I wrote this piece for my Kauffman Fellowship Essay. A bunch of you pinged me to send them a copy after I had applied. I am reprinting it here so as to show one perspective of the motivations behind wanting to get into Venture Capital. Again, its just my opinion and thoughts. Feel free to give me feedback. One is always learning and this is just an experiment in PDA (Public display of Ambitions!)
Why do I want to pursue a career in Venture Capital? This question is even more important today as I skip the recruiting period at school and work on my Kauffman Fellowship application. Success for me is the ability to discern what the core of my motivations is, and then incorporating that into my career. I am at a point in my life where I do not need a job but am looking for the job. That search culminates at Venture Capital, a profession at the crossroads of technology, people and entrepreneurship.
My tryst with technology started in High school where I studied Electrical Devices as a vocational subject and continued on through bachelors into Graduate School where I developed a new semiconductor layout technology called VOILA – VLSI Overall Integrated Layout Application. It progressed at Wharton where I won the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC), the Wharton Technology Case Competition, and resulted in a blog called “FutureVC” at http://futurevc.blogspot.com/.
I started my professional career at Avanticorp as a software engineer, using my expertise to integrate Electronic Design Automation (EDA) software tools across different functional areas. Five years, four promotions and two job changes later, I was the youngest Member Consulting Staff (MCS) at Cadence, considered the largest and most technically advanced company in EDA. But before that I spent some time trying to build a startup as a senior engineer in Softface using EDA algorithms to create next generation taxonomical software. Working in entrepreneurial settings like these taught me how to handle group dynamics, impending deadlines and complex technical issues with equal adroitness.
At Wharton, I am an associate and Outreach manager for University Venture Fund (UVF), an $18M early-stage technology fund. As an outreach manager, I am responsible for creating partnerships with VC shops around the east coast and enhancing UVF’s deal flow. As an Associate, I am responsible for conducting due-diligence and making investment decisions on deals ranging from home security to network storage. However, the watershed of my budding Venture Capital experience has been my internship at Intel Capital (ICAP). As an Investment Manager Intern, I developed a financial valuation tool for ICAP’s broadband investments, helped source, negotiate and value a $8M emerging market broadband wireless deal, and proposed a new mobile services investment strategy. Most of all, I learnt from mentors like Ron Reich, saw the Venture Capital mindset at close quarters, and learnt to work with entrepreneurs. It was here that I started my transition from an engineer-MBA to a Venture Capitalist.
I came to Wharton to initiate that transition. In my Wharton application essay, I wrote – the "perfect business degree" provides the right blend of theoretical knowledge, practical implications of that knowledge along with a quality network of individuals from which to draw expertise, advise and confidence as I pursue my goals. But school, like life is what you make of it. At Wharton, I chair the Wharton Technology Conference and am leading a group of 25 Wharton Students on an expedition to climb Mt. Cotopaxi – the world’s tallest active volcano at 19,347 feet. I think these activities are very important because they help me explore my leadership style and my ability to facilitate, and create significant experiences. Replace “experiences” with “startups”, and this is not too different from the job profile of a Venture Capitalist. On the professional side, I complement these experiences by working on the side with entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley to implement business development projects for their startups (Suggestica).
In the long term, I plan to use my skills in finance, entrepreneurial management and technology to plug into the revolution sweeping across the globe. This revolution is breaking down the traditional market economy and creating a new way of doing business, one that combines the powerful market forces of capitalism with the egalitarianism of technology. I aspire to be a change agent, a future thought leader, who can combine vision, enthusiasm and experience to create a new generation of technology ventures. I know my chances of success would be greatly enhanced by the education and preparation provided by the Kauffman Fellowship program.
I am applying for admission into the Kauffman Fellowship program with the intention of being able to leverage my work experience and technical background so as to carve a niche for myself in the Venture Capital industry. With my background in Semiconductor, Wireless, Mobile Services and India, I have strong insights into the direction in which Venture Capital Industry is moving. A few years of experience in frontline and mid-level Venture Capital positions will create a solid foundation for me to hone and implement my own personal investing philosophy.
And this investing philosophy extends to the way I plan my career too. Whether it is life or a potential startup, every new investment in time and resources should be scrutinized with greater acuity than earlier. After three degrees and eight years of higher education, any further investment should be experiential, efficient and critical. The Kauffman fellowship fulfills all three criteria.
I believe I am going through an exciting phase in my life where my ideas are being honed by experience, and synergized by knowledge. Now I stand poised at the next step towards attainment of my goals – A Kauffman Fellowship. I understand the semiconductor space, have done an enterprise software startup, and did a deep-dive into broadband wireless investments. I have a growing network of entrepreneurs and Venture Capitalists in Silicon Valley and India. But I also understand that domain expertise, operating experience and network alone doesn’t make a good Venture Capitalist.
This summer, I was sitting across the table from Curtis Feeny from Voyager Capital. We were talking about his experiences in Venture Capital. During our conversation, Curtis leaned forward and said something that I will remember throughout my career. “Good Venture Capitalists are good human beings first.” People count, ideas count, the rest follows. If selected, I will bring my knowledge, drive and people-skills to the next class of Kauffman fellows. But more importantly, I will bring respect for entrepreneurship, humility that will fuel my thirst to excel and incredible energy to the program. I am very confident that my experience as a Kauffman fellow will pave the way to realizing my ambitions and look forward to the opportunities it will provide me in the years to come.