Amar Hanspal is the co-founder and CEO of Bright Machines which focuses on changing the speed, flexibility, and economics of manufacturing through intelligent software and adaptive robotics. The company has raised over $200 million from Eclipse Ventures, Geodesic Capital, and Flex. Prior to this, he was the co-CEO of Autodesk.
In this episode you will learn:
- The two most important questions Amar Hanspal asks when interviewing
- How they curate their culture through hiring
- The only type of business you should consider starting
- How to get in touch with Amar
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About Amar Hanspal:
As CEO of Bright Machines, Amar Hanspal leads a team focused on changing the speed, flexibility, and economics of manufacturing through intelligent software and adaptive robotics.
Amar Hanspal is a senior business leader with 30+ years of experience driving business and technology transformation.
Prior to joining Bright Machines in 2018, Amar Hanspal was at Autodesk, where he drove the transformation of the design software leader’s product portfolio from on-premise to SaaS and its business model from one based on perpetual licenses to subscription.
Amar Hanspal led Autodesk into the cloud and enabled the company’s 12 million customers to access their designs on nearly any device. As Autodesk’s co-CEO and chief product officer, Amar Hanspal oversaw the company’s entire software portfolio, including its innovative manufacturing and construction applications.
In addition to sitting on Bright Machine’s board, Amar Hanspal sits on the board of eSilicon Corporation and advises early-stage venture companies.
Amar Hanspal holds a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Bombay University and a master’s in mechanical engineering from State University New York, and he has completed the executive managerial program at Stanford University.
Connect with Amar Hanspal:
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FULL TRANSCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW:
Alejandro: Alrighty. Hello everyone, and welcome to the DealMakers show. Today we have a guest that I think we’re going to be learning about the experience of going at it, of perhaps not having the outcome that was desired, and then going at it again and really hitting it out of the park. So without further ado, Amar Hanspal, welcome to the show today.
Amar Hanspal: Alejandro, thank you for having me.
Alejandro: Originally, you were born in the eastern part of India, and then moved quite a bit. So how was life growing up there?
Amar Hanspal: Different than it is in the United States. I would say my dad was someone that had to travel a lot for business. In India, community surrounds you, and supports you, and definitely challenges you. As you meet people from India, certainly education, there’s a huge emphasis on that. It’s generally the way people rise out of the middle class and try to find their way to better fortune. So, a huge emphasis on education, some emphasis on sports. It was a wonderful learning experience, and I’m so glad that I was able to absorb all of that culture before I moved to the United States.
Alejandro: I think that it’s interesting. I’ve interviewed quite a lot of entrepreneurs from India, and almost all of them have the engineering background. They think that gives them an edge. I’m wondering, why do you think the engineering and the problem-solving is so engrained in the culture?
Amar Hanspal: It’s a really good question. I’ll say two things. One, when you’re growing up, your family expects you to pursue either one or the other in terms of employment. You either become an engineer, or you become a doctor. Anything else, at least in the ’70s and ’80s when I was growing up, was not considered a big success. There was this inbuilt pressure to pick your path early. I think for me, certainly, I enjoy being around people. But if you have a passion for math, you go down the engineering route. I think there’s something — I’m not sure I can analyze beyond that why engineering suits certain people in India a lot more. There’s something very logical, and there’s some sort of reasoning. I have not studied it enough if it’s genetic, or cultural, or whatever. But there are certainly a lot of engineers around you at all times to learn from. I think, like Silicon Valley, entrepreneurs learn from entrepreneurs. I guess in India, engineers learn from engineers.
Alejandro: Talking about engineers, I find that being an entrepreneur is all about finding opportunity where others, perhaps, are seeing problems. But having that engineering background, to a certain degree, it helps you to find problems, break them down into smaller problems, and really tackle them. How would you say that engineering background has helped you along the way?
