1995 was a watershed year for me. I seamlessly transitioned from the corporate life, to the life of a free spirited angel investor. Also, 1995 was the year of the Internet. Netscape went public that year.
I quit Novell on Jan 5, 1995. I had to stay past the end of the year to get my full compensation. I stayed on the board till later that year at the request of the CEO. That turned out to be a big mistake as I was not able to sell my shares while on the board and Novell stock tanked 60% just before I was able to sell. Such is life!
I had for the first time no place to go to work during the day, and was restless at home and getting on the nerves of my wife. I finally set up a temp office at TiE, which had rented a place but was only using it during the weekend. That turned out to be a fateful decision, as word spread that I was available at Tie office if anybody wanted to stop by. I welcomed company but unknowingly was engaging with entrepreneurs. Before long, I was busier than ever and was helping entrepreneurs sharpen the business plans, polish their pitches. I started sending some of these to my VC friends. I soon discovered that VCs still had not gotten used to Indian entrepreneurs even though several of us had done well.
Even though I did not set out to be an investor, as Tie was all about mentoring, I ended up investing in several companies that year. Eight to be exact, namely Zeitnet, Exodus, Ambit, Cybermedia, Apptivity, Mediaway, Intellimatch and Versata. Before I knew it, I had invested almost two million dollars. It was painful, as the tanking of Novell stock had reduced my wherewithal.
Returns came soon enough when Zeitnet was acquired by Cabletron. I recouped all the money I had invested and then some and still had seven companies in my portfolio. I was off to the races, never to look back after that. By 1996 I was established as an arch angel, with several of my friends coming along as co-investors. I was easily able to syndicate rounds of two million dollars where I was only investing 200 thousand myself.
In the next several years I made 54 investments, had 23 exits (including 6 IPOs) and 31 write offs. Cash on cash basis, it was over 10X on the money I had invested, and the bulk of the returns had come from a handful of investments.
During that period I probably mentored well over a thousand entrepreneurs. TiE chapters were launched all around US and India. Indians were well established as entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.
All this came crashing down with the dotcom bust. I had serious doubts about myself. I used to say that during the sandstorms even the turkeys can fly. I was not sure that I was not a turkey myself.