Date: Tuesday , July 30, 2013
Since launching this column in late 2011, I have tried to ensure that I can present you insightful articles around entrepreneurship from my own lessons of successes and failures as well as from other highly successful entrepreneurs. These unique, priceless lessons and wisdom emanating from the roller coaster adventures of these entrepreneurs can hopefully serve as guidelines in your own entrepreneurial journey. Following on the similar lines, this month's article features wisdom from Rajan Raghavan, a highly successful serial entrepreneur who has always been at the forefront of new markets and technology trends. He has an uncanny knack for being able to envision and focus on emerging technology and market trends. Rajan has, most recently, started his 6th company, The Fabric, which co-creates next generation networking companies with other entrepreneurs. Previously, he was also the founder of Mediaway, Virtual Chips, RealChip Communication, Xambala, and Ankeena (sold to Juniper). In addition, he has been involved with three other startups: Avasem (later ICS), Cirrus Logic, C&T and has served as adviser to multiple startups in the software, semiconductor, and systems space. He is best known for his early role with Phoenix Technologies. With special gratitude to him, here are four key take away (4KTA) points from his amazing and unique entrepreneurial journey based on my discussions with him recently.
1. Strong Desire
A lot of early magic comes from the founder’s passion and strong desire. An entrepreneur must have a burning desire to start a company and make a difference. Without a strong desire, it is going to be a big challenge since your heart and soul would not be in it fully. In order to weather the ups and down of building a technology company, you must be persistent, focused and determined that you really want to do it. Once you know that this is what you want to do, create a plan to take baby steps towards your end goal of starting a company. For instance, right after my graduate degree, I chose to work at startups rather than working for a large company. And when the opportunity came knocking on my door to be part of the founding team of a startup, I quit and joined the team leaving a nice paying job behind despite the responsibility of taking care of my young family with a wife and a young kid. This strong desire is also attributed to the inspiration from my father, who had risen to become the youngest Chairman of Bharat Heavy Electricals Ltd., a large public sector enterprise in India, having come from a small rural town. A role model who can inspire you, if combined with a strong desire and passion can take you a long way towards making your dreams a reality.
2. Know Yourself
This is another key characteristic of successful entrepreneurs. Knowing yourself really well is a must. More importantly knowing what you are really good at and what you are not. It is essentially doing your SWOT analysis in marketing terminology, that is, identify and understand clearly your Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat (SWOT). For instance, I learnt early on that I was good at articulating in simple, clear terms the value that I could bring. This helped me in becoming an effective technology evangelist and sales person. For instance, when I applied for research assistantship at Clarkson University to pursue graduate degree in Electrical Engineering after finishing my MBA, I was competing with a candidate with better credentials and more accomplished academic qualifications but I was able to convince my Professor why I would be a better choice and would bring more value to the project. I was awarded the research assistantship. Similarly, I convinced my manager at Cirrus Logic to give me an opportunity in software engineering without having any background in programming and chip design. Additionally, it is vital that you know your end goals and follow a clear path to build your skillsets that can help you become successful and achieve your goals. This may also entail finding right mentors; taking on right job responsibilities to provide you the rich experience that, when added together, would eventually assist you in your entrepreneurial pursuits.
3. Next Big Market
Always identify the next big opportunity and make a bet on this market. First company, Mediaway that I founded was focused on object oriented databases for rich media. This was one of the hottest emerging trends at that time. This was followed by Virtual IP, which was defining the new wave by focusing on semiconductor intellectual property market. It was at the same time when leading semiconductor IP company Rambus was founded. My subsequent focus was on Voice over IP space with Real Chips during the telecom boom and bust time of early 2000. Xambala was my next company that developed ultra-fast and high performance real time technology based on XML (extensible markup language) technology. The lesson I learnt was that just technology is not going to cut it if there is no market. Most recently, realizing that video delivery was becoming an issue with rapid consumption and huge appetite of video clips by consumers, Ankeena was founded to focus on video delivery market. Currently with my new company, the Farbric, the focus is on co-creating companies under the umbrella of Fabric focusing on infrastructure space.
This element is perhaps the universally well-known to any aspiring entrepreneur that a company is built with smart, talented and hardworking people. Having the right team with right skillsets, right chemistry and trust are key ingredients to your success. Hire people you enjoy spending time with as you will end up spending most of your time every day with the team. You want to make sure that you respect professionally the strengths each team member brings. Make sure to celebrate successes and celebrate achievements, no matter how small or big they are, in meaningful ways that are unique to your company. In my last company Ankeena, the team had all the elements of great chemistry, complementary skillsets and above all, it jelled harmoniously like an orchestra.
In summary, the four key take away points for entrepreneurs are having a strong desire, knowing your strengths and weaknesses, identifying next big market and betting on it and having the best team.
Naveen Bisht is Co-Founder of Auriss Technologies, Inc, a serial entrepreneur and Board Member, Chair- Programs, The Indus Entrepreneur(TiE) and member of TiE Angels Steering Committee, based in Silicon Valley, California.