Thoughts on an Entrepreneur’s after-life: After success, I mean..

Posted: July 26, 2009 in Uncategorized
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The thought has been in the head, ever since Nandan Nilekani decided to take up the position to head the UID project.

That has life turned a full circle for him again? Starting as a developer, then perhaps leading software projects, then teams, then company, then success, IPO, more success, being CEO / MD.. and now again, leading one project?! Albeit, a large one, for sure.

Of course, there is huge prestige involved, it’s a big one for the country and it is very honorable work that he has chosen to take up. I appreciate it wholeheartedly, and it is clearly a choice he made.

Which made me think about many other entrerpreneurs, some of whom I know personally, and others whom we read about, and their lives post-success. Where success, for the scope of this post, is defined as that first large piece of gain – IPO or being acquired for a princely sum, etc.

Let’s talk of the biggest icon of them all: Bill Gates. He’s only worked for one company all his life, his own, Microsoft. He lives it, breathes it, he is consumed by it. He has fought many hard battles, taken on strong competitors and enemies, the legal battles, and what not. And kept the flag flying high for many many years. And now, as he chooses to use his energies for other more noble pursuits, that is the choice he makes. Like a typical analytical mind, a well thought out, logical decision. To make use of all his resources – his time, his money, his connections, his skills – to leave the world a little better. Awesome choice. Except that he needs his “fix” too. He cannot quite completely disengage himself from Microsoft. So that one-fifth of his time, that opportunistic dig at Google whenever he gets a chance…that cannot go away.

So we know about Mr. Nilekani. What has the bigger Infosys icon, Mr. Narayan Murthy been upto? He has been offered or invited to get into politics. He has of course been the bigger visionary, one who can articulate his thoughts extremely clearly, who is clearly outspoken on issues where he has conviction. A huge inspiration to youth. It appears that between giving talks at various Universities, paying his respects to Infosys every now and then, perhaps doing a bit of venture investing and helping shape the lives of his children, he hasn’t quite found a true calling in the ‘after life’. It may yet come. And true to stature, it should be something remarkable. We wait and watch the space.

There are others, especially tech entrepreneurs, who have gone the traditional route – become VCs or work as VC fund heads. Quite the Silicon Valley way of things.

Only I suspect, they do get a little itchy sometimes, to get into the action all over again.

You can’t really keep an entrepreneur away from the action for long. There’s only so much golf and so much traveling that you can do, before you want “in” once more.

So I see a friend, who post-success went about investing in few ventures. But now spends serious time again, on his own new venture. Almost like startup days all over again. Just a little more comfortable, I suppose.

** At this stage, I remember Kanwal Rekhi’s thoughts. That a successful entrepreneur often does not make a good second-time entrepreneur. But perhaps, a not-that-successful first time entrepreneur makes a great second-time entrepreneur.

In case of the former, he is now used to a good car, a plush office, and other perks, which he believes he deserves. After all, having got the money, why should be continue in garages? But that often, also leads to a lesser “hunger”, a lower drive if I may. And that becomes an undoing of sorts. And Kanwal mentioned Sabeer Bhatia’s name as an example!

And how, for the latter, there is something left to prove. That how the first time might have been an abberation, and how they want to prove to their own selves first, and then to others, about their abilities. The hunger is far more.. **

That was a digression, though.

Coming back to this successful entrepreneur then, other than that additional comfort that he may be enjoying and the fact that the first success gives him that extra visibility, he is working on another major idea. Back to what he knows best. Working on creating an enterprise.

Then there is this other gentleman, who in addition to managing a great VC fund, seems to be now directing his energies to make India a better place. Not by joining politics or doing community service, but focusing on creating a nation and a people, that could potentially be more aware, more balanced in views, more questioning, more participative. And from there, would emerge a better nation. And I presume, like in his consumer facing venture, here too he knows, that nothing happens overnight. You have to chug along, get your first adopters, your first converts, and then gradually multiply.

Having gone through building a consumer business, that calmness and confidence of how numbers can grow and then multiply, should ensure that he doesn’t lose patience in this more noble venture. Again, a good direction of the inherent energies that exists within. And not conflicting with any interests, since entrepreneurs would be pitching their business plans to him every day (in his VC avatar) and going back to running a commercial venture, could have those sorts of risks.

So what will I do in that after-life? After my success? 🙂

Have a lot of thoughts, but have kept them all at bay. First things first. Get that significant success 🙂

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