The Man Who Found $1 Billion In His Basement

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Mr Rodrigues, a successful IT specialist, had just decided one day that he wanted to quit his job. What he did in his basement next was surprising.

Instead of doing profitable work for other people, he retired to his basement and developed a best-selling computer product.

Carl Rodrigues says that his family and friends thought he had gone insane.

The problem was that he was fresh out of ideas. But to the worry of his wife, and scorn of his mother-in-law – who lived with them – he was still determined.

So back in 2001 he locked himself beneath his house in the city of Mississauga, Canada, and started to come up with something.

He said:

“My goal was that I wanted to see what I could produce if I did something I really liked. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I thought I would give it a shot.”

And after a month working “crazy hours”, Mr Rodrigues had come up with his completed idea – a software system would let the user remotely control his or her mobile phone from their laptop.

He called his new company SOTI, and sales of the system started to grow slowly, until a year later Mr Rodrigues got a phone call from one of the UK’s biggest supermarket groups.

The firm didn’t want to sell the system, instead it wanted to integrate it into its operations, so their staff could better communicate and exchange data and other information.

Mr Rodrigues, now 55 and Soti’s chief executive, said:

“I was still in my basement when I got a call from the company, saying they would like to place an order.”

“I don’t think they realised that they were talking to just one guy in a basement, so when the person asked to speak to someone in sales I came back on the phone with a slightly different tone.”

That did the trick, and the UK firm placed a “huge order” for 20,000 units!

Soti had soared high; and while most people have never heard of the firm – because it caters to companies instead of consumers – it today has annual revenues of $80m (£62m).

This is despite Mr Rodrigues not having to make any external investment. The business is 100% owned by him and his wife.

Continuing to turn down one takeover bid after another, including an offer from Microsoft in 2006, the Canadian CEO instead says he wants Soti to “become as big as they get” in the computer world.

Born in Pakistan to a Roman Catholic family that descended from the Portuguese colony of Goa on west coast India, Mr Rodrigues moved to Canada with his entire family when he was 11.

The decision to leave Pakistan was his mother’s. He says she was increasingly concerned at the country’s political and social instability in the early 1970s.

As the family spoke English at home, Mr Rodrigues says he had no problem living in Toronto. He even quickly acclimatized to the cold weather.

Today the company is worth more than $1bn (£770m), and has 17,000 business clienteles around the world, and 700 employees across 22 countries.

Instead of still being crammed in Mr Rodrigues’ basement, its headquarters is now divided across two buildings in Mississauga, which borders Toronto in the Canadian province of Ontario.


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