Venky Harinarayan has had a big win as an entrepreneur. Back in the '90s, Harinarayan started one of the first, if not the first, e-commerce search engine, Junglee. It was sold to Amazon in 1998 for $250 million. In 2005, Harinarayan and his business partner Anand Rajaraman, co-founded Kosmix, an alternative search engine, or Web guide. Rajaraman was also a co-founder of Junglee.
In this "Lessons Learned" interview, Harinarayan shares his advice to entrepreneurs.
Firstly, you have to be able to dream, he said. You have to believe you’re doing something fundamentally different and that you’re going to change the world. If you don’t have a dream, you’re not passionate, and it just doesn’t work. “If you don’t have the passion, you won’t go through the walls, climb the hills, jump the hoops that need to be jumped," he said.
Secondly, "clarity is worth its weight in gold. It doesn’t matter if you’re right or wrong. Just be clear about where you want to go. You’re better off being clear than being right. Focus is value in itself. If you’re focused, you’ll get somewhere."
Thirdly, be prepared to be misunderstood. This is something Harinarayan learned from Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. Not everone will share your dream. You have to be prepared to take arrows in your back.
If you follow conventional wisdom. You’ll never lose money. But if you challenge conventional wisdom, you'll make money. If you have the dream, it usually won't match what conventional wisdom says should be done. "If you’re willing to believe in your dream, you’re willing to be misunderstood for a long time."
What was one of the biggest mistakes as an entrepreneur? I asked.
The biggest mistake is being afraid to take risks, said Harinarayan. "You have to be a wide-eyed optimist."
What have you learned about suriving during economically challening times? I asked.
"Ed Zander, ex-CEO of Motorola, says it’s like a game of football, you have to throw a few passes," said Harinarayan. "You can’t just be in survival mode."
To sum up all of Harinarayan's advice: Dream; be focused; be prepared to be misunderstood; always take risks and learn how to throw Hail Mary passes.