Asha Motwani Believes India Can Surpass Silicon Valley if it Identifies its Roots
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It's not every day that you come across an investor who can proudly say that Google took shape under her nose. But Asha Jadeja Motwani credits her venture into the world of entrepreneurship to the rise of Google in front of her. Today, the veteran Silicon Valley investor has a diversified portfolio with some of the world's biggest companies.
Based out of Palo Alto, San Francisco, Motwani is the head of the Motwani Jadeja Family Foundation and Rajeev Circle and is also credited to be the only individual in the world to have won shares in Google.
Entrepreneur India caught up with Motwani as she shared her views on how the Indian start-up ecosystem is shaping up and what it needs to have an equal stature as the Silicon Valley.
Silicon Valley's Finest
For every start-up or investor, it is a dream to make their mark in the Silicon Valley, to be called one of Silicon Valley's finest and have the company of some of the world's biggest tech organizations. Several Indians have created an impact in the Silicon Valley, both as investors as well as heads of organizations.
Among the top Indians who have made a difference are the Motwanis. The late Rajeev Motwani created Google algorithms before it was a company and was a mentor to Larry Page and Sergey Brin.
Asha, in fact, credits her venture into the world of entrepreneurship to the rise of Google right in front of her. When her husband was working on Google's algorithms, she was still finishing her doctoral studies at Stanford and was planning to take the route of academia. "With Google changing the destiny of the planet, I could not imagine doing anything else but working with brilliant entrepreneurs," she said.
Since then, Motwani has invested in several start-ups all across the world but for her personally, her biggest investments have been Pinterest, Weebly, GwyneeBee, AppDynamics etc. PayPal is also a part of her individual investment portfolio.
Placing Her Bets on the Founder
Building a life around entrepreneurs, Motwani says that she loves spending time with youngsters who have an idea in their head. She'd rather be surrounded by a bunch of young makers, than a room full of businessmen.
Ask her about the sectors that she's interested in investing and she dismisses the idea of confining oneself to investing only in certain segments or types of start-ups. "Anything that frees up young minds to learn and create based on their internal drive is what interests me. If I feel the person has the drive and the right vision to see his/her project through, then I'm willing to go with it," she said.
For Motwani, vision is the only driving force in the start-up that she looks at before investing in it. "If I feel his vision is something that will make a change in the world or in society, I'm willing to put my money behind him/her," said Motwani.
Sharing her words of wisdom for entrepreneurs across the world, Motwani said that they don't need to look for funding. "Just start to solve the problem with a genuine interest in the less fortunate and see what happens," she advised.
Can India be the Next Silicon Valley?
Motwani believes that the Indian start-up ecosystem has evolved very nicely. She said that the Indian angels and VCs in the Valley have done a fabulous job in being proactive with the Indian government and business houses creating more streamlined and start-up friendly regulations.
But when it comes to emulating the success of the Silicon Valley, Motwani has some ideas for India. "India will surpass Silicon Valley, when it stops, takes a deep breath and understands the importance of bringing back Indian wisdom and thought brought about by Indian-born scientists and mathematicians. Their research and scientific adventures must be brought to a new level of impossible," she said.
According to Motwani, ideas in India are born out of a blend of time, evolution, state of technology, access to wisdom, and boundaries of imagination.
In India, Motwani is looking at software technology, Blockchain, water and infinite energy start-ups. Anything related to quantum energy is dear to her heart, she said. Ask her about the cities she believes are growing fast in the Indian start-up ecosystem and she lists Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune.
Creating an Environment for Entrepreneurship
Given her experience in the global start-up ecosystem, Motwani has also started the Rajeev Circle Fellowship. The fellowship is designed to shift the mindset of young entrepreneurs from that of scarcity of ideas to that of unimaginable abundance. "It's a two-week long fellowship in Palo Alto and we've had some amazing young minds that have participated in the programme. Many of the youngsters with startups that were part of the Fellowship and I have also invested in, have today reached maturity," she said.
She is also the brains behind MakerFest India and MakerFaire Africa which encourages entrepreneurship amongst youngsters. Motwani believes in creating a space for entrepreneurs where they have the ability to scale and prosper, and going by her portfolio of companies that have reached new heights of success, she seems to be doing a great job at that.