My response to the article about my lies and deception

I wanted to take the time to process my response and be objective and thoughtful about my response to allegations about me. Rather than just get angry and immediately have a knee-jerk reaction, which would have been one of counter allegations and finger pointing, I thought I’d take time to go through the cycle of shock, denial, etc. and venting it all, I thought I should reflect first and understand where I went wrong and what I did, which has led to these events.

This is my third version. Hopefully detailed enough to be specific but not too long to sound whiny.

I started my career at a Pretzel Logic – which was in the bay area, which was sold to BEA – no records of the sale exist but in the resumes of a few folks, but the founder (Srikanth Sudararajan now at Helion) is still around to vouch for that.

I went to Cisco as an engineer, in 1995. and left in 1997 with one of my colleagues – Jay Collins (he passed away last year) to start Interfinity. Netscape (Peter McDonald and Steve Savignano were my customers) , Cisco, NetDialog (and a few others were our customers. We operated out of Jay’s garage at first in San Jose and then moved into an office. We hired my cousin as well as an engineer. We built an order fulfillment system. It started as a consulting opportunity, but soon morphed. Jay wanted to leave the area and I wanted the flexibility as well, so we sold it with assets to a friend (the business was doing about $300K – $500K in revenues). I am pretty sure Peter McDonald and Steve, can vouch for that.

Then I did some consulting and started another company called Amura. There’s actually a link to our office address. I started it with a friend, Alok Batra in 1999. We wanted to build eCommerce platforms for online communities. We even got a term sheet from investors – Sevin Rosen funds and a few angels, but I made some critical mistakes during the angel round closing, so I was asked to leave. I sold my shares to the other founders who then built CofIx (with a completely new vision and direction so I have no credit there).

I then went to Asera from 1999 to 2001 which raised a lot of money (over $100 Million from KPCB and others) but was acquired in an asset sale to SEEC in 2001.

During this time I also invested in startups via Zodiac Ventures LLC. Shastri Divakaruni was the General partner, and I invested as a part of the fund. We had other investors including, Anil Nori, now at Microsoft. The fund invested in 20+ companies – none of them super hits. So largely a wash. Anil can confirm that we were both disappointed with our ability to be angel investors. Here is a link to the company (He can confirm that I invested as a part of the fund, obviously).

As a side note, without hopefully sounding snarky – Intel has invested in 1400 companies and when I asked one of their VP’s yesterday, only 500+ of them were public with “records on the Internet”.  So, if somehow “records not on the Internet” is a benchmark for “does not exist” then many entities – including my kids who were born after 2001 – dont exist.

Then I was at Mercury Interactive (acquired by HP) for 4.5 years.

I then started a blog (Vangal) and was consulting with Canvas Group (this was an entity for my consulting engagements) for some time after this.

Then I joined Kannan Ayyar at Karna Global – this was a restart because they were growing before me, but got consumed by the 2001 crash. Kannan and I rebuilt the business slowly. I was at that time the EVP of Sales / Solutions, and Kannan was the CEO. He truly treated me as a co-founder and I was on the board as well. We were the two “executives” and were trying our best to get a sale done, but things did not pan out.

We were close to a sale of the company to EMC / Documentum but they pulled out at the last minute. So Karna’s India portion of the business was sold to Cranes software – hey look there’s a press release as well.

I then returned to India in 2008. Started Buzzgain and sold it to Meltwater. We had a contract with Sakhatech about the payments and I paid them for that contract and effort. I still have not been paid a 100% of what I am owed by Meltwater, which is another story altogether.

In 2012 after the sale, I worked with Sarath Naru and Vishesh Rajaram of Venture East to talk about eOVL (eYantra Online Ventures Limited) which was to be a spin off from eYantra (which Phani N Raj was the CEO of) and was funded by Venture East and Argonaut ventures.

Here are some screen shots of our Shareholder agreement. Indus Law was my legal counsel and Srinivas Katta can confirm that Vish from Venture East was the primary negotiator on this agreement.

EoVL pic 1

Here are the partial agreement pages.

eYantra Mukund Venture East and Argonaut pic 1

And the Shareholders agreement as well.

eYantra Mukund Venture East and Argonaut pic 2

I can clarify that EOVL is Jivity (the new name), which was a spinoff, and these screen shots capture the investors.

I have already spoken about my experiences with Jivity and eYantra. We were unable to secure the next round of funding, so I left.

The part about enGrave, is the one I regret the most. There are no excuses on this one. I truly, deeply and from the bottom of my heart apologize to Nimish. I treated him badly as a founder and should have been more empathetic. At that time I was under a lot of stress as I mentioned before.

After that I started many “projects”.

Why?

What I learned was in India, the pain of starting a company, the entities, the MCA filings etc, was arduous.

So I had one company – Vangal Software and services and a whole host of projects to see what sticks.

Social Hues, gitGrow, Kinetic Brains, FreshMonth, HeyMaya, Vangal, Pricearoo, and I am surely forgetting many more. There is a series of posts I can write about all my failures at these projects. I will at some point.

I am comfortable with side projects and ideas to find out and learn what works.

I do have a big fault – so might call me a hypocrite for this – but I dont practice what I preach.

I preach – perseverance, discipline and focus.

I am the most “shiny object” person there is. Folks who know me can testify that. I move from project to project in search of “traction”. 

I am working on fixing that as well.

Just before joining Microsoft, Paul Singh and Dave McClure visited India. I hosted them at home. On a car ride from Paul’s hotel to NPC Product Conclave, he mentioned to me that they were (500 startups) were starting a fund in India. He wanted me to invest a little money so they can say they have investors. I agreed immediately and did write about it when they announced it. My (very poorly thought through) intention was to give them social proof – hey I was investing, you can too – other investors.

