Starting a Company on OPT to getting into Y Combinator on H-1B

Updated on April 25, 2024

About Kartik

Kartik is a Mechanical Engineer from IIT Kharagpur (India). He moved to the US for his Masters at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and started multiple companies. He went from being a student on F-1 to raising $20M+ for his autonomous trucking startup.

Visa Journey

  • F-1 -> OPT -> H-1B -> O-1


  • Indian


  • 2009: Bachelor’s in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Kharagpur
  • 2013: Master’s from CMU (Carnegie Mellon University)

Arrival in the US

  • Came to the U.S. to attend CMU for master’s degree

First Visa and Year

  • Started on F-1 student visa while at CMU
  • Transitioned to OPT (Optional Practical Training) after graduation in 2015
  • Got H-1B visa in 2015 (had 1 in 4 chance of getting it through the lottery that year)

First Job

  • Co-founder and CTO of UpDroid, a robotics startup, right after graduating from CMU

Visa journey

  • F-1 student visa for studying at CMU
  • OPT after graduation while working on UpDroid
  • H-1B visa starting in 2015, had challenges when he had to get his visa re-stamped in India

Current job

  • Co-founder and CTO of Starsky Robotics, an autonomous trucking company

Current status

  • Continuing to lead Starsky Robotics, which has raised over $20M


  • 2009: Graduated in Mechanical Engineering from IIT Kharagpur
  • 2013-2015: Moved to the US on F-1 visa for Masters at CMU
  • 2015: Started UpDroid while on OPT, then got approved for H-1B visa
  • Late 2015: Decided to wind down UpDroid
  • March 2016: Co-founded Starsky Robotics
  • Summer 2016: Starsky Robotics went through Y Combinator
  • Late 2017: Raised Series A for Starsky Robotics

Advice for founders and immigrants

  • Starting a company is not for everyone. It is a lifestyle choice that you and your loved ones need to internalize and be decisive about. You can’t hedge your bets.
  • Appreciate that startups require an “all or nothing” commitment before getting into it. Be comfortable with this.
  • Understand the different dimensions of risk – personal, financial, product, technology, business. Identify which risks you have control over and which you don’t.
  • Figure out which risks you are comfortable taking on and can directly affect versus those you can’t. Different people have different risk tolerances.
  • If you do a highly detailed risk-benefit analysis, it will almost always show that a startup is not a good idea or worthwhile investment. But you have to take that leap of faith.
  • Networking is crucial. The Bay Area has a built-in networking infrastructure to support entrepreneurs that you should tap into. Getting into an incubator like Y Combinator provides a huge jumpstart.
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Rohit Mittal

Rohit Mittal is the co-founder and CEO of Stilt. Rohit has extensive experience in credit risk analytics and data science. He spent years building credit risk and fraud models for top U.S. banks. In his current role, he defines the overall business strategy, leads debt and capital fundraising efforts, leads product development, and leads other customer-related aspects for the company. Stilt is backed by Y Combinator and has raised a total of $275M in debt and equity funding to date.

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