Continuing with our feature series on the members of TiE Boston, we spoke with TiE Boston Charter Member, Rahul Chandra, Founder and CEO of Coinscape Advisors, about his journey and what led him to TiE.
Tell me about yourself.
I grew up in New Delhi, India, and did high school and undergrad there. I also went to school in Oman for three years which was a very interesting experience since that was my first time abroad. I studied industrial engineering in undergraduate and then moved to Chicago to attend Northwestern University for my Masters in industrial engineering. There, I took some courses at the Kellogg School of Management and it was love at first sight. Back then, all I had been studying was engineering. Once I started to learn about business, I realized I was focused on the wrong profession! I decided to shift gears and go into business as I graduated from Masters. Rather than applying for typical engineering jobs, I joined a strategy consulting firm called Mercer Management, now called Oliver Wyman, as an analyst. The position allowed me to work with CXOs across a number of different industries solving a variety of business problems — including in utilities, oil and gas, transportation, and telecommunications. After 5 years in consulting, I wanted to get involved in operations and joined Lucent Technologies, now Nokia, in business development. Lucent, which was one of the biggest telecom hardware firms at the time, drove most of the new innovations in the telecommunications and networking space. I moved to Boston to take up the role at Lucent and helped them drive the largest services deal worth over $250M. After almost a decade at Nokia, I held leadership roles at a number of Fortune 500 companies, covering cloud software, data center services, networking software, and AI and have driven over $1B in shareholder value.
What are you working on currently?
I currently run a consulting firm advising startups and Fortune 500 companies with go-to-market strategies and product-market fit. I help companies align their products to markets and create the supply and demand relationships to drive topline growth. I often help companies that are building next-gen 5G/network infrastructure and AI. Although I have no medical background, I have also recently become involved in the life sciences space. For example, I work with a company that’s trying to cure colon cancer through AI-based personalized medicine targeting cancer cells. Another life science company is bringing saliva-based blood-glucose testing to market, so no more finger-pricks for Type 2 and pre-diabetic patients!
How did you get involved with TiE Boston?
I had been a TiE member many years ago in Chicago. I decided recently to re-join TiE Boston because Boston has such a diverse and strong tech ecosystem. I wanted to learn more about the innovation being driven locally and help companies with their go-to-market strategy. Since I’ve had the pleasure of doing business in over seventy countries, have a global network, and know the tech landscape well, I wanted to help these startups avoid some of the mistakes I have made. I’m also part of TiE Boston Angels and it’s great to see the quality of companies that are brought to us to look at and support. TiE Boston is a very active community with a number of activities organized on a biweekly basis, including the virtual get-togethers and socials, and active support from several members. I’m still new to the group and learning the ropes, but I’m really looking forward to what the next year or two will bring.
What challenges have you faced in becoming an entrepreneur?
The biggest challenges I faced as I started my consulting firm were around business focus and defining my target market. At that time, there was major hype around blockchain solutions and a number of companies were being funded to leverage the decentralized ledger technology. I was approached by a number of projects to help define their go-to-market strategy, however, very few were backed by professional management teams. After initially evaluating these opportunities, I quickly realized that I needed to pivot my target market and refocus on areas where I had expertise — primarily networking and cloud solutions. Once I made the pivot, I was able to secure several projects with well-funded and professionally managed startups and helped them create a product-market fit. An entrepreneur needs to “know thyself” and manage their risk accordingly. This implies having a plan B in place in case your desired outcomes don’t pan out. These are the same learnings I emphasize when I talk to other entrepreneurs today.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
I would make 3 suggestions:
1) Don’t be shy to seek help — there are many programs available to get advice from people who have solved similar problems before you. If you have ideas and you want to get into entrepreneurship, there’s a lot of help available through incubator and accelerator programs like TiE Boston. People will help refine your idea, connect you with coaches, and help you take it to market.
2) Be open and coachable — staying committed is important but also be open to suggestions. I come across companies that have really good products or ideas but they are just thinking about it from one limited viewpoint and not challenging themselves to see the bigger opportunity. Some entrepreneurs don’t spend enough time developing a realistic six-to-twelve-month view. There are people around you who can help you figure that out.
3) Enjoy the journey and learn or “unlearn” along the way — entrepreneurship has its peaks and valleys and you learn a lot of lessons along the way. Be open to learning and “unlearning” as you go along. You can never forecast exactly what’s going to happen, but if you can learn from the experience, then its worth it.
What do you see for the future?
I am excited about the future with all the innovations currently taking place, especially at the intersection of medicine and computing/AI. The use of AI allows us to make predictions and correlate large data sets which were not possible before. It is enabling us to look at treatments or vaccines and eradicate diseases in a whole new way. Even in the tech space, there is a lot more connectivity with 5G that will create new business models and opportunities in every industry. Using AI, we are now able to solve problems faster and with more efficiency than ever before. It’s no surprise that Moderna is one of the first companies to come out with a potential vaccine for COVID-19 because they are taking a very tech-centric approach to looking at medicine. Put your shades on, since the future is bright!