Raising Venture Capital
Back in Bangalore, we commenced discussion with three Venture Capitalists. It was clear by now, that we will have to create an international look and feel for the company. It also meant higher than usual up-front foreign exchange investment in hiring the right kind of people, setting up offices overseas, investing in development of methodology and Branding. All this ruled out further discussion with a completely India based fund. Also, when choosing a Venture Fund one has to look at, other than cash, what value the partner brings. In an international business, who has funded you makes a lot of difference. The list narrowed down to two. With one of the two, we discovered, value match would be a problem. The style of the managers of that Fund did not give us the desired comfort level. Given that, we had the uncomfortable prospect of dialoguing with just one Venture Capitalist. At this time, destiny played her first card.
Sudhir Sethi, India Head of Walden called me up and asked me to deliver a lecture presentation to 40 odd potential investees of Walden. Sudhir was a close personal friend and even before he joined Walden, he had consulted me on his unusual career switch, from working for an IT company to a Venture Capital firm. I had felt very excited about his joining Walden and had egged him on. For two reasons. First, I thought the opportunity was unusual and would give Sudhir a new career high. Two, he would work for Som Das. Som's name always brings back memories of 1990 when Wipro asked me to go off to the US and seed the beginning of its US operations for its R&D.
Som Das was in the IAS, assigned to the Maharashtra cadre. While serving there, he had ideological differences with his political bosses. Som quit the IAS and went off to pursue MBA at Stanford. After completing his study, he joined VLSI Technology, a semiconductor company in San Jose and when I met him for the first time, he was Director of Worldwide Strategy. Despite his disappointment in the bureaucracy, Som had a phenomenal commitment to India, deeply believed in her capabilities to contribute to global high tech and was an active supporter of anyone who came to the Valley trying to set up any high tech venture. Som was a founder of the Silicon Valley Indian Professionalsl Association (SIPA). When I moved out of Wipro GE Medical Systems to accept the challenge of repositioning Wipro's R&D and came to the Valley, a very senior executive had dissuaded me. Knowing the restrictive trade environment, he had said, "why do you want to give up Wipro GE and pitch a tent in a desert". With not enough money to start a proper office, I actually ran Wipro's office from my dining table and literally, the sparsely furnished apartment was my tent in the desert.