Meet the man who rose from poverty to build a multi-billion-dollar Web3 startup

In Delhi, the settlements on the east bank of the Yamuna river are called, often dismissively, ‘Jamna-Paar’ (Yamuna-paar).

The rich, usually settle along its western banks, while “Jaamna Paar” is often considered a ghetto and its people are looked down upon. Sandeep Nailwal— co-founder of the multi-billion-dollar Web3 company thatPolygonthat– has long called Jamna-Paar home.

“I was born in a poor, peasant farming family in Ramnagar, Nainital, and we migrated to Delhi. Living in that ghetto-like environment, it was common for members from poor families like ours to work menial jobs. In fact, my grandfather worked as a domestic help,” says Sandeep.

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In his neighborhood, it is common for children to not finish school and stop by the 10th grade. Some of the men also fell victim to alcoholism and gambling.

The desire to succeed came when Sandeep saw his own father falling prey to these vices. Having also witnessed incidents of domestic violence in her own home – she was determined to continue her studies beyond the tenth grade.

“I always said I was going to be a big man. I don’t want to play small games, and hate to lose, but I have no idea how to succeed. Everyone made fun of me,” he said. This undoubtedly set the stage for Sandeep’s personal success and his success at Polygon.

“The determination to win, build a better life and become a great man comes from a place of pain and suffering. I have many examples in my own family and community of the type of person I do not want. Many people in the community also stopped treating me with dignity when they came to know about my father’s problems,” explains Sandeep.

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Led by Sandeep and his co-founders, Polygon has become a global, industry-leading platform for over 40,000 decentralized applications. Its native sign MATIC has a market cap of more than $7 billion, at the time of writing.

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Benefits of Blockchain App Development for Business
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Taking the entrepreneurial plunge

Sandeep looked Mark Zuckerberg and his success with Facebook to inspire his own journey as an internet entrepreneur. Today, he juggles many hats as an active mentor, mentor and angel investor, touching the lives of many Web3 founders and founders.

At one point in Sandeep’s life, entrepreneurship was not on the cards. He failed to crack IIT and had an option to join merchant navy business and earn good income. Relying on bank loans to complete his computer science engineering and MBA courses, he started working to pay them off and also to buy a house.

“I thought it was cliche that I should buy a house, because it is customary for a man to own a house so that he can get married. My current wife told me it was okay to forget about owning a house, and said it would be fine if we lived in a rented house. He encouraged me to pursue my business dreams,” he said.

Unable to shake the entrepreneurial bug, he quit his job, took two weeks off, and started Scope Weaver – a blockchain services startup – in early 2016.

Meanwhile, a data scientist at Housing.com, Jaynti “JD” Kanani, who will soon become his co-founder, recognizes a weakness in Ethereum blockchain.

The inflection point

The creators of Ethereum never thought it would achieve mass adoption to the extent it did.0 As a result, they did not program any major capabilities to handle several hundred thousand transactions per seconds.

This is when the NFT project CryptoKitties overloaded and congested in the network JD realized that there was a need to build an Ethereum scaling solution.

“At that time, there was a mania for Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs). Blockchain projects posted their whitepapers online, raised money without a product to show, and then disappeared,” recalls Sandeep .

When JD met Sandeep, there was a synergy, and they decided to work together on this project. With another co-founder (Anurag Arjun) Matic Network was launched in 2017.

With a registered address in Mumbai, and working out of a house in Indiranagar, Bengaluru, the trio began their journey. While JD works on the programming and engineering side of things, Sandeep and Anurag take care of the rest.

Matic had the easy option of riding the wave and raising a cool $15-$20 million, but the co-founders rejected the idea. Taking the easy route and building something temporary goes against Sandeep’s philosophy of becoming a big man.

“Matic solves a long-term problem, and therefore we have to choose slow ways of growth. For me, it’s all about making sure we have unlimited possibilities. If we raise more money from with outside investors in the early years, we may have limited our potential and our own vision,” he said.

