About five years ago (and a year after my company had been acquired), I was considering what to do next. Should I become a venture capitalist? Should I continue on the path of entrepreneurship? I came very close to becoming a VC and raising a fund until a friend offered advice I have not forgotten to this day. He told me, Rajesh, dont! It will be very easy for you to raise the money given your recent success. But that money will come with very high expectations which you will not be able to live down. Also, in case things go wrong, you would definitely not want people to say they lost money because of you.
That frank opinion made me reconsider. I thought about what I wanted to do. Did I see myself as a VC or an entrepreneur? What would excite me every morning? The answer was clear. I was, at heart, an entrepreneur. Give me any days the ups and downs of the start-up to the steady beat of the other options.
Life as an entrepreneur hasnt been easy. But then thats the choice Ive made. I have had my share of downs in the past few years. As I wrote recently, there have many things which have gone wrong. Since then, I have worked hard to try and turn things around. And I hope the next year will see positive results. But in all of this, the ambition has not been reduced and neither has the optimism diminished. I still believe that we can build the next Black Swan out of India. The fire in the belly still burns bright!
I have, however, added an interesting dimension to the game. The past few years of reading, thinking and writing (blogging) have given me some interesting insights to what I think will be tomorrows world. And out of that has emerged a vision of the future. As I like to say, The future is an instantiation of someones vision. Ideally, Id like that vision to be mine. The ideas for this world of tomorrow are more than what I can do in my existing company. And as such, I have, over the past year, co-founded and invested in a number of companies. I think of them as the Emergic Ecosystem. The common theme revolves around a world of mobile phones and broadband networks in emerging markets. What are the opportunities that this opens up?
I do now know how the investments will shape up. For me, success and failure, profit and loss are two sides of the same coin. More important is the opportunity to influence the creation of tomorrows world. This is where I am trying to have my cake and eat it too build my existing company with the help of a strong management team, and also invest in external companies to build out elements of the ecosystem. I think of this as entrepreneurship blended with hands-on, thesis-based investing.
It is during this journey that I have come to the conclusion that India needs many more entrepreneurs. The ones considering the path to entrepreneurship need to exorcise the fear of failure and focus on the journey. I was, for many years, a struggling (and failing) entrepreneur. But the passion and optimism never died. And today, it is perhaps stronger than ever before. We live only once. Entrepreneurship is perhaps the most exhilarating rides one can embark on. So, why not?
Tomorrow: My Dreams