Dalip Jaggi, Cal State Fullerton entrepreneurship student and founder of Devise Interactive.When he was 29, Dalip Jaggi sold his company, brand-focused engineering studio Devise Interactive, to Finnish software company Vincit, where the tech-focused Cal State Fullerton entrepreneurship student now works to create software development solutions to help companies thrive in the digital age.

For Dalip Jaggi, a teenage affinity for video games and a desire to make some extra cash set the stage for his current global profile as a tech-focused software entrepreneur. The Orange County native had saved up to buy his first computer and was just beginning to explore the internet and computer programs.

In 2003, he launched his first startup, using MIRC, the predecessor of today’s Slack, which served as the go-to hub for gamer communication.

“I started my entrepreneurial journey when I was 14, when I got into video games. I would play and then create game servers, VoIP communication and web hosting companies,” he says. “I would call these kiddie companies, because none of these startups were very profitable, not more than a few hundred dollars per year. But the takeaway was the operations – I was managing servers in every main U.S. hub from Florida to Chicago to New York to San Jose to L.A. That was the entry point to the internet and software development.”

Without an entrepreneurial background, the introverted high school student connected with friends and fellow gaming hobbyists online, his first network.

“You might not think of them as employees, but I had several gamer friends I met online who I’d cultivate relationships with and help me with these businesses,” says Jaggi. “I would pay them cash for certain services and sponsor their teams, so it was a fun way of being active in the community of gaming.”

In these pre-career days, Jaggi’s rewards for collaborators took novel forms. “The only employees were volunteer driven or I gave them free game servers – free digital swag, if you will,” he says. “I ran a web hosting company and had 200 customers, all paying between $5 and $20 per month. When I was 17, someone offered $5,000 to buy the customers, so I sold all of the customers to another hosting company, which bought my first car – a used, white ’99 Eclipse.”

While not recognizing it at the time, the young business innovator was gaining invaluable experience in customer service, communication, business operations and online sales, which would form the basis of Jaggi’s professional journey.

Hitting the Big Time and Powering Brands

The next step on Jaggi’s entrepreneurial journey was as a management student at Cal State Fullerton’s Mihaylo College of Business and Economics.  While studying at Mihaylo College, he launched Devise Interactive, an Irvine-based digital agency focused on marketing and tech solutions for brands, such as top-notch web presences.

“Fortunately, time was on my side. I didn’t have a mortgage on the line. So there were micro-losses and micro-wins. The agency was how I bettered my craft as a software engineer and people wanted to hire me and my team because we were doing good work at good prices,” says Jaggi. “Each client was a way to better ourselves, creatively and professionally.”

Jaggi might not have been the stereotypical business student – trial and error was his main curriculum, more than textbooks and tests.

“I was taking classes and would come to class, head down. I was running my agency, so I would leave class early or step out to take a call with customers or employees at the office,” he says. “But through my coursework, such as in accounting, I got the basics and took away a lot of lessons that helped me create the foundation as a business owner.

From an early age, Jaggi was also inspired by the model pursued by the Idea Lab. “Their portfolio consisted of a lot of companies, and I liked the idea of being multi-faceted, integrated into different companies and different innovations, so it keeps me challenged creatively and professionally, which is where I thrive,” he says.

Dalip Jaggi, founder of Devise Interactive, sitting with Vincit's vice president, Hans Vallden.

Vincit’s CEO Ville Houttu (left) with Dalip Jaggi, on the sidelines of the deal in which the Finnish company acquired Jaggi’s brainchild.

Selling Devise Interactive – and Connecting with Vincit

During those early years, Jaggi was approached by a few companies and investors with offers to acquire Devise Interactive but Jaggi had no interest in selling his company at the time. But then things changed.

“When Vincit approached me, there was a reason for why they wanted to acquire us,” he recalls. “They were new to the U.S. and looking for new ways to grow in California after being here for a bit over a year. Through this merger, they would acquire contracts, staff, and have a larger footprint in California. More importantly, their values were similar to ours. The way they run their company was just like us. We are employee-first, so I felt my team would be treated well.”

The acquisition was finalized in December 2018.

“When it came to the actual decision, I had to look internally, and my desire was not to run an agency for the next decade. I enjoy being involved in high-tech, ideating new ideas and building new products.” says Jaggi. “So I see this as a vehicle to satisfy all of the above.”

The decision to merge with Vincit was based in part on advice from established mentors. “My coaches and my mentors, who have been with me over the last couple of years, have played a big part in deciding to sell,” says Jaggi. “It was a calculated move. This sale enables several future opportunities. It also helps that Vincit recognizes the entrepreneurial spirit and supports these ambitions.”

With 450 employees – 410 of whom are engineers – Vincit, while aligned with the Devise Interactive mission, was still a sea change in culture and reach.

“Devise’s value proposition was being a brand-focused engineering shop, which means we live on both sides of the coin, ensuring that voice, tone and expression is correct and our customer’s digital transformation uses the best that technology provides” explains Jaggi. “At Vincit, we’re high tech focused. And that was a big thing for me, At Devise, we were being hired to do a lot of websites and mobile apps. Missing out on high-tech opportunities such as AI or machine learning. Though these type of projects aren’t that visual, the engineer in me finds these problems exciting to solve.”

At Vincit, tech is truly king. “We’re really focused on high-tech, whether it is embedded systems or anything data science related. We do web and mobile as-well. We are not a branding shop nor a marketing studio.” he says. “The way we approach a project now is truly from a technical perspective, anything that is brand or marketing related, we would bring in the right partners to facilitate those.”

Building a Future of Helping Concepts Get Off and Running

Today, Jaggi is committed to Vincit, helping the company expand its reach in California and beyond. Among the initiatives the entrepreneur is leading is the development of a venture studio, with the aim of early involvement in innovative concepts, angel investing, technical capital and intellectual property development.

“In the next three to five years, I hope to be involved in several startups, helping them grow and assisting in the development of their intellectual property. Maybe not being the CEO and running it myself, but rather being a trusted team member.” he says. “Entrepreneurs run into problems maintaining tech culture and wanting to build the next Facebook culture. We want our CEOs to be focused on sales and marketing. Our venture studio will provide solutions to bring tech and monetary capital to founders who are ready to scale.”

For More on Entrepreneurship

For more on the Mihaylo College Center for Entrepreneurship, which supports business startup education for students and the broader Orange County community, get in touch with Travis Lindsay at tlindsay@fullerton.edu or Center Director John Bradley Jackson at jjackson@fullerton.edu. See how the Center for Entrepreneurship’s Startup Incubator helped entrepreneur John Barton.