Mehul Merchant - Founder and CEO of UVA Mobile

One of the things that really helps me in being more productive is to start work early in the morning. I sleep well at night so that I’m well rested for the next day.

Mehul Merchant is the founder and CEO of UVA Mobile. With over 15 years of wireless industry experience, Mehul has led multiple teams in developing mobile platforms and programs. Most recently, he was the SVP of IT and Data Management at SIMPLE Mobile, a company that reached $500 million in revenue with 1.2 million customers in 3.5 years. He played a key role in developing technology solutions that enabled the company to reach thousands of dealers at a fraction of the industry benchmark cost. These solutions include RTR (a point of sale integration with retailers), integration with an International Long Distance partner, and operational technologies that increased the overall efficiency by 400%. At acquisition, he led the technological migration and system merger from SIMPLE Mobile to TracFone.

Prior to joining SIMPLE Mobile, Mehul led a team of 55+ individuals in creating solutions that supported enterprise data warehousing, business intelligence reporting, inventory systems, and accounting and audit data marts. Mehul is an influential leader in the wireless industry, having experiences at DSC Communications (now Alcatel-Lucent), Qualcomm, Cricket Communications, and SIMPLE Mobile (now TracFone Wireless/American Movil).

Where did the idea for UVA Mobile come from?

It all started one day when my wife asked me why we were paying so much for our wireless service and whether our “unlimited” plans were really worth it. This got me thinking too, and I started wondering about what, from a technological standpoint, resulted in higher costs for service providers. I asked myself – can we create a platform, which is both flexible and cost effective that gives the customer the power to do as they want with their wireless service?

What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?

Most days start with an early morning call with our offshore team. We go over a list of items that need to be worked on and track progress made on prior goals. The main part of my day is spent speaking to investors and trying to obtain funding for my company. I also put in some time focusing on overall strategic movement, the distribution of our product etc. I’ve found that I make my day productive by being proactive about my work, and always taking something up that keeps me occupied.

How do you bring ideas to life?

I always keep a mental note of ideas that I get. If these are relevant to our business, I discuss these with my team to see whether these are feasible for implementation. As a startup, time is of the essence, and for new ideas, we always do a quick ROI analysis followed by fast execution.

What’s one trend that really excites you?

One trend that really excites me is everything that is happening in the IOT (Internet of things) space. Technology is advancing at such a rapid rate that all our machines are now connected and communicating with each other. From the healthcare industry to environmental, I see our platform being used throughout this space in the future.

What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?

One of the things that really helps me in being more productive is to start work early in the morning. I sleep well at night so that I’m well-rested for the next day.

What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?

I don’t believe any job is worse than another. For me, a bad job is where one is not challenged enough. However, in reality, the burden of providing that challenge rests on oneself and not others. In my case, I always try to proactively find work that challenges me.

If you were to start again, what would you do differently?

I wish I had pursued the idea of UVA Mobile much earlier! But now that I’m here, maybe something I would have liked to do differently is to have been quicker with raising funds. If someone wants to invest in your company, think twice before saying no!

As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?

The idea for UVA Mobile came from a simple philosophy that I follow every day – think simple, think ahead, think big. I keep telling myself this every single day and this mindset has really helped us get UVA Mobile to where it is today. I would highly recommend this to any entrepreneur.

What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business? Please explain how.

I strongly believe in respecting and being honest with people. Over time, that has brought me in contact with the right partners to get the job done. Negotiation skills I’ve developed through years of experience have been extremely helpful as well.

What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?

I wish I’d hired a finance guy much earlier! Having someone around who really gets the numbers can make a huge difference in obtaining funding. Basically, I wish we had put more critical thinking into our business process. Thankfully, we now have intelligent people on board who can do just that.

What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?

Wouldn’t it be cool if someone could come up with a way to effectively reuse/re-purpose our old and discarded cell phones? E-waste is such a big problem right now!

What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?

The best $100 I recently spent was giving that money to my daughter to help feed the homeless. Every other weekend, our family helps out by providing breakfast at a local homeless shelter. This was important for me because she had to try to negotiate and maximize the value of her spend. It enabled us to get some more food for a good cause!

What software and web services do you use? What do you love about them?

We use Rackspace and Amazon cloud services. We like them because they’re easy to set up, available everywhere and very cost effective.

What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?

I’m not an avid reader of books. Somehow I hardly find the time! That being said, I do read several small articles every day, and highly recommend people to do the same. You’ll be surprised at how many people I come across who are unaware of what’s happening in the world around them. In our industry, knowledge of current and upcoming trends is of paramount importance.

What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?

Two people have been a great positive influence in my life. First of the list is my father. He taught me that religion is not about Gods, but about good deeds. It’s made me understand the importance of emotional intelligence, which in turn has led to me meeting great people and developing great relationships.

The second person on that list is a family friend who has had 3 surgeries (including a kidney transplant). Despite his health issues, he’s always optimistic and refuses to give up. He does so much social work and is always giving back to the community.
In addition to these people, a website that has had a positive effect on me is www.dailygood.org. The stories there are very inspirational and help keep me going in the face of adversity.

Connect:

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