About Founder, CEO Sanjay Shah
Sanjay Shah is the founder and principal of Solo Capital. A committed entrepreneur, he’s also the founder of Autism Rocks, a growing charity that leverages the power of popular music to raise funding and awareness for autism research. Through Autism Rocks, Shah is committed to leaving the world a better place than he found it.
Sanjay Shah and Solo Capital
Following his withdrawal from King’s College medical school, Shah pursued a career in finance. Shah set out just as London was establishing itself as a global centre of high finance. He secured his first position as an auditor at KPMG’s London office, then took an entry-level position in Merrill Lynch’s London back office.
Shah made the most of his lowly inroad. He held positions of increasing responsibility in the London offices of several major financial institutions: Credit Suisse, ING, Morgan Stanley, Rabobank. At Rabobank, his last employer before the global financial crisis, he served as head of derivatives trading, a prestigious and well-paid role.
Following his dismissal during the financial crisis, Sanjay Shah set off on his own and founded Solo Capital. In short order, he grew the company into a successful boutique brokerage, realising a long-held dream. During this time, his family relocated to booming Dubai.
Sanjay Shah and Autism Rocks
Within months of their relocation, Shah and his family faced a more personal challenge. Shah’s youngest son, Nikhil, fell ill, struggled to eat solid food and ultimately ended up in hospital. The family returned to London to consult with a world-class team of physicians and psychologists.
Eventually, a diagnosis was made: Nikhil was displaying classic signs of autism spectrum disorder, or ASD. Relieved to receive an answer to their son’s troubles, the Shahs returned to Dubai and took Nikhil to the government-run Dubai Autism Centre, which served hundreds of families just like theirs. Despite its excellent reputation, the Shahs were dismayed to find the facility overwhelmed by demand.
Sanjay Shah realised that he could use his personal resources to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of lower- and middle-class Emirati families. He personally funded the purchase of two new minibuses to ferry families from their homes to the centre.
Taken with the potential of localised philanthropy, Shah resolved to focus his efforts on autism research. Within weeks of his minibus contribution, he’d begun leveraging his personal and professional network to informally raise funds for the cause. He soon acquired a seat on the board of Cambridge-based Autism Research Trust (ART), a reputable autism research funding organisation. And he continued to look for opportunities to persuade others to support his newfound passion.
In a serendipitous meeting with Snoop Dogg, one of the greatest hip-hop artists of the early 21st century, Shah pitched a celebrity-studded concert series that would contribute its profits to reputable autism research charities such as ART. The idea was a hit, and within weeks, Shah had officially launched Autism Rocks.
The organisation got off to a fortuitous start in 2014 thanks to a performance headlined by the late Prince. An intimate affair at London’s Cafe de Paris, the show raised some £200,000 from about 600 generous Londoners.
In the years since, Autism Rocks has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds at concerts headlined by some of the biggest names in pop and rock music. The organisation has clearly found a connection with audiences eager to contribute to life-changing research.
The New Autism Rocks Arena
Today, Autism Rocks is in the midst of a major growth spurt. In 2018, Autism Rocks anticipates the opening of the permanent Autism Rocks Arena, a venue with space for more than 20,000 concertgoers. In the meantime, a temporary facility in the Dubai area with space for about 21,000 guests welcomes legendary acts like Nicki Minaj and Guns N’ Roses.
Sanjay Shah and Autism Rocks are also hard at work on the completion of the Autism Rocks Support Centre, a full-spectrum facility designed to complement the valuable work done by the overwhelmed Dubai Autism Centre. When complete, the Autism Rocks Support Centre will fill a critical need for resource-challenged Dubai families facing the reality of daily life with ASD.
In the years to come, Shah looks forward to growing Autism Rocks into the Middle East’s preeminent fundraising organisation for autism research.