Amar Hanspal: I agree with you. Actually, that’s a really good summary of what being an entrepreneur is. We read about or hear about entrepreneurs almost like this big hero’s journey. Like, you’re cracking this very difficult problem, or you have this eureka moment. But, in reality, it is a lot of smaller problems that you tackle every day. You increment your way to success. I used to say this to people around me at my previous company that most overnight successes are like seven to ten years in the making. All those seven to ten years are consumed by solving a series of smaller problems. The engineer’s mindset always lets you step back from the machine and say, “What can I improve here? Why is this not working?” And try and work backward whether it is, go to market is taking too long. You always try and debug every problem that you run into as an entrepreneur, even as you’re constructing a market, you’re solving ambiguity incrementally through the fog. You’re trying to get it clearer.
Alejandro: You eventually came to the U.S. You came here to do your Master’s Degree. You came to the U.S., which is quite a different culture. Was it shocking for you?
Amar Hanspal: I would say my first three months here were quite a shock to assimilate, but there was the kindness of strangers. The wonderful thing about coming to the U.S. is, it is such a multi-cultural society. Universities have this microcosm of people from so many different backgrounds in one place. While it was a little bit of a shock coming from India and the community I’d grown up in for the first 21 years of my life, it was one of these experiences where — you know how the expression goes: no pain, no gain?
Amar Hanspal: Getting into an unfamiliar situation and having to very quickly figure out where all the things are and how you get certain things done, actually was a thing that grew me very quickly. Again, it was the kindness of strangers that were patient with me that helped me see the ropes and that helped me get through it. It was a wonderful experience.
Alejandro: That’s amazing. That reminds me of how people say that when you’re feeling comfortable, and when you think a decision is comfortable, it’s probably not the right one. That it’s all about finding where you’re in an uncomfortable transition or situation because that ultimately is going to help you grow.
Amar Hanspal: Right. Exactly.
Alejandro: Obviously, for you, California in ’87. Then you ended up joining your first job. It was probably one that would shape you, and that was Autodesk. Tell us about this experience.
Amar Hanspal: When I was in the university, one of my summer projects, I ended up working with a bunch of high-energy physicists who were designing an experiment, what today has become the large Hadron Collider. But in those days, they were designing an experiment at Fermilab to try and create these very sophisticated instruments to get particles, and they needed a mechanical engineer on staff, and I was a mechanical engineer. I ended up, in terms of trying to solve their problem, starting to use CAD on that project. One thing led to another. When I came west, Autodesk and its program that many people have heard of called AutoCAD was one of the programs I had used on that project. I ended up visiting them. Maybe it was the first time I had crossed the Golden Gate Bridge or the people I interacted within that company, and it was such a wonderful, inspiring day that I had meeting all these people that were convinced that they were going to change the world using the PC and creating all these sophisticated tools for engineers and architects. I was hooked from day one, and I started in the company in 1987, when it was just about 250 people that just crossed — in these days, we would call it that they were a Series C or Series D kind of company. They had traction. They had about 50 million in revenue, but there were so many things we figured out in terms of scaling. I started on the technical support side of things. Then over the next 12 years, that experience of working with customers led me to a job in marketing and product management. Then I did one project after another. That was a very formative experience of starting to understand how you think what are problems for customers, synthesize them into products, and then take products and try and construct a business around them. In those 12 years, I started seeing that pattern, and I think the culture that was at Autodesk was also a very formative experience for me. That was a very defining phase from ’87 to ’99 before I left to try and build a company on my own.
Alejandro: Let’s talk about that. At what point do you say, “I’m going to take a shot at this and see how it goes.”? What was that, and what was that idea. What were you looking to tackle, and how did you give them notice and bring the idea to light?
