Dr. Srinivas Mukkamala | Crain's Silicon Valley

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Dr. Srinivas Mukkamala

Background:  

RiskSense delivers pro-active cyber risk management solutions. The company offers a software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform that transforms cyber risk management into a more pro-active, collaborative and real-time discipline.

The Mistake:

The mistake I made was I did not build a team.

I was one of the very early people who worked on artificial intelligence in cyber security. I was on a journey of solving and innovating, but my mistake was not building my board of directors, I did not build an entity and I didn’t take money from others.

Because of this, I missed out on multiple exit opportunities or acquisition opportunities.

I invented enough, I had a patent and I published in 120 publications. 

In 2006, I said we need to go and form a company.  And we formed RiskSense as an LLC—a simple startup.  In 2006 to 2009, I kept trying, trying and trying, but nothing was happening. I had taken the company from $13,000 to $320,000, but that doesn’t cut any mustard.

I could be a great researcher, but I never got any exposure. The only reason I’m getting exposure now is because I got a board, and the board said PR is important. We brought in a PR representative, and the PR representative got us media exposure. That’s the kind of connected ecosystem that I did not have. And without a connected ecosystem like that you will never be successful.

Waiting too long in this journey will cost you.

The Lesson:

If I had to go back and look at the mistakes I’ve made and the lessons I’ve learned, I’d say there are three things.

First, I’ve learned that when you solve an interesting problem and when you apply for a patent, you should go build it. And I did not.

Second, I did not build the board of directors who could truly advise me on what is right and what’s wrong and whom I respected until 2015. It took me 13 years to figure out I needed someone whom I respected and valued their opinion to be with me to help me go to the next level.

The third mistake is that I said will do this in a bootstrap model. I did not take anybody’s money until I validated everything.

The reason for this comes out of my background. I came from a wealthy family. But I chose not to take my parent’s money. It was a stupid ideology that I just wanted to prove myself.

I said I want to go earn it myself. It’s called a bootstrap model. And you rarely hear of a billion-dollar company that started with a bootstrap model.

Take a look at Bill Gates. Take a look at Mark Zuckerberg. These are smart people and they went and raised money when they felt like they needed to accelerate.

Today I’m not scared to go raise another round of capital, if we’re at the right point and I feel like the business needs to be scaled. I will never again wait to prove something fully before I raise capital.

When you feel your gut is right, go build the team and go raise the capital to really build it. Don’t wait. That’s a mistake. Waiting too long in this journey will cost you eventually.

Follow RiskSense on Twitter at @RiskSense