Spotlight on Bharat Pulgam

Meet Bharat Pulgam: Founder of Runerra, Bharat is building a company to inspire societal change and connection through commerce.

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Rachel Leigh Gross: What is Runerra? 

Bharat Pulgam: Runerra is changing how communities engage with commerce by utilizing a hyperlocal, peer-to-peer marketplace. The idea came when a friend asked me to grab something from the store I was already shopping at and sent some extra money my way for the favor. We wanted to replicate that in a way that could scale and ease pain for shoppers and lower the spending on last mile services that merchant partners underwent. 

We were accepted into the Target + Techstars Retail Accelerator program, and myself and my co-founders dropped out of school to bring this idea to reality. We began as a team of four but have now doubled and officially launched at the University of Minnesota. Runerra has around 2,000 active users, and we are continuing to expand to change the way people shop by connecting them with people already in the action of shopping. 

RLG: How do you go about making hard decisions, such as dropping out of school?

BP: At the core of my business and decision making process, passion is always the main presence. When you are passionate, you will dedicate your life to growth and making that goal come to life. You will dedicate yourself to nurturing it, crying over it, and, ultimately, making difficult decisions for its success. An individual who doesn’t see themselves working on their startup for years should tailor his or her decisions to that. Passion and the lack of passion tells you everything you need when making a choice. 

There's no secret answer: you will make global impact if you are passionate to do so. My experiences and dropping out of school represent that mindset. 

Jumping into something because you think it’s cool isn’t going to be enough to get you through the really hard points. For example, we are currently in the process of fundraising. I have spoken to around 250 people in the last three months and heard a lot of rejection. Thinking of Runerra as cool to do would never push me through this grueling process. Passion will and does. 

Some of the best advice I have received is to think of what your company looks like in 10 years. If you can picture that as something you want to do, then you will make sure every decision gets you to that goal. I can picture a world, 10 years from now, that the individual going to Target will easily pick up shopping items for his neighbor and create relationships and ease because of that. This is a world I can imagine and one I want to create. It gets myself through the hard times and makes the great moments so much better. 

RLG: What has been the most helpful resource in building your company?

Going through accelerators has been instrumental in giving the company a head start. I won’t discount the power of hard work and belief, but the programs taught us how to be entrepreneurs and how to think entrepreneurially as I had very little experience initially. 

I received advice during the earlier days of the company at the program that has remained with me: make sure you are working on something in your life that’s not just your business. Many entrepreneurs derive their self-worth from their businesses. Their portrayal of success of self equates to success of the company, yet this can be so dangerous. It is something I still struggle with today. With another goal outside of the company, you can use your personal goals to feel successful in your professional work. 

RLG: What has been the hardest part of building Runerra?

Entrepreneurship is lonely. Not to be cliche, but that has been the hardest part of the journey thus far: going through this process and feeling separated from those around me. This is the hardest I have worked in my life, and I know all other entrepreneurs can say the same. When you put in these long hours to build something, there isn’t time to spend for yourself or connecting with those you love. 

However, at the end of the day, I know that I have the potential to change lives through what we’re building. It’s that ultimate vision that gets myself and my entire team through the process, the loneliness, and the hard parts of the journey. 

RLG: What do you want to be remembered for?

My true motivation comes from one experience I underwent a few years ago. I was on a plane and reading the Steve Jobs biography. I remember feeling so moved at my core. I couldn’t wrap my head around the impact this man had on the entire world. Everyone around us has an iPhone or uses a Mac. How does one person create such fundamental change that shifts how the world operates? I was flying over cities and picturing how every house we flew over, Steve Jobs was present in all of them - how insane.

I knew immediately that I wanted to make that immense impact on the world. This has been my motivation since, and I use this to influence every conversation I have with my team and every facet of the company I create. I am inspired when I work towards changing the fabric of society in a way that makes the world a better place. Runerra is aiming to have positive impacts across the globe and for every single person it touches. 

RLG: What’s the best piece of advice you have shared as an entrepreneur?

You want to set the best example for those in your life whether personally and professionally. As entrepreneurs, our journey can be really hard and daunting, but it is the motivated ones who end up giving their all to building their business. That is the kind of influence and example I think we should all strive to be.  

This is simple but powerful: just keep going and don’t give up. You are going to hear a lot of no’s in life as you create your own path. All it takes is one yes and that one word can change the world for you. Stay persistent until you hear that. This is a total mindset shift for a lot of people, and at the root of it all lies positivity. 

The world pays back to people that deserve it, those that deserve to hear that yes so strive towards being a motivating and positive light, not a hoarder of negativity. 

Favorite movie: Avatar

Spirit Animal: A Cheetah

Afternoon Delight: Watching movies

Alex Gordon