Amar Hanspal is one of the pioneering entrepreneurs of what’s next in technology and manufacturing. In fact, he’s been instrumental in creating the DNA of many of the products we have today.
Amar and I recently recorded a truly insightful episode of the Dealmakers Podcast together. He shared how he got started, the lessons learned when a startup doesn’t turn out how you expected, the $17M MBA, and how he struck on the idea for building Bright Machines.
No Pain, No Gain
As with many of today’s most successful startup founders, Amar Hanspal was born and spent his early life in India.
Many great entrepreneurs have been coming out of India. Most from an engineering background. On the surface, it may not seem like creative entrepreneurs and technical engineers share much in common at all.
Though once you dig into it, and look like those who are most successful, they both share the same traits of being able to identify really big problems, break them into smaller pieces, and tackle those in increments.
That and the ability to objectively stand back, see what’s not working, and work to get clarity on the problem and fine-tune it. As Amar puts it, “most overnight successes are seven to ten years in the making. All those seven to ten years are consumed by solving a series of smaller problems.”
You also really have to embrace adversity. Amar says, “no pain, no gain.” This is perhaps why America’s history of immigrant spirit and entrepreneurship has cultivated such an entrepreneurial culture. Moving here alone requires a big leap. It requires embracing the unknown and having to learn to get things done quickly in a completely new environment.
In contrast, when you feel in a comfortable place or decisions are comfortable, Amar warns, “it’s probably not the right one.” Growth comes from getting uncomfortable.
Shaping The Future & The $17M MBA
Early summer projects during university say Hanspal working in mechanical engineering and beginning to use Autodesk’s AutoCAD. After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time Autodesk became his first real employer.
At the time they were a Series C and D stage startup. They were around $50M in revenue, and still just beginning to scale. In 1999 Amar joined the party and went out on his own to launch his first tech startup.
It was a compelling time when businesses were being reimagined, and new businesses were being launched. Yet, there were problems that businesses weren’t being able to solve on the PC platform. So, together with two co-founders, Amar launched RedSpark. The concept was matching buyers and sellers, parts makers and suppliers and manufacturers online.
They raised some money. They went at it for two and a half years. Then it became really hard to raise money with the hangover of 1999. They were faced with the choice of bunkering down to try and survive the nuclear winter or closing down. They decided the best decision for everyone was to shut it down. It was Hanspal’s multi-million dollar MBA in entrepreneurship.
Some of the biggest lessons this founder says he took away from this venture to do even better next time included:
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