Q&A: Rohan Shah ’14 on entrepreneurship, Forbes 30 Beneath 30

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Entrepreneur Rohan Shah ’14 was added to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list last month in recognition of co-founding Extend, which provides an online platform that allows merchants to offer extended warranties and protection plans and customers when filing claims can support. Since founding the company in 2019, Shah and his co-founders have raised $ 56 million and gained more than 100 clients including Peloton, iRobot, and Logitech.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): What is Extend and how does it support retailers with product guarantees?

Rohan Shah (RS): Extend is an easy-to-integrate solution that allows any distributor or retailer to sell extended warranties and protection plans for the products on offer today. So if you traditionally look at the retail market, this is what you notice [large] Companies like Amazon … have had extended warranties for 20, 30, 40 years, and these extended warranty products are incredibly powerful from a business perspective.

However, the rest of the market, the other 99% of retailers, especially in the wake of the steady growth of e-commerce, never had access to offer their consumers extended guarantees, for example. And this is exactly where Extend comes in to help these retailers and provide customers with a better, better, more digital interface. So when something goes wrong [we can] Help them file claims that are more modern, seamless, and elegant.

TSD: What do you find most appealing about your work with Extend?

RS: First and foremost, I’ve personally focused more and more on the business-to-business side of things. It’s really fun helping people grow their business, whether they’re a large company – Peloton is one of our clients – or a small business owner. I’m an entrepreneur myself, so I have a lot of respect and admiration for other people who are trying to start their own business because I know how hard it is.

The other part is that I love working in this team environment. All my life I have been a team athlete. After starting a company that has grown to over 100 full-time employees in less than two years, it’s really rewarding to work with some smart people who have worked extremely hard and taught me a lot in the process.

TSD: How did you first become aware of entrepreneurship?

RS: My parents are both entrepreneurs – they founded a company together in 1987. Throughout my childhood I have seen them go to great lengths to start their own business, a very different type of business than what I am working on today. The determination and the hard work and effort, all of that apply across the board.

Building a product has always been a passion for me. And Stanford was a privilege, of course, but also a great place to study, given the number of classes that focus on people like me to hone the right skills and understand the process and best steps you really need in sort of a world of business creation.

TSD: What difficulties did you overcome when you realized your dream of starting your own business?

RS: The first company I started after graduating from Stanford didn’t really go anywhere. One of the hardest things for me was telling those involved that it was time to close. In retrospect, it’s one of those things that I probably wouldn’t be as successful at without this experience of failure. In all honesty, I was never the best person to study in a typical classroom. I’ve always been the best at studying.

I think the most important step was figuring out how I can improve both as a person and as an operator, managing director and founder. My first company sold to startups and selling to startups is difficult because they can’t spend a lot of money. What I really wanted to do was learn how to develop software products for larger companies. So I got a job at a company called DCG in the Digital Ventures Group, where the mission was to develop products for Fortune 500 companies. I also wanted to get better at product development, so I became a product manager at DCG. Overall, a lot was found out about what my gaps were and places identified that would help me fill those gaps so I could prepare for the next opportunity if I wanted to start a business again where I would take a lot more risks.

TSD: What advice would you give to people hoping to start their own business?

RS: The number one piece of advice I would have for someone looking to start a business for the first time is don’t start a business just because you want to start a business. Start a business because you identified a really meaningful problem that needs to be resolved. And be very clear about how you want to do that.

You can be a creator wherever you work – you don’t have to start your own business. That said, there are a lot of smart people out there who are going to start their own businesses, and I would just say that they are prepared and planning ahead as this is real. It’s not always easy, so do it for the right reasons, not just because you think it’s glorified and it’s cool to be on the Forbes 30 under 30 list.

TSD: What does it mean to you to be a member of the Forbes 30 Under 30 List 2020?

RS: The first thing I’ll say is that my mom was very excited. So it’s always nice to make your mother happy. I think the other part of it is that I like to be pretty private, so it felt a little weird to me at first, but it’s always worth being honored by something like this. Being part of this community is pretty cool. It’s also great press for our business which I think is the other most important thing to me. I’m glad to be able to hold this baton, if you will, for the rest of the people in business who made it possible for me to be honored on the Forbes list. I work hard, but it’s everyone else’s hard work that allowed me to be honored.

This interview has been condensed and slightly edited for the sake of clarity.

Contact Nicholas Wei at nicholas.wei89 ‘at’ gmail.com.