Take The First Step
Devin MillerThe Inventive Journey Podcast for Entrepreneurs
Take The First Step
The Inventive Journey
Starting and growing a business is a journey. On The Inventive Journey, your host, Devin Miller walks with startups along their different journeys startups take to success (or failure). You also get to hear from featured guests, such as venture firms and angel investors, that provide insight on the paths to a successful inventive journey.
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the main is number take the first step so if you don't take the step you will always just keep thinking i you know should i would have all those kind of thing i should have done this you know i would have done this and so i think you have to take the first step but at the same time and then after that you have to be very flexible and you have to be persistent you know don't give up and just keep meandering through because it's going to be a roller coaster ride one day you'll feel high next day you feel low because you were expecting customer to sign up they don't sign up you're expecting an investor to invest in they don't invest or things like that but [Music] everyone this is devin miller here with another episode of the inventive journey i'm your host devin miller the serial entrepreneur that's grown several startups into seven and eight figure businesses as well as a founder and ceo of miller ip law where we help startups and small businesses with their patents and trademarks you ever need help with yours just go to strategymeeting.com and we're always here are here to help now today we've got another great guest on the podcast naveen bisht and uh naveen this is a quick introduction so went to the high school in the himalayas did an undergraduate in engineering and then came to the us to study a master's and i think at least started or got a phd at santa barbara as well worked in silicon valley for about four years and wanted to do a startup so started a software security company with the friend for about three years and then they sold off to nobel um right in the in the night in the 1999's and then started another company um invest in some other companies and then also started uh recently a company in cyber security and he'll give a bit more details as to what he's doing now so with that much as an introduction welcome on the podcast naveen thank you thank you devon i'm really excited to be here and share my journey absolutely absolutely excited to have you on so i just gave a quick run through of a much longer journey so why don't we take care go back in time a bit tell us a little bit about going to high school and himalayas and how your journey got started there yeah that's a very good you know the part of himalayas i grew up in is a beautiful area it's about 7000 feet of the ocean level small town nice beautiful i call it mini lake towel well the place is called 90 tall n-a-i-n-i-t-a-l for those who are interested who love to travel around the world they can check it out they'll see a lot of beautiful lakes hiking etc so you know after my high school usually so i decided to i went to one of the one of the top six schools in those days which is one of the mechanical engineering master's in chemistry it was a decade program and then i came here to do my master's and i what there's one question for you just as you know is before we dive too far into your journey so got the undergraduate in engineering and uh and doing that what made you decide to come to the us to study your masters was it great programs always wanted to live in the u.s you know got a you know good opportunity or kind of what what pulled you to the u.s yeah very good question david um actually to be honest uh you know when i from high school i i caught it like when you look at my journeys just darts just started happening and they connected if you look back in hindsight so from high school i ended up being in one of these top schools and i never had thought of coming here or anything like that but i noticed um a lot of folks you know wanted to come and pursue their graduate studies because obviously u.s institutions are um you know they're obviously the top top schools in the world in terms of new research and um you know for your further studies and so everyone still today and everyone loves to come here and study so there was just like a lot of my classmates they were applying and so same thing either oh you know i'm not ready to work yet right after school so let me apply for some graduate programs i ended up being here no that makes sense and so so now you you say okay i'm gonna come to the u.s i think that's where the opportunity and where i'd like to study and do the masters and so you come to the masters and i think you started a phd is that right or did it yes yeah i got my master's degree at texas tech university and then um actually before that i i ended up in minnesota at minnesota state university i mean i spent a year there beautiful place you know that's you know learned right in the heart of uh middle of the united states as you know heartland as you call it and so which was a very good experience lots of good friends and from there then i just decided to move to texas to get the master's degree there and so far that was still you know more comprehensive program from what i was trying to accomplish and from i just spent a year there got my degree and then i applied to two schools at usc and uc santa barbara and uc santa barbara looked beautiful right on the beach and they sent me this you know the region's fellowship and you know the resistances i ended up being there so i spent a year there for psg program and then i realized um you know i wanted to go do a little uh like internship for three months and then decided uh you know i wanted to take a break so i wasn't sure uh you know i wanted to um you know at least get some industry experience had been in the college for almost nine years so uh from there i ended up being in silicon valley and this then didn't go back i mean even though i think i could have got another message to you but that was funny well and that makes sense so yeah you get the degree coming out of school um you know how did you kind of land the the first their first position and you know what or what