What would Ajoy Bose say to an aspiring entrepreneur?
This is the third part of an interview I conducted with Ajoy Bose, CEO of Atrenta. Part 1 discussed his early career up until the time he founded Atrenta, and part 2 looked towards the second rising of EDA.
Brian: What kind of advice would you give to an entrepreneur today, that somebody who’s just had a bright idea and comes to you and says, “Hey, should I start up a new company?”
Ajoy Bose: I would definitely say that they have to be very realistic about the challenges. I don’t think of myself as being very unique in the way I think and operated inside of EDA. A lot of EDA people are like me. They are geeks. They like the technology. They are technologists at heart and they see the beauty of the technology and build something. In the early days of EDA it was more forgiving. Business conditions were more forgiving. Today, the business conditions have become very harsh and very unforgiving. So this notion of, “Hey, I have a good idea,” doesn’t cut it anymore. That’s my first advice to anybody. It’s not to say that there are no more opportunities left to do an EDA company, but there is a need for being a lot more realistic, a lot more ruthless, You have to take off your rosy glasses and step up to the realities of what it takes to create a successful business in EDA.
It’s not uncommon that people would come to me with a bright idea, and quite often, after a couple of conversations, I would see most of them choose to back out. I hate to do this to people, to have become more of a source of discouraging people, but I think it’s doing them a favor to make them be realistic about what they are getting into. If they still come out of it saying, “Hey, my idea is still a valid idea and I’m convinced that I’ve asked all the tough questions and I can create a winning business,” then go for it.
Brian: Looking back over the past 12 years, I presume you’ve learned a lot along the way. Any regrets, anything that you would have done differently?
Ajoy Bose: Definitely a few things that I would do differently if I had to--if I could rewind the clock and do it all over again. I think I’ve begun to respect the need for more focus in a smaller company like ours. And by that, I mean having an early meter that tells you which ones are the winners, which ones are likely to be winners and which ones you should cut your losses on. Be very cautious as you are spreading out. I’m really a techno entrepreneur, not a pure entrepreneur. I enjoy technology, I appreciate technology, and I respect technology. And I get a lot of satisfaction and fulfillment from seeing something happen from a technical success point of view. And I’m an entrepreneur, because I run a company. I have shareholders, I have people, I have to provide a business return to them. In my earlier years, I had more of the techno background, and I would appreciate the beauty of technology and do things without having as much emphasis on the entrepreneur aspect of it that I should have. So I’ve learned to tilt the scale more towards the business thinking in my decision making. But I’ve got to tell you, I also appreciate the techno part of it because that works well in EDA, because EDA, after all, is a very technology intensive industry and the best technology gives you a very strong edge to win, so having that background has helped. But I could have been more judicious, more selective in branching out to newer areas and that points to the need for more focus.
The second thing I have learned is the importance of having the right team. Think about my background at Bell Labs, where you had a lot of very bright people and you learned to respect them and you learned to leverage them for your success. But they were not necessarily all very business savvy people. You learn to respect people for their technical excellence or their technical prowess. And that’s not necessarily the right thing to do when you’re running a business. In a business environment, you have to select your partners, your colleagues that bring that business acumen in the business. So those are, I would say, part of what I learned, which is part of the transition going from my Bell Labs days to running a company. And if I were to do it again I would be more mindful of those two specific things.Brian Bailey
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