Arad Malhotra, a gamer for good

Arad combined his creativity and love of computer science to start a gaming company focused on nonprofits.

Arad Malhotra’s On My Way story as recorded in 2017

Since receiving his first video game console at age 5, Arad Malhotra has been a serious gamer — but it’s the games he now creates that have made him a serious businessman.

As chief technology officer and co-founder of Skyless Game Studios, Arad puts a spin on socially conscious entrepreneurship through video game development. The Philadelphia-based company partners with organizations in a variety of spaces, from health care to STEM disciplines to anti-corruption, and creates custom video games. The games are typically for training purposes, education, or to spread a social mission.

The goal, Arad explains, is “to create something that is truly valuable, both on the educational side and the video game side.” His work landed him a spot on Forbes’ prestigious “30 Under 30” list and the opportunity to speak at a United Nations convention.

“Video games seemed like the perfect blend: The perfect answer to taking my passion to the next level, but also a practical career move.”

Programmed from the start

Arad grew up as part of a large family in Delhi, India, with a love for painting and drawing. When he was 13 years old, his family moved to Dubai; he says the move helped him mature and taught him responsibility.

Arad had been interested in computers ever since he received his first one a few years prior, and it was around this time that he started shadowing his dad to an HTML class and learned how to code.

“I was in love with programming and thinking creatively and being able to implement stuff that I had thought about,” he says. When it came time to decide what he wanted to study in college, he sought a field that would combine his lifelong creative spirit with an interest in computer science.

“Video games seemed like the perfect blend: The perfect answer to taking my passion to the next level, but also a practical career move,” says Arad.

His interests led him across the globe to Philadelphia’s Drexel University, particularly due to the school’s co-op programs that allowed him to get a year and a half of real-life work experience as an undergraduate. Arad was able to co-found Skyless Game Studios in June 2012 through a Drexel entrepreneurship incubator.

Arad says his background has definitely shaped the path he’s taken. In Delhi, he saw income inequality and corruption; today, that spurs his desire to make a social impact.

Longtime hobbies, including DJing and art, are also a major part of his career. “Video games, unlike other forms of creativity, are very, very multifaceted and involve a lot of different aspects,” he explains. “You work on the math and the logic on the programming side, but you combine it with 3D visualization, 2D art, sound, and music.”

Inspired by the technology

Arad and the entire Skyless team have made sacrifices to get where they are today. “I turned down lucrative offers from different big corporations as soon as I graduated college,” he says. “I really had to work hard on Skyless and without pay for a very long time.”

The founders’ passion has inspired others to get involved along the way, even when the money wasn’t there. Their early interns were smart, driven undergrads who worked without pay, “just because they believed in what we were into.”

Although Skyless pitched to angel investors and venture capitalists when they first started off, they didn’t get any bites; Arad calls this a blessing in disguise. “It took us a little bit longer to get off the ground, but I’m glad we took the path that we did, and now we have full ownership of our company.”

The potential impact of Skyless’ games is what keeps Arad working so hard. He sees technology as a way to advance big issues that confront human beings around the world. “I think it’s just the power of technology; it can really take us into places where traditional industries cannot,” he says.

One of Skyless’ games designed to help children with autism bond with family members. Arad got to see that power come to life while watching a child joyfully play that game. “That moment really touched us to see how beyond creativity, beyond the business, how we created a human connection and really made a difference in somebody’s life.”

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