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From alum to entrepreneur: How the NLP program played a role in Raghav Chaudhary’s success story

Raghav Chaudhary

Over the course of just five months, Baskin Engineering double alumnus Raghav Chaudhary (B.S. ‘19, computer science; M.S. ‘21, natural language processing) launched a company and sold it for close to seven figures. Apollo Analytics, co-founded by Chaudhary and programmer Josh Breidinger, uses machine learning (ML) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) technologies to aggregate and analyze social data to predict cryptocurrency token performance. 
Chaudhary had the initial startup concept in mind when he joined the first cohort of the UC Santa Cruz Natural Language Processing master’s program in 2020, but he lacked the artificial intelligence (AI) algorithm expertise—specifically how to use and incorporate AI programming—to move his product forward.
“If not for the NLP program, I wouldn’t have the skills I needed to fully develop Apollo,” said Chaudhary.
Apollo’s core algorithm work and NLP technologies are directly informed by the UCSC NLP program, where Chaudhary learned the machine learning and programming strategies necessary to process large amounts of natural language data.
He credits his success to the NLP program’s core courses, small class sizes, and faculty support. 
“The small class sizes in the program allowed me to have meaningful interactions with my professors and get the support I needed. Instead of being hyper focused on grades like I was during my undergraduate career, I was able to spend more time on deeply understanding the subjects taught,” explained Chaudhary.
From idea to implementation

Chaudhary and Apollo co-founder Josh Breidinger met in 2019 through an online programming community. Sharing an avid interest in cryptocurrency, they saw the potential in blending their versatile skills, which included Breidinger’s 10 years of programming experience and Chaudhary’s years of blockchain development and previous startup experience.
“There are two approaches to founding a company. One is you start with a novel idea, then look for customers and convince them they need your product. The other approach is that you discover a problem shared by a group of customers and you build a solution. Josh and I did the latter,” Chaudhary said.
After Chaudhary graduated from the NLP program, he and Breidinger met with cryptocurrency analysis platform leader Sonar to understand the landscape of cryptocurrency analysis tracking tools.
Settling on an AI solution to better predict token performance for cryptocurrency analysis tools, Chaudhary and Breidinger spent the next five months developing their product, building a website and pitch book, and demoing their platform. In December of 2021, Chaudhary and Breidinger’s intense development focus paid off when they secured a $1M deal with Sonar
With the acquisition of Apollo, Sonar will implement Apollo’s four main features, which include analyzing social text through NLP to predict token performance; using AI programming to prevent hackers from breaking into cryptocurrency tokens’ code and deceiving users out of their investments; incorporating NLP summarization techniques to scrape news from major sources; and creating mathematical models that analyze pros and cons of cryptocurrency platforms.
Reflecting on what it took to develop and sell Apollo, Chaudhary emphasized the importance of learning the business side of things. “You can have all the technical skills in the world, but if you don’t have the skills to navigate key business requirements like negotiating and communicating with stakeholders, then you won’t be completely successful,” said Chaudhary.
He also touched on the luck factor in addition to having the foundational skill set. “A lot of it comes down to luck and capitalizing on the right opportunity at the right time,” said Chaudhary who is extremely grateful for everything that had transpired for Apollo in 2021.
Onto the next venture
Apollo’s technology will be completely merged with Sonar in spring 2022, providing Chaudhary the extra time to take on new projects.
“I have three or more startup ideas that I’m hoping to put into motion,” he stated. 
In addition to those projects, Chaudhary also works on contract as a machine learning software engineer with the company SportsFlare, which provides esports betting products and services. His work with SportsFlare first started through an internship during the NLP program, where he got the opportunity to apply a lot of the AI knowledge he was learning in his courses to the projects he was tasked with. 
This year Chaudhary hopes to travel to New Zealand, headquarters of SportsFlare, to carry out a new project during an extended stay.