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Innovation and Entrepreneurship

October 5, 2009


IIT campus collage

An interesting coincidence indeed. I find myself on the panel addressing Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the Pan IIT conference in Chicago later this month. Serving as a mentor on a class titled the same at the Haas School of Business at Cal Berkeley had nothing to do with it.

I have been thoroughly impressed with the energy and enthusiasm the students of the Fall ’09 class at Haas are demonstrating. That, coupled with structure they are being provided with, is certain to create a substantial enterprise or two. I hope to learn a thing or two myself from my co-panelists at PanIIT 2009 in terms of getting these ventures financed and off the ground. I’ll report back – stay tuned. [Oct 11. Blog post now available]


September 27, 2009

For the soul, there is never birth nor death, nor having once been, does he ever cease to be. Bhagvad Gita

Gautam Bhargava's speech at Mots' memorial

Gautam Bhargava’s speech at memorial

With an elegant memorial service for Mots, the final chapter was written this past Friday, September 25th, 2009. This post is dedicated to all those who had the great fortune of knowing him as a friend, relative, colleague, alum, investor, mentor, prankster, or, as Sergey Brin put it – with a “Motwani factor of 1.”

This is (and will be) be a compendium of links to articles that I find particularly meaningful in chronicling the life and legacy of Rajeev Motwani.


Private memorial concert by Indian Ocean at Stanford amphitheater

Private concert by Indian Ocean at Stanford amphitheater

A fitting finale with Indian Ocean singing Kandisa (meaning Praise).

Do you have a Dashboard for your Company?

September 21, 2009

Largely due to self-imposed constraints (as an EIR at Mayfield and a “mentor” for Carl Nichols’ EWMBA 295A class at the Haas School of Business), I can’t really blog about some of the really cool ideas I get to review and the bright individuals I have the privilege of working with. IOW, my blogging has been bogged down. That said, there are a few abstract topics I am going to jot down as time permits.

dashboardBoth at Mayfield and Haas, I’m frequently asked by entrepreneurs about objective criteria by which an investment can be evaluated. This is a very broad question and there are no easy answers for early-stage companies. It often comes down to intuition about the market, the team, technology underpinnings and proposed business models. However, mid/late-stage companies do have a variety of parameters one could review. Not surprising, the same tools that a CEO uses to run a company can be used for building an investment thesis as well.

Here is my “1-page” dashboard. Each line item is owned by someone on the exec team and serves as a living document that can be used for internal management meetings, board meetings and, of course, investor meetings. There is always the alternative – a wing and a prayer.wing_man


  • 1-line market & industry description
  • Direct competitors
  • Indirect competitors
  • Outliers and/or market dynamics that could be disruptive


  • Revenue & Forecast
  • Sales Pipeline
  • Partners and/or Channels
  • Regions (regional differences that can impact)
  • Legal issues, if any (patents, copyrights, other)

People (& Locations)

  • HR (headcount, issues if any)
  • Locations
  • External (Board of Directors, Board of Advisers)


  • Current/shipping products
  • Roadmap 12-18 months out


  • Cash Flow & (if applicable) Zero-Cash-Date with & without revenue
  • Top parameters from Balance Sheet
  • Top parameters from Income Statement

Your mileage may vary, based upon your company’s unique situation and market it’s operating in. Feel free to adapt from here and leave ideas so others may benefit.

Twitter explained – by Spacey and Letterman

July 23, 2009

I’m sure by now everyone has read many a tome examining Twitter. This 4:23 min video clip captures this quite succintly. So, with twitter induced brevity, without further ado… enjoy.

Expressing Grief for Mots. Not writing an Obituary.

June 21, 2009

The edge is finally coming off the pain and I can turn to some fun and memorable moments with Rajeev. The last time we chatted was at the Jagjit Singh concert, just a few days before the ill-fated accident. We reminisced about the first time each of us had heard the maestro. Prompted by the editorial team at Indogram to write, not an obituary, but a personal anecdote or two, I’ll begin with my very first recollection of meeting Rajeev… in 1978. The mind is a strange muscle indeed when it comes to sifting through gobs and gobs of data. Ironically, Rajeev would have enjoyed this analogy.

The first encounter was a very typical one during freshman ragging season at IIT Kanpur. Here was this nerdy-looking, bespectacled guy with a great (low) JEE rank that we sent to the mythical IIT Simla. (For those who may not know, there is no IIT in Simla. This is the moniker given to the crawlspace between the top of the dorm-room closet and the ceiling). The only way to get out of there was to answer a few really crooked math problems, or sing the corny, obscenity-laden IIT anthem (Gungoo mochi and oil bottles, anyone?). Needless to say, Rajeev chose the math option, and you guessed it – answered any and all problems thrown at him. Now, in hindsight, it seems obvious. At that time 30+ years ago, who would’ve imagined that I was ragging someone who would become a world authority on algorithms!

ramneek-mailbox-rajeevLife moves on, and we fast forward to circa 2000 — way before angel investing had become a passion for Rajeev. We had both been in the Bay Area since the mid 1980’s, so our paths would cross socially every now and then. However, it was not till Gautam Bhargava (Rajeev’s IITK batch-mate and a mutual friend) and I teamed up to form Vialto, raised an angel round, and started exploring VC-funding that I got to know Rajeev at a professional level. I am taking the liberty of posting a snapshot of my mailbox from those early days of forming the company. I chanced upon this gem as I flipped through my mailbox, much like reviewing a scrapbook in search of memories. The text is self-explanatory. Rajeev is exhibiting simple purposefulness — to advise, help, invest and offer any associations he can. He and Asha (DotEdu + Deutsche Banc) were the first institutional investors in Vialto and the catalyst for us eventually securing a VC-round. Rajeev joined our advisory board and continued to help the company through its multiple ups-and-downs, all the way to the acquisition. There are now several such similar stories that are emerging [See Renkoo, Adchemy, Chingari as examples].


Rajeev's FB wall on Jun 21, '09. Wall post at bottom by Sunil Singh (IITK 78-83)

Over the years of my professional friendship with him, rather than struggle with some ill-conceived ideas about technology and incomprehensible Greek, I would shoot off an email to Rajeev. He would reply, often within minutes, sometimes during the wee hours of the morning. He always had an insightful point of view, or a link to a referred contact.

Our email exchanges slowed a little as he amassed his massive portfolio of emerging startups. However, not surprisingly, some exchanges moved to Facebook. It is social media that he used, characteristically and unassumingly, that truly showed the way he viewed the world – one big connected universe of entrepreneurs and friends. Whether it was household names Larry and Sergey, or the wannabees Gautam and Ramneek, he was a connection, a channel, and never hesitated to foster the links.

What a phenomenal legacy he leaves behind. The 30+ years blur in to one giant memory – what an honor to have been a small part of his large life, incredible legacy and – in all humility – to just know him.

Rajeev Motwani – Forever Etched in our Minds and Hearts

June 8, 2009
Rajeev at TiEcon '05 - from a personal stash

Rajeev Motwani (in May '05) from my personal stash

Very sad and extremely tragic. There is no other way to describe this.

This post is for those several of us grieving in our own quiet way; those who knew Rajeev as a fellow alum, a colleague, a mentor, an investor and most importantly as a friend. A friend you could trust with technology, business, personnel or personal challenges, anytime, anywhere.

Rest in Peace my friend. We all carry a piece of you in our hearts and minds – especially your enigmatic smile.


Healing or Stealing – Paul Hawken

June 2, 2009

As a part of my ongoing effort to compile memorable content – here is a great commencement speech delivered by Paul Hawken to the Class of 2009, University of Portland, on May 3, 2009.

paulhawken_frontpage_140Great gems in here include:

Civilization needs a new operating system, and you are the programmers [to make it happen].

This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them.

And he quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson…

… what we would do if the stars only came out once every thousand years. No one would sleep that night, of course. The world would create new religions overnight. We would be ecstatic, delirious, made rapturous by the glory of God. Instead, the stars come out every night and we watch television. 

Healing or Stealing?

When I was invited to give this speech, I was asked if I could give a simple short talk that was “direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful.” No pressure there.

Let’s begin with the startling part. Class of 2009: you are going to have to figure out what it means to be a human being on earth at a time when every living system is declining, and the rate of decline is accelerating. Kind of a mind-boggling situation… but not one peer-reviewed paper published in the last thirty years can refute that statement. Basically, civilization needs a new operating system, you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades.

This planet came with a set of instructions, but we seem to have misplaced them. Important rules like  Read more…