We dicussed the “Problem” in the last part. In this one, let’s discuss the “Entrepreneur”.
Again, I’ll tell you a story from my own experience. My advisor at MIT, Prof. Anant Agarwal, was (is) also an entrepreneur. So, when I walked into his office one day in 1994, and declared that I wanted to finish my Masters and start a company, not stay for the PhD, he didn’t throw me out. Instead, he introduced me to a man called Dr. Ajoy Bose.
Ajoy, as it turned out, had done a startup with Prabhu Goel, and in 1995, was about to leave and launch his own startup. He had been an executive at Cadence and Bell Labs before that. Ajoy decided to “incubate” me. No, he didn’t incubate an idea, a company, a product, nothing. He incubated Sramana Mitra. The general domain that I represented was the Internet. (We were not very sophisticated at the time, you see …)
And I came up with the idea for Intarka.
Ajoy, Dave Chen, and I had dinner at a Thai restaurant in San Jose, where I explained the idea on the back of a napkin to Dave, who at the time was a Strategy Consultant. He vetted it. And we launched the product development effort. Why was Dave able to vet it? Because he used to see a lot of businesses and markets, and had the framework of product / strategic marketing to litmus test an idea. Dave also helped me build the entire strategy for that company, and taught me strategic marketing in the process.
Now, translate that to this incubator we’re talking about. Let’s say, we had a guy like Ajoy who was willing to foot a small bill and incubate something in a general domain. And let’s say we had a guy like Dave, who could litmus test ideas, and vet product stategies.
We still need the Sramana Mitra for the venture to happen.
THIS is why the entrepreneur is the real soul of a venture.
However, the role that Ajoy played in my early career is that of the VC (Angel, really), and the role that Dave played is that of the experienced entrepreneur with a good market / strategy sense, who can guide, coach, teach.
We already have the VCs in India in droves. All I am suggesting now, is to layer in the “Dave Chens” with experience in different domains, around the “Sramana Mitras” who perhaps have the Niagran passion, the Himalayan ambition, but are simply not ready yet.
Get them ready in this round, and they will become Serial Entrepreneurs, doing venture after venture after venture.
Further Reading: Here are two worksheets that might be of help in litmus testing ideas and building a strategic plan: Clarify Your Story (For Enterprise & SME Focused Businesses) and Clarify Your Story (For Internt Businesses)
This segment is part 2 in the series : Indian Incubator Fund: Specs