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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Srinivasa Nandiwada Leads Off SLP Hard Skills Workshop

Our first speaker for the Hard Skills Workshop was Srinivasa Nandiwada, Co-Founder and CTO of Mobegic. Although the time Srinivasa was given to present was cut in half due to a late start, he still provided the group with an excellent and complete introduction to the workshop. Beginning a trend that we heard throughout the day, Srinivasa told us that a successful company is not about a specific idea, because your idea and business plan will change over time. Instead, a successful company is about how you execute at different stages of the business. Srinivasa also suggested that one should not expect to accomplish everything oneself. Again being the trendsetter of insights to be heard from speakers throughout the day, Srinivasa stated that there are lawyers, accountants, etc. for a reason, and it is best to let them do those jobs while we focus on the business. Finally, toward the end of the presentation Srinivasa suggested that although we may want to grab at any offer of funding, it is important to choose our advisors and funders wisely.

In addition to the valuable recommendations, what grabbed my attention most were the interesting and honest anecdotes. The most memorable of these occurred when Srinivasa explained that as an entrepreneur it is very important to trust others. To demonstrate the level of trust one must possess, he told the story of how he was once late for a talk in Boston and could not find a parking spot anywhere. So, his solution was to park his car at the entrance to a garage and leave the keys with an attendant. Most people would not even consider such an option (especially if they remember the movie Ferris Beuller’s Day Off), let alone go through with it. But Srinivasa believes that people are good at heart, and 1.5 hours later he came back from the talk and his car was there, exactly as Srinivasa anticipated given his trust of others.

For me, this story was the most reassuring moment during the Hard Skills Workshop. I believe that I am a trustworthy person, and I would much rather discuss ideas openly with others than keep them bottled up inside. In many ways, this characteristic of my personality is what originally drew me to academic science, where I looked forward to being part of an open, free-flowing community of ideas. Unfortunately for me, it turned out that there were many selfish, deceitful, and immoral members within biology, and although they were the minority, these researchers (in my opinion) were ruining the field for everyone. Instead of being open and honest about one's research, it was often recommended that you not speak about your research until the work was ready to publish, lest one of these other researchers repeat the experiments and publish before you. This made for a more secretive, closed-off environment. Therefore, when I began looking into entrepreneurism I took this mentality with me. I believed that secrecy would be of the utmost importance so that someone else couldn't steal my idea or patent it before me. Thankfully, I am finding that although secrecy in entrepreneurial activities may at times be important, most of the time it is not. In fact, sharing knowledge and trust in others may be a necessity for entrepreneurial survival. So when someone from outside the Leadership Program such as Srinivasa speaks to us and, in an unsolicited and unbiased manner, explains that trust is important for starting a business, I for one feel extremely reassured and confident about beginning an entrepreneurial career.

Overall, it was a great way to begin the Hard Skills Workshop, and I am grateful to Srinivasa for taking the time to speak with us so early on a Saturday morning.

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