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In Conversation With Venkatesh Shukla

Ranjani Saigal
04/10/2014

Venkatesh Shukla, President of TiE Silicon Valley, has had a long and varied career that includes sales, marketing, and general management, and a proven track record of leading companies through rapid growth. He has worked as senior marketing executive in large technology companies in the Silicon Valley and involved with numerous start-ups as CEO, investor, board member, or advisor. He is the founding chair of TiE Angels, the successful angel investing platform of TiE SV. Shukla was also the President of Foundation for Excellence (www.ffe.org) for 18 years. FFE gives scholarships to outstanding students in India to enable them to become doctors and engineers.

“My undergraduate degree is in electronics. I had a great passion for original electronic design. I found at that time the only places such original work was happening was in public sector companies like Indian Space Research Organization.  I quickly realized that these companies were almost as bureaucratic as the traditional bureaucracy, but without its impact and influence. So I took the Civil Service exam and joined traditional bureaucracy. Along the way I also got an MBA at  the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). 

Once computerization started in India, I was very excited and I volunteered to head one of the four regional computer centers in the Income Tax department. Instead, I was sent as Deputy Commissioner to Tamil Nadu. That was very frustrating to me. So I resigned and returned back to Boston.”

So what was it like to be back in the US? “I joined Teredyne. It was very exciting to be part of a cutting edge technology company. I joined the sales team. The best experience one can ever have is being in sales and marketing. The company culture at Teredyne was fabulous. Even in those days everyone at the company including the CEO just had a cube”

What made him move to the west coast? “I moved to the west coast as part of Teredyne’s sales and marketing team. Later I left Teredyne and joined Cadence. I became the first Indian Vice President of marketing at Cadence.  Later I joined a startup called Ambit Design Systems. I went to another venture-funded company called Everypath that was in the mobile Internet space.  Later I joined a public company called Magma. Finally I became CEO of a venture-funded company called Nusym Technology, which was sold in June 2010.  Later I decided to become an investor and decided to start TIE Angels. We have invested over 7 million dollars in nearly 21 companies”

How does he pick companies to invest in ? “It is very simple. I look at the story of the company and see the passion and credibility of the founder. We find the deepest domain expert to do the due diligence. We need to find an idea that has traction. We pick products that really fulfills someone’s needs.”

What areas is he excited about? “Storage and security are areas that are very exciting. Dynamic allocation of unused capacity is an area that is very interesting to me. “

What advice do you have for startups in the west coast ? “You need to find a co-founder with complimentary skills. You should have implicit faith in each other.  Finding quality engineers in the west coast in not easy. There are companies who locate their engineering teams in the east coast or in other locations near good engineering schools where it may be easy to find good talent. Remember that doing a startup is hard work. Work life balance will not necessarily be a reality.  I would also recommend that people be frugal with their money”

Does he any charitable interests? “I have been a core team member of the Foundation For Excellence (FFE) for many years. This organization works to identify scholars in India who would have admission to engineering and medical programs but do not have the financial resources.  We are in nearly 22 states in India. We have people in India doing the due diligence. Most importantly we ask that the people who benefit from FFE support other people when they become successful. It has worked well so far. You can check out their website at http://www.ffe.org/”
 
“Whatever I do, I do for Swantha Sukhaya – for my happiness. That happiness often comes when I am able to impact lives of others in positive ways”

 

 



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