Amar Hanspal: One of the things in the early days at Autodesk that struck me was, you know how the PC had become a platform for people to launch businesses, and reimagine how things could be done, and the people that could do them. When the internet showed up in the mid-’90s, the browser became more capable, and we started looking at more and more of the — not just from an e-commerce perspective, but from a business word process perspective what could be done in connecting people across the internet. It started feeling like a very compelling environment on which you could reimagine businesses. My role at Autodesk had been working on the core product of the company, which is AutoCAD and taking it forward to more and more customers. When you talk to the customers, there were certain problems that they would share that you could see couldn’t really be done on the PC platform. For example, we were building engineering software for them that they could use to create a machine. But then, when they were trying to actually figure out how to make that machine and find suppliers or find people who could create those components that they had designed, that was not a problem that we could solve for them on the PC platform, but you could look at the internet and say, “The internet is a place where you could solve that problem.” Out of that thinking came this company that two colleagues of mine and I had started writing the business plan around. We called the company RedSpark. Today, we would call it AirC2C as a joke, but the idea was: can we match buyers and sellers, people who want to lease production capacity and find supplies that make those components and parts and supplies and people who have that capacity — match them over the internet. In those days, they would call it a B2B exchange. That was the original idea we went off in ’99, and I had raised funding for. Then we had a professional CEO run the company, and go off and pursue that dream for two and a half years. Unfortunately, we didn’t completely succeed in making it work. But the idea was great, and I still today call it my 17-million-dollar MBA because that was how much capital we raised, and I learned a ton in those two and a half years.
Alejandro: When you do a company, also a big part of it is being at the right time in history. This was a time when the market was shaky for technology companies.
Amar Hanspal: Yes.
Alejandro: What did you learn about timing?
Amar Hanspal: I think what I learned about timing is, you cannot predict when and where the wave hits. So what you have to do is find a way to stay in the water — just thinking of that metaphor and making it more real is — I think one of the mistakes that entrepreneurs, and certainly we did in those days, can make is you’re so convinced about how right your idea is, that you build your company for perfect execution, which means you start spending money as if the market was already there. The reality is, you have to be more patient and try and watch for signals against which — because you also can’t be too late. If you’re too late, then the way passes you, and then you’re not able to take advantage of the opportunity. What I learned about timing is, while you can’t predict it, you can certainly try and prepare yourself for it a little bit better. You certainly don’t go in with rose-colored glasses into every opportunity. You have to be a bit more iterative and a bit more cautious in terms of the way you go after that.
Alejandro: In this case, the outcome was not as expected, so you guys ended up having to shut down the business. I know that for you, in your career, maybe that was one of the most painful experiences that you had to encounter. So, tell us about that day where you guys decided to pull the plug on this.
Amar Hanspal: There were two sides to that experience. One, a huge sadness. Let’s rewind a bit. Where we were was two and a half years into the project. We were starting to get down into lower levels of cash. We needed to raise more money. As we went out and tested the market, clearly, we didn’t have enough traction for the investors, especially since the bubble had burst. They were looking for clearer black and white successes. It was just the reality, just the facts that raising money was going to be hard. We had a Plan B, which was to starve, almost nuclear winter, and try to last out until the other side. But, at that point, starvation would have meant that we wouldn’t have been able to make our customers successful, realize the actual value propositions for them, and it would feel like a selfish way to keep a company going. Even with that, there was no certainty. Sometimes, you decide, “Look. Doing the right thing might be hard, but it’s the better thing to do.” After a board meeting, we got the feedback from them about the choices we had. We chose to shut the company down. It was a sad day, but people were proud of what we had accomplished. I think almost everybody in that organization went on to do good things. I would not have traded those two and a half years for anything.
Alejandro: I can completely understand that. Failures are, whether it’s shutting down a business or an initiative that didn’t pan out as one was hoping, or whatever that is, is going to get you closer to success because it’s always learnings that you’re able to embrace. The tricky part here, especially for entrepreneurs, is when they are not able to detach themselves from that outcome emotionally. When they start to think that a failure means that they are a failure themselves, that is not the way to look at it. In this specific situation for you, how were you able to detach yourself and be able to bounce back and continue moving forward after this?
