Last week, I attended one of the talks that SMU-IIE regularly organises. I went to the talk with no particular expectations. My main motive was to get out of my office seat and be among the people. .
But after the talks, I felt thousand times grateful to SMU-IIE for organising it and bowed million times to the speaker for such a wonderful insight. So let me share with you what I learned.
Firstly about the speaker. Dr. Bala S. Manian has been an entrepreneurial innovator, investor and a mentor in the Silicon Valley entrepreneurial community for the last three decades. You can read his bio at the above link. What makes him special is the fact that he has been on the entrepreneurial scene for long, much before it was fashionable. Has seen through 7 ventures successfully.
Now what I learned :
The one bit of advice which set me thinking most and which I liked was :
There are pieces of information with many people, someone who can organise it and present it gives knowledge but one who brings this knowledge with real life experiences is bringing wisdom.
My take on this bit is that, many of us know what is right thing to do. We know a lot about various subjects through reading. For example, by reading internet and books one can give good lecture on entrepreneurship, but when it comes from the person who has been there and seen it, it has weight, it makes more sense. Does this means we should spend time in listening to such people – no.. very clearly this means we should spend time in “doing” it, practising it, then we can preach.
On various other pieces of wisdom that he shared, that is important for the entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship are :
“It is not about state of mind, but ability to execute what is in your mind”
“Ability to read people, gives you ability to lead people”
“You need to be a good communicator, but more important is the ability to listen”
“Need to have passion bordering on addiction” and “Self confidence bordering on arrogance” But should also know the borders.
“Will to succeed is more important than desire to succeed”
” You go to school only to learn to how to learn”
“Risk taking is important, but more important is the ability to deal with and manage uncertainties”
Some interesting thoughts on business plans :
You need a business plan but the purpose of the business plan is “to show your analytical thinking ability, it is not a roadmap”. Another piece of wisdom was so important ” You should not believe in your own B**Sh**”. This was in the context of the what we communicate externally. While is good to be bullish and come across as a confident person, we should know the reality.
He also talked about VCs, about exit strategies, about pace of advancements in technology, about the importance of mentors.
On a particular question regarding pace of change and a narrow window of go to market, how should entrepreneurs look at it, his advice was very helpful. He said, ” if you find you are little late in coming to market with a particular product, you can re-purpose it for next problem to solve. You would be the first one with ready answer”. In this context he also mentioned that don’t get hung up on a particular product per se, focus on the opportunity. If you know the opportunity well, you can find different technologies to solve the problem. In the same context he said ” the answer we get depends on how we frame a question”.
He also talked about India’s strategic place in this context. His advice was India offers an opportunity to entrepreneurs to fail inexpensively and hence is a good place to leverage.
For me this was a great learning. I am sure most others who attended would have found it too.
Note : This is an attempt to share my learnings. This not a transcription of the talks. The words in ” ” are very close to what he said in exact words.