRM and mCRM (Electronic and Mobile Customer Relationship Management) industries and won the Startup@Singapore award for its patented ECRM software. PerceptiveI counted Fortune 500 companies including Eastman Kodak (China) and Great Eastern Life as its clients.