Amar Hanspal: I would be lying if I told you it didn’t take a few days or weeks to get over the hangover of that thing not having worked out because it was such a passion project in something that we all worked hard to do. You summarized it well. When you step back from it, and you look at the lessons learned, you try and think about the things that you could — it goes back to no pain, no gain. So, here is pain. It’s very painful. You look back and try to understand why the company did not work. In that case, I think we came up with maybe three things that I would say, “Let’s do it differently.” One of them was being very clear about the problem that you’re solving for the customer early on. You can say, “I’m going to do a B2B exchange, but you have to get down much narrower like which customer, which kind of project they’re working on. Try and get more specifics. You walk away with a lesson about how do you target customers? You walk away with a lesson about how do you spend money or maybe how do you grow the business or grow the spend behind customer attraction. That would be the other thing. The third one was, I realized the importance of sales. Not from the perspective of [0:19:22]. It’s, of course, cash is the oxygen of any young company, but you start to realize that when you ask a customer to spend money with you, it is the best litmus test for whether you have the right value proposition, whether you communicated the right value proposition, and whether you’re solving a valuable enough problem for there in the first place. It’s the best way to get clarity. I started understanding that creating a world-class sales organization and a go-to-market organization was key. I think those three lessons stuck with me to this day. That’s what I rebounded with.
Alejandro: After this experience, you go back to Autodesk. Tell us what happened. Did you call your buddies back and say, “Hey, guys, take me back.”? What happened there?
Amar Hanspal: Actually, they called me. I had left Autodesk. I certainly found the markets that I spent my life in two vertical industries. One is the drilling and construction industry. The other is manufacturing. I find that those universes of building physical things very appealing. I had not thought about going back to Autodesk, but Carl Bass, who became the CEO of Autodesk in 2006. He was going back to Autodesk from his venture from he had done and was putting the team together he thought would help him rebuild the business and the company and help grow the company. He called me. He had a project in mind. I looked at the product. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Carl and the people he surrounded himself with. That’s why I went back. I was not, “Hey, take me back.” It was just that there was a new crew coming in place. They were going to go and do great things, and I wanted to be a part of it.
Alejandro: Talking about the journey, you scale up in the ranks all the way to Co-CEO. Wow!
Amar Hanspal: Yeah. I worked with some wonderful people over the years and got to work on some great projects. As things turned out, I went back to Autodesk, and they gave me a young business at that time that they had acquired. It was doing about 5 million in revenue. It was an internet business at that time, and they wanted to show that they could or test whether they could grow internet businesses. I grew that to 50 million in four years, along with a very talented team. We got kicked upstairs and then did that project and the next project. I tried to focus on whatever they handed me and work on that project, and one thing led to another. Yeah, I was Co-CEO at Autodesk.
Alejandro: How many people did you have at the peak with Autodesk under you?
Amar Hanspal: When I was Co-CEO, there were 10,000 people in the company, but the job prior to that, which was needing the product organization, I had about 3,000 people in that group.
Alejandro: Wow! And you grew the company market cap by nearly 5 billion. I’m getting dizzy with all the zeros. Let’s talk about leadership here. When you’re managing and leading such a big team, you being able to transform yourself as well as a leader is critical. How did you go about doing that?
Amar Hanspal: It’s a little bit of applying the engineering mindset to myself. I think you look at it and say, “What is it that I need to be good at in order to succeed at what they’re handing me.” As your scope increases, or as your role expands, and you have to start figuring out the parts of it that you can take forward, and the parts of it that you need to go acquire. Sometimes, those skills can be described as a functional expertise. Like the higher I got in the company, the more financial knowledge I had to have as compared to when I first started. Some things are tangible. Leading people is leading people, but if you start to then — as they say, you not just manage people, but you manage people who manage people. Then your ability to coach becomes more emphasized. It’s a bit of a journey. The closest analogy I’ve found is that I have learned a lot by looking at people who run sporting teams and go from individual players to captains of teams to assistant coaches to being coaches. Your responsibility in your skillset starts having to become more strategic in nature. You’re always thinking outside in. As a manager, you might be thinking inside out, like what do I need to do to ship this product on time. As a leader of a large organization, you’re thinking, “How do I find the next 400 million to grow this company?” You start thinking more outside in, more strategic, and you start trying to understand how you can put together a world-class team that can pull off that strategy. The other thing that really helped me was, I kept meeting people who had been in roles similar to mine and asking the questions about, “How would you do this?” And trying to learn from them.
