[Startup in 60 seconds] Sanjay D. Nath, Founder & Managing Partner, Blume Venture Advisors

22nd Aug 2013
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Sanjay Nath

One teacher I remember, and why

Prof Eric Mokover at UCLA’s Anderson Graduate School of Business (where I did my MBA). He encouraged us to think of b-school as the “one place we can all try things and fail safely,” multiple times, as there will be always someone to catch us. That is, we could try a summer internship entirely out of our domain, do an ambitious field study project, and work with teams we are not innately comfortable with. Super advice – step out of one’s comfort zone!

One most valuable work lesson, thus far

Know when to walk away. In a previous startup I ran, while the business was doing ok, we were burning cash, the sales cycle was project-based and not annuity business oriented, and while fairly well-funded, there was no light at the end of the tunnel. It’s important to not got too emotional. A new door opens only when a previous one is closed.

One thing I look for the most in a new recruit

A positive attitude to step in, learn, and work with others. Attitude is far more important than domain knowledge and experience in a new recruit.

One thought from a book I am currently reading

From Malcolm Gladwell’s ‘The Tipping Point’ - how can one develop an innate knack for identifying those inflection points when linear curves change to exponential. Only comes through experience and paying close attention, e.g. looking at ‘pattern matching’.

One tip for time management

Budget for any project/ scope of work taking 50% more than even conservative estimates. So, plan conservatively, add 50% extra time, and then work like mad to execute - hopefully surprising everyone around you and yourself.

One key thing in my fitness routine

[Need to do much more here :-)!] That’s just it - make it a routine; better to walk/run/exercise 20-30 minutes every other day/ other day than plan a marathon weekend warrior session. If possible, throw a small gym bag with a change of clothes and shoes in a car or alternative transport one takes every day. Maybe even easier, walk wherever possible, at least half an hour every day.

One signal that tells me there is a problem

When there is no uptick in performance over a reasonable period of time, despite “best efforts”. Tells one the industry may be structurally tough; there is intense competitive pressure; or management needs to bring in new blood. Very often it’s a sales issue. Taking this further, when management comes back and says, “there’s no problem,” when results aren’t matching up.

One technique for handling anger

[Am no expert here:-)] I try and handle tricky/ provocative situations, wherever possible of course, on a full stomach. Hunger and anger can go together. Also, stepping back and understanding why the other side acted the way they did. And, if I have to, will wrap up quickly and walk away - very difficult to undo harsh words said in the heat of the moment - later. Also, best NOT to write if angry; in person or via phone best.

One essential ingredient in my investments

External validation - from customers, partners, experts (and other co-investors also, where relevant). Actually that’s not external validation - its validation per se. It’s users finding value in a business idea that’s the best measure of potential success, not a bunch of investors throwing money - absent such validation.

One good thing about the new generation

Their ability and attitude toward risk-taking. A large number of new grads are ready to and looking forward to working for or starting their own startups, a few years after graduating. While it’s not Silicon Valley, attitudes toward risk-taking and failure are slowly changing. It’s perhaps that today’s role models are not necessarily just large company CEOs - they are the new Page/Brins, Zuckerbergs, and so on.

One worrying thing about the young

A hurry to grow - and to build resumes (rather than skills). Especially in certain industries, there is an urge to manage larger and larger number of staff under oneself. In particular, real operations/ executions skills are lacking. I’d suggest to many - get an operations job, and then manage people along the way.

One thing that clinches a deal

Self-awareness. I like entrepreneurs who have the self-confidence, yet are self-aware of what they lack and what the gaps are, and then are able to find and onboard the right co-workers/ partners/ staff to fill those gaps quickly, let them take credit, and “close the deal”.

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