(Editor's note: This is a blog post shared by the InMobi Founder and CEO, Naveen Tewari, with InMobians)
You might have read some reports in the media about people leaving InMobi and questions around Miip. Most of you might also know that the majority of our brightest talent are still with us and unlike so many startups, we still have most of our senior management intact. We conceived Miip knowing wholly well that the product was ahead of its time, but we knew that we were building something great. Buried in these stories are also data on how Miip (which is the backbone of our commerce platform) is performing. If you glean through those numbers you’ll realize how close we are to achieving our own lofty targets around Miip. Some of you might also know how our customers are raving about Miip, but we’ll be happy only when we meet our own expectations. But I write to you not because of any of this. I want to share a story from my entrepreneurial journey and what InMobi stands for.
In 2008, when InMobi (then mKhoj) was failing, we were running out of money and I was on the verge of abandoning the idea of being an entrepreneur. I remember waiting in the corridors of a famous VC’s office and wondering if I should just get up and leave. My meeting was delayed by 40 minutes. I already had 14 rejections by then. Little did I know more rejections were to come. I was close to giving up and felt extremely dejected. I wanted to build an Indian company that people would love to be part of. None of the VCs were seeing the vision, and perhaps I wasn't able to communicate it well. I walked into the room and made the pitch. I spoke like this was my last ever shot. I was almost begging. I promised to build a company that many would be envious of. The VC listened intently, but he declined to invest. Before leaving, he said something I’ll always remember -
Building a product company out of India is impossible, it will take you a lifetime. There’s just not enough talent. Trying to build a mobile advertising company out of India is an even crazier idea.
I wasn't sure what to do. I realized that the journey of entrepreneurship can often be a lonely one. Not everyone wants to believe in or support your vision, and every entrepreneur faces this moment of truth. It’s hard to walk away, but harder to persevere. I am glad that we have persevered.
By the same author: Culture goes ‘Open Source’
We managed to build a mobile advertising company. One of the finest till date. We don’t get compared with the biggies for nothing. InMobi is a dream and you guys have built this company to what it is today. In the startup ecosystem, some of the finest talent want to work with InMobi. I’ve seen employees staying up in office even at 3 in the morning, and be there weekend after weekend, because they’re passionate about what they do and are keen to make a mark in the world. The average age of an InMobian is 28 years. So when a fresher leaves InMobi after 4 years and the media writes about it in the context of us losing ‘senior’ talent, it’s inaccurate, though I’m glad every InMobian is recognised as a celebrity in the industry.
We have more than 10 leaders who have grown through the ranks, taking up senior management responsibilities. This is testimony to the kind of trust we place in our own employees and the quality of talent at InMobi. There aren’t many young 8 year-old companies that have been able to build leaders from within the echelons of the organization. Silicon Valley is not a place. It's a mindset. And we’re building our own Valley here. We have 28-year olds who head business verticals and contribute to significant portions of our revenue. After all, age is just a number. I was 28 when I dabbled in entrepreneurship. It would be hypocritical of me to not allow young people to take up key responsibilities.
We don’t have rules. We don’t function like other companies. This workplace is home. Our policies are as bold as they are unconventional. We get asked so much about employee well-being and culture that we gave it a name and shape. When YaWiO was born, we had interest from so many companies to understand what we do to keep employees excited and comfortable. More than 60% of our early 100 employees still continue to work with us. More than 150 InMobians have moved to different roles within the organisation. We allow this kind of freedom to permeate the organisation.
A while back I read an interesting post from someone in the TATA group who said InMobi is not a company, but an emotion. This emotion, or idea, of what we stand for was built from its grassroots. And you all know how important people are to me and this organisation. It’s always hard to let go of people, but the InMobian alumni network has spawned more than 40+ startups globally, and while they have left InMobi, they have left us to pursue their own dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. We help many of these entrepreneurs by giving them office space, mentoring them and in some cases even offering financial support.
We do this not because we have to, or need to or want to profit from it. We do this because we’ve been there, seen what it’s like to be rejected 20 times over. We do this because we believe InMobians already have the passion and perseverance to succeed as an entrepreneur. I know what it’s like to be recruited here. After all, I did recruit the first few hundred personally. So many of our people have come back to us. In the last one year itself we have had 18 people return to us. InMobi is a place where entrepreneurs are born and the magic continues to reside.
I write this to you because I want you to know that this journey couldn’t have been possible without each of you here. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. This is an important moment in my own entrepreneurial journey, and will be in yours too. I want you to enjoy it. We learn from our critics; after all, they are also our best well-wishers. Do not be bogged down by the cynics and naysayers, they will say what they want to and we will continue to do what we came together for. We are clear on our vision and what we need to do to achieve our goals. So keep your leg firm on the pedal and eye on the road. This is going to be the drive of your lifetime. I always tell people, this company was born against all odds, and will continue to defy rules and carve out its own niche.
Asli picture abhi bakhi hai mere dost.
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