Then a few months passed. Paul left 500. I joined Microsoft. I could not invest due to my conflict there. I mentioned that to Pankaj. They ended up not raising that fund. I am positive Paul can confirm that as well.

During my time at Microsoft Ventures as I clarified before, I was specifically asked by founders to confirm that I was an investor for social proof. I am not lying about this at all. It is rather unfortunate that some of them either have forgotten or claim otherwise.

Here’s the thing about AngelList. It is two sided. Unless both parties confirm their “relationship” it does not show up.

So, if I wanted to claim I funded Uber, the owner of Uber has to either initiate this or I have to. Until they confirm (or I do if they initiated), it wont show up.

I cannot confirm if PlusTxt asked, but I know for a fact that a few did. I confirmed. That was my mistake. I had no intention to actually tell people that I invested in them.

Here is another thing – I have over 12,000 connections on LinkedIn and 10,000 “Friends” on Facebook. Are they all my friends? Absolutely not.

My mistake was also to treat Angel List the same way. I dont take any of these online sites too seriously. That is now, I realize a huge mistake. I even confirmed a friends dog as my dog and on Facebook I was a Chef at some restaurant at Facebook – well, all that’s undergoing cleaning now.

As is my “friends” list on all these properties. I realize that’s the way people operate mostly. I was an exception and I did not realize the impact of Angel List, or other platforms and the true intent of social signals.

Finally Napkin Stage – I have consistently talked to Sunil from Sign Easy about my work as a board member not just an advisor. I cannot detail our agreement, but due to a mistake on my part – an oversight, it is an advisory agreement.

Chargebee and Krish have had an advisory relationship for years.

Regarding Appointy – I was disappointed here as well. There is complete email thread on my ownership %, my agreement and details, and the contours of it, but things did not pan out.

I should have waited to sign the paperwork before I put his name on napkin stage. That was my first mistake.

My second mistake was calling them “investments” as opposed to advisory relationships, which is what they were. I think this was a mistake and I should have been more clear up front.

So what’s the bottom line?

  1. I don’t have any intention to lie or deceive anyone. I may have exaggerated on several occasions – I am truly sorry for that. I will rectify that ASAP. I don’t expect anyone to believe it, so I have to prove it with actions. I don’t intend harm, but thats probably debatable if you don’t know me.
  2. Did I make mistakes? I absolutely did. Many of them.
  3. Did I behave badly with Nimish and Anand Lunia? Yes. Could I have acted in a much more mature fashion – absolutely. Could I have handled it better?  Sure.

So what have I been doing?

  1. This episode has helped me figure out who my “friends”, are and who was being nice to my face but have now been saying “I knew it all along”. I also know now, who are waiting for me to fall, but really are disguised as  friends.
  2. I apologized (I dont ever expect to be forgiven) to a few people for hurting them. I am truly sorry again for the pain, heartache an suffering I caused them and their family. It is unconscionable.
  3. I am changing how I interact with people – a lot more cautious, more measured. That’s a good thing.
  4. I am on a 30 days to 1 year plan – be as accurate as possible about my past and present self. No exaggerations, no false claims, etc.
  5. I have been reflecting – why I do what I do. What changes do I expect from that reflection? Hoping to be a better person – who helps a lot, who keeps cheering entrepreneurs and keeps on speaking about my experiences.

Thanks. If you read it so far, you are a friend.

Are there unanswered question still – possibly, but I am tired so I am putting a rest to this.

I fully expect more questions, they never end – but I am not going to answer them any more. I am hoping this gives you enough of a gist of me and you can make up your mind based on our interactions not on published pieces.

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54 thoughts on “My response to the article about my lies and deception”

  1. Mukund – This is fairly a mature post to clear the air. Though I m not involved in any of the incidents and it’s none of my business but I am happy you wrote this.

  2. Talking about mistakes and things that have gone wrong is never easy. I appreciate clearing air and admitting your faults. It takes a lots of guts to do that online.

    I don’t know anything about you. I just saw your site the other day and signed up to receive messages.

    I hope that things will workout fine for you. Even if they don’t, that is also good. You will find another door opening when all others are shut.

    All the best.

  3. Mukund – your blogs are amazing and there’s a LOT to learn from you. Up until I don’t meet the author of your accusations – I fight on your side.

    Data would probably back this theory – If you’re getting picked on in school by bullies – your chances of making it to the IITs are higher.

    I struggle to articulate success in my head. I have very high respect for those who are able to. Keep the jhappis coming please… 🙂

  4. Hey, read this thru. But honestly foxed. What triggered this??

    Regards, Anindya (+919971549864) Sent from my phone, please excuse typos

  5. Mukund – I commend your courage to write such an honest and transparent post. Hope this will clarify things for people who don’t know you.

    In general, I publications focus on Investors as entrepreneurs are the under-dogs. But, someday I will share a post about Entrepreneurs in India, and how some could be selfish, and dishonest from my experiences.

    You have always inspired me, and will continue to do so. I have always found you willing to pay it forward, without expectation of any return. Keep your focus and continue doing what you do best. Hope to work with you someday soon.

  6. I listen to your podcasts and often read most blogs you write. I don’t know and quite honestly don’t care about your past, but I hope you continue to be passionate about startups and help founders on their journey in any way possible.

    Cheers!

  7. Mukund,

    I am so happy you wrote this. Everyone makes mistakes. Sum of all your goods are far greater than your sum of mistakes.

    BTW, I loved your closing line.

    Cheers,
    Suresh

  8. Wow, Mukund. Its great to see that you came out and cleared the air which was created (Not sure intentional or otherwise). Without this piece written by you many would have started accepting what was published and that would have been a judgement