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dreaming up a web that works.

Tag: eudaimonia

The Personal Side of Ventures: The Exit

by Santosh

Santosh Dawara.

This month two close friends were offered a liquidation event in their respective ventures. A liquidation event, for the uninitiated is when your stock paper in a company is converted to actual money and is usually tied to going public, or to the sale of the company. Both events were vastly different. One event was here in India, another overseas. For employees and founders, the event is very welcome. Even if you’re tied into your venture for the long run, at some point you will spare a thought for where you’d want all of this to lead up to.

Apart from the economic upside of such an event, there is a deep personal side. Think of it as an outcome tied not only to have worked hard, but also to having made the same decisions differently. As I recalled the decisions one of my friends made that led up to the outcome, there were visible choices – many times having said ‘yes’ to a path, other times having said ‘no’.  The decisions where you refuse a path are usually the critical ones.

To help understand this better, I remember discussing a job option with one of them where in hindsight, the employer would’ve clearly hired him simply for his skills and nothing else. In many cases, we won’t know what we’re losing out on having simply made the size of the paycheck pivotal to the decision. The friend in question bravely said no to the option at hand and instead decided to wait for his blue sky opportunity. Shortly thereafter he joined the company that gave him the liquidation event we’re celebrating today a good five years down the road. His choice was vindicated and handsomely. But we could not have known that for sure.

I’d admit that luck had a role to play only if I could alter the definition of luck to include his aspirations and the actions he took to go towards them. Then that is a viable definition of luck. In my book there isn’t much room for overnight successes. In addition to those decisions, working at a startup demands a self-rewarding nature amongst other things. Why so? It’s hard to take on a challenge where your role inherently requires you to convince others of something you believe in and can’t tangibly show, engineers being no exception. There will be confusing times where ideas are orphaned, thoughts aren’t clearly spelt out, where the product is  vapor ware while you work to make it more compelling. At these times only you can reward yourself and keep things going.

Finally, while you won’t be able to precisely determine what size your exit will have but you must believe that it can be big enough to tie up all of those little decisions together. When it does happen, never mind all that could have gone and did go wrong. Simply congratulate yourself on a job well done.

A Pathway to Flourish

by Santosh

Santosh Dawara.

A man can do what he wants but he cannot want what he wants.

– Arthur Schopenhauer.

Graduate education in the United States can be a bit of a twist for anyone who comes in from the relatively sterile academic life in an Indian college. Even if you might come to expect it, I was still surprised by the high level of intellectual competitiveness, liberty to chart your own course, dedication to progress of the field and the diversity in the backgrounds, interests of the professors. These might be unique to the US system of education, and yet there’s one lesson that anyone, anywhere in the world can take back home with them. The lesson stems from how academics is designed to wind into their lives.

Graduate school is a tight existence. An international graduate student may take up a campus job and make minimum wage at $7 an hour in 2002. A campus job could mean anything, catering at the canteen, administering machines at a computer lab, answering software support and more. Working only on campus is a legal restriction on how money can be made and not a requirement.

On the other hand, our coursework was incredibly challenging. Many international students who joined in that quarter were finding it hard to keep up. Wake up, get things in order, cook if possible, attend courses, make your job hours, get through assignments. Incentive to stay absorbed in coursework dipped.

So we’d come up with creative ways to make food, rent and get better too. A classmate would organize late night group study sessions in the library to keep everyone on their toes. My job in the first quarter needed me to make notes from my classes for a deaf student who was attending with me. I found the job thanks in big part to the kind folks at the NTID department. It helped me get by and save a ton of time. I held on to it until the student I was taking notes for found it better to use transcription software.

And yet my coursework suffered. A paper submission on peer-to-peer technology for a distributed systems course was marked with a stinging remark “unoriginal thought”. We were then assigned to code up a collaborative document service which co-ordinated shared editing with the help of semaphores. The project was a big one and we’d been given enough time. Another couple of weeks had gone by when I received a timely jolt. A classmate asked me what had been my approach. I looked back in stunned silence. I hadn’t started. I knew that I would’ve enjoyed putting my time into that project. Instead, I had put it off and put it at risk. The knot in my stomach told me everything I needed to know.

From there on, I’d work harder to find short bursts of quality time for the things that I wanted to work on inside of my routine. Eventually, they blended better together. In my final quarter, I signed up to finish my Master’s thesis as a student at a new lab in the Computer Science department with others. The lab and research grants were a culmination of a continued effort to introduce data mining at RIT by a number of people over the years. Life was suddenly a lot more comfortable and rewarding. The heavy winter snowfall and indoor life ceased to matter as I’d look forward to getting into the lab and crunching data sets.

Idealism wants everything to be perfect. In that perfect world, we get to work on what it is that we want to work on. We get to be who we want to be without compromises. This perfectionism isn’t in the experience that is life for all of us. It definitely isn’t an obstacle outside of ourselves. And I think I would know a little about that.

Golisano College of Computing, RIT NY



A Wallet Plan for those taking on Risk and Wealth Creation

by Santosh

I can go without earnings until my venture makes it to revenue.

Have you ever had this thought cross your mind? This morning I woke up to an unfortunate fever and an email from a colleague asking me about how she can get better at planning her financial future. She’s in her early twenties and is getting ready to go back to college. Whatever she’d saved up from her professional life was gone, she lamented. “What can I do now that I’m ready to wake up?” We’ve all been there. After writing to her, the question stayed with me and I knew I had writing left to do. What was I missing in my own plan given my experience with the nature of startups and fevers? Read the rest of this entry »