TECH TALK: Fooled by Randomness: My Life and Views

As I was reading the book by Nassim Taleb, I started thinking about my life as an entrepreneur. In the 14 years that I have an entrepreneur, I have tried many things. I have had one big success which is what everyone sees. I have also had an umpteen number of failures. And the fate of some of the current businesses is as yet unknown. When I look at the success (which could be termed a black swan event in my life), I have often wondered whether I was smart or just lucky. The answer that I have is: you have to be smart to be lucky.

The bets that I make are a little far out in the future. In a sense, I like to play in the blue oceans. They are extreme bets. If the future that I envision happens, I will win big as has happened once. If it doesnt happen, I will fail as has happened often. The key difference is that my failures are small from a financial perspective I dont, in the words Nassim Taleb uses in his book, blow up.

Going back to the question: was I lucky or smart (with what happened with IndiaWorld)? Looking back, it was the multiple failures during 1992-94 that made me start IndiaWorld. Had any of these ideas succeeded even to a small degree, Id have been running a software products company with unknown prospects. I had little to lose when I started IndiaWorld I had failed multiple times, so I figured that there was little else to lose. The investments at that time were relatively small, and I was trying to create a future that was ahead of its time. So, I had plenty of time to learn and get things right.

Even during the five years that I ran IndiaWorld, there were many things which could have happened. We had our near-death moments due to some business decisions that I had made, but somehow we pulled through. While there were many ideas we had on what to do, we let the business drive us once we started. It was the failure of people remembering as the domain which forced us to think of nice, easy-to-remember Indian names like khoj, khel, samachar and bawarchi as domain names. Each of them, over time, become a memorable one. I was one signature away from getting venture capital. If that would have happened (a couple months before the eventual sale), I dont know what path we would have been on. As it turned out, the ending was very different something I could not have imagined when we started. When I look back now, many years later, I have to believe that luck had to have played an important role in all that happened.

Going ahead, I have made two kinds of bets with my work and investments. There are four companies which I have founded or helped co-found (Netcore, Novatium, Seraja and Rajshri Media) which are the big bets each of them has the potential to be a black swan in the world of technology in the coming years. Then, there are half-a-dozen small bets which help me either learn or influence events in a specific direction to help things along for the rest of the ecosystem. At the heart of all of this is my vision of tomorrows world built around the broadband and mobile Internet with a focus on the needs of consumers and businesses in emerging markets, and computing as a utility. Lets see how it all unfolds.

TECH TALK Fooled by Randomness+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.