Angels and Entrepreneurs – Venk Shukla, Chairman of TiE Angels
Angels and Entrepreneurs – Venk Shukla, Chairman of TiE Angels
Welcome to American Dreams keys to success with your host, Ellen Olsen.
Welcome back. I’m here today with Venk Shukla. vincas, the current president of Thai tea, ie, it’s a Silicon Valley organization comprised of entrepreneurs here in the valley, welcome to today’s show.
Thank you, Alan, thanks for having me here.
Take so the week, before you got into Thai, give me some background of your career path.
Yeah, you know, it’s a mine is a very interesting path in the sense that unlike most of the other people who see who came here from India, who came here looking for, you know, essentially they came here looking for much more challenging professional careers and an opportunity for for success, which, India at that time, you know, did not afford, you know, driven by, you know, this socialistic philosophy kind of thing. So, a lot of very talented people came to us, and most of the people who came from India, really were those very, very talented people, very ambitious people who felt that, that they had no avenues for, you know, putting those skills and ambitions into play in, in the economy in India at that time, this is I’m talking about, you know, the 70s and 80s and early 90s. But mine was a very different case, I think of all the people that I know, I think I’m the only one who has a with a very different path in the sense that, that I was fat, dumb and happy in India, I was electronics engineer, and then I got into in India, what’s called used to be very prestigious, a civil service of India. And once you’re in civil service, at a middle management level, you were directly recruited to middle management. And once you got there, it was a very, very competitive recruitment process, you know, one out of every I think 1000 person was was was selected. But once you got in, then essentially, you had, you know, you had opportunity to do to investigate corruption charges against the governor one day. And next year is he you could be, you could be, you know, supervising Rural Development schemes in some state and a third day, you could be looking at the same, you know, maybe the, some aspect of running the running the domestic airline. So, it was a dream come true kind of thing for me, and I had absolutely no desire to come here. But my wife, she went to school here in Berkeley, and she was working yet and she had absolutely, she had made up her mind that the right place for me being an electronics engineer is Silicon Valley. And she managed to get me here.
Now, you, you and I understand you graduated from was it from ITT or
for nit National Institute of Technology,
technology there in India and it but your your, your education was further here in the US by going to
I went to MIT MIT, right. I went to MIT. And once. So she was trying to get me here. And she was already here, working for Westinghouse in Sunnyvale. And so she was trying to get me here. I was trying to get her to move to India. And then we then we compromised. And I said, Okay, I always wanted to do MBA from us. So I’ll come and do my MBA, and then we’ll decide, and then you know, who won?
They always win, right? Yeah. Yeah. So then your career paths. So you got here? And did you? Did you say immediately I want to go start a company? Or how did you? No, no,
actually, I had no idea. Because all my career in India, I was in government, I was a bureaucrat. And that’s the last thing bureaucrats think of. For me, it was just a journey of self discovery. First Company was a big company turn nine. And, you know, I was successful in that. And then I got recruited by a company here in Silicon Valley. Hiddens. And I was very successful there. I mean, I, within two and a half years of joining, I started at the bottom in marketing, and in two and a half years. I was vice president of marketing there. So I did extremely well, but I also realized that that that I’m spending a lot of my time on things that I don’t like to do, which was attending meetings. Preparing for meetings and following up from meetings. And I actually did maintain a calendar. And I found that something like 80% of my time was meeting related, was being spent, the thing that I enjoyed the most is working with engineers, or working with customers, and that I got to do only what 10% of the time, because 80% was meetings, 10% was all the HR related issues. Now writing reviews, and, you know, giving feedback and all those kinds of things. So the thing that I enjoyed the most, I was doing only 10% of the time. And then I got an opportunity to spin off a piece of cadence into an independent company. And that thing didn’t go anywhere. But I had a blast. And I realized that, that, you know, for me, a startup is is great. This is, you know, this is a long time after I showed up here. This is after 12 years of working, I finally realized that that startup is my home. So
I’m basically here today with Venk Shukla. He is a current president of Thai Silicon Valley organization comprised of entrepreneurs, the big we need to take a quick break. We’ll be right back after these messages, and I want to get back into your startup venture. We’ll be right back after these messages.
Apple pie baseball. And now here’s all American Alan Olsen. Welcome back.
I’m visiting here today with Venk Shukla. He’s the current president of PTI at Silicon Valley organization comprised of many entrepreneurs, primarily from India. And I think before the break, we’re talking about your venture into a startup, the first startup you went into, didn’t go real well. And then you decided I’m going to try this again, I’m going to pick up the story there. So you’re, you’re in the start, first of all, what gave you the inspiration to do a company?
