Gangesh Ganesan has experienced plenty on his entrepreneurial journey of building and selling companies.
He has sold tech businesses to some of the biggest entities, raised tens of millions of dollars in startup funding, exited one venture to Twitter in just 18 months, and has found new applications for blockchain in the fintech space and beyond.
In this episode of the DealMakers Podcast, he talks about his experiences, what he’d do differently and the best moves for startup fundraising when the world is falling apart.
Born in India
Since being born in Southern India, Gangesh Ganesan has been traveling and building businesses around the world for almost 20 years. He’s gained a lot of insights and lessons on the way.
Growing up in India there was certainly a lot of influence to pursue engineering. His father worked in accounting and finance at a chemical engineering company. All of those he looked up to as a child were engineers. There was a lot of value put on education, and a lot of competition.
Gangesh completed his undergraduate engineering degree there before coming to the US to continue his studies.
Although he was very adept at his studies, this was perhaps one of his first big entrepreneurial lessons in being thrust into a new environment and having to figure things out. You can imagine moving from the equator where the weather is never under 80 degrees, and can frequently reach 120, to the -20 icy wasteland of Minnesota for his Master’s in electrical engineering was about as different a move as you could make.
Going Corporate: Culture, Business & The Game
After his studies, Gangesh Ganesan went to work in a corporate environment. He got a taste of two very different workplace cultures.
One was Bosch, a global conglomerate. A very diverse telecommunications company, very rooted in the American Midwest, where it was common for workers to stay for 20 or 30 years. They valued their employees. He ended up running a small business within the company.
The other was Cypress Semiconductors, one of the largest in its space, and run by legendary Silicon Valley founder TJ Rodgers. It was a fast-moving Bay Area tech company. They were very intentional about screening for culture in the recruiting process.
Making the shift to a leader and a business mindset can be a big leap for most engineers. It’s a different game. Both companies did their best to help him through the struggle in their own ways.
He found mentors and coaching. Bosch sent him to an executive MBA program at the University of Minnesota. So, he was working full time and going to school every other Friday and Saturday.
Cypress’s clients included Exxon, Lucent, Nokia, Cisco and big telcos in Asia. They gave him the opportunity to travel and network with their clients around the world.
He also got to work directly with Cathal Phelan, who was running the business. Together they spun out a business from Cypress. They brought in a banker to help and sold it to a company which is new Broadcom. This helped him learn about doing these types of deals and take a company full cycle.
Raising Money When The World Is Falling Apart
Gangesh went on to join Ubicom. He landed in one of the toughest economic times up until the COVID-19 epidemic.
He learned to work on board meetings and large VCs. Then out of the blue, it was announced he was chosen to take over as CEO for his friend and former cofounder.
So Gangesh finds himself with his hands on their reins in 2008. A time not too unlike March 2020, with the coronavirus.
There was a serious liquidity crunch. They already had some Sand Hill Road VCs, Samsung as a strategic investor. They had a VC arm of Lehman Brothers involved, and that almost took them down.
It was a time when you certainly learned not to take financing for granted. He says in these times if there is an opportunity to raise capital, do it fast. Don’t hang around waiting for the best terms or arguing about valuations. You don’t know when you’ll be able to raise again. Just get the cash in the bank.
Secondly, he says to be ready to persevere. Gangesh said he had to talk to over 200 investors, meet them multiple times or a period of weeks, and all to land two yeses. Whenever we get into a bear market, the data suggests it can last 30 months, and take 22 months to recover. That may be a lot of runway you need to put in the bank now. Despite the trials, Ubicom was sold to Qualcomm, and achieved its exit.
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