Meet the Kashmiri Pandit woman who got a grant of Rs 233 Crore from Obama


Privahini Bradoo is a Kashmiri Pandit Woman who made headlines world over after securing a grant of Dollar 35 million (a little over Indian Rs 233 Crore) in 2014 in the United States for her Start-Up, BlueOak, which aims to extract reusable metals from electronic waste.

“BlueOak is building low-cost and environmentally friendly refineries to recycle critical metals from e-waste. Their flagship refinery is located in Osceola, Arkansas,” the White House had said in its press briefing.

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Privahini co-founded  BlueOak in 2010 with Bryce Goodman at the Nasa Ames campus in California.

She was a 2006 Fulbright scholar – Platinum Triangle Award in Entrepreneurship ($ one Lakh) – with a PhD in Developmental Neuroscience from the University of Auckland and an MBA from Harvard University.

She was funded with the 35 million because of BlueOak’s recognition as a path breaking start-up which have had a major impact on people’s lives by the White House.

Daughter of Mrs and Mr Deepak Bradoo, Privahini completed her PhD at the age of 24.

Privahini was born in Kashmir grew up in Oman, then moved to New Zealand, and is now based in the US.

After finishing her doctorate, she worked in the Commercialisation and Business development team at a New Zealand company Lanzatech and then at Microvi in San Francisco – both clean-tech companies – before deciding to start BlueOak in 2010.

She also worked in Boston Consulting Group and Mascoma, a Khosla-funded biofuels start-up based in Cambridge.

BlueOak is targeting 40 million tonnes of discarded computers and mobile phones (e-waste) every year to process at specially built mini-refineries to extract the precious materials, reducing the need to mine.

BlueOak was successful in raising more than US$35 million ($44.5 million) in two funding rounds in the US in 2014.


Being one the youngest students at University of Auckland, Privahini first started studying Biotechnology at the age of 16 in New Zealand.

A first class graduate in Biotechnology, Privahini completed a four course in record three years utilising her time in vacations in summer schools.

“It was University’s entrepreneurship programme – Spark and in particular its founding father, Geoff Whitcher, who are behind my success,” Privahini said.

Privahini has been a faculty at Silicon Valley (California) based Singularity University (California Benefit Corporation) where she met BlueOak’s co-founder Bryce Goodman, who posed the question about “what do we do with all of the e-waste”. California Benefit Corporation is a “part university, part think-tank, part business-incubator”.

Privahini said that the exponential growth in e-waste has only occurred in the last five to 10 years, something she said was likely to result in the recycling of minerals from e-waste becoming much more common in the future.

According to Privahini, “just 20 per cent of waste was recycled in the electronics industry in the US, compared with the automotive industry which was around 90 to 95 per cent.”

San Francisco based BlueOak has started process for extracting gold, silver, copper, palladium and other valuable metals out of electronic waste (e-waste).

“Every day US consumers throw away enough cell phones to blanket 50 football fields. To Privahini Bradoo, people might as well throw away their jewellery: a ton of phones contains as much gold as 70 tons of gold ore,” the White House said of Privahini’s BlueOak that recycles electronics and mobile phones.

Seeing a business opportunity, Bradoo founded BlueOak. BlueOak is an electronics recycling firm that harvests the valuable precious metals out of old smartphones and TVs.

The company’s partners in the venture include the Arkansas Teachers’ Retirement Fund, a consortium of European and domestic investors, and the Arkansas Development Finance Authority.

The facility should begin production by the end of 2015; it will initially handle about 15 million pounds of recovered scrap, including circuit boards.

Under its business model, BlueOak will work with electronics recycling organizations that collect discarded or broken computers, smartphones and other electronic gadgets from both companies and consumers. After the initial dismantling by those recyclers, BlueOak’s facility can break down the components even more.