You know, it was so much fun. The first one, even though it went nowhere, and was frustrating. The fact that that I was spending time on things that I like to do. And the fact that there was an immediate connection between what I did and impact on the company was intoxicating. Coming from big company, this was a huge, exhilarating experience for me. So I said that I’m going to stick with a startup, I got recruited into Ambit. The founders had been talking to me for forever, for over a year. And, and I had a choice this year of going to another big company or going to a startup. And the company, of course, was much bigger salary and benefits and stuff. And as it, I’ll try the startup again. And this one was hugely successful. I mean, we sold the company for $260 million. So so that some of some, so that phrase, he paid off very well. And, you know, that sort of whetted the appetite. So it’s so you know, startup the workout, they’re not only fun, they, you know, you’re working on things you’d like to work on. And if it works out, then you know, you make more money than you ever imagine in your life, you could.
So I want to I want to, for the listeners sake, when we’re talking about startup companies, a lot of people first thing they think of is I’m going to do a company, but I need to go out and raise money, because I have none. So at what point in time, should an individual think of securing some type of angel investing?
You know, the response to this question would have been very different, even five years earlier. Now. Now, my suggestion would be that you don’t need any funding initially. Now what you need is really the cost of starting a company has come down so much. Now you can rent your computers by the hours. You can do all the HR, all the payroll, everything is you know, by the hour you can get so the thing that used to take a whole lot of money to get started are available, practically free. There’s open source revolution and in software, where a lot of Building Blocks are available off the shelf. So things that used to take couple of years and a team of 20 people to do, now you pick up off the shelf and start running with it. So, unless you are thinking of a chip company or semiconductor company or anything that requires hardware, for anything you do with software, the cost of getting started is very, very small. So, so, you know, either you could go out to sleep, you know, have a coffee, the most important thing is to have a co founder, because brainstorming is with another person, and just having, you know, two heads to see, you know, solve the problems, it makes a huge difference, to get someone to see who is also willing to forego his salary, his or her salary, see and believes in the mission, enough to jump into it. And, and then it’s in depending on the kind of kind of, you know, problem you’re trying to solve. You may not need any money to get started. If you’re trying to solve this enterprise, you know, storage virtualization problem, I get it that you will need to raise some money. But well, I think the most important thing now is to you can build a prototype for something for practically no money.
Yeah, it’s interesting how times have changed. And technology has driven a lot of efficiencies into the process, which, you know, I think the end result is by not needing a lot of money and financing the pace of technological change. It’s just being accelerated.
It has. And the other thing that has happened is that the entrepreneurial at times, has exploded. Earlier on if they were, you know, 1000 startups in the valley, in a typical year, now, there are probably hundreds of 1000s of startups in the valley. Because it takes so little to get started. Just yesterday, we had presentation from three kids to see about, you know, about how inefficient the rental car market is at airports. And, and, and all the founders were dropouts from Harvard, MIT, and Princeton, all three of them. They just dropped out.
Pink. I mean, I want you to hold this message right here. I need to take a quick break. We’ll be right back after this message is on when hear the the how the story went with the three dropouts and the car rental company, so we’ll be right back after these messages.
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apple pie baseball. And now here’s all American, Alan Olsen.
Welcome back. I’m visiting today with bank Shukla. He’s the current president of Taiwan and also a serial entrepreneur. And Vink was sharing with us a story recently that he had the experience of visiting with the three individuals, they were all dropouts. One was from Princeton, the other was from Harvard, the other ones from MIT. And they’re wearing that the fact that they dropped out with a badge of honor. And they were coming to bank to pitch him on a new company and rental car company. So let’s pick up the story from their bank.
So we’ve got three kids, and they had a pretty unique insight. And the unique insight is that people go to airport, and they leave their car. And so they this and plus they’re to pay parking charges. On the other hand, they’re the rental car companies who have all these cars sitting there. And the cost of renting includes the cost of renting that space, real estate and all those kinds of things. So it’s inefficient for the person who owns the car is inefficient for the rental car companies and and ultimately the price is paid by by the by the person who is visiting the app. So the very insightful idea, but you drive the car and you leave it instead of parking it, you leave it with them and they will rent it out for you while you’re gone and you make money and they’ll make money.
Now that’s that’s very insightful. And I guess they’re just starting out this company though.
They’re just starting out they’re looking for some angel funding and and one of so severe The team was listening to them. And one of the person one of the person said that, hey, listen, dropping out is not necessarily a guarantee of success.
Yeah, I can’t see him giving the keys to his Mazar it to the three kids. But let’s talk about so, you know, when when people are getting ready to start companies, and they’re, they’re looking at new ideas, all these entrepreneurs, a, they have their dreams. But what’s one characteristic you believe every leader or every person starting company should possess. In other words, if you’re saying, you know, it would help the likelihood of their success in their venture,
I think the most important thing is passion. I mean, you have to have belief in what you’re doing. Because, you know, no sane rational person will ever do a startup, the cards are stacked against you from day one. So, unless you have overwhelming conviction, in what you’re doing, you will not be able to, to get the investors to get excited about you or your company, you will not be able to recruit quality people, you will not be able to, to convince customers to take a risk on you. So you have to have this incredible amount of conviction, which is practically which is almost irrational, irrational person is they would look at the trade off and and say, Why should I do this?
