In 2016, Sam Udotong arrived in San Francisco with only $100 in his pocket, unsure about his future prospects. The Nigerian-born entrepreneur went from eating three pizza slices and drinking a bottle of Soylent every day to owning the world’s largest transcription company.
Udotong, is the co-founder and CTO of Fireflies.ai, a venture-backed speech-to-text transcription startup.
The entrepreneurial ride has been a roller coaster for Sam Udotong and his co-founder Krish Ramineni. They changed the course of their business seven times before settling on a strong foundation.
The company has offices in Hyderabad, India, and San Francisco. But at the beginning of the journey, the company first started at an MIT hackathon.
Udotong’s success has been nothing but sheer determination and relentlessness.
After graduation from MIT, many of Udotong’s friends went on to work for firms like Facebook and Google, but he opted to take a chance on himself and start his own business.
When the product didn’t resonate with clients, he asked family members in Nigeria to introduce him to engineers ready to work remotely, and he didn’t give up.
At the time, Fireflies was a bitcoin-based food delivery service for students on campus.
Sam never considered launching a business before enrolling at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
He was born and raised in New Jersey, in a tiny village near Philadelphia, and attended MIT, where he majored in aerospace and computer science.
“That’s where I probably got my first taste, working with people who knew about tech. I never thought that I would do that before I got there,” he said.
Udotong found it easy to start a company due to vast opportunities of resources and guidance.
He stated that “one of the things that actually got me into tech was hackathons. MIT had several hackathons and when I was an undergrad, I would go to some of them. One of them was where the actual original idea for fireflies started.”
After graduating from MIT, he applied to graduate schools, where he got admission into really good programs alongside full-time job offers in Los Angeles, where he could earn like six figures.
“At the end of the day, I chose Fireflies. I woke up every day, excited to work on building something that could impact everyday lives.”
After deciding to start his company, Sam and his co-founder, Krish moved to Silicon Valley. The founders took the risk because they felt the best time to work on something was when they were young.
Fireflies began as an online food delivery app for students, allowing for bitcoin payments to be made.
Unfortunately, its slow speed yielded minute earnings, making the return of the capital invested a long shot.
Despite this, Udotong persisted in working 15 hours every day in a free co-working space, pivoting the business seven times while he bootstrapped the company due to a failure to raise funds.
Living in Silicon Valley, one of the United States’ most expensive cities, as a young grad without a job was not easy. Udotong had to change his habits and diet in order to survive in the city.
You would think Udotong situation was in great dismay, but with supportive people at his side like his co-founder, navigating the footwork to achieve his goals was a lot easier.
In 2022, the business has raised over $19 million, the most recent being a $14 million round headed by Khosla Ventures.