Riddhiman Das is being honored as a Champion of Change for his accomplishments as an immigrant entrepreneur and innovator.
I was born and raised in a town of about a million people at the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains in India. I first used a computer when I was seven years old, and I realized that humankind was about to be transformed by the Information Technology revolution—and that software was going to change a lot about how we had been doing things for the past few millennia. I knew I wanted to play a part in this revolution, and I decided that I was going to one day be a computer scientist and do my bit to help people use technology in their lives.
My father was born in a remote village a few hundred miles away, worked his way through school, and eventually trained to be a hematologist at the University of Cambridge. He was a living inspiration of what hard work and perseverance could achieve. He had always encouraged me to come to the United States to pursue my dream, since here is where most of the innovation in software happened. When he died when I was 14, my mother, a rheumatologist, stepped up, and with the help and guidance of a few family and close friends, I got into an American college and came over to pursue my goal of transforming the world through software.
During my college years, I got acquainted with the Kansas City technology entrepreneurship community, and I knew I could make a difference through my skills here. I co-founded my first company, Dr. Peet’s Software, with the goal of developing mobile software that would help children and young adults with developmental disabilities learn basic literacy skills. About a year later, I started Talent Helix, a company whose mission was to use social networks to help people find opportunities. The grand vision of Talent Helix was that college students and under-employed people in the community would use the service to find jobs and part time gigs while working full time or being a student. While Talent Helix never gained much traction, the experience taught me a lot about entrepreneurship, and more importantly, about Kansas City’s high-tech entrepreneurial community. I realized that while this community had its strengths, it also had a few major weaknesses. One such weakness was an acute shortage of tech talent, and I started thinking about ways I could contribute to solving that problem.
With this in mind, I went on to intern, and later work remotely part-time, at a few companies in California and New York City, where the best and the brightest tech talent always seemed to go. While there, I observed first-hand the processes and workings of several successful tech companies, both big and small. These jobs and internships gave me an opportunity to work on cutting edge technologies that led to my filing of three patents, and learn from the people who write some of the most popular software programs we use every day.
After a very rewarding year of doing this, I felt it was time to see if I could use these experiences to make a difference in the Kansas City tech community—and so I started Galleon Labs, a software consulting company that would handle the technical needs of any tech venture in the city, and hopefully eventually the entire Midwestern region. In just over 13 months of existence, we’ve developed the core products of over 21 different companies from the region. We’ve developed software to improve and maintain pharmaceutical drug adherence, web and mobile applications for pediatricians to keep track of patients away from the clinic, and computer vision applications for digital agencies to measure the effectiveness of their ad campaigns, among many other very interesting and challenging projects. My proudest moment was being able to hire one of my fellow graduates and one of my favorite professors from college.
Lately, I've also been heavily involved with EyeVerify, where we’ve commercialized a software-only, biometric method for verifying the identity of mobile users called 'Eyeprints.' The Eyeprint Verification System is based on the unique vein patterns in the whites of your eyes, and has fingerprint-level accuracy. Eyeprints require only the existing camera in a smartphone, so the system is not dependent on expensive fingerprint or iris scanning hardware. The patented technology is a major advancement in biometric authentication and is the only approach that uses built-in cameras within mobile devices to image and pattern-match the unique veins in the whites of users’ eyes, ensuring highly accurate, fast, and convenient security.
I often think of how different my journey would have been if I did not have to struggle with immigration laws. After I graduated college, I was planning on working for a major software company, but couldn't because my work authorization was denied for a very minor typographical error in the paperwork. As a result, in order to continue to be in the country, I had to exit the country and pursue my entrepreneurial and technical activities while also attending graduate school in the U.S. The United States has been at the forefront of technological and entrepreneurial innovation for decades, and it is my most earnest hope that legislators realize the immense value that highly-skilled immigrants bring into the country, so that the United States can remain in that spot for many years to come.
Riddhiman Das is Founder of Galleon Labs.