made you to go or go or go towards that that that initial position yeah so the position was just like you know through networking i decided in summer uh you know just through some friends were here in bay area just contacts from me here and there so one of my friends just called me one day said hey we have a new position for this process engineering and i had this background in you know engineering as well as math computer science and statistics background just that they needed some uh something in that area and so i interviewed with them and they offered me a job so that's kind of the center of being here all right so now and so you you know you and i think when we talked before you worked in silicon valley for about four years before you kind of got the startup entrepreneurial bug and wanted to do your own thing and so you started a software security company with a friend is that right yeah yeah so basically you know as once you come to silicon valley i feel um the environment is so stimulating right just the kind of people you meet from all the like the company i joined was a startup itself just two years old but they were doing well so you kind of see and learn how they're you know adding up these customers creating these products so it's kind of exciting and then also i just felt like i wanted to do something on my own and i guess sometimes when you're by yourself since i'm the first one who just landed up in us and not like you know it was planned just and i've so there is no restriction right like sometimes when you have family peer pressure okay go work don't go jump into the startups risky and all that so i had no i call it fear of that so and i felt like why not just try it out and see what happens so i worked at two companies like i said one company three years second company for two years uh which was to get experience working with a lot of customers so that also gave me a lot of exposure because this was in those days they were building these magnetic heads for the disk drives and they used to do a lot of manufacturing in parties like thailand malaysia so i used to travel a lot with the customers so that was a very good experience right early on right so but then after two years of ex you know having this experience with the customers i realized okay i got the customer side experience on the supplier side i had worked in the earlier on and the process engineering i felt i kind of got a good deal on how i can deal with the customers and so that's when i decided i wanted to start something and i wanted to start something in software area go back no it makes sense so now you get into the okay i'm gonna do software i'm gonna do the startup gonna do the software you know cyber security doing with my friend think it's a good opportunity so you know was that that was or how did that go i mean at one point i think when we talked you got acquired by novell after a few years of doing it was that a good thing was it uh one where you know it was a great opportunity and you're glad you did it or was it hey we got in after three years we didn't want to be an entrepreneur anymore so we sold it for what we could or kind of how did it go no it went very well i mean the first obviously the idea was at that point um you know back in mid 90s 95 this whole internet thing started at that point you know there was a company called netscape which came out of this browser and obviously today most of the folks use chrome and firefox and uh explorer right but then netscape was a number of first company and with that this whole thing started like as if this new horizon you know this whole internet thing could do so many things so we me and my friend was in school with me in santa barbara and he was working actually at november itself and and he had a good background in networking we decided we should do something in that area and so we just picked up this problem of that few the two issues which in order to use like the internet was the access as well as security so we focused on the security part and we created this firewall product with the kaya software in fact we got 12 patterns also in three years it is some angel money and then we decided we're getting these offers to acquire we had tons of awards for the company top you know hot startup top products all those number of awards we maintained we had about 400 customers these oem deals we were working on one of them was novel and in the process they and also you know they said hey how about you be part of this one and we felt that was a good decision and also good for us for us to make it very fast i mean i mean fast meaning obviously three years but still you know for us as entrepreneurs i think get some security under the belt i got it right overall financially in other words no it makes sense so so you sell it off to novell you know that's your kind of your first startup you're doing with your business partner so kind of after you're getting done with you know after you sold off your first company and you're you know just at the turn of the century and coming into the 2000s you know what did you do next you're saying hey love startups i'm going to do my next big business and i got a great idea and i'm going to do that or hey startups are hard just put in you know several years into doing that i'm going to take a break or kind of what was that next step after selling off then the first startup you did yeah i mean obviously once you get into the startup mode and you're just pretty young enough so you know you feel like you're okay you want to do something again more exciting so i did take a break of six seven months and then in the process we set up a small angel fund with another friend and we did make number of these angel investments and then i started the second company called nine on networks which was focused on this hot trend which is coming in at that point optical networking and obviously since i had had a great success right up right you know several months ago so we got the venture funding right off the bat you know about 15 million and we got started with the team and that was my second startup which went through obviously a lot of roller coaster rides because then telecom all this internet thing busted in 2001 to 2003 four time periods we had to survive through but