February - 2009 - issue > Entrepreneur 101
Gunjan Sinha
Monday, February 2, 2009
The month of January 2009 marks a historical moment in world history as President Obama takes the oath to lead the U.S. and bring change to the world. It also happens that on Jan 26, India will be celebrating Republic Day, commemorating the promulgation of the country’s constitution in 1950. For many of us who are glued to the television or Internet news, all this is very inspiring. Obama, being the first African-American President, will inspire a whole new class of citizens around the world that may now step forward to take a more active role in government and social change. After all, the glass ceilings have been broken for all of us.

I urge the SiliconIndia community to take this extraordinary period in history and the very special day of January 26 to reflect on how each one of us can play a lead role, by being part of a change process to assist our government and those of other countries around the world.

Obama’s rise is a story of the power of entrepreneurship, which has now been brought to the forefront of government and politics. We need many more talented professionals and entrepreneurs like you to rise and take up similar challenges around the world, and to help each one of us become an agent of change, particularly those of us who are gifted with unique talents in technology, business, and creativity. We don’t necessarily need to join the ranks of politics or government to contribute. A lot can be done by sheer power of entrepreneurship without partaking in the political process.

In this new era, I see a strong role for entrepreneurs in reinventing our governments, and opportunities galore for those who are brave to take the plunge. Many here in Silicon Valley talk about mammoth opportunities in CleanTech, BioTech, and NanoTech; I personally see an equally substantial opportunity in what I would call ‘GovTech’ – the confluence of Government and Technology. The time is now to retool the government with creative entrepreneurial genius. Examples of business opportunities in this trillion-dollar market are abundant.

Time for Fundamental Change in Governance, and Risk and Regulatory Compliance

Over the past seven years I have been actively building MetricStream (http://www.metricstream.com), a leader in governance and risk and compliance. MetricStream’s vision is to help businesses better comply with various government rules, regulations, and policies. The current turmoil in financial markets, collapse of Lehman Brothers, lack of regulatory insight in key financial processes, and the recent revelation of long-hidden malpractices in Satyam Computers, all point to the need for better application of existing regulations, formulation of newer regulations, and increasing need for technologies to ensure businesses and governments collaborate more efficiently. This emerging market alone represents a $500 Billion opportunity for those who want to carve out their own niche in this arena. There is plenty of room for many more MetricStreams to be launched for those who can dare to invent the future.

Convergence of National Security Experts and Entrepreneurs

I recently met a friend of mine, who is building up a startup. His idea is about how to help governments and businesses around the world to use geospatial imaging to prevent and respond to terror and other civic emergencies. Traditionally, one would leave such issues in the hands of the government and politicians. Now in this new era, solutions to problems like these lie in the hands of the next generation entrepreneurs and startups. The recent incidents in Mumbai should not be forgotten as mere images from the television screen. But, for many of us, this should present an opportunity to shape the future of national security of India, the U.S., and other nations around the world. How big would this market be? Well, the U.S. alone has spent over a trillion dollars to protect its borders and fight terror. There is enough opportunity that thousands of startups can flourish, helping governments to deliver on their promise of national security.

I can keep counting opportunity after opportunity like the ones cited above. For decades, we have all been critics of the government and the administration, pointing fingers at what they should and could do to make things better. My appeal to the SiliconIndia community is to take a different perspective now. How can we as entrepreneurs help make the government more effective? With trillions of dollars of business opportunity, now is the time for us to arouse the entrepreneurship in us, create products and services, and seize the business opportunity here. My own experiment with MetricStream is a humble effort in that direction, but I surely would like many more such companies to take birth, take part in this new revolution of public-private partnership, and enter the new market space of GovTech. We are entering an era of a trillion dollar opportunity, now is the time to seize it, just like Obama did.

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