At that point, Matic’s product wasn’t ready, so it chose to raise a limited amount of funding – $5 million from Binance – in an initial exchange offering that saw founders sell a portion of the MATIC tokens they held.

“I have the responsibility to ensure that Matic continues to run. Before I was shaking to make the difficult decision not to raise a larger amount of funds,” Sandeep recalled.

Polygon
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Challenges as an Indian founder

Then, the worst hit. While Matic’s product was developing well, the 2018 bear market meant funding quickly dried up. At the same time, Sandeep learned that startups in Silicon Valley were able to raise funding.

“People who studied at Stanford and other top colleges still manage to raise funds. There is a perception that Indians cannot build software infrastructure companies. People in the industry call those founders of India like us ‘pajeets’ – a slur and ethnic slur,” explained Sandeep.

Matic approached investors, but no luck. Sandeep remembers some investors disrespecting the Indian startup, and had already made up their minds not to invest in Matic even before the pitch was made.

There is light at the end of the tunnel Mihailo Bjelic, an engineer from Serbia, who believed in Matic’s vision and joined as a co-founder. Eventually, burning the midnight oil, keeping their heads on the ground helped luck favor them.

In 2021, the co-founders decided to take a broader approach to solving the problem stated by Matic. Instead of just building a PoS chain, they will use the same idea to create an internet of scalable blockchains around Ethereum.

In the same year, they caught the attention of a US-based tech billionaire Mark Cuban and raised an undisclosed amount from him.

Along these lines, Matic eventually rebranded Polygon, and it hasn’t looked back since.

The year 2021 was marked by several milestones – it released the SDK, which allows developers to deploy chains compatible with Ethereum at speed using the in-built EVM and a set of pluggable modules.

It is also raised $450 million in its first major VC financing round, led by Sequoia Capital India at a market cap of $14.4 billion.

The current Polygon effect

By mid-2021, Polygon will have nearly 400 decentralized applications running on its platform. Now, it has more than 40,000.

It also partners with the likes of Meta (Instagram), Starbucks, Reddit, Flipkart etc. to introduce Web3 products to the masses.

As the helmer of this industry leading project, it is safe to say that Sandeep is a “big man”. But he still didn’t feel anything.

“Even at the peak, I feel we are small. It continues to drive me. I still have a day zero attitude, and so does the team. We need to go to the top and become a top three project, along with Bitcoin and Ethereum,” he said.

“I never felt the success. I didn’t look back. And now, we have all the expectations from the Indian community. It is a responsibility. There’s no way we’re going to fail from here.”

polygon

Polygon co-founders (L to R) Anurag Arjun, Sandeep Nailwal and Jaynti Kanani

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Long-term effects in childhood

While Sandeep has come a long way since Jamna-Paar, his upbringing continues to affect him, sometimes negatively. For him, success is a cost.

“Until recently, I was undergoing treatment for stress-related issues. Only after the medicine did I feel myself. If the receptors for happiness are not used enough, every day becomes a threat to life,” he said.

“Now, I am slowly looking for a way to feel happiness. Recently, my son was born, and has been a great source of joy. I am also interested in exploring meditation. My inner journey came from a place of suffering, and all the negative things brought learning.”

Facing these challenges herself, she became vocal about mental health and stress-related issues, and also gave back to various communities.

During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sandeep started Crypto Relief – a community-run fund that has raised more than $475 million to help Indians in need of health care services. It has awarded over $58 million in grants so far, and has published a transparency audit/report on the same.

He supported many economically backward communities. He saw himself (and his family) in these people, he said.

“We donate money to help people in those places. If someone doesn’t have enough money to organize a wedding, we help. My parents even come as chief guests. Things have changed- or healing for them,” Sandeep wrote with pride.

For now, Sandeep continues to think ahead. His mission is to build Polygon into a top three project. However, he noticed that his mother said that he should take things easy and put happiness in life first.

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