A Panel Discussion with Stanford GSB Professor Haim Mendelson: Emerging Business Models & Lessons from the Valley at The Hive, VR Bengaluru

I went to listen to the Prof. He was more like a coach, asking some powerful questions and demonstrating active listing, (both ICF Coaching competencies).The panel discussion was interesting & very relevant to the young/aspiring professionals. I still consider myself to be a ‘young’ entrepreneur, 4 yrs into new avtar as an entrepreneur!

1. Lady Entrepreneur creating a niche credit card: This was one of the most profound moments at the session. What do you think?

What would be the single most important career decision you will ever make?

What is the transaction failure when we swipe our card? It can be 30% on an average; going up to as high as 50% on some platforms (I am deliberately holding back the name of 50% platform. Their customer service is pretty average too). It shocked me. (I got a similar financial shock only when demonetization was announced).
Regulations can be painful for all. But it is also an entry-barrier for potential competition! (loved it! Mukesh Ambani’s ‘Trump could be a blessing in disguise for India’ made a similar point!). She added Question the regulator too
Research. Talk to experts.
DYK credit cards are designed to roll over! That is some karma, for all involved, including the credit card holders.

A Dabbawala – for schools only

Lunchbox: One start-up serves 1500 lunchboxes at schools in Bangalore & Mysore. This is not Annapporna or Akshaya Patra, serving free food to the poorest. But to help affluent families, where the parents find it difficult to pack lunch for their kids! Interesting concept. Wish they had such a program to serve food at our offices. Healthy, nutritious, homely food. Why not for adults? With traffic in Bangalore making it impossible for Mumbai’s Dabbawalas to operate, we got to find innovative options.

Serial Entrepreneur… with a fine sense of humour!

– Look around for a burning problem. The solution will sell for itself. This entrepreneur is in some league. Mukesh Ambani said the same thing about what advice his legendary father gave him.

– FOOM-App: One of his several entrepreneurial ventures is foomapp.com! Guess what does F-O-O-M stands for? First One On Me! The service offered is “Get one free drink every day – 365 days a year”. And the guy behind the idea is a teetotaller 🙂

– Core activity for a start-up? In a start-up, it is only selling. This is very liberating! I knew this deep within. But a serial entrepreneur saying it, made a lot of sense. All of us entrepreneurs obsessed with anything other than selling, including the core product/service, step back & reflect.

– Go to market, keep talking: Common sense? But I personally don’t do it, though I am aware. I just got to get out & talk. Research is another name for it. More so in this dynamic business environment?

Data Centre guy: Customers don’t know what they want!

– Ask what the customer want – their top 3 pain points

– Strategy – go after 3 top customers – margin squeeze made up from savings on marketing dollars.

– First 2 or 3 customers come with network – do we really manage our network? Are we investing on our network?

– Karma comes back to you. (Good to hear about karma from a techie)

Walk with the swagger!

Q&A: Power of a co-founder: Interesting discussion.

It appeared to have a co-founder or go solo was not even a point of discussion. Sensed complete unanimity among the panelists about the option.


1. Entrepreneurship may appear very glamorous from outside. As an entrepreneur, you will go crazy. It may help to have someone as a co-founder to share the load.

2. It may be a good idea to have three co-founders, with each one focusing on bill, sell, collect.

3. Co-founder should be naturally passionate about the idea. You should not be selling the idea to a prospective co-founder, instead to the market.

4. Some are lucky to get classmates, batchmates as partners

5. Wavelength first, not the idea.

6. Got to be honest & fair. I may add ethical, aligned on values.

Another question was what they got from the management program (IGNITE):

Mentor, Bravado, Humility

So… ‘What would be the single most important career decision you will ever make?’
“Choice of your life-partner!” according to the panelist. Can’t agree more

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