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Daksh Miglani - The boy who's disrupting enterprises one step at a time

Daksh Miglani is an 18-year-old programmer with a passion for math and business. Having started his first company at 14, Daksh won his first college-level hackathon at 15 and landed his first full-time job as a Product Engineer at 16. Recently he mentored Google Code-In and HackJNU. Daksh is the founder & CTO of Adler AI.

Looks impressive right? But all this wasn't a smooth ride and the best part is, it isn’t over yet.

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Here is Daksh in rewind mode.

I was born in the city of Meerut, and I lived there for the first six years of my life. I would open up the electric toys with a screwdriver, figure out what part goes where and try to fix the broken toys. That was my first tryst with ‘tinkering’.

In 2007, we moved to Indirapuram, close to Ghaziabad, after my father got transferred. It was where I got my first computer at the age of 9. The story goes like this, my dad’s friend would come from Meerut to Noida every day and bring parts of the computer day by day and me being a curious kid, I’d go in the study room every day and play with the keyboard even though it wasn’t connected to anything. I would imagine myself doing things on that computer.

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I was really lucky to have an internet connection during those times. It was dial-up, so it was really slow but it did the trick. It introduced to the world of the web. It was a good thing for me. I tinkered around with directories, registry editor, etc. I would end up breaking the OS multiple times a month, a Computer Repair guy would come to fix it for me and I would learn from him.

In 2011, I was introduced to HTML for the first time by school teachers and they just taught us very basic tags but it was enough to get me hooked on it. I would go home and learn about the tag, use it in school and my teachers got confused as to how I got the text on the screen moving in a horizontal line. It was so much fun, seeing them like that!

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Later that year, I went to a boarding school to prepare for the RIMC exam, which is a Military School. On my first day there, I wasn’t allowed to call my parents to tell them how alone I felt there. It was like a rut, you had the same schedule without any encouraging activities.

There was no computer, no sports, and the only fun activity was on Sundays, where we could give the warden a list of snacks we wanted, for under 30 rupees and he would bring it. I made a few friends there, but most of the kids there were one way or other bullies, well to be fair, all of them were preparing to get into the Armed Forces one day, so it was expected.

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A few months later when I came back, instead of breaking computers, I started playing with the phones and started rooting them. I see kids doing that now and showing how superior they are, little did they know I did this back in 2012. I even installed Android on a cell phone which had Samsung’s Proprietary “Bada OS”. That’s when I started calling myself a Hacker, which now sounds so nostalgic and funny!

After that brief period, I learnt Web Development, downloaded many templates and edited them, to get the hang of how things worked. Yes, I literally learnt Web Development by tinkering. That’s when my school seniors started calling me “template boy”. I liked my seniors because those were the only people I resonated with at the school, but they usually didn’t resonate back.

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In 2014, I started my first company, it was a YouTube SubNetwork which partnered with YouTubers and gave them perks for a share of their revenue. Our network had all kinds of YouTubers ranging from 100 to 100K Subscribers. It wasn’t that easy at the start, but during the period in which we were grossing the most, YouTube created a policy that disallowed SubNetworks to operate and we were forced to shut down in 2016. From this venture, I learnt the importance of teamwork and I owe all the success to the team we had at the time.

I was well connected with the “Tech Reviewer” community of India so I got invited to launch events of many companies such as LeTV, Samsung, Huawei, LG, etc. I also received many review units from those events and became a tech blogger for a while. As I recall those times, I was once even paid upwards of $200 for writing a single blog post, but there was Rs10,000 crediting limit on my account at the time, so I had to find creative ways to receive that amount. As I was sad due to the closure of my first company, I started building indie products to add to my portfolio, during this brief period I built a Live Subscriber / Follower counter and Giveaway Pickers for both YouTube and Facebook. I posted them on ProductHunt and it got lots of great reviews and I was pretty happy with it.

I used the portfolio of websites and apps I had developed to get an interview at a company in Delhi for the position of Full Stack Engineer. The Chief Marketing Officer called and asked me if this is for real or legal even? I was 16, so obviously, the man had some questions.

Then I had a technical round scheduled through the phone, they asked me many questions about the things that I know and even asked me some advanced algorithmic & javascript questions. I was very frank during the whole process and the first technical interview was well done. I got invited onsite to be introduced to the team, and we had a nice conversation with the CEO and CMO.

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After that, I had been given a homework assignment in which I had to build a full-stack application within 2 days which I did. Then I had to just describe what choices I made to build it and why I made those choices and BOO-YAH I was hired as the Product Engineer for that company.

I always thought that my school understood and appreciated my talent, but little did I know that they loathed me. Maybe it was because, in the Computer Science class, students started calling me instead of the teacher. I would end up finishing my programs first and then help others when they needed it and I thought I was being useful to the teacher since I would do everything it took to help them whenever they asked even though I was balancing my job and school at the same time.

I would get full marks in practical but would always see a bias applied in theory and I felt a lack of appreciation by the school. As a result of that bias, I ended up switching to another branch of the same school.

The new teachers I got respected me for who I was, they took a genuine interest in whatever I did and also enjoyed my company. The new computer science teacher was a PhD, who helped me overcome all the emotional trauma I had because of my previous teachers.

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To my surprise, next year my Indie projects got featured in the previous school magazine which made me feel appreciated by them for the first time in my life.

This is when my current company was founded. I had met my co-founder through a mutual friend on a hangout call. We immediately hit it off and started building something. Eventually, over the months, we had our break-even point and started profiting from the company.

While I was running my company and managing school, I managed to win multiple college-level Hackathons & Entrepreneurship Events, Inter-School & Online Competitions and Scholarships for attending multiple programs.

Earlier this year, I was invited to be a mentor for HackJNU and Google Code-In. What came to surprise everyone at those events was the fact that I was still in school yet I was mentoring 3rd / 4th-year undergrads.

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On January 31, 2020, my school conducted a farewell for us since we were graduating from there, but it was the same day on which HackJNU was conducted. So I first went to school, and something unexpected happened. I was given an Award for Academic Excellence and the principal talked about my programming skills.

The long struggle of school was finally over. They finally acknowledged me the person I was, not for the person they wanted me to be. I was thinking of skipping the farewell in favor of HackJNU but I’m glad I attended both because the acknowledgment made it all worthwhile.

Nothing was planned, everything happened as I took the actions. Some right and some wrong which made me the person I am now, better than who I was before.

As Hemingway says “There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.”

Moreover, the people I met on this journey played a major role. I am lucky to have met the right people at the right time. The last thing I would like to say is to keep going and chase your dreams. Use your heart to decide your destination and mind to plan the journey. chaayam_poster

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At a young age, how did you develop such a huge interest in computers? How much influence did your parents have on your computer skills?

Growing up, I was a really hyperactive kid. I would tinker with electric toys, phones (feature phones at the time), etc. One day when I came home from school, I found out that my uncle had brought certain parts of the computer. Naturally, as a tinkerer, I started playing with it and eventually I got hooked on it. I wasn’t particularly a social kid, as a matter of fact, I was a laughing stock in school. So when I came home from school, I had nowhere to go and nothing to do, I would just open up Paint on the computer and draw. I would play games in excel (not kidding, you can use macros to play flash games). My parents aren’t really from a tech background, but they did bring me my first computer at a very young age with a good internet connection. (in those times, dial-ups were best for homes).

In 2014, you started your first company, a YouTube SubNetwork which partnered with YouTubers. How did it work and how did you suddenly make the business plunge? Again, did your parents offer financial support?

YouTube networks basically offer assistance to YouTubers in areas such as "product, programming, funding, cross-promotion, partner management, digital rights management, monetization/sales, and/or audience development". As a YouTube Subnetwork, we basically were recruiters for a larger network with our own brand, and our set of perks & sponsors. We won our place by offering a better revenue-share to YouTubers, while other networks took 30% of the revenue, we took a mere 10% which would decrease as the channels grew.

No, I didn’t ask my parents for financial support. We were profitable from the very beginning, granted we made little money but we managed it.

You have also made your mark in hackathons. Looking back, how important was the role of Hackathons? Also for an aspiring techie/coder, how important are hackathons?

Hackathons are very very important, the idea of hacking together a prototype in a bunch of hours, kind of like a sprint is very encouraging for young programmers. As they build real products within a fraction of the time and learn a lot of time management habits, which are helpful when working as a Professional, since we all are bound by tight deadlines.

In my first hackathon, there was this constraint that we had to use PHP for the end product and I hadn’t programmed in PHP for more than 2 years at that time. I quickly downloaded the documentation and went through the competition translating my thoughts into PHP. We ended up getting First Prize + an additional cash prize in that hackathon.

Tell us about your mentorship at HackJNU and Google Code-In? And you are the founder & CTO of Adler AI. What does your company do? What are your next plans? Any dream projects?

I was really honored to be invited to mentor HackJNU and it was an amazing experience as well. I was really amazed to see so many teams participate and build novel solutions to problems like the following:

1. Offline Real-time translation of English videos to many other regional languages such as Hindi, Marathi, etc.

2. Car sign plate detection using “Super Resolution” which was fascinating.

The Organizers made the experience completely seamless and fun. Mentoring for Google-Code-In reminded me of my past, there were so many great students working on machine learning with difficulties ranging from easy to very hard. It was so nostalgic and fun. At Adler, we understand how difficult and expensive it is to hire an AI team and integrate AI into the business. We solve that problem by providing Deep Learning based HCI modules and finding ways to automate workflows for enterprises of all sizes.

My current interests are Math and Trading Stocks. So something at the intersection of the two, would be my dream project.

Finally, pick five of your habits of which you are proud of?

  • Persistence: No matter how many times you are let down, you’ve to keep trying because life isn’t easy and you’ve to learn to handle failures and thrive out through them.
  • Reading: I regret not reading much in my childhood, I started pretty late but I can say for sure that reading has educated me more than I think.
  • Networking: Attending Meetups, Webinars, etc is very important. Talking to people nurtures you and tells you more than you know
  • Surrounding yourself with the right people, since the group nurtures you and forces you to improve.
  • Managing your motivation properly because If you don’t, you will burn out.

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