When Ambarish Mitra was just 16 he ran away from his middle class family home in Dhanbad, a prosperous mining town in the East of India, for the slums of New Delhi. He was struggling at school and disagreeing with his dad about his future. His dad was set on him becoming an engineer, but Amabarish knew that he wanted to work with computers.
His shed in New Delhi was made of clay. It had no sanitation and no bed so he slept on the floor with 6 others. In spite of his living conditions, he managed to secure two jobs: one selling magazines door-to-door and another at a tea stall. He was flicking through a magazine one day when he spotted a competition to win $10,000 for an innovative business idea. At the tender age of 16 he came up with the plan of providing free internet to working women who, in spite of their employment, were living below the poverty line. Women Infoline was created and the profits made from advertising went directly into free internet access for those women who would otherwise have been disadvantaged and detached.
He took Women Infoline to IPO in 2000, despite it being unprofitable, as he admits that he wasn’t a very good leader, and subsequently moved to the UK to start up a new technology company. He set up three new companies, but success eluded him until a serendipity moment whilst paying for a round of drinks in a Surrey pub. He thought that it would be amazing if he could bring Queen Elizabeth to life from the bank note on the bar. He and his friend Omar immediately created an app and Blippar was born. Blippar simply uses a mobile phone camera and superimposes animation or graphics on to any picture to bring it to life. It now has 12 offices around the world, employs 300 people and is valued at £1.2 billion.
So, if you are reading this and you are an aspiring entrepreneur just remember, in Ambarish’s words “failure is not opposite to success, it is feedback to success.” Things will not always go smoothly but if you have the belief and perseverance then you can make it. Inspirational ideas often come when you least expect them to appear - in the middle of the night, on the tube or in the pub. Make a note. Experiment. Be bold. And just as Ambarish has used augmented reality to change the way we view objects, you, too, could come up with an idea that might transform the way we see things.
Ambarish Mitra ran away from home at the age of 15 to live in New Delhi's slums. By the age of 17 he had 55 people working for him. Now, nearly 20 years later, he is the founder and boss of Blippar, a mobile phone app business valued at $1.5bn (£1.2bn). It is perhaps no surprise that Ambarish describes his life as "an adventure".