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Monday, November 24, 2008

November 11th Meeting: Serial Entrepreneur Pravin Chaturvedi Speaks about "The Irrational Act of Entrepreneurship"

TLP was privileged to have Dr. Pravin Chaturvedi, serial entrepreneur and prodigious researcher, as our speaker for the November 11th meeting. Pravin is currently the President & Chief Scientific Officer of Napo Pharmaceuticals, prior to which he has also co-founded 2 other pharmaceutical companies, Indus & Scion Pharmaceuticals. He has dedicated his life to advancement and discovery of novel medical therapies. Pravin has been directly responsible for discovering 4 first in class molecules for a wide variety of indications. A remarkable achievement considering 75-85% of all drugs brought to market in the last 10 years are derivations/reformulations of already existing medications.

As someone who shares my background in Life sciences & Healthcare, I was enthusiastic when I first heard that Pravin was selected to speak at our TLP meeting (great choice, Bala) - he did not disappoint. It was immediately obvious that Pravin was excited to talk with us - he spoke passionately about why he pursued the path of entrepreneurship - his genuine interest in medicine and specifically, the lack of drug/therapies currently out in the market for a wide variety of diseases - diseases that also happened to afflict personal friends.

Pravin spoke enthusiastically about "The Irrational Act of Entrepreneurship" and actively engaged the class by inquiring about their motivation for entrepreneurship and when they thought it was the right time to get started. Our fellow TLP’ers responded with varied answers, such as eureka moments, frustration with the state quo, etc., the response that struck me is that one never knows when is the right time - entrepreneurship doesn't have structure - kinda like the Nike slogan – you gotta just do it.

If someone asked me what I thought was the most difficult part in starting a new enterprise, I would reply that it was the start up phase, or as Pravin described it, Zero > 0 MPH phase. I was quickly proven wrong. While start up phase is difficult to get going, additional phases like sustaining & surviving are actually harder because of managing the ups & downs of a company's growth. Forces exist that constantly pull the young company in different directions.

Pravin emphasized what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur - the importance of having unwavering vision and drive in pursuing your dream, coupled with the need for adaptability in strategy & tactics when challenges arise. He also stated that the primary motivator for entrepreneurs should be bringing the ideas to fruition and not money or ego (i.e., do not let greed get in the way of starting your enterprise)

At this point, Pravin shot off a statistic/factoid that was telling – he asked the class why there are only 3 cities (San Francisco, San Diego & Boston) in the world have the entrepreneurial culture to consistently spin off hi-tech companies, while countless other cities (e.g., Singapore, Seoul, London, Beijing, etc) have tried and failed? After failing around with a lot of incorrect responses, like the rest of my classmates, I scratched my head, shrugged my shoulders and asked why? His answer was insightful – San Francisco, San Diego & Boston succeed because they simply have the most entrepreneurs and via Brownian motion – run into each on the street, at the coffee shop, etc and ideas are exchanged and companies are born. This factoid segwayed into Pravin’s last pearl of wisdom - entrepreneur should surround him/herself with a great team - people that they can trust 100%.

At the end of Pravin’s talk, I looked around the room and saw that, like me, people were genuinely impressed and inspired. I usually do not ask many people for their business cards, but I knew Pravin could be a great mentor for me. Pravin, if you are reading this, expect an email from me soon, I have an idea to pitch to you.

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