You know, that’s interesting. A lot of lot of people from the outside, they’re looking at these entrepreneurs, and they focus on all the successes. But not many successes actually come to fruition. I guess, I don’t know what statistics are, do you know any?
Pretty much the failure rate is very, very high? Yeah. Extremely high. And depending on the segment, so if you’re doing something on targeting the consumers on internet, the failure rate there is incredibly high. I mean, I think but I would say 99.5%, probably companies fail there. If you’re focusing on enterprise, and you have a deep domain expertise, then I would say you have a track record, then I would say the failure rate goes down. But, but nevertheless, it’s not a slam dunk. That’s why I’m saying that, you know, rationally, if you look at it, you know, by doing IT pros and cons and weighing this versus that, you will never do you’ll never do a startup. I know a lot of people who are who all say that I want to do a startup sometime, I’ve been watching them for a long, long time. Every time they get an opportunity, they look at what their packages are the benefits there are and stuff and versus older, and they all the risk, and they never make the switch.
So what you’re seeing out there in the valley, now, do you see any trends?
Yes, yes, a one bit trend is emerging. Which is that the the fascination that the investment community had with consumer internet has practically disappeared. And now people are back to what Valley has always been known for, which is solving big, tough problems that that companies have, which is you know, things like, you know, the database company started here, semiconductor design company started semiconductor company started. So essentially, what was happening is in last four or five years was that, you know, you could drop out of college, and even start a company. And who knows, if it’s a, it’s a good idea, you know, you will become a billionaire. And, and there are so many successes on that, that there was a herd mentality in in the valley, where everybody was chasing those kinds of internet companies, which were folk targeting the consumers. I remember talking to a couple of VCs, and they said, Look, I’m not interested in anything that solves the problem of big enterprise. I just don’t have patience for that. So he was looking for the next. Next Facebook next for the next Zynga kind of opportunities. The clock has done. Now says gone full circle. Now it is back to someone who say who has paid his dues working for 10 years in Cisco or Oracle or EMC or SAP. And or IBM or Intel. And he has figured out to see where the problems are today that the big guys are not solving.
Would you say the valley? Has it come into a second stage of growth? And are we on our way to recovery here?
We have recovered from a technology. As far as that technology industry is concerned, that recovery happened a year ago. It’s so hard to recruit people right now in the technology industry is extremely hard. So, and all kinds of people, not just programmers. So as far as the technology industry is concerned, the problem is a CF is the other extreme now.
So being we just have a few short time here, but people that want to find more information about Thai, how would they do that?
Now that she does go online, if it’s thai.org www. Dot ESRI silicon valley.pi.
And that’s ties T i e, ti e.org. www svtie.org.
Yeah. And Ty stands for the Indus entrepreneur.
And you have a conference coming up.
We have annual conference coming up in May. We always hold the DC on the third weekend of May, Friday and Saturday. And we’ve been doing it for 20 years now. And it’s worth magazine is here rated a PT icons to be in the top 10 conferences worldwide for ideas and entrepreneurship along with very humbled along with Ted, along with the world economic conference. So World Economic Forum. So you know, it’s the get about 4000 people and we get who’s who of the technology industry and and others to come in and speak to us and we never pay our speakers a dime.
Make I appreciate you being on today’s show. Thank you. We’ll be right back after these messages.
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About Venk Shukla
Venk is a General Partner at Monta Vista Capital. With a varied background in sales, marketing and general management, Venk has a proven track record of leading companies through rapid growth. He has worked as a senior marketing executive in large technology companies in Silicon Valley and has been involved with numerous early stage companies as an executive, investor, board member, or advisor.
As president of The Indus Entrepreneur (TiE), he presides over one of the most powerful networks focused on technology startups in Silicon Valley. TiE, a 21-year-old non-profit, exists to promote wealth creation through entrepreneurship, and its membership includes the entire ecosystem of entrepreneurship – VCs, successful entrepreneurs, senior executives in public companies as well as budding entrepreneurs.
Within TiE, Venk started a CIO Forum, which connects 25 CIOs from companies such as Costco, Walmart, Clorox, GE Capital, HCA Health Care and others with the most innovative B2B companies in the Valley.
Venk is also the Founding Chair and active member of TiE Angels, which is one of the most active Angel investor groups in the Valley with 140 members and 26 investments in the last three years, mostly in the B2B space.
Venk holds an MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management and BSEE from NIT in India.
Bio Source: montavc.com