luckily we had raised enough money because before the whole market collapsed in 2001 december we had raised another 40 million so we kind of survived through the whole team of even though we had paid about a team to over 150 people or so within a year then we had to kind of cut down and manage through the whole process no it makes sense so so now you do you're doing all that and i think you're amidst all that you started the other company you also invested in other companies for a period of time yes for a few years because just on the side you know it's like kind of angel investments and you know between number of entrepreneurs so that's what i did and there's another learning lots of learning experience and obviously it's fun always to work with a lot of these smart folks and obviously you learn a lot like a lot of them go first and then some of them obviously do very well so it was a great experience uh from both sides so now and just to kind of give an idea you know did you you know invest in one company and you know it was a a terrible you know thing that you never do again or you invest in multiple companies and some were good some were hit or miss or kind of you know what level did you get into investing other companies and uh working with them and helping them out so earlier it was more because i was busy with my own startup but it was more like some people use yourself as an advisor but really i wasn't actively involved with any of those right this is just endless investments like a lot of folks do today and so number of companies most of the companies busted because what happened was that all that 2001 to five time period like i said that telecom internet first even a lot of companies went back from a large company like worldcom i don't know if you remember so there should be a telecommunications carrier and so there were good few companies who survived through and they did very well and some number of them even though they were very well funded they also approached so it was a mix of whole experience whether do or not um you know like i said if that's the thing happens in annual investment anyway not necessarily all of them will work out and at the same time what you think um you know what you're investing in may turn out to be totally different than how that company pays out and they can be used to be very successful makes sense and uh sounds like it's a you know fun part i always think you know always look and i love startups and small businesses so i always you know wanted to always have the desire to do it on my own but i also think it'd be fun to be able to get in the mode of investing in others and seeing if you can help them to grow the company and make it better and then play that role as well so now as you went through that phase and you know you kind of did the other startup you're investing in their companies i think pulling it a a bit uh towards the future towards the present day you know at some point i think you're your current business you're doing again kind of in the cyber security realm or in in security so how did you kind of make that transition and how did that kind of uh bring it to where you're at today i mean majority of mine was still doing startups on my own not like really investing investing so just to be clear right there was just more like a site think of a little bit of hobby kind of a thing so still i was doing my startup and then after the second one after 2007 i had left because we had turned it public through you know and then um i started another i helped another small company in security space then we had this 2008 bust right then me and my current vp of engineering in the current company akitra which is a cyber security compliance um automation ai based and cloud-based company so i had started with him in back in 2012 to do something like i call it um you know the real-time uh mobile infrastructure platform for e-commerce and which we built up the product where uh within that within about two and a half years and we decided we should sell the company we had just bootstrapped at me and him and a few other folks and then we sold it off to another private company and that's when i started the current company called akitra and in between you know i have done like other i have another service company service meeting software development services company back in 2011 called orange technology i co-founded with the base in india to provide this development from there because these days you know you're finding the talented folks not only is hard here as well they're very expensive so in the early phases of startups you have to kind of you have only a certain amount of money so you want to be able to manage it very economically and be able to deliver your product right and then of course later on you kind of start adding up globally as you get the tracks into the customers and you raise more capital to expand on that so yeah so that's kind of the story and this current company back in 2000 um you know 15 started looking into it the idea was to use artificial intelligence to um basically to the cyber cyber security use cases i felt this will be a great um area and there was a huge you know try a huge trend going on then how ai can help which obviously today is very obvious with so many companies being very successful in that industry so now and that was you mentioned in 2015 2016 so now kind of you know fast forwarding a bit to today where does that put the company is it still going is it successful is it becoming bigger are you getting traction is it one where it's been ups and downs and you're trying to figure out where the plate or how to position it or kind of give everybody an idea of kind of where that where that puts it everything today yeah this no this is going pretty good so back like i said in the early on couple of years i just spent time to figure out what area how to focus and experimenting right that's what you do uh especially in these high tech startups and then back in 2017 onwards now right now you know we're about 40 folks and it's early stages of you know and so we have very good uh you know traction coming with the customers in the products we are delivering these compliance automation products for uh cloud services companies as well as the cyber security