10 Questions: Vikas Gupta, co-founder and CEO, Play-i

FORTUNE — Vikas Gupta is an entrepreneur with a dream to help young children build a foundation in computer programming. That’s why Gupta co-founded Play-i, which has developed two toy robots that children can control with tablets and smartphones by putting together simple lines of code.

Gupta’s inspiration for Play-i came two years ago when he was taking time off from his career to spend time with his five-month-old daughter. Gupta had spent much of his career as a software engineer and manager working for Amazon — where he helped start Amazon India — and Google, where he was the head of consumer payments. A hiatus from work ended up changing his life: He discovered that he wanted to do something to help kids, and he learned that computer programming is an area where children are falling behind every day. With Play-i’s two robot toys, which are aimed at kids aged 5-to-10 years old, Gupta and his company want to teach kids computational thinking through play.

Gupta, 39, holds an M.S. in computer science from Georgia Tech. He spoke with Fortune.

1. Who in technology do you admire most? Why?

I admire Jeff Bezos quite a bit, partly because I’ve had a chance to work with him. Specifically, I admire his acumen in building platforms and disrupting the status quo. He takes the assets he has built at his company and transforms them into something spectacular — as he did with web services. That has been what inspires me the most.

2. What advice would you give to someone who wants to do what you do?

I think the only difference between a person who wants to do it and me is that I’m doing it. The only advice I would have is to just jump in and do it. It’s easier than it looks from the outside. As an entrepreneur, you need get comfortable with uncertainty, ambiguity, and change. At the same time, having strong conviction in yourself is important. Whenever I’ve faced a difficult choice, especially in my career, I’ve often asked myself: If I were to look back on my choice years from now, what will I regret the most? When starting Play-i, I had serious doubts, but I knew that if I didn’t take this step I’d forever regret it.

3. What is the best advice you ever received?

To hire the best, empower them, and get out of the way. That’s what I’ve seen succeed at places like Amazon (AMZN), and that’s what I would like to see at Play-i. I’ve seen firsthand how small, high-caliber teams are capable of moving mountains, while much larger, less talented teams fail. At Play-i, we strive to raise the bar with every hire, and look to work with people we respect and can learn from.

4. What’s the next big project you want to tackle?

I want to make Play-i the biggest project I’ve ever tackled. Play-i has the potential to have a positive impact on children everywhere in the world. I think we’ve been doing our children a disservice with the lack of innovation in the products created for them. I think if I can work on that for the rest of my life, I will be very happy.

5. What challenges are facing your business right now?

I think the biggest challenge for us is growth. We want to hire only the very best which makes it a difficult process to grow. Hiring and growing a team and keeping a very high bar is, I think, the biggest challenge for us right now.

6. What was the most important thing you learned in school?

One was when I was in high school. I grew up in India, and the middle school I went to was a pretty small school. The principal gave me unrestricted access to the computer room. We only had two computers, and he gave me the key to the room and let me stay as late as I wanted. That was the first time I had ever used computers, and it changed my life in a big way. My love of programming comes from there. The second example is from my undergrad; one of our very early courses was a data structures class. During the first week, none of us knew how to program in C, and our teacher gave us an assignment with six problems to solve. Within a week, most of us were C programmers. Essentially, we went from nothing to fairly advanced programmers in a week. No challenge is really that insurmountable when you get down to it.

7. What is one goal — either personal or professional — that you would like to accomplish during your lifetime?

I don’t have a specific goal in mind, but I started Play-i with the idea that I want to leave the world a better place for children. Through whatever work I do, if I can look back in a few years and feel that the world is a better place for children as a result of my work, then I will die a happy man.

8. What do you do for fun?

I treasure the time I spend with my kids. I try to block off some time every evening to spend with them. It keeps me grounded. We love to travel as a family. With a startup, a 2-year-old, and a 1-month-old, it’s hard to travel, but we try to make time for that. Interacting with new cultures and new people I’ve always found gives me new purpose and new inspiration. We try to take active vacations like going into the mountains for hiking and skiing, or diving, or going to different countries to get out of our comfort zone a little bit.

9. What was the last book you read?

I haven’t read a book for myself in a while. These days I’m usually reading books with my kids. The most recent book my daughter and I’ve enjoyed reading is Each Peach Pear Plum. We liked it a lot because it’s a good mix of discovery and puzzles and play, which has become a favorite book that we like to read every so often.

10. What is one unique or quirky habit that you have?

I’m a big movie nerd, and I have an eclectic taste in movies. Most movies I end up liking aren’t exactly everyone’s cup of tea. I’m a big B movie fan, as an example. Something my wife always complains about is that I get completely lost when I’m watching a movie. It completely immerses me. I like quirky movies from Japan and South Korea, even old ones. But the newer ones have been pushing the boundaries in taste and humor, which I find very interesting.

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