A culture of entrepreneurship

Silicon Valley is to an entrepreneur what the Lord’s cricket ground is to a budding cricketer. The Bay Area, with its steep hills, windy roads and old-style streetcars, has given the world some of the world’s leading technology companies and entrepreneurs. From college students at Stanford University to technologists in the retiring phase of their careers, almost everyone in the Valley cannot stop thinking about startups. People want to work for startups, invest in early-stage ideas or take the plunge and build a new venture.  Entrepreneurship is in the DNA of the region and it has been at the forefront of every technological innovation since the early seventies. It is a culture driven by innovation, interesting business models and adopting the long-term approach to building companies. In addition to some wonderful ideas, the culture thrives on rewarding employees, where not only the founders, but also key personnel can retire as multimillionaires.

While we were brainstorming the cover for our first edition in 2011, someone suggested we feature an entrepreneur who has witnessed first-hand, the entrepreneurship culture in the Bay Area. We jumped on to the idea. We picked Vinod Dham, an Indian-American who is widely acknowledged as the father of the Intel Pentium, arguably one of the earliest success stories from Silicon Valley.

In this edition’s cover story, we chronicle the professional career graph of Dham and talk to him about the many different roles he has played over the years. From leading two path-breaking projects at Intel and AMD to spearheading two startups to successful exits, he has done it all. In his current role as venture capitalist at Indo U.S Venture Partners, Dham hopes to invest in and groom other entrepreneurs in his home country and in the process, maybe even bring in a Californian flavour to the Indian startup world.

I am going to leave you with an interesting headline of a recent press release from Groupon, a company that sells discount coupons through the web. It read: “Groupon raises, like, a billion dollars.” Groupon raised U.S. $950 million in venture financing, one of the largest deals ever in venture capital history. For a company that launched in November 2008 this is no small achievement. Of course, the most interesting aspect of the headline, which caught everyone’s attention, was how Groupon still managed to keep the “not-so-serious” tone in its headline. In some sense, this, to me, is the culture of Silicon Valley. People go to work in tees and shorts and work in offices with foosball tables and Nintendo Wiis. There is enough to distract people from doing “real work”; yet, they create some of the “coolest” products and gadgets the world has ever seen.  I sincerely urge entrepreneurs in India to take a leaf out of the operating style of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, not just in terms of ideas and innovations, but also from its culture.

As always, we hope you enjoy reading this edition of The Smart CEO.

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