My name is Indra Sofian.
I am currently a student at Georgia Tech. Outside of my studies, I am the Co-Director of Startup Exchange and a founding partner at Contrary Capital. I have also started a business: Elevate Media, a media company that brings a fresh and vivid direction to content and brand for companies. I’ve been involved in various student organizations, from 3 Day Startup to TEDxGeorgiaTech to Alpha Kappa Psi.
In my free time, I love to write for my blog, make Youtube videos, design pretty things, take nice photos, and explore cities.
My Story So Far
I grew up in Georgia. My dad first introduced me to the word “entrepreneurship” when he caught me trying to sell my old toys when I was 10. He told me, “You can work for someone else. But, if you do, know that you will always be dependent on someone else for your living. And, one day, they might think that you are not useful anymore.”
Entrepreneurship is an ingrained concept in my head; it has always been my dream to one day start my own company to leave a lasting impact on the world. But I didn’t really know what it all meant until I arrived as a business student at the Georgia Institute of Technology in August of 2014.
First Year In College
I’ve made Youtube videos with my best friend Wesley since I was in middle school. Through just a hobby, we became amateur filmmakers. So when my friend Rostam Zafari decided he wanted an Indiegogo video for his invention, the Rapid Ebola Detection Strips, we were his first call. Once we made the video, Rostam ended up raising over $14,000 in a month, meeting his goal. It was exciting for both of us.
It wasn’t long after that Rostam referred us to his friend, Kaeya Majmundar, a Shark Tank entrepreneur. We made a video for her newest product, Ziptanks, and, for the first time in my life, charged fees for the video. It didn’t take long for us to realize that we had a burgeoning business on our hands. It took us months, but while I was interning at AT&T in the summer of 2015, we officially started our business, Elevated Solutions, to provide videography services for businesses.
While we ran the business, I was busy trying to learn how to navigate through college. I was young, innocent (still am), and determined to find my place at Georgia Tech. I faced constant confusion and derision as a business major in a technical school. I wanted to find opportunities in college that would best enable my growth and learning.
That led me to apply and enroll in the Denning Technology & Management Program in the spring of 2015. But that wasn’t the end of it. I joined Alpha Kappa Psi that semester as well, the professional business fraternity, to improve my communication skills and surround myself in a diverse community of highly motivated and intelligent people. I took an internship at AT&T as a product development intern for the summer of 2015. During that summer, I also got the opportunity to explore my filmmaker side and flew to Los Angeles as a finalist in a film festival called Campus Movie Festival Hollywood. Not long after, I took on a role as Director of Marketing at an entrepreneurship hackathon called 3 Day Startup, organized by my friend Wesley and people from my fraternity. It was a fantastic experience.
Rising Through My Second Year
During the fall of 2015, my second year in college, I fell into a slump. I wasn’t working on any projects for my business. Classes were more time-consuming and harder than ever. I wasn’t making any new friends, nor was I trying anything new on campus. My friend Wesley was moving to Korea to study abroad there in the spring. Alongside that, I had grown to despise my summer internship at AT&T, as I had been bored and unfulfilled with the work. It was a low point in my life.
Thankfully, I had decided to become a Big Brother to my “little” in the fraternity that semester. She was an ambitious freshman from Florida. She was just a first year student, but she had already started a startup with her friends, become a writer for the Technique (our newspaper), joined the TEDxGeorgiaTech organizing team, the Startup Exchange organizing team (the student entrepreneur community at Georgia Tech), and SWE (Society of Women in Engineering), and still had time to go to a number of hackathons and work on very interesting projects. All while she was still pledging my fraternity.
I learned a great deal about myself while I guided her through the process. So, it was around November that I started to take stock and reevaluate. I felt frustrated with my personal lack of growth and inspired by a young freshman who was off to a better start than I was just a year ago then. I didn’t dwell for too long. I was sad, but I was determined to change things. I realized that I wanted to experience that sense of exploration and growth that I had felt in my first year in college. I was depressed because I wasn’t doing anything new.
With that, I started the year in 2016 with a fresh face and threw myself in a number of different directions. I joined the Startup Exchange organizing team, wanting to involve myself in the student entrepreneur community and help aspiring students. Elevated Solutions took on a contract with Coca Cola and produced a video for the IT arm of their bottling business, CONA. I started going to hackathons, even as a non-technical student, and learned how to do UI design through a haphazard curriculum of Youtube videos and blogs. In one of my classes about product development, my team and I created a spice subscription service, Appalachian Spice. I started my blog on Medium and fell in love with writing again. Meanwhile, as I searched for summer internships, I was determined to not work for a company where I couldn’t make an impact, so I applied for internships at startups. That led me to apply to the True Entrepreneur Corps Fellowship in San Francisco.
As a 2016 TEC Fellow, I interned at UXPin as a marketing intern and learned the full stack of marketing, from social media marketing to content marketing to email marketing. Not only that, but I became friends with a fantastic group of people: the Fellows. The program was exactly what I had been looking for. I didn’t just work, but I got to meet the incredible partners at True, learn from weekly speakers the partners brought to the office, attend a number of conferences and workshops around the Bay Area, and join a lifelong community of amazing people. As expected, I wrote about it in a blog post and even made a video about it.
But this past summer wasn’t just the program. With only 10 weeks in the Bay Area, I was absolutely determined to make the most of my summer. I didn’t know a lot of people there at first, so I joined The Intern Project and help start an online Slack community for interns in the Bay Area. It grew from just 5 people initially to over 2000 by the end of the summer (I considered it a success). I attended as many (free) workshops and meetups that I could go to without my introvert half dying on the inside. I learned a great deal about startups and venture capital and somehow became a partner at Contrary Capital, a university-focused venture capital fund with partners at over 40 universities across the country. I also explored the Bay Area and grew to love the region, even despite its many faults. For some reason, almost everything that I ate had some form of avocado in the dish. Not that I minded, of course.
Mastering The Third Year
As the summer turned to fall and I returned to Georgia Tech in the fall of 2016, I didn’t want to stop the progress that I had made. As it turned out, I loved staying busy. So, with the hardest academic workload (curse you, ME2110) that I had ever had in my college career, I forced myself to be the person that I had been in my freshman year. Fresh-faced and yearning to explore. I joined TEDxGeorgiaTech as part of the marketing team to help improve the event and meet people that I had previously never interacted with before. As Co-Director of Startup Exchange this academic year, I put in more effort into Startup Exchange than I had ever contributed to any one organization or initiative. We revamped the website, changed our organizing team structure, created Vice President executive positions, organized over 5 different events throughout the semester, raised over $3,000 in funding, and grew the team from just 5 people to 17 in the span of a couple of weeks. It honestly felt like running a startup. In retrospect, it was a fantastic learning experience, and I’ve glad that I’ve been able to make an impact at Georgia Tech.
On the personal side, I continued to write for my blog. I hadn’t made a Youtube video in well over half a year at that point, so I restarted the vlog with my friend Wesley to detail our adventures in Atlanta and eventually tell the story of our startup experience. We also took a trip up to New York City for spring break and made a little video.
It was during the middle of the spring that Wesley and I decided to rebrand and launch Elevate Media, a media company that would provide marketing strategy consulting and content production services for businesses. We dedicated ourselves to building our original company into the face of Atlanta media, to bring a fresh, vivid direction to content for businesses.
For over a year, I’ve kicked myself around to start working on something and be the person I had aspired to be when I first came to college. Now, I’m excited for the future again.