First, let me tell you something about Mike. As per wikipedia:
Mike Cassidy is an American entrepreneur, and was CEO and co-founder of four previous Internet start-ups including Stylus Innovation, Direct Hit, Xfire, and Ruba.com. In January 2012, he became director of product management at Google and led Project Loon with Google[x]. In April 2017 it was reported he is working on a clean energy startup, Apollo Fusion, using a hybrid reactor technology based on fusion power.
A couple of weeks ago I got the opportunity to have dinner with Mike at The Taj Palace in Mumbai. I can’t thank more The Startup Grind Team and Jan Smejkal for getting me there and Carlotta S Barbieri for doing this noble thing with Nomadic mentors and giving opportunities like these to us.
So it all started when the man himself- Jan started a thread. I was humbled as always by My exaggerated intro bro gave to Carlotta.
I then checked out Nomadic mentor’s website and straight away knew that these are the most awesome people you come across in life, need to keep them close 🙂 I agreed to do anything but with the intent of helping them in India. I had no idea what was coming next.
After a couple of emails, I recieved this from Mike:
Would love to have dinner with you on Thursday the 17th and perhaps sightsee a bit the morning of the 18th if you have time.
For a young entrepreneur like me, looking at this opportunity I felt like a hungry lion and there was fresh meat in front of me. I straight away booked my flights and was on my way to Mumbai few days later. So we met.
We started with a walk around gateway of India and Mike introduced me to his Son, Christopher. He’s from MIT studying Nuclear research and working on making nuclear fusion happen. He’s a cool guy. We had many things in common but the differences we had in our environment was so huge.
Everyone around him appreciated and celebrated entrepreneurship. Failure was just another thing for him and the worst thing that people did at MIT was consulting (Because it’s boring and it’s all about cash!). In my world, I had to drop out of college after couple of semesters to become an entrepreneur. Had to leave my house and didn’t tell my parents/friends for 12–15 months after I dropped out because they would either get me back into college or call me back to home to continue family business. And the only thing my Mom is proud of is the consulting business I build. haha (P.S My mom has no idea about entrepreneurship. Just talking about culture differences.)
We then went for dinner and had crazy conversations. He told me stories about him meeting Ratan Tata and PM Modi. I loved the fact that he loves India and even celebrates our festivals in US. He met Modi wearing a kurta, must have won his heart. 🙂
Mike taught me so much about entrepreneurship that I want to share in such small time. I always doubted myself with a lot of things like doing multiple things and being all over the place at times. He says this is normal with entrepreneurs and he himself did 4–5 different startups all in different fields and has side projects running all the time.
Later in our conversation I told him about a long term project I always wanted to do. It was about building a nuclear(Th) powered space station covered with Solar Panels. I did lot’s of research but this never came closer to reality for me until I met him. It was a childhood dream for me and I believe this could’ve solved our power problems without letting people take advantage.
Earlier, whenever I told people about this project, people used to make fun of me but with Mike we went into technical discussions and how we can make this possible. I absolutely loved it!
Then somewhere in between he said “You think like Elon Musk, have you read his book?” I said ofcourse! twice! and I was blown away. It was funny and I was on 7th cloud. What if we can really make it happen? I think I can at least try. Maybe we I can do 0.1% of what he did or maybe more than him. Either way, I’ll end up making the world a better place if we move in the same direction. I decided I’m going to do it anyways.
One of the things I realised is that I always wanted to make this world a better place but I always thought on lines to make it a more efficient one. Mike says, “ It’s alright to make it more efficient. I did it myself for several years. The journey from efficient to really making it a better place is long but you shall get there.”
The dinner ended with some other things that we discussed about entrepreneurship and the challenges I face. Things around building the right culture, knowing the future. It was also great to learn from Mike’s experience. I think going from starting a company to selling it for $500m in 500 days was pretty badass. He also told me stories how he sat with an investor and got him to sign the term sheet and closed the deal in just 1 day. It was great to see how fast you can possibly move. I loved it!
Next morning was great. We went for a walk around Marine Drive (My favourite place to spend time in India). The cold breeze was just perfect and we started where we left off. I was so curious, I asked him as many ques
tions I could. Mike told me some wonderful things just as yesterday. Then we started discussing Apollo fusion and Christopher explained how it’s possible scientifically and told me about things they have in their garage. After a long walk, I took them to a temple looking at massive Mukesh Ambani’s house on the way and going crazy about it.
Mike asked me why are you not in Silicon Valley yet, I told him that I didn’t have enough money to go or sustain there. On this he says, ‘ well, I got that’ and it became so simple. The fact that he offered and cared so much brought tears in my eyes. It’s so amazing to see entrepreneurs who’ve made it big always try to give back so passionately. I have so much respect for them and I’ll try to follow their footsteps to give back whenever I can.
Finally it was time to say goodbye. I had one of the best conversations of my life. Mike thanked me to come all the way from Delhi and I said that I would come to Mars to meet him. He was earlier a rich and talented entrepreneur for me by what I read on the internet, but now he’s a true legend for me. Not only a kickass entrepreneur but also a very humble and nice human being. Thanks Mike 🙂
I earlier thought Angels are early stage investors but in reality, people like Jan Smejkal, The Startup Grind Team, Nomadic mentors(Carlotta S Barbieri) and Mike are the true angels who inspire and help to make things happen. They didn’t get something by making my day right? But the fact that there was always someone to hold their hands and guide them, so they passed it on and that’s what we need to do. Proud to be a part. Can’t thank all of you enough, super grateful for everything god gives me 🙂
It’s amazing to see how people back in the valley promote entrepreneurship and celebrate failures. Giving freedom to students and making things happen. I thought about this for days then I realised that it’s amazing to have this culture but when I look back, I always feel so proud of the journey I had. I learned so many things on this journey full of hustle. Solving problems became a daily habit for me. I believe nothing can teach you more than a hungry stomach and an empty wallet. While coming back from Mumbai I clicked this picture of Starbucks. In July, 2016 I went to Mumbai to pitch my startup expecting investment (or at least refunds of my flight ticket). I had to sell my phone, a Lumia 720 I had back then to afford one way ticket to Mumbai. I had nothing left and spent 3 days here doing nothing waiting at this Star bucks just waiting until Anurag bhai came to my rescue and booked my flights back to Delhi. It was difficult back then but the learnings and thoughts I got sitting there for couple of days will stay with me for my lifetime.
I am glad that I became an entrepreneur because the least I could do in the process was to become a better human being. Cheers! 🙂