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TECH TALK: Of Blue Oceans and Black Swans: Bets and Card Games

May 23rd, 2006 · No Comments

As I read (and wrote) about these two books recently (Blue Ocean Strategy and Fooled by Randomness), I realised the links between my style of entrepreneurship and investing.

I have little or no interest in small, incremental initiatives. I am willing to make bets on bold, grand visions for the future as long as I can believe in them and see a path towards making it happen. I did this a dozen years ago as a failed entrepreneur who saw the Internets potential. I am doing it now across the companies that I am involved in. The odds are that I will fail. But there is also a chance that I will succeed. For me, as long as the failures let me learn and continue, I am happy making the big bets. And it is not something I am doing now just because I have the ability to invest. I did this in 1994 after I had failed. If we set aside the fear of failure, we will start thinking very differently about the world.

In 1994, I bet on the Internet. It was a bet that came out of failure. I realised that trying to do things that others were doing was not my cup of tea. I disliked competition! I also liked thinking a lot about the future. Out of my readings then, I thought that the Internet could be a nice way to reach out to Indians globally. Out of that was born IndiaWorld. We didnt get everything right at one go. But as happens so often, once one is immersed in a venture, the ideas start coming. One has to see and listen.

What would I have done if IndiaWorld had failed? I think Id have gone back to the drawing board and done something else built around a vision of the future. I am willing to accept and live with failure and out of that emerges the possibility of success. Once we understand that entrepreneurship means going out there and reducing risk of failure every day, one can start placing big bets about the future that one is confident will happen.

I was recently in Pune attending a cousins wedding. One of the evenings, as part of the various functions, there was a cards night. I am not a card player and neither am I a gambler. This was about social gambling with a little bit of cash (Rs 100 – $2). I last participated in such a session a couple years ago at another cousins wedding in Pune! So, as we settled down to play teen patti (Flush, a simpler version of Poker), I decided to observe closely how I made bets.

I am not the one to play blind (make the bets without seeing the cards). I like to see my cards quickly. I then decide if it is worth staying in the game or packing up. Most of the games, Id pack up right away. If I decided that the cards I had gave me an opportunity to win, Id play on till the end. So, most of the time, I wasnt really in the game and losing very small amounts of money. The few times that I did play, Id then make the big bets. I didnt win every time, but won enough games to end up ahead after two hours of playing.

I realised that the attitude I demonstrated in playing cards was very much how I did my ventures. I made my bets once I had seen the future, rather than a bunch of random blind bets. On other occasions (in my case, years between ventures), I was prepared to while away my time willing to lose some money on current operations. This has been the story of my six-and-a-half years since I sold IndiaWorld.

Tomorrow: My Bets


TECH TALK Of Blue Oceans and Black Swans+T

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