10 for TEN: Pramod Raheja ‘91
10 for TEN: Pramod Raheja ‘91
By Meghan Sykes
Persistent. Friendly. Kind.
That’s how Pramod Raheja ‘91, CEO & Co-founder of Airgility, a company that designs and creates multi-mission drones, describes himself. This fearless enTERPreneur graduated from Maryland with a degree in Aerospace Engineering.
Read on to learn why Raheja launched his venture, and how he encourages fellow entrepreneurs to stay focused and be open to new ideas.
What is your Fearless Idea?
As a kid, I was always enthralled with science - starting from science kits to science fiction (especially anything about astronauts), flight and space. This fascination grew into undergrad years spent researching in the UMD wind tunnel. From there, partnering with co-founder Evandro Valente ‘03, the Fearless Idea was born - Airgility: designing and creating hybrid vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial systems with broad operational impact and logistics.
In 100 characters or less, describe your startup's mission and why you launched it.
We call it “Mission as a Service.” Airgility’s multi-mission vehicles were launched to make a big social impact in many different domains.
How do you define success or determine the impact of your venture?
The best way to determine success is how Airgility is impacting people, jobs saving lives and money. My work is inspired by the potential to change lives in many positive ways. We design drones that can deliver medical supplies to remote corners of the world or fly for reconnaissance in the smallest of dangerous places. Using multi-mission drones for inspection, communication, delivery, or first-response in disaster relief - the possibilities are endless. Of course, profitability is important and essential to thrive , but certainly not the only priority in determining ‘success’.
What is the biggest problem or challenge you have had to overcome with your venture?
Investment capital is oxygen to a startup company. Since its launch in 2017, we have faced adversity where we didn’t think the business could overcome the dearth of capital. But we have always fought to stay in the fight and Airgility has won a number of grants and earned funding from a wide variety of resources. While we continually look for ‘oxygen’, we also have to focus on the challenge of building the right team to scale and grow and being in the right place to find business.
What is the best piece of advice you've received?
Stay focused! As a serial entrepreneur, we tend to have an affliction called “the shiny object syndrome,” hopping from one idea to the next. At the end of the day, success can come from saying “No!” The best advice I ever got was to sweep away the distractions and stay focused on what I need to accomplish.
What is one piece of advice you want to give to fellow Terps about launching a venture?
I love the quote, “The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.” Remain open-minded, persistent and focused. Focus on your goal and realize launching a venture is not a linear process, but a blend between art and science. What you learn along the way with failures can help you adjust your plan and purpose. There is no failure, only learning!
What is one book you're reading or a podcast you're listening to right now?
As an entrepreneur and CEO, I like to read non-fiction to keep learning to better my craft. Currently I am reading “Relentless Implementation” by Alan Mulally, former CEO at Boeing and Ford. I like how Mulally simplifies how to run your business and keep everyone on the same page. His advice is designed to implement early on in a company’s trajectory and is perfect for entrepreneurs.
What do you do in your free time?
I love sports, running, hiking and playing with my kids. I am fortunate to live in an area with great places to be active and outside.
What is your favorite alumni event or experience?
The Terp Entrepreneur Network annual conference!
As a student, what was one of your favorite memories or spots on campus?
I have fond memories of being a Terp, and I have two favorite spots on campus. I spent lots of time in the engineering building (of course!). It’s where I met my wife, Preeti (Mechanical Engineering, ‘92), and together we spent lots of time hanging out on the beautiful McKeldin Mall.