From Ghetto to Blockchain Billionaire: The Inspiring Journey of Sandeep Nailwal
From his childhood living in a ghetto on the east bank of the Yamuna River in Delhi to launching the $6-billion Polygon blockchain, Sandeep Nailwal has an incredible rags-to-riches tale. Now happily ensconced in the futuristic, air-conditioned cityscape of Dubai, he tells Magazine he was born in a farming village in 1987 with no electricity called Ramnagar in the foothills of the Himalayas.
Early Life in the Ghetto
His parents married as teenagers and then packed up home when Nailwal was just four to try their luck in Delhi. They wound up in the poor settlements on the east banks of the river, often dismissively referred to as Jamna-Paar. “Imagine the Bronx in New York,” Nailwal says. “It was like a tier-three area. Even now, when you go there is a very kind of ghetto-ish area.”
Education and Challenges
Nailwal didn’t attend school until he was five, in a country and period where many schools accepted children as young as two and a half, mainly because his parents didn’t know any better. As a result, the family was often behind on paying the school’s monthly fees. Home life wasn’t much better, with Nailwal’s father becoming an alcoholic and getting into gambling.
Young entrepreneur Nailwal got his start in business as a teenager, selling pens from a friend’s shop at a decent markup in school and tutoring other students. After he graduated, he hoped to take an insanely competitive engineering exam for the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) but couldn’t afford the extra tuition he needed. He ended up getting accepted into the tier-two MAIT college in Delhi and took out a loan to put himself through a computer science and engineering degree.
Choosing a Path
Supremely ambitious and possibly a tad overconfident, Nailwal saw his future going down two possible paths based on two notable role models: Either join a company and work his way up to become “global CEO” like PepsiCo’s Indra Nooyi or start up a revolutionary internet business like Mark Zuckerberg did with Facebook. During his university degree, his talents in data analysis saw him get a gig working on electorate analysis work for the regional BJP party.
The Startup Journey
Although a highly regarded employee at Deloitte and Welspun textiles, Nailwal never stopped working on his own projects. He’d spend all day at work, then go home and work on projects like a GPS-based system to optimize cargo vehicle deliveries or a B2B service platform for project management. But cultural pressure and a responsibility to support his family held him back from pursuing a startup full-time.
The Bitcoin Revolution
Bitcoin was starting to get some press at that time due to the upcoming halving in 2016. Nailwal had heard about Bitcoin back in 2013 but initially wrote it off as “some sort of Ponzi scheme.” After discovering it had lasted the distance, he thought it worthy of further investigation. Converted, he was desperate to get “skin in the game” and, over the next three months, tipped the $15,000 wedding loan into Bitcoin at $800 a piece.
Building the Polygon Blockchain
As a builder, he wanted blockchain to be about more than just payments, which led him to Ethereum’s full programmability. Throwing himself into the space, Nailwal founded a blockchain services startup called Scope Weaver in 2016 and became well-known as a moderator on local Ethereum forums. That’s where he met a “hardcore programmer” named Jaynti “JD” Kanan, who kept suggesting he spend his $400,000 Bitcoin stash investing in his startup ideas.
Sandeep Nailwal’s journey from the Delhi ghetto to launching the $6-billion Polygon blockchain is a testament to determination and grit. Despite facing numerous challenges, he never gave up on his dreams and took risks to pursue his passion for blockchain technology. Today, Nailwal is a prominent figure in the crypto industry and continues to drive innovation in the field. His story serves as an inspiration to aspiring entrepreneurs around the world.