Alejandro: It seems that you were able to master listening, being able to ask the right questions, and then also answer. And then also be able to process the answers and be able to go about potential patterns between those answers. Can you tell us a bit more about that?
Amar Hanspal: Yeah. Somebody very wise once told me, you don’t just learn positive things by watching other people or talking to them and listening to them. You also start figuring out what you shouldn’t do by watching other people. In terms of when I had these interactions with people, I would listen to their answers. Then sometimes I’d ask them habits about how did they structure — let’s say as you’re coming closer and closer to the sea level, you’re trying to understand how you best structure your day, how you hire people, how you fire people. I’d ask these questions to people in the industry that I’d run across. I certainly learned a lot from people like Carl and others. Then I’d run across other people in the industry who would give the answers, and things would stick with me that, “You know what? Actually, I would never, ever do that.” That’s actually, in a weird way, mentoring in the reverse way that you also learn, “Listen. No matter where I go, I would never ever do this kind of behavior.” Listening is definitely — I think at the end of the day, Alejandro, the key thing that you need to have is curiosity. Curiosity, whether you’re solving a problem, or trying to improve yourself, or trying to serve a customer, be genuinely interested in figuring out, and understanding and having an actual liking for that process is really key to your own growth and eventual ability to do what it takes.
Alejandro: Got it. Another point in time for you that really shaped you and also your leadership and the way that you’re viewing things is, after this incredible time at Autodesk and seeing this unbelievable growth, because it was [0:27:52] business from the minute that you took the reins to the minute that you were onto your next phase. There were, obviously, maybe some disagreements perhaps at a strategic level, and I’m sure that for you maybe you were a little disappointed or maybe really disappointed. How did you deal with that, and that led to your founding your biggest success story as an entrepreneur? Tell us about this.
Amar Hanspal: I had, and I continue to have a real passion for the world of physical things. I’d already had this incredible sense of pride that if you landed at San Francisco International Airport or London Heathrow Terminal 2, or you drove a Tesla, and you watched a movie like Avatar. All those things were created by customers at Autodesk, and they actively shaped the world that we were living in. I had a real passion for that. I wanted to drive that forward. I think the people who are figuring out how to house and transport and clothe and do all the things that the world needs and doing noble things. I thought being able to serve them in software was a real privilege. I always wanted to see what I could do with the Autodesk platform and drive that forward. I strongly believed in innovation being the growth factor for the company. I shared this maybe earlier in the podcast that you always think about the combination of platforms and business models being the way in which companies are created or destroyed if they don’t respond to that change. I really thought that the growth of the arrival of the Cloud as a technology platform and subscription or SaaS as a business model. It enabled new businesses. That was my vision for the company. At some point around 2016, Autodesk encountered an activist investor, and they set different priorities for the company. So I ended up leaving as a result. I was, obviously, disappointed because I saw what was possible both technically and how much could be accomplished, and how many problems remain unsolved, and how many opportunities were in front of the company. But, listen, I think it took me, again, a couple of months to dwell. My family and friends were really helpful in finding my feet. What I really was able to then spend the next year thinking about was, which one of those problems that had been in front of me or becoming apparent was I most passionate about? I saw this ultimately as an opportunity. One analogy I’ve used is I worked on the equivalent of renovating somebody else’s house and making it better. Here, I had the opportunity to create something from the ground up. I thought this is a huge opportunity to go express everything I believed in and build it from the ground up. That’s what I focused on.
Alejandro: Let’s talk about, Amar, this transition because once you left Autodesk, it took you about a year to launch Bright Machines. I’m sure that you were validating some ideas, taking a look at potential markets that you could go in and address certain gaps. How was this transition for you once you were able to get your eyes out of the weeds and take a look and say, “Now I need to know what I want to do next”? How did you go about that process? How did you go about doing some types of validations, and then coming to the point where you said, “This is it. This is what I want to execute. This is how I want to go about it.”
