Beyond the Pitch

5 Tips from My Morning with Entrepreneurial Renaissance Man Kanwal Rekhi

Kanwal Rekhi

Last week we had the good fortune of having Kanwal Rekhi, an Indian-American businessman, VC, angel investor, and entrepreneur, here at Rev1 to speak with local entrepreneurs to help them tackle some important issues they have faced or are currently facing.

Rekhi has accomplished the full spectrum of key experiences that those in this field may pick up over the course of a career…if they are lucky—and possess incredible stamina.

Rekhi has quite a resume:

  • Working as a hardware manager in a startup
  • Owning his own company
  • Selling that company
  • Taking another company public
  • Becoming an angel investor
  • Becoming a venture capitalist
  • Mentoring entrepreneurs

From Rekhi’s discussion with a crowded room of entrepreneurs, I picked up these 5 Tips.

  1. Manager vs. Entrepreneur

A manager has assets, streamlines the use of those assets, and likes predictability. An entrepreneur has no assets, has nothing to streamline, and likes disrupting to overcome unpredictability.

Parting shot: Once you have assets you can’t be a disruptor, you can only disrupt yourself.

  1. The one quality every entrepreneur must have.

Rekhi believes that a good dose of self-doubt is the most important quality for entrepreneurs to have. An entrepreneur with a good dose of self-doubt is a good observer, fast learner, justifier, and has the intellectual honesty to adjust.

Parting shot: A good dose of self-doubt has a trickledown effect that includes lots of other qualities an entrepreneur needs to steer the ship and keep it afloat.

  1. Managing the roller coaster ride of a startup

The entrepreneur must act as the shock absorber for the startup. An entrepreneur with a good dose of self-doubt (tip #2) will naturally take the blame (and the shock) to keep all employees focused on the vision in spite of whatever highs or lows may occur.

Parting shot: From the employee’s perspective, a startup should run as if it is an established company on solid footing.

  1. Location is no longer critical

When asked how the Midwest compares to Silicon Valley, Rekhi spoke strongly, saying it would be very hard to ever replicate the Valley ecosystem. However, he went on to say that attempting to replicate the ecosystem doesn’t matter as much as it may once have. In this day and age anyone or any company can connect with anyone globally.

Parting shot: Don’t get caught up in where you locate your business. Resources you may not have locally are only a call or anemail away.

  1. Have a foolish vision

This one comes with a caveat: never let the foolish vision affect your loved ones. This relates back to lessons #1 and #3 on intellectual honesty and being the shock absorber. Knowing your limits on shock absorbing and calling it quits when it starts to affect others you love most is the most responsible thing you can do.

Parting shot: Having a foolish vision is what entrepreneurship is all about. Continuing attempts to execute a foolish vision to the detriment of others is not. 

The final lesson is from a story Rekhi told about the early days of his career. Fresh out of college he received a highly sought after offer to work at IBM. He turned it down to work for a smaller company. He received a letter asking why he hadn’t accepted the position, never responded and, after being laid off a year later at the smaller firm, applied at IBM once again, only to find out that he had been disqualified.

The lesson from that story is this: there are many paths to success. Unintentionally closing a very big door like IBM didn’t inhibit Rekhi from becoming successful so don’t be afraid re-direct your path.

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