Udai is the founder and CEO of Tuki, an impact startup from the first cohort of Maze X.
Can you tell us who is Udai and a little bit about your background?
Udai means “rise like the sun”. I am a global citizen who is very mission-oriented. And Tuki is my dream and my mission. I want to help people find the right jobs and help businesses build the right teams.
What is Tuki, and where did the name come from?
Tuki is a scheduling and staffing solution for the foodservice and hospitality community, and the word literally means “support”.
The Tuki team at the Demo Day of Maze X in July 2019 at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
How did you come up with the idea, and why does Tuki matter?
I care about food because it is an important source of happiness, and I also care about helping others. A lot of my friends at university worked in the food industry. It was inspiring because I like cooking, and I got to meet a lot of cooks, and waitresses in this community, especially in Seattle, US. I also learned that this life is not easy.
One night I visited Eliot, a close friend who was working at a pizza place. I got to meet his team and learned how many had to work late nights, most of the time to pay for university. During my time in Seattle almost, everyone around me had to do this. I went to a public university so it only occurred to me how bad the problem is when I attended social events. Smart people around me had terrible grades and were not able to do compulsory things because they could not afford to lose their jobs.
When I moved to Singapore, I was talking to Brandon, a good friend of mine, and he was complaining about how someone woke him up at two in the morning because nobody showed up for that shift. He was a valet manager. The reality is that sometimes people don’t show up, and people don’t show up because it is not the right job for them. This phenomenon got me thinking.
Five years ago I was taking an uber-equivalent in Singapore, which uses bidding to get the rides. And that made me come up with this idea of Tuki as on-demand staffing based on the network of the people you know.
Three years went by and I kept thinking about it. And, then, while I was in Stanford Ignite, at Graduate School of Business, my idea was chosen, and I had five or six other people helping me, including one of my best friends Matt from university. We learned a lot. Tuki has evolved a lot into what it is now from its learnings in US, UK, and Portugal.
Why did you apply to Maze X?
I met Antonio at a breakfast last year, organized by Zero Gravity at Nova SBE. I was stoked by his approach to impact and MAZE team. We didn’t know about Maze X at the time, but I knew there were other things that MAZE did. So, it became one of my target organizations that I envisioned Tuki partnering with.
When Rita contacted us saying that applications for Maze X were open, we thought this was the right opportunity to connect with MAZE, and we are delighted we got to know it so well.
What were the three challenges you wanted to tackle throughout Maze X?
When we first started the program, one of our challenges was figuring out priorities. I had a lot on my plate. I was onboarding Jordan, our Chief Data Scientist, on new responsibilities and Rafael was working part-time. So prioritization was key. I don’t think that is the case anymore. Maze X support helped us figure this out.
The second challenge was defining our impact thesis. With the help from the Maze X team and mentors like Vincent Cassel, we now can articulate how impact is at the core of what we do and is not just a positive externality. The positive feedback from the audience at the Demo Day validated just that.
Udai pitching at the Demo Day of Maze X in July 2019 at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation
The third challenge has been managing a business while meeting the expectation and benefiting from the programme. Thankfully, Maze X is a custom-designed programme, and the team is very supportive and understanding. The challenge sometimes is making sure that everyone is on the same page. And it is about us making sure we all know what that page is.
Which startup surprised you the most in the last year?
Well, I would say that I like Chatterbox. At Tuki, we also deal with a lot of migrants, and we understand the issues that they are tackling. I think they are doing an excellent job, and their team is solid. I liked all the startups
Also, ARGEO, which is like a Pokemon Go for marketing. I’m impressed by the technology and how it can actually work. I think that one day, the world is going to be divided between people who live in augmented reality and those who live in virtual reality.
Where do you find wisdom?
There’s something called the power of hindsight. We talk about this a lot in startups. You always know what worked when you look back and know “Oh, it was that moment.” It is always easy to say what happened in hindsight but not during the moment. So I find wisdom from analyzing data and learn from past experiences to not repeat the same mistakes.
I also find inspiration from Plato. Whether it is mythological, historical, or otherwise, I find wisdom in his concept of the Philosopher King as a figure who empathizes, understands, and thinks without having any biases. It helps me remember my responsibility while continually striving to be objective and empathic. It is also about being patient, taking my time, learning from my mistakes and moving forward.
The interview took place on the 24th of July at Casa do Impacto. The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Maze X was conceived and initiated by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Edmond de Rothschild Foundations and MAZE, with the law firm PLMJ and BNP Paribas joining as corporate members, Hospital da Luz Learning Health, Casa do Impacto as partners.