Passion, fun and risk

No, I am not talking about bungee jumping off a bridge in New Zealand. It’s about how at The Smart CEO, we’re sane (boring?) people who think, something like investing in startups, is a little risky! For the cover story this edition, we met a few members of Mumbai Angels, an angel investing group that is willing to bet risk capital on early-stage entrepreneurs, while enjoying the experience and following their passion for angel investing while they are at it.

We spoke to several Mumbai Angels investors including Sasha Mirchandani, Prashant Choksey, Sanjay Kamlani, Anand Jhavery and Karthik Reddy to get a first-hand perspective of what investors are thinking as they write their cheques. The story highlights what makes a good angel investor, some success stories from the Mumbai Angels’ portfolio and how InMobi, Mumbai Angels’ first ever investment, is now a billion-dollar company.

We also layout what we believe will be the roadmap for the early-stage ecosystem in a country like India. The roadmap, as several investors we spoke to agree, should include multiple angel investing clubs (one in every big city), entrepreneurship schools (where starting up a venture can be taught – at least to a certain extent) and incubators (both independent ones and those associated with colleges). We also believe that each of these types of organisations should work together, whenever possible, and play a role in building the foundation for a strong early-stage ecosystem.

Earlier this month, I was at the Nasscom Product Conclave 2011 held in Bengaluru. The keynote speaker, Vinod Khosla, founder of Sun Microsystems and Managing Partner, Khosla Ventures, shared some interesting insights most of which, like the one on failure and how one can fail multiple times to succeed, has been widely written about by the rest of the media. Here are some of his other interesting pieces of advice, which I believe, will be very useful to an entrepreneur. 

Khosla narrated a scene from the movie Apollo 13, the American drama film directed by Ron Howard. In the movie, the spacecraft gets into trouble and three crewmembers inside Apollo 13 need to somehow find a way to come back to Earth, alive. The flight director, Gene Kranz tells the crewmembers, “You have all these different equipments and devices that you can use. But that’s all you have. Somehow, figure out a way to get back.” (reworded) Khosla says, “In a startup, it is no different. Don’t think too much about what you don’t have. Creatively use the resources you have to make it work.”

He had another great advice for entrepreneurs, especially those running consumer-focused businesses. He believes that “emotional connect” with the audience is critical. And to understand this better, he recommends the book titled Fascinate, written by Sally Hogshead. Intrigued, I decided to start reading the book. It talks about what triggers fascination in people and how consumers and enterprises put these triggers to use. The early part of the book is compelling and is a must-read for entrepreneurs. I can assure you it will add a whole new dimension to your thinking process.

Khosla finally shared his personal mantra. He says, “Try new things and try hard things. Get out of your comfort zone.” Khosla says he’s followed this over the last 30 years and it still keeps him going.

On that note, wish you all a great holiday season and be adventurous – be it through bungee jumping or angel investing.

Hope you have fun reading this edition of The Smart CEO.  And please join our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheSmartCEO.