This Investor's Life Journey will Inspire You in Ways More than One
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Manish Singhal, Founding Partner of pi Ventures, takes you on the journey of an investor in our Investors Special. He started off as a person who worked at the ground level, creating products. Manish calls himself a geek with plenty of experience down his sleeve. Entrepreneur India gets to understand better where he started, how he began investing, and the factors he takes in considering when investing. Investing is not all about finding a company worthwhile investing in, it’s a lot of work and travel is most of it.
Manish Singhal started off by creating products. He has always been a person excited by cutting edge technology. Between the years 1992-1993, the Indian Army needed the Global Positioning System. Manish Singhal cracked his brains and worked in making the first GPS for the men in uniform, and thus he realized that making products is what excited him.
In the 1990s, the resolution of videos was low. Manish pushed for higher resolution and overcame the constraints faced by the next generation bandwidth. According to Manish, his most significant breakthrough and one that defined the Television space was Slingbox. SlingBox was a Silicon Valley startup which became big. He was the Research and Development expert there taking care of its developments.
Slingshot was the original idea behind Netflix and HotStar. “Back in the 1990s, you could not watch a cricket match of India vs. Pakistan when travelling to countries like Japan for instance. This frustrated many cricket lovers, and serials watched at home would be missed on those business trips you make,” said Singhal. Singhal explained that Slingshot enabled people to watch their favourite television shows and cricket matches anywhere in the world. SlingBox had 60 to 80 patent rights, which secured its idea and helped garner $380 Million at the sale to Ecostar at a bare minimum of 3 to 4 years at launch.
After the success of Sling in 2010, he became a product expert, and many companies creating ground-breaking products started coming to him for support. He started to become an advisor for his passion. In 2012, he made his first investment and founded a company called Ecosense which was into the production of Solar Grids.
pi Ventures is an early stage investment company, Manish Singhal founded pi Ventures along with Umakant Son in 2016.
“pi Ventures started due to the ecosystem of investors being very different. During those days, Angel investors commanded more respect in the market as not many existed. The ecosystem was much different than it is today, where entrepreneurs and investors both have a say,” explained Singhal.
“I realised that decent capital funds were needed to back up the investments and this is when we formed pi Ventures,” Singhal continued.
PI Ventures finds, analyses and funds companies focusing on Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Internet of things. The team of pi Ventures are strong supporters of technology helping in solving real-world problems.
A growing problem is the undersupply of AI Experts globally. When asked about only 10,000 AI experts existing globally, and this being meagre in number, Manish Singhal explained the issue calmly.
“Large firms recruit a number of talented individuals specializing in AI like Google and Facebook. Hence, it is a challenge to convince a person to join a new startup. The scenario in a start-up is such that when individuals make up a team, they are mostly young and they are taught the fundamentals of AI along with other technologies. I have seen that young graduates learn more from on the job training than taking a course. “
Manish is a firm believer of practical knowledge and believes in the recruitment of young dynamic people. When asked about whether Apple’s approach of recruiting talent by setting up labs near universities was the best idea? Manish persuaded about how IIT and IIT Bangalore are already doing it, but students are not approaching the new age skillset education needed such as artificial intelligence and machine learning.
The Journey so far
Manish Singhal has come a long way and so we wonder how the journey has been so far.
“I believe that a person should never stop learning. The learning curve is what keeps you interested and has to be kept constant throughout the journey,” Manish said with all his experiences.
“I have built products, helped other companies build products and invested in platforms which build products. As an investor, you need to study the product and people. However studying people will always be primary, because at the end of the day you are betting on people.”
Manish is also a certified practitioner of psychology, and this has helped him in his success as an investor.