Bangalore: Veteran Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor Vinod Khosla, who co-founded Sun Microsystems in the early 1980s, has been building and funding disruptive ideas in a career spanning nearly four decades now. Khosla, who during his early teens was inspired to pursue a journey in entrepreneurship after reading about the rise of Intel in a US-based engineering magazine, believes in funding startups that can solve problems for the under-privileged masses across developing countries. On a trip to India, Khosla offered valuable advice for budding entrepreneurs, including what he looks for when he invests in startups and the routes entrepreneurs need to choose or avoid. Here are 10 selected Khosla tips, excerpted from his speeches:
1. Every big problem is a big opportunity and, if there is no problem, there is nothing you can start. And there are plenty of problems in India.
2. I don’t mind failing, but if you do something to succeed, it better be worth succeeding. I have seen too many startups where they have reduced risk to a point where they have a higher probability of succeeding, but if they succeed it is inconsequential.
3. Failing quickly is a good way to plan. Failing often makes failures small and successes large. ..In small failures you accumulate learnings about what works and what doesn’t. Try many experiments but don’t bet your company on just one, keep trying, keep failing small.
4. One of the best investments we made was in a biofuels startup. I invested in that company because they challenged me in everything I was thinking of doing. To be open to being challenged in your opinions, you have to be agile enough to say if you’re wrong, you’re wrong. Be critically honest with yourself – most people hate being challenged and being proven wrong.
5. I actually like the riskier startups that are trying to do bigger, bolder things. And I don’t mind the higher probability of failure…I would challenge anyone to point to as many failures as I’ve had in my career. Unless you take risks, you’re not going to do anything innovative.
6. We don’t have an India or US strategy, good ideas and people can come from anywhere. For example, we just invested in a small rocket launching firm in New Zealand.
7. I only like to do unreasonable things. As George Bernard Shaw said, human progress depends on the unreasonable man. People who try bold things, fail more often. But if you don’t get discouraged by it, then you are positioned to succeed in a bigger way. Most people are afraid to fail.
8. Think about what you believe in... What you believe will be a long-term differentiator from what everyone else is doing. That’s the key. When you have belief in what you’re doing, then you believe in it like a religion.
9. Bad times come for every startup – I haven’t seen a single startup that hasn’t gone through a bad time. Entrepreneurship can be very very depressing. If you really believe in your product, you stick with it.
10. I would never invest in anything that is bad for society, so you will never see me invest in a gambling company or oil sands or anything that is environmentally harmful, no matter how much money it makes me.