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Willingness to fail gives me the Ability to Succeed

ST Team
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
ST Team
There is a whole new set of startups mushrooming in the nook and corner of the Silicon Valley with the dream of finding an alternate source of energy, and make the world a greener and cleaner place to live in. And fuelling these dreams is none other than Vinod Khosla, the man behind the $1.3 billion plus venture firm, Khosla Ventures. A visionary and a legend in the Valley, Khosla is perhaps better known for his successful run as the co-founder of Sun Microsystems, as the general partner for Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers where he was one of the most recognized venture capitalists, with several successful early stage investments under his belt.

But achieving this success was no cake walk. Be it his first entrepreneurial stint, starting a soy milk company, at the age of 20 or his failed investments in companies like Asera, Dynabook, BroadBand Office, Excit@Home, Kholsa has had his fair share of failures. Perhaps this is the reason he doesn’t mind failing, because for him if he succeeds, it would better be worth succeeding. For him it is the "consequence of success," that matters and this explains why he does not object to investing in some startups with a 90 percent probability of failure.

Taking risks and adapting to failure, as he often says, forms the DNA of an entrepreneur. Having been a part of the entrepreneurial community for so long, he has many pearls of wisdom to share, especially about the entrepreneurial spirit.

Entrepreneurship, according to him, is predominantly a game for the young. The fire burns best among young entrepreneurs and it is because they have not been conditioned to the traditional ways of doing things. This allows them to take risks. “When you work long enough, you get to know everything the way things are supposed to be, and you forget that new things can be invented,” he says. “The biggest danger in doing things is listening to experts. You first have to reject all conventional wisdom,” he adds. Today at 56, he may be on the wrong side this age equation, but prefers to see this as a challenge. In his recent talk at Nasscom Product Conclave at Bangalore, he spoke about what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Following is a brief excerpt.

Why do you want to be an entrepreneur? We all have several reasons and motivation to go down this path. Financial gains, freedom of not working for someone else, fame, passion to do or create something new, or the interest to work with friend, all these can be motivating factors. These are all valid reasons and are acceptable. What is unacceptable is, not knowing why. Never venture into entrepreneurship if you are not sure about what you are trying to accomplish by it.

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