As the world moves ahead, women are today leading the change for a progressive society. Since time immemorial, women have overcome odds and defied adversity. While the trails vary according to time and circumstances, the grit and determination that intrinsic to womanhood remained constant and stood the rest of time.
Despite being hesitated to start her own company for fear of not being able to dedicate adequate time and due to lack of resources. Here’s one such inspiring story of true grit and determination of Vani Kola aged 54 years. She is an Indian venture capitalist. She was listed as one of the most powerful women in Indian Business by Fortune India. She is the founder and Managing Director of Kalaari Capital, one of India’s leading early-stage venture capital firms.
“Having a great work culture is not an option- it is a necessity”.
– Vani Kola via Twitter
The Humble Beginnings :
Born and brought up in Hyderabad, after completing her Electrical Engineering degree from the Osmania University, Vani moved to the United States at 1980’s to pursue her Master’s degree from the Arizona State University.
Formerly, she persisted to work in a well-renowned company, Empros in Minneapolis, Control Data Corporation and Consilium Inc.
After working as an employee for almost 12 years, Vani took the leap and established her first venture, RightWorks, an e-procurement company in 1996.
Leap of Faith:
Generally fear of failing can have two outcomes- it can propel us to try harder or it can stop us from trying. This fear of failing is clearly a latter which ruins every entrepreneur’s journey. Though Vani endured it too. The happiest moment became a very fragile moment in her career when she received an offer for funding which would epitomize her potential to become an entrepreneur. As she was about to close out the papers and pick up the check, she found that the papers of funding were completely different right after all negotiations and signed even before. This happened when she was left with just 3 weeks to set up her business. However, this moment of afraid she found the strength to have the belief, persistence, and power to make a choice. She took a leap of faith, walked away from there knowing that this path would kill her passion and her idea. However, she believed that her decision will be fruitful for her career.
‘RightWorks’ – The First Milestone
Alike every bootstrapped start-up, Vani kola’s first venture also received a rather small beginning; in the Sunnyvale Public Library.
After triumphantly running the company for more than four years, she sold 53% percent share of RightWorks for $657 Million (Cash & Stock) to the Internet Capital Group and subsequently sold the company entirely to I2 Technologies for $86 million in August 2001.
Later, she again decided to jab entrepreneurship in the face and started another company in 2001 called NthOrbit, which was a supply-chain software developer in San Jose. Under the parent company NthOrbit, software called Certus was also launched. During the four year stint; the company became a leader in the financial compliance market with a global customer base of 70.
Later in 2005, it was announced by Nth Orbit Inc. that PepsiCo had purchased its Certus internal controls and assurance software and that in the next few days she would also be moving to India. As she likes to put it – after staying in the US for 22 years, it took her 60 days to decide to move back to India.
And from then, a new chapter began in her life!
The Venture Capitalist- Kalaari Capital
After a thriving career in Silicon Valley, her journey as a Venture Capitalist began in 2006 when she returned back to Bangalore. Here in India, instead of taking the entrepreneurial route, she decided to begin a new course of the journey by becoming a Venture Capitalist.
Vani spent all of her time researching, traveling, meeting people, sitting in a mall and observing, to understand the Indian market, its new mindset for almost a month.
While she was preparing to start the firm, a lot of questions seemed to be tougher than her thought. Would there be enough entrepreneurs in the start-up / early stage ecosystem? Was the Indian start-up market really ready? What kind of ideas and companies should they start off with? To add to that, India wasn’t ready or favored for Silicon Valley- type venture capital investing and all she had was just a handful of technology entrepreneurs. After all, a lot of money was involved and these questions were bound to pop up. But all that she had was a deep conviction, but no validation!
In that one month of wandering, she noticed a lot of signals hinting at the changing India. A huge transformation was on its way. Young India with a lot of confidence, with an eagerness to experiment, without limitations was waiting to be unveiled.
Thereafter she has successfully led investments in e-commerce, mobile services, education, and healthcare. Many of her investments are now quite successful, validating her aptitude for picking the best young minds and mentoring them to build successful enterprises.
Some of Vani’s notable successes include Snapdeal, Myntra, VIA, Apps Daily, Urban Ladder, Zivame, Power2SME, and Bluestone.
Insights about Vani Kola Kalaari
– She is a mother of two children, avid reader, adventure hiker, dog-lover, enthusiastic meditation practitioner and widely admired in Silicon Valley as the ‘red-eye mom’.
-Being in a profession of high intensity, she maintains her stance and meditates. ( She is a Yoga enthusiast and Daily meditator)
-While many are appearing for their SSC at the age of 16, she enrolled for the engineering degree.
– She is an entrepreneur – passionate about facilitating the next generation of leaders. She enabled funding for more than 35 start-up companies.
-She is an inspiring speaker, involved in various forums focused on fostering entrepreneurship.
– Holds Master’s and Bachelor’s degrees in Electrical Engineering, though became a Venture capitalist.
-Only studies were never her goal, she has climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and also achieved multiple marathons.
Being an entrepreneur was her goal and being capital investors for future entrepreneurs was something beyond the goal. At a certain moment, failure might seem like the end of the road, but Vani kola accepted the juncture and revisited her passion with great courage. And that’s what inspires me about her. She is an inspiration to think big and keep the ball rolling. For her age is just a number. Let’s take this inspiration to stand against odds and take our goals to another level.
Thank you for reading this and as always I appreciate you helping me spread this inspiration.
P.S. – As there are countless success stories to get inspired with and push the past inevitable bleakness of failure, I’m destined to draw more inspiration to this blog.