Rajeev Motwani was the mentor to the founders of Google. Larry Page and Sergey Brin started working on their thesis project called PageRank under him when he was a Computer Science professor at Stanford. To have been selected for such a prestigious fellowship was truly an honour, and even better was, to see how one man’s legacy still carries on in the lives he touched as a mentor, guide and friend. Asha, his wife and a brilliant angel investor, is the one who still drives his legacy forward through this fellowship and encourages talent from India and Pakistan to visit and explore the possibilities and opportunities in the Valley.
12 fellows from India and Pakistan were selected on the basis of the the projects/ventures they were working on and the potential impact their idea would have, given the right resources, mentors and funding. We were hosted in the same house where Larry and Sergey worked on Google, and even went to IPO in that very drawing room where we had our morning sessions.
Palo Alto’s energy and intensity is rather infectious. It makes you want to believe in serendipity and that you truly never know which miracle awaits you around the corner, or in this case, a cafe or a co-working space. We attended conferences such as the TiECon which had a truly competent and high-profile line-up of speakers and doers such as Vishal Sikka, Kailash Satyarthi, Anjula Acharia Bath amongst many others. Even visited the Maker Fair which is a treat for anyone remotely interested in technology since that is where the geek cult belongs..you truly feel transported to another world altogether. Those guys are doing things like drone racing, robot and submarine wars and AR/VR stuff that makes you think how far really is the Jetsons like ‘future’. It is entertaining and exciting to watch..but made me realize one fundamental thing: The US is developed- and a lot of what people are building is noise (i.e. apps/filters for editing cat photos). The average entrepreneur isn’t looking to solve social challenges because honestly, they live in their developed world bubble- which is where entrepreneurs from emerging worlds can truly step forward, and take the giant leap ahead into the future. We should explore how technology can solve the most pressing issues of our time- and gradually, as more people realize this, our combined hope of a better and abundant future can safely build up. Just how Peter Diamandis talks about his in book called abundance, we can truly leverage tech to address complex social challenges of poverty, unemployment, inequality, and high mortality.
All that said, I loved University Avenue (Couppa Cafe, Burma Ruby, Blue Dot especially) and the campus of Stanford. God! There is no other place that has made me feel so inspired by its legacy and I just keep thinking about how centered and at home I felt on its campus. I had always thought about an MBA there, but visiting and taking classes/talking to students/meeting the Business School, Design School and Center of Social Innovation teams and faculty just filled my heart with a sense of belonging. I hope I can be back on that campus soon enough, and contribute something valuable to it. It’s one place where I feel that legacy truly lives on.
As a result of their network through Google and Stanford, Rajeev and Asha have a tremendous network in the Valley. We literally had entrepreneurs, investors, mentors and media people come over to the house and talk to us about our ideas- and gave us truly valuable feedback on each individual idea. The collaborative and encouraging disposition of these humble overachievers is to learn from, and gave us all a lot to ponder and reflect upon.
I think the most important thing that happens to you as a result of something like this fellowship is the transformative paradigm shift in your mindset. Yes, as entrepreneurs and makers we were all driven and self-motivated, but our time in the Valley, opened our minds up to an entirely new world of possibilities. I’m well traveled so it wasn’t the fascination of a new place, rather the umbrella of the legacy, the people we met, and the inspiration we brought back with us.
I’m working on exciting projects in the next billion domain- building resources and platforms for the newly connected. I was always fascinated by how we can leverage technology for social impact, and the fellowship enabled connections in the Valley that are contributing immensely to my work now.
You might have grand plans for yourself, but you must always accommodate room for serendipity in your life. The Universe might have bigger plans for you than you have for yourself, after all! Having said that, I do believe in cause and effect- your intention and your input drives the output- the harder you work, the luckier you get, right? Keep going 🙂