product line for asset management discovery using ai to detect the anomalies or the you know threats etc so it's very good we're really excited i'm really excited about it very good mark product market fit and really enjoying it and just you know continue to help grow it awesome well that's definitely exciting that you know you know it's always interesting you do your first startup and if you do subsequent ones is hey was that you know my one-off the one that i'm going to be successful with and i you know not to be repeated or can you successfully do or start and grow up different companies it sounds like certainly the latter for you which is uh definitely exciting so yeah well as we as we kind of you know bring that to you to the where you're at today and you know kind of what your journey's been along um it's a great point to transition to the two questions i always ask at the end of the the podcast um and just as a heads up for the audience after we uh wrap up the normal portion of the episode we are also doing um a bonus question where we talk a little bit about intellectual property so if that's of interest make sure to stay stay tuned after the normal episode to hear that conversation as well but before we jump to that um normal two questions i asked at the end of each podcast we'll jump to the first one which is along your journey what was the worst business decision you ever made and what did you learn from it so um the way let me um answer the worst decision wise um the question number one so by the way i have a blog i used to write for this uh entrepreneur focused magazine back in 2011 to 15. which is called 4kta.com so there are a lot of these articles i have written around entrepreneurship 4k ta stand for four key takeaway points so basically you know i i think you might have also heard whenever you do a slide presentation they say don't go more than three or four points people are not going to remember so that's how i came up with that idea as well this website which i haven't updated recently but i may do at some point but it has a lot of this information on my own learnings so one of the thing in that is like when you say talk about worst decision so i've written my own journey from these companies what i've gone through and so which obviously i feel very lucky and fortunate to have been able to do that is one of the first topic was how do you when you get started how do you form your team right so in theme formats and i call it there are four four basically ktas right four key takeaway points one is chemistry between the other co-founders second is having the trust and third is skill set and adaptability fourth is positive attitude and positive energy i feel like these kind of make make up the part of your team because you want to make sure uh you know let's say if i'm starting a company mostly in high tech you'll always generally you have co-founders right or the early team members who are complimenting you in their skill sets and one of the things like for example i talk about in how do you detect it early on because you don't have much data that you know how whether this person is right or not right so many times what happens is i look at very small cues let's say you're early on you're starting and you you have the person say hey let's meet tomorrow and if the person does he does he or she they want to meet you right away or not or they say okay no let's meet up two days so you kind of start looking for these clues right so the worst decision going back to all these topics is mainly me not following my own those kind of my learnings and criteria in my later part of some other startups so that's what i would call it most decisions not to follow your own learnings and advice you you're imparting right yeah so that's kind of what i mean if you obviously if your audience is interested they can go to that 4k ta.com see a lot of articles and they can and obviously there's a lot of material in internet by other highly successful entrepreneurs too and second question you had was yeah that was a great question a great answer on the first question definitely insightful and the mistakes but also kind of what you learned from it second question i always ask is if you were talking to somebody that's just getting into a startup or small business would be the one piece of advice you'd give them well the key piece of advice is i would say the main is number take the first step so if you don't take the step you will always just keep thinking i you know shoulda woulda all those kind of thing i should have done this you know i would have done this and so i think you have to take the first step but at the same time and then after that you have to be very flexible and you have to be persistent you know don't give up and just keep meandering through because it's going to be a roller coaster ride one day you'll feel high next day you feel low because you were expecting customers to sign up they don't sign up you're expecting an investor to invest in they don't invest or things like that but so that's that would be my um advice and like also keep listening to like podcasts you're doing right for example this is amazing because you're bringing in all these entrepreneurs sharing their different nuances of their lessons and successes and even i do a like monthly virtual story for a non-profit or called my story where i'm bringing these entrepreneurs sold their company 100 million plus this year one hour journey in this is a local organization called thai silicon valley isv.org so they have this my story i just did a few weeks ago i'll be doing again same thing like so what that does is i think they become they're very inspirational and plus you learn a lot of these real pragmatic um uh you know advice and the ones which you want to read anywhere in the books right because every startup you have basic things okay write a business plan these are the uh eight nine things you gotta do but the thing is when you go through a journey there are a lot of the ones which you want which you have to kind of experience or learn it from others experiences so i think i would say just uh you know don't give up we take the next take this first step and then keep listening to inspiring talks like yours and others there are so many of them that