Time flies so fast, doesn’t it? We have just finished twelve fabulous months of 2013. And, here we are at the start of a new year - full of new hopes, new dreams, new resolutions and a new beginning. My best wishes for a massive success to you all entrepre¬neurs out there whether you are still contemplating to get out of your comfortable day to day boring job or taking the first step to realize your dreams you had as a kid or you are already in the midst of your entrepreneurial journey in this beautiful planet. This is an opportune time to focus on one critical element beneficial in many ways for any entrepreneur i.e., volunteering. It is about giving your precious time, energy and skills to help others with no financial gain to you. Volunteering is generally considered an altruistic activity and is intended to promote good or improve human quality of life. Similarly, an entrepreneur strives to not only improve his but also, human quality of life. The net result is lots of good karma energy flowing outwards. Here are four key take away (4KTA) points.
1. Sense of Achievement
– Fundamentally, as a volunteer you help without expecting anything in return. For an entrepreneur, despite long hours of work, volunteering can lead to a greater sense of achievement. Granted that no one person can solve all worlds’ problems, but what you do can make it a bit better. As the saying goes, do something good for others, something good will happen to you. This is my key guiding mantra for volunteering work at The Indus Entrepreneur Silicon Valley (TiE) for last four years in positions including Board Member, Chair, Programs; Content Chair, TiECon 2013 – world’s largest annual conference for entrepreneurs, and now, for TiECon 2014. I began volunteering for TiE’s activities since first TIECon in 1994. However, the idea of becoming a more active volunteer arose after my second startup Nayna Networks took me through whirl-wind of a ride during the telecom burst of early 2000s taking me through so many highs and lows. I felt that by volunteering for a non-profit organization with a mission around entrepreneurship that I am passionate about, not only it could help me channel out some of my stressful energies, but also, get me back into my natural flow. As a result, tons of positive energy could flow back to me and at the same time, I could help out with my loads of entrepreneurial experiences. In past few years, I have been able to create and launch many new successful programs such as My Story, Startup Pitchfest, TiE Angels and awesome TiECon 2013 conference together with many talented and like-minded volunteers.
2. New Experiences and Connections
– Quite often, first thing we human beings consider is what’s in it for me. Instead, if you take the view what I can do to help to advance the cause of this organization; it can result in rewards to you in myriad ways that may be unfathomable to you early on. Volunteering offers an incredible networking opportunity and new experiences. You develop lasting personal and professional relationships. It is also a great way to learn about people from all walks of life, different environments, and new industries. For instance, by being an active volunteer at TIE, I have been able to meet not only early investors, strategic partners but also, find co-founders and customers for my startups. I met our first angel investor for my company Ukiah Software at TiECon 1996. My co-founder for Nayna Networks met me at one of the TiE events. Similarly, few years ago, I met an amazing entrepreneur, who asked me to help him as an advisor, for his solar micro-inverter company. I saw not only the potential and hunger in him but also, his keen desire to seek advice and openness to listening to new ideas. His company was successfully acquired by a multi-billion dollar company recently. I really enjoyed working with him in helping refine his business strategy, make new introductions as and when needed, and act as his unbiased coach all the way through acquisition process. Basically, you can never tell who you will meet or what new information you will learn and what impact this could have on your life.
3. Social and Relationship Skills
– Typically, high-tech entrepreneurs are technical people. Engineers as a nature are quite shy and have a hard time meeting new people. Volunteering gives you the opportunity to practice and develop your social skills, since you are meeting regularly with a group of people with common interests. For instance, if you become member of TiE organization, you have so many events and opportunities for meeting like-minded folks, who could complement you with your skillsets. Also, listening to some of these successful entrepreneurs, who started as engineers just like you and me at one time, can provide a huge boost to your inner confidence and serve as role models. Once you have momentum, it’s easier to branch out and make more friends and contacts.
4. Spirit of Samaj Seva (Community Service)
– Samaj Seva in Hindi means community service. Every company we start as entrepreneur is nothing but a collection of human beings. No man or woman is an island. It is easy to take for granted the community that we live in. People and societies co-depend on each other for survival. It is immensely significant that by getting involved early on and volunteering your time can help the society at large. For instance, I volunteered to create and write this monthly column after Christo Jacob, Managing Editor, had approached me to write an article in 2011, as a way to share mine and other successful entrepreneur’s lessons that could be widely beneficial for all aspiring entrepreneurs. Volunteering is ultimately about helping others and having an impact on people’s well-being. There is no other better way to connect with your community and give a little back to enhance the lives of people around. As a result, you certainly return to society some of the benefits that society gives you. At the end of day, you feel awesome!
In summary, the four key take away points for an entrepreneur by volunteering are feeling a sense of achievement, enjoying new experiences and connections, enhancing social and relationship skills and being part of this amazing human spirit of Samaj Seva.