There is an old saying – ”it takes a village to raise a child”. I would argue that the same is true for startups.
The entrepreneurial journey is often a long and treacherous one. Eventual success or failure of a startup often has less to do with capital, and a lot more to do with business building help along the way. Much of that is done by an execution-focused world class team, but also through advisors, mentors, partners and ambassadors. We, at Iron Pillar, know that increasingly, capital is a commodity, given both the explosion in terms of numbers of ventures funds and amount of capital raised. That, by the way, is true not only in a mature market like the US, but also in emerging markets like India where technology entrepreneurship and venture capital ecosystems have blossomed over the past several years. As a result, the best entrepreneurs have their choice of VC firms and sources of capital. Entrepreneurs are also fairly efficient creatures, knowing and spreading the word about when a firm or partner has really added value, versus times when they have over-promised and under-delivered – something I refer to as the reputation index.
A few months ago, my parter Anand and I started brainstorming about formalizing the remarkable network of serial entrepreneurs and corporate executives that we had built over our careers. We knew that a huge portion of tangible value addition on the part of Iron Pillar as an investor revolves around three key aspects – 1) opening doors with respect to new markets, customers and partners; 2) assisting with key executive hires; and 3) connecting entrepreneurs to downstream strategic and financial capital and potential M&A candidates. To continue delivering on those three mandates, and further enhance Iron Pillar’s value to our portfolio companies, we embarked on a journey to connect with some of our most trusted and respected business connections. Today, we are thrilled to announce the Iron Pillar Network (IPN), a collection of over 20 CXOs, senior technologists and serial entrepreneurs with the goal of providing curated advice and mentorship to our portfolio CEOs.
When we founded the firm four years ago, named after the untarnished and time-tested monument in Delhi, we defined ourselves through a few core values including humility and self-awareness – we know what we know, and we know what we don’t know. Call it an introspective “gap analysis”. It’s with that awareness and with the goal of delivering quantifiable value to our portfolio CEO’s and companies that the team has created IPN. The network was designed to bring together a highly complementary cohort of incredible individuals spanning multiple industry and functional domains. While the Iron Pillar team has a large network of individuals and corporate connections, it was important for us to formalize a subset of these relationships who were ready to roll up their sleeves and help our entrepreneurs.
This is different than a typical advisory network where often the names are very recognizable but the actual time spent with the partnership or the portfolio companies is extremely limited or none at all. In the case of IPN, the individuals bring decades long, professional, “in the trenches” company-building experience which makes them invaluable to startups. Additionally, these are folks who are passionate about entrepreneurship, and look at IPN as a way of giving back to the community, from which many of them derived their own success. It’s also an endorsement and validation of the Iron Pillar team, our vision, our strategy and our pro-active, hands-on approach towards helping companies from India become global leaders.
The group is truly remarkable, and most of them have had a professional relationship with at least one of the Iron Pillar team members for over a decade, many for multiple decades. The group includes successful serial entrepreneurs, academics, and technology executives. Let’s dive into the individuals and give you a sense of their backgrounds and respective accomplishments.
Ashish Jain: Senior Vice President Finance, Careem (acquired by Uber for $3.1B)
Chris Reed: Head of Strategy and Innovation at Equian (Optum, part of United Healthcare)
Chris Yeh: Entrepreneur, Investor, Author – Blitzscaling
Cyrus Wadia: Head of Sustainable Product, Amazon. Formerly VP of Sustainable Business and Innovation at Nike and Assistant Director of Clean Energy at the Office of Science and Technology at the Obama White House
Dan Decasper: GM, Pure Storage. Two time successful technology entrepreneur in Wide Area Network optimization
Jay Chakrapani: Senior Vice President, 2U. Former CTO at Trilogy Education, McGraw Hill and Barnes & Noble
Jonathan Flesher: Head of Business Development, Discord. Former BD executive at EA and Zynga
Kamal Ahluwalia: President, Eightfold.ai. Former CRO at Apptus, CMO at Selectica. Serial entrepreneur
Kartik Hosanagar: Professor, The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania. Co-founder, Yodle
Lars Nilsson: CEO, Salessource (former VP Global Inside Sales, Cloudera). Former sales executive at Arcsight, HP and Riverbed
Mark Jansen: Professor of Finance, University of Utah
Maryan Alexandrian-Adams: Advisor, Board Member. Former CRO and SVP, Global Sales at Dell-Wyse
Mike Eberhard: Advisor, Board Member, Former President, SAP Spend Group (Concur, Aruba, Fieldglass).
Sandeep Johri: CEO, Tricentis. Successful serial entrepreneur and former head of Cloud, HP
Sandeep Tandon: Partner, Whiteboard Capital and Co-founder, Freecharge
Sean Atkins: CEO, Bertelsman RTL Video Group, Previously President of MTV, GM/EVP of Discovery and SVP at HBO
Steve Ciesinski: Technology Executive, Board Member, Former President of Stanford Research Institute
Talal Shamoon: CEO, Intertust
Vaibhav Domkundwar: Entrepreneur & Seed VC. Founder and CEO of Better Capital
Vijay Sundaram: Chief Strategy Officer, ZOHO
Vinay Goel: Chief Digital Officer, JLL. Former head of product, Google India and global product manager, Google Local and Google Maps
The Iron Pillar team is thrilled to launch IPN and are humbled by the support from these incredible individuals. We fundamentally believe that technology entrepreneurship in India is at an inflection point, with an opportunity over the next decade to transition from an “emerging” economy to an “emerged” one. The Iron Pillar team is looking forward to doing our part in making that happen, in part by leveraging the collective knowledge and networks of the broader Iron Pillar family, including IPN members, to help catalyze the Indian technology entrepreneurship ecosystem. Upwards and onwards…always!