would be my advice no and i think that's great advice i mean i think a lot of times there's it's easy to make excuses as to why now is not the right timing or why you need something else or don't have the right resources and yet taking that first step getting it going and getting things kicked off as does more to lead you towards success and you know any amount of planning or thinking it through or you know otherwise getting things in place i think just taking that initial plunge is a great uh piece of advice so well as we wrap up and before we talk about the the bonus question if people want to reach out to you they want to be a client they want to be a customer they want to be an investor they want to be your next best friend any or all of the above what's the best way to reach out to you contact you find out more yeah best i mean they can connect me on linkedin maybe best i mean that's how we connected and then uh obviously for my current company they're interested you know they're their entrepreneur they're selling any software as a service kind of services so they can come to akitra.com akita.com and as emc i can help them obviously i would love to help them out as an entrepreneur in their early stages of the company they need all these require do these compliance requirements for stock 2 iso 27001 and hipaa which are required for selling into those kind of customer bases and if you want to learn more 4k ta.com attend my stories attend yours awesome well definitely uh great ways to connect and definitely encourage everybody to do so well with that thank you again for coming on the podcast it's been a fun it's been a pleasure now for all of you that are listeners if you have your own journey to tell and you'd like to be a guest on the podcast uh just go to inventiveguest.com and apply to be on the show a couple more things as listeners make sure to uh click subscribe so you know when all of our awesome episodes come out and leave us a review so everybody else can find all of our awesome episodes as well last but not least you ever need help with patents trademarks or anything else along your journey feel free to reach out to us just go to strategymeeting.com and guys and grab some time with us to chat with that now that we've uh wrapped up the you know the the normal portion of the episode it's always fun to change gears a bit and talk a little bit about the area that i always find or love and enjoy and certainly a passion of mine which is intellectual property so with that we'll uh flip the flip gears just a bit and turn it over to you to ask your number one intellectual property question yeah so that's a very good uh and i've been like i said every startup i have always filed for patents and that's how i think we also had a discussion earlier um so my question would be is how do you help you know the entrepreneurs i mean a lot of your listeners obviously were entrepreneurs to help them you know help them excuse me i help them provide the value of filing this whole you know the patent process and everything at a in a very cost effective way because that's one of the things because patterns that many many folks don't file for it because you know it's going to be very costly some so i think you're doing a pretty good job maybe it might be great to yeah it's a great it's a great question now i get a self-promote just a bit but no it's uh so you know a few things that we do and you know i i wouldn't claim that we're the only ones i think we do it pretty well is one is we always offer flat fees which is nice for any startup or small business that you're not on an hourly you're not at an open end check and you know hey we're going to do this this is how much we cost another thing that we do is we also you know we have nice offices but we don't have the downtown high-rise immaculate offices that are costing a lot of overhead we don't have a lot of partners that are eating into a lot of profitability and increasing rates and with all of that it allows us to offer more effective or competitive rates so provide the same quality but at you know more competitive rates a couple more things that we've we've implemented is one is we also um offer a payment plan so we allow for our flat fees that you can split it up over four payments over four months and so it allows to spread out that cost a bit so it's not quite as uh you know sticker shock in the wallet because you're having to pay for it all up front you're not having to pay for a sizable bill so you know how much it's going to cost with the flat fee and then you know how much it's going here that you can split it up over a few months the last thing that we've more recently rolled out which i'm pretty excited about is we also do a diy what we're calling snap legal which is a diy legal service and that allows people to you know if they're not able to and i still highly recommend doing uh doing the um hiring an attorney and having them do it because they're going to have the greatest level experience but we also get if you're early enough stage and maybe you're very cash strapped or you have a lot of things demanding your budget you may not always be able to afford an attorney so we set up the for several of our different legal services but there's a diy option where people can do it themselves and go down that route so it allows them to say you know a lot of times hey let's get this going get something in place allow you to at least get things kicked off and have a degree of protection and then as you grow and as you get bigger and have an ability to afford an attorney then you can go in uh and actually hire an attorney to continue on with your portfolio so great question i love it and that is one where we definitely try and do a lot to as was because we're always looking to help start up some small businesses and that's a few of the ways that we try and look to say for small businesses startups and people that are on a shoestring budget or just getting started what can we do to help them so with that appreciate the question appreciate the time and sharing your journey and uh we'll go ahead and wrap up for today and wish you the next leg of your journey even better than the last thank you darren i said to you here and obviously we'll be in touch talk to you soon [Music]