For those acquainted with the disputed origins of Facebook, Divya Narendra should be a familiar name. Back in 2004, Divya Narendra and the Winklevoss twins took Mark Zuckerberg to court for alleged intellectual property infringement, eventually walking away with a cash/stock settlement now estimated to be worth well over $100 million following Facebook’s IPO.
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Ten years on, 31 year-old Divya says his focus now lies with a different type of social network, referring to his latest startup – SumZero, an online collaboration platform for select professional investors that has been gaining traction amongst thousands of hedge fund and mutual fund analysts.
Divya’s journey from Harvard, where he co-founded ConnectU, to his current role as CEO and co-founder of SumZero has been fascinating. After graduating from Harvard in 2004, he went on to work as an analyst for Credit Suisse and then Sowood Capital, while simultaneously embarking on what would become a lengthy lawsuit against Facebook.
Prior to the collapse of Sowood Capital at the outset of the 2007 financial crisis, Divya conceived the idea for SumZero after realizing an opportunity to create a virtual community for professional investors where they could collaborate and share investment propositions. Flush with a new business concept, Divya relocated back to his native New York and began working on a beta version of the site with co-founder and former Harvard classmate, Aalap Mahadevia.
Looking back, Divya recalls having to perform an arduous balancing act of running a bootstrapped startup, while still embroiled in the Facebook lawsuit before a settlement was finally reached. Despite securing a handsome settlement, Divya made the surprising move to go back to school in 2009 and pursue a joint JD-MBA from Northwestern University, a decision that he says was intended to better his understanding of the litigation processes that he had routinely sat through over the years, as well as broaden his skills as an entrepreneur.
By 2012, SumZero was starting to gain recognition within the investment community on the East Coast, prompting Divya to start working on the venture full-time. A $1 million injection from Winklevoss Capital shortly followed, becoming the first investment made by the twins’ investment firm. Fast forward to today, SumZero’s core community has quickly grown to nearly 10,000 members, in addition to 40,000 ‘SumZero Basic’ users, to create what Divya says is the largest online community of fund professionals worldwide.
While admitting that SumZero occupies most of his time, Divya insists that it’s not always work without play. These days, when he isn’t playing guitar or training for an upcoming half-marathon, Divya is acquainting himself with his new neighborhood, after recently purchasing an industrial-style loft in Tribeca, ranked 7th on Forbes’ list of America’s Most Expensive Zip Codes.
As for the future, Divya says teaching is something he would like to try his hand at, particularly within the realm of entrepreneurship. Philanthropy is also on the horizon, with ambitions to launch initiatives in both the States and India. When asked about the possibility of an early retirement, Divya dismisses the notion with a laugh, stating that he has no desire to take his foot off the pedal anytime soon.