Meeting with My Mentor

After a gap of over 20 years, I got a chance to meet with my mentor. I first met him towards the end of 1984 and pitched him three ways of building a database engine. I will tell this long story in another post. I was nervous as hell and blabbered about SQL vs QBE (Query by Example) vs QBF (query by forms) approaches. I strongly recommended SQL based approach since it was the real back end. He listened carefully, asked a few questions and told my partners that we should go ahead with development. My partners were his students at Wharton. At that time, I did not know what Venture Capital was. Howard used to be a VC. Howard was an advisor to Coromandel and a great one with deep knowledge of the industry.

Yesterday when I met him, the deep knowledge part is still there. We talked a lot about some database technologies. He joked that he never seems to get out of involvement with database companies.  It was a great conversation in his offices and it was really great to catch up.

A few quotes from Howard.

A few of the database problems have still not been solved yet. There are still opportunities in that space.

Being surrounded by young, bright people, keeps you young (my philosophy, exactly). Twenty years ago it was students at Wharton (he was an adjunct professor there and that is how my partners met him). Today he invests in lots of startups.

Idealabs (where he spent some time and still on the board of), is a special type of incubator. It incubates ideas from the founder Bill Gross.

In early 90s, it used to take 5 million dollars to first customer ship and in late 90s it fell to 2 million dollars. In mid 2000 it was $750,000 and now thanks to AWS and all the open source tools, it is almost nothing. So VCs have to rethink their involvement and value add.

Traditional VC model’s scalability is limited by the partner model. So innovation in scalability is one of the interesting problems to solve.

NY startup scene is booming. We are right in the middle of it.

I think I will write down a lot of ideas this conversation generated for a future post. One thing is for sure. It is a privilege to know people like Howard and get some time from them to have conversations and get some perceptions of the industry from them.