Kaun Banega Champion (Entrepreneur)?

The answer to this Billion $ question came from (someone whose name was appropriately chosen a couple of generations back), KB Chandrasekhar (KBC) of Exodus Fame, in a fireside (sans the physical fire) chat with J Krishnan under the auspices of TiE Chennai!

kbc tiechennai

Chandra, as he is well known, handled a barrage of queries from his chat-mate and the audience with disarming frankness and panache.  

Here are some of the insights from Chandra during this session:

  • Even as a student in Vivekananda college, i was keen on solving problems that I saw in life such as attaching a printer to a casio calculator to solve the problem of delays in buses before the fare stages.  
  • 99.9% of start-ups fail not because of bad technology but because the founders did not really understand the problem they were trying to solve
  • It was easy and tough for me to become an entrepreneur.  Easy because I had no reputation to lose and tough because I was in a foreign land without any connections or money.
  • If your aim is to earn money, don’t become an entrepreneur.  There are thousands of things that can go wrong in the path of entrepreneurship
  • Many people spend their energies and time trying to create favourable circumstances to succeed.  I was more driven by where I want to go rather than where I was.  In fact, I took my company Exodus public when my visa status was only H1B.  
  • At every crisis, I asked myself “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” and if it was something that I could manage, I went ahead.
  • Entrepreneurs swing from one extreme to another many times and some times even in a single day.  There have been occasions when I was considering quitting and a little later feeling on top of the world.
  • Entrepreneurship is a very tough journey.  Don’t make it tougher by going it alone.  Having a co-founder gives you that space to talk to, argue, which is invaluable.
  • A person walked into our office and asked us what we were doing and offered himself to head the sales instantly at much lower salaries that he was earning as VP of sales. Likewise, our head of engineering believed in our vision than in anything else.  It was sheer magic.
  • Your early customers buy not your product but your vision.
  • If you can surround yourself with people smarter than yourself, that is the best insurance you can ever buy against failure.
  • When we started Exodus, we did not quite get the business model for some time and soon ran out of money.
  • Be fully prepared before you take money from an outsider
  • Don’t worry too much about the equity control and dilution.  When Exodus went public, I held only 4.8% of its equity and believe me it was still great although I started with 100%.
  • Investors especially VCs look for a great team, a monster market and a technologically sound product in that order.  If your request for funding is turned down, go back to the drawing board and see if you have all these three or if you really articulated these strengths in your business.
  • I and my partner were on the brink of bankruptcy several times
  • As an Investor I look at how hungry the entrepreneur is and what is he willing to go through to make his vision a reality.  I don’t look at the business plan or the spreadsheet.
  • My biggest mistake was I did not ensure that the Exodus business model was stable enough to withstand the downturn
  • The second biggest was to think that I was invincible after the first success and raised $100 Million for my next venture Jamcracker soon after
  • There is no formula for success but if you have figured one you can be rest assured that it will not work the second time

There were many more like his saga of getting attention and subsequently money from Kanwal Rekhi, how he is giving back to the society by a combination of money and time, how he gets strength to face the ordeals and so on.

Those who did not attend the event missed a golden opportunity to listen to the triumphs and travails of an entrepreneur who had been there and done that and more importantly willing to share the lessons so freely!

Thanks Chandra, JK and TiE Chennai for a wonderful time.

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4 Comments

  1. N Ramesh said,

    March 6, 2014 at 9:31 am

    Badri,

    I am glad that you continue to show a lot of interest on the subject matter of Entrepreneurship and on how to give birth and run a business, leave alone manage it well on the right lines !

    Yes, I am happy to note that you are still keen on learning and knowing about things relating to Entrepreneurship and on how to up your overall knowledge base on all such other allied stuff !

    Indeed, I am pleased by the way you are seriously appearing to be fairly committed to the Vision of becoming an Entrepreneur somehow in the days ahead and update yourself in the process !

    In fact, I am of the view point that you need not have to learn anything further as I know that you are already aware about very many things relating to Entrepreneurship and thorough about it !

    Truly, I am of the honest view that you are well aware about the various aspects relating to the domain of being a Successful Entrepreneur and very much conversant about the nuances of it !

    Technically speaking, you are even capable of giving a similar talk on this topic as you are well endowed with the various intricacies and the nitty gritties to the role of being an Entrepreneur !

    Some of which I have already told you at length at various points of time in the past and you had also shared with me some matters which you have gleamed from the books that you have read !

    Any way, happy learning and happy sharing !

    Thus Spake the New Age Sage !

    • badrirag said,

      March 6, 2014 at 9:36 am

      Ramesh,

      Thanks for the words of encouragement.

      Badri

  2. JK said,

    March 6, 2014 at 1:06 pm

    Great blog – succinctly captures the essence of the discussions.
    JK


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