In July, we hosted Rajesh Mashruwala (our Partner Emeritus) in Bangalore. Growing up in Mumbai and finishing his graduation from IIT Bombay, Raj went to US and soon started his first company, Consilium and since then, there has been no looking back. He has founded several startups over three decades and is the first and probably the only Indian to have taken two companies public – TIBCO being the most notable. Two of the companies that he founded were also acquired.He currently serves on the board of Syntel (SYNT), DeltaID Inc., Healthifyme and Covair.
Between the endless conversations, we were pleasantly surprised to know that Raj’s life in the US started after his graduation when he followed his girlfriend to the States! Amiable and pleasant, Raj bowled us over with his insights, experiences, expertise and different perspectives on the startup ecosystem in the country and globally. Of all the conversations we had with Raj, we would love to call out the following three sessions: The first was the workshop with Prime portfolio founders, followed by the fire-side chat with Sanjay Anandaraman and then the exclusive podcast. During all of these, the mild-mannered mentor talked passionately about three key aspects for a startup:
● The importance of company culture
● The importance of choosing the right mentor
● Building companies and scaling them
Company culture: Raj emphasized particularly on the importance of culture since many startups typically tend to ignore this key differentiator. Startup founders usually feel that culture plays a role only when the company has a certain number of employees. What the founders often miss, unfortunately, however is that culture begins even when there are two people in the company. Along these lines, Raj stressed on building a culture core to the company from day zero. Throughout his meeting with the founders and during other sessions, Raj – with various anecdotes and examples from his own entrepreneurial incidents – spoke about hiring the ‘culturally fit’ resource rather than a ‘skilled’ resource. Though this may seem counter- intuitive, Raj did make a valid point when he said that skills can be developed and taught, while attitude and integrity is ingrained. We got some amazing insights on how he endorses culture:
● As a founder of TIBCO, Raj had to create a culture that was unique to TIBCO to be a successful
company that would not just be a great company but would create a segment leader.
● Raj himself interviewed the first 200 people to ensure cultural
● fit and he would meet each newly hired employee after a month to gauge how they are fitting in.
● Raj and his founders also ensured that there is no hierarchy until the company reached a 1000
Building and scaling a company:
Building and scaling a company comes naturally to Raj and to our pleasure, he shared some advice and insights on how to do it right. Raj talked about the importance of having a clear understanding of what one wants to build. Secondly, he insists that the product has to solve a problem that nobody has solved.Thirdly, how a product needs to be sold – more thought needs to go into it as the typical presentationswhich startups put together usually fall short of addressing the real problem that the customer has. He explained this with how, when he started TIBCO with other founders, they went after Goldman Sachs and after presenting their ‘faster and better’ product, the customer continued to ask why Goldman should do business with TIBCO and finally one of the founders said that TIBCO would ensure Goldman’s successful business.
If you believe you are building the next big thing! Let’s make it happen.