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The book you have in your hand is a collection of some of my reflections on entrepreneurship and social impact. As I wrap up this book, I took a few minutes to reflect on my own entrepreneurial career that started more than three decades ago.
It all started at a small company called ESE in Toronto that was acquired by Motorola in 1980. We moved to Boston in 1984. I was fortunate enough to be involved with several startups some of which included Coral Networks, Cascade Communications, Sycamore Networks, Cimarron, Webdialogs, Airvana, A123 Systems, Tejas Networks and Curata.
This journey brought me in close touch with several mentors, co-founders, colleagues and innovators. They are too many to list individually but I am very thankful to each and every one of them because they have all been a part of my education and have taught me how every entrepreneurial journey is unique, but at the same time share some common themes.
Building a company is very much like a childbirth in many ways. It is an unique experience for every parent and they have to go through the experience to understand the pain and the joy. However, over time the process of childbirth has improved dramatically with better understanding. Similarly, a better understanding of the entrepreneurial path is improving the entrepreneurial success rate attracting more people to entrepreneurship as a career.
During the last fifteen years, I have spent increasingly more time focused on ‘Social Entrepreneurship’ starting with the MIT Deshpande Center for Technological Innovation. Slowly, over the course of time our social innovation projects have grown in India, USA and Canada. The people who lead these efforts Leon Sandler, Naveen Jha, David Parker and Karina LeBlanc are entrepreneurs themselves and their commitment is second to none. Their dedicated efforts have produced promising results making my second innings of entrepreneurship so much more meaningful.
My wife Jaishree and my father Shreenivasrao Deshpande have been full participants in this effort and I am thankful for their help and mentorship. My father is uniquely qualified to advise us on this topic because he was born in a small village in India and had a distinguished career that took him to places beyond India. He has seen how people live in villages in India on almost nothing as well as the lifestyles in developed countries.
I have met hundreds of entrepreneurs over the last two decades. In their journey many reach a crossroad where they need to make a decision. What they don’t have is time to read big books looking for answers. Several entrepreneurs have thanked me many years later for something I told them in the past. Many of them have asked me to write a book. There are so many books that get published these days that I did not want to add one more to that heap.
When I met Rajesh Setty a couple of years ago I was very impressed by his ability to squeeze concepts down to a few words that get to the essence of the idea. He is an engineer, a serial entrepreneur and a writer. I also work closely with Raj Melville, Executive Director of Deshpande Foundation who is very articulate and gives overall shape to what we do at the Foundation. Together, Rajesh and Raj encouraged me to write this book, something more concise that busy entrepreneurs could read. Without the two of them, this book would not have been written.
I am thankful to Narayana Murty for not only being an excellent role model for entrepreneurship but also writing the foreword to this book. He has not only built a successful company and created opportunities for hundreds of thousands of young Indians, he continues to work on helping the millions of less fortunate Indians who have not been included in the growing economy.
Finally, I want to thank you, the reader. That you picked up this book tells me that you are interested in entrepreneurship, social or otherwise. The world needs more of you to dream big and to work hard to make that dream come true.
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