Amar Hanspal: Going back to an earlier point in this conversation, I tried to listen. I was fortunate that my colleagues connected me with people in venture capital and private equity and other vantage points. I got to meet them, and talk to them, and take a look at some of their companies, and speak with some entrepreneurs, and keep asking questions, and keep listening. Some of those were opportunities that they wanted me to see if I wanted to be a part of, but it all led to think about, “What is going on right now in the industry?” The one question that I keep asking myself on those drives to and from all these people was, what is this telling me about what will be true in five to ten years from now? If you’re trying to escape the way the puck is going, in some ways, from these conversations, you’re trying to understand what is my point of view in what the world might look like in that timeframe? In some ways, one way for me to answer that question was to look back at the previous ten years and say, “If I was able to rewind and go back ten years ago, what dots would I have connected? I would say in ten years from the mid-2000s, I would have seen the growth of databases, the improvement in internet bandwidth, and the early parts of Salesforce, and then said, “Look. SaaS is going to be this next big transformative force in enterprise software.” That turned out to be the case. So if hindsight was 20/20, that’s what that would have told me. This time around, every conversation I was having was leading me to recognize that the growth of data, growth of machine-learning technology, they were fundamental forces in what you could use to redefine the future. But also, one of the most fundamental things you could recognize was, we spent 50, 60, 70 years building software based on the fact that computers could count. But now, you could build software based on the fact that computers can see and sense, as well. So the growth of machine vision and sensor. I ended up with a fundamental association or belief on what the future stack and what would be a big driving force for five or eight years would be. Then I started trying to see what opportunities you could pursue as that technical stack becomes more and more mature.
Alejandro: Got it. Let’s talk about landing on the idea of Bright Machines being what you wanted to go after and how did you go about, let’s say putting the band together and getting out there and making it happen.
Amar Hanspal: I can’t take credit for putting the band together because the way Bright Machines came about was, it was a happy collision of two independent atoms to form this molecule. One was from the thought process I just shared with you. I walked away with the idea that the way people are managing factories — these days, if you go to a factory, you’d see still a lot of labor involved in constructing products. In this automation, certainly on factor floors, but still, when you think about how your smart products are made, there are thousands of people involved in assembling those products. You start thinking about how do you make this? If machine vision and all these things become true, wouldn’t factories look more like data centers in the future? Just the fact that data centers have gone through where 20 years ago, they were highly manual. Everything was set up and configured manually. Now, everything is managed behind the glass, couldn’t you think how factories would be managed that way. That was, I would say, the thought I was walking around with in my head, and maybe the CTO of the company, now, also had that sort of belief. On the other side, there was a venture capitalist who had looked at this problem of as the demand for smart products grows, there’s simply not enough labor in the world to make those smart products. There’s going to be a more secular shift in demand for automation — automation in the form of robotics and things like that is not very scalable today. That VC’s name is Lior Susan at Eclipse Ventures. Lior and I met, we were connected by somebody that we both know. We met for lunch, and he started explaining his idea to me and his assertion, and then that’s how Bright Machines came about is that we violently agreed from two different perspectives that this was a good idea to go make happen.
Alejandro: What a way to violently agree, as you mentioned because you guys actually did one of the largest Series A’s that I’ve seen in a while. So, tell us about this.
Amar Hanspal: We’re fortunate. One thing that our investors believed in is that the size of this market, or the size of the disruption—manufacturing is like a 3.2-trillion-dollar industry. The available market is very large. One thing we were able to start the company with was a carveout of a team inside an electronics manufacturer that had been thinking about an automation approach. They had been trying to do it. So we started the company by taking that team and building infrastructure to scale their effort. We started with expertise. We started with a huge opportunity, and we started with a customer, which was actually Flex that signed up for using the expertise and capabilities that we were putting in place. That combination, I think, is what gave my investors confidence, and we were fortunate in getting what we got.
Alejandro: How much have you guys raised so far?
Amar Hanspal: Almost 200 million.
Alejandro: Wow. I’ve also seen that the growth of the business has also been remarkable, especially when it comes to employees. I think that in the last 24 months, according to LinkedIn, you guys have grown the business in terms of employees like 1,000%. When you’re growing like that and adding so many people so fast, how do you go about keeping the culture intact?
Amar Hanspal: We’re building the culture, and the culture that we’re trying to put in place is this combination of manufacturing, deep manufacturing domain knowledge, and software expertise. While doing that, trying to keep the customer at the center. I would say the culture is a hard thing to put your finger on. But what I’ve learned is the people you hire and empower are probably the single biggest factor in determining your culture. Ben Horowitz put out this book, What You Do Is Who You Are: How to Create Your Business Culture, and the doing is done by the people that you pick. One of the things in growing the company that we’ve been trying to be very focused on is that the people coming into the company actually care about the problem that we’re trying to solve. They’re not here because it’s a cool company, because this sounds [0:40:34]. We raised that much money, but that they actually care about the problem we’re going to solve. These problems can take—you know this in a startup. There’s no guarantee of instant success. So this could be a short-haul, a medium-haul, a long-haul. One of the things our culture has to do is sustain the focus on the customer problem. That one filter has been the main way in which you try to make sure that we have the right culture.
Alejandro: You were talking, Amar, about hiring. One thing that just came out to me when you were mentioning this is, I’m wondering. Now you have your team, and they’re really involved with bringing people on board, but perhaps when you’re looking at bringing in the top-tier level, or maybe your still involved with the junior folks that are coming on, there has to be one question where you’re paying attention to what that answer is going to be. What is that question?
Amar Hanspal: Yeah. There are actually two, but I’ll start with my favorite. I always ask them their favorite project that they’ve worked on. Like the one they’ve succeeded at the most and why. You hear from people the things that they are motivated by. Ultimately, what I’m trying to understand is this person who is here interviewing for this job, what is their fundamental motivation? Are they driven by technology, the difficulty of the problem they’re solving, they’re here because they want to make a quick buck, are they inspired just because of the people that they’re surrounded with and would say as long as the environment feels good, they can work on anything? I think that question for me is always revealed: what makes them tick? What keeps them motivated? That’s the question I rely on.
Alejandro: Got it. One of the questions I typically ask the guests that come on the show is—I mean, incredible experience. Now, you’re definitely killing it with Bright Machines. You’ve had the experience, as well, of leading a very large organization with thousands of employees, and also, you had your really big 17-million-dollar MBA of not having been what you expected as the outcome. If you had the opportunity here, Amar, of going back in time and having a chat with your younger self, perhaps that younger Amar that was thinking about leaving Autodesk and that was this product manager and was thinking about becoming an entrepreneur — if you had that opportunity to speak to that younger Amar and give that younger Amar one piece of business advice before launching a business, knowing what you know now, what would that be and why?
Amar Hanspal: I would say find a problem that you really, truly care about. I think you used this expression. There is no straight line from an entrepreneurial perspective, whether you use the term pivot, or iteration, or whatever. There is no straight line, and there is no fixed duration in which your dream will come true. You have to have incredible patience and curiosity to get to the other side. If you don’t care about the problem you’re solving, like intrinsically, it’s very hard to have that sense of sustaining yourself, let alone when your bad times hit, or a recession hits, or you have a customer issue. But having that sense of “I really care about getting to the other side of this,” and because you find the problem very compelling. You think it’s going to be put in the world. That is what I would say. Find something that you really, deeply care about to work on.
Alejandro: Very cool. For the folks that are listening, Amar, what is the best way for them to reach out and say hi?
Amar Hanspal: On Twitter, they can follow me at @AmarHanspal. My email is AmarHanspal@brightmachines.com.
Alejandro: Amazing. Well, Amar, thank you so much for being on the DealMakers show today.
Amar Hanspal: My pleasure.
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