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The ideas man

The father of the Pentium chip shares his life’s joys and travails

education Updated: Apr 27, 2011 09:29 IST
Vimal Chander Joshi

Vinod Dham believes that one should follow one’s true calling. And for him that means working in the world of semiconductors.
“You should do what you want to do. And then dedicate yourself to make that happen. Just do what you are good at,” says Dham.
If starting a business is what one is meant to do then he advises young entrepreneurs to not get de-motivated by rejection slips.

“We examine hundreds of proposals before deciding to fund a single start-up. We not only look at the idea but also the abilities of co-founders to run the enterprise, in case it kicks off. Those turned down by angel investors should introspect and see what was lacking in them and go on to work on their skills,” says this executive managing director, IndoUS Venture Partners.

If despite all efforts, the money doesn’t come in, one should try to look for other sources to keep the idea afloat. “Not all ideas need lots of money in the beginning. One can borrow money from friends and family to bring it to a level where it can catch the attention of a venture capitalist,” he says.

While speaking about the importance of qualifications, Dham believes that the most striking traits which distinguish entrepreneurs from others are the power of their ideas, necessary skills to execute the plan, and fire in the belly.

“We don’t even ask for qualifications or academic scores. It doesn’t matter whether you are from an IIT or not, or you were an A scorer or C scorer. We don’t even ask these details before selecting a business plan,” he says.

On being asked why then did he go to the University of Cincinnati for his master’s degree after picking up a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the Delhi College of Engineering (now DTU) in 1971, Dham says, “I didn’t have much background in semiconductor devices. It was only after Cincinnati’s sound grounding that I could become an inventor.”

These impressive academic credentials, however, didn’t guarantee Dham a hassle-free worklife. Though he did not doubt his ability even for a minute, Dham admits to having his share of “temporary setbacks”.

“At every level”, he says, “there were new challenges. Whether it was during ‘Flash’ or before inventing the Pentium chip, we had problems spanning from arranging funds, finding the right people in the team and inspiring them to do the job well, while on other occasions, one had to meet deadlines.”

As told to Vimal Chander Joshi