Introduction: Accidental Entrepreneur by Ruban Kanapathipillai
“வன்கண் குடிகாத்தல் கற்றறிதல் ஆள்வினையோடு
ஐந்துடன் மாண்டது அமைச்சு” — திருக்குறள் (632 of 1330)
“A person (minister/leader) should have five qualities: Birth in a respectable family (Beginning), Tenacity of purpose (Shaping) , Profound learning (Training), Perseverance (Living), and Welfare of people around him/her (Investing) “
— Thirukkural, 3000 year old Tamil Couplets (632 of 1330)
Just like a novelist or writer who creates a story and publishes a novel, building a company has many similar components. It is similar in the way that a person comes up with a basic idea (Original concept), then expands it into story (Product Concept) and then approaches publishers to publish to the world (Business aspects of it). Building a company involves all these steps and many more.
Over the last half century, I have lived in many continents and encountered many great minds which provided the foundation for my life into entrepreneurship. I have divided the learnings and accomplishments into five sections to represent the five decades of my experiences. In each section, I tried to tell stories from my experiences with immediate family, community around the world, my educational background + learnings, hobbies such as sports and then describe my business experiences to be understood by any layman.
Beginning: Family is the foundation for everything. First ten to fifteen years of my life, I learned a lot. I enjoyed my life as the youngest nurtured child of seven siblings and went through the hardship of losing my closest loved one, my father, when I was at the tender age of twelve. I discuss my lessons during that period and how I survived a bloody civil war in Sri Lanka. Rather than dwelling on the negative of all those surroundings, I reflect on the positive aspects of our life and the lessons I learned during that period.
Shaping: The Civil war in Sri Lanka paved my life to leave Sri Lanka and move to Botswana in Africa as a springboard for my future. While it was a very short stay in Africa, I again met many great people and learned great lessons from many local people and foreigners who were there to earn money for their families. Collectively it was a great experience and provided additional color to my character and future. Hope the readers would enjoy some of the African proverbs and me shaping into an adult. Continuing from that my solo journey into university studies via the United Kingdom where I had some interesting experiences. My university college life exposed me to so many people, learnings and thoughts which paved my way for everything I did in the future.
Training: Right after my university studies, I joined Rockwell semiconductor as an engineer which provided great opportunities for me to learn and train my mind to create great things in American corporate life. During this time I was able to fine tune my early stage experiences and educational experiences into actionable tasks. These chapters would enable entry level folks to open up their thoughts and explore areas outside their specific scope. This was a transformational point for me and helped jumpstart my entrepreneurial career.
Living: The life of an entrepreneur is not easy. During this period, I explored the areas where as a founder of the company, I went through many ups and downs, facing a variety of challenges. This could be just as identifying a product, building a team, raising funds and executing flawlessly while bearing the responsibilities of managing many employees. Dealing with investors, customers and advisers was not simple; managing the various nuances as well as the different personalities were great learnings for me. I plan to describe my journey and how some of the small decisions which I had to make at that time made the end result so rewarding.
Investing: Once I became a successful entrepreneur, it gave me the freedom and opportunity to think outside of the box in terms of investing in many different areas. It provided me the opportunities to think big, invest wisely, get involved in the community worldwide and mentor many people. My mentoring and dealing with many young entrepreneurs lead me to start writing these articles. I realized not everyone was blessed with my background and experiences. While I thought some of my approaches were simple and commonsensical, I realized that people had different approaches.
First of all, thank you to my readers who are going to join me in this interesting, sometimes emotional, journey of my life. While everyone would need to live through their choices and priorities, I hope to provide some hope for a boy who was born in the northern tip of a small island of Sri Lanka, who has become a successful entrepreneur in Silicon Valley as an integral part of two startup companies with enterprise value of more than one billion US dollars. I am thankful for my experiences and people who have influenced my life. Fasten your belts for my “Accidental Entrepreneur” journey and hope to hear your feedback on my writings.