Sramana Mitra at 22
This is the worst thing that can happen to you as an entrepreneur but she survived. Learn how she did it next...
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake."
- Rabindranath Tagore (Nobel Prize for Literature, 1913)
This was Tagore's vision for his country, India: poor, backward, oppressed by a few hundred years of British colonization. In these words, however, I have always found great resonance for a beautiful personal vision that is both contemporary and timeless.
It was true in 1993, when I graduated from college, on a beautiful spring afternoon in New England — eyes full of dreams.
It is true today, as I navigate my way from Silicon Valley through the mazes of a complex, global challenge — eyes still full of dreams.
It is not always easy to hold your head high. Life throws curveballs at you. Tries to beat you down.
In 1999, I was fired from one of my own companies. I raised the Venture Capital from NEA, and we brought on a middle-aged, supposedly experienced guy as CEO. I was in my twenties. The guy was incompetent and political. He didn't understand the product, and he had no vision. We didn't figure any of these qualities out until he joined, because he was on a charm offensive until then and I had limited experience making this kind of a hire. We thought he could complement my product skills and vision with superior sales skills.
Once he was on board, it started going downhill very quickly, and he set out to fire me. I had massive immigration challenges, and very little negotiating power because I didn't have a green card yet.
Long story short: I was in Buenos Aires when he called a board meeting over the phone, and fired me. The board let him.
I walked around on the streets of Buenos Aires, alone, trying to absorb the blow.
For a week, I danced 12 hours a day — my way of trying to hold my head high.
Six months later, they had to fire the idiot.
The angel investors offered to fund me again, and start another company. I did.
Life went on.
Life always goes on.
In 2010, I started One Million by One Million (1M/1M), currently the only global virtual accelerator in the world. Headquartered in Silicon Valley, its mission is to help a million entrepreneurs reach a million dollars and beyond in annual revenue, thereby creating a trillion dollars in global GDP and 10 million jobs.
At 16, long before that spring afternoon in New England, I had decided that I was going to be an entrepreneur, and work on something consequential.
There have been many ups and downs since, but I have tried to stay true to that vision.
I hope that you too will develop a vision for your life, pursue it with grit, resilience, and work ethic, and as life deals you the inevitable blows, continue to hold your head high.
Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison. Upon being released, he dismantled apartheid in South Africa, and without bitterness, took the reigns of his country, leading it towards becoming the kind of nation that Tagore had envisioned for his country.
In prison, Mandela sustained himself with this poem by William Ernest Henley. It's called: Invictus.
"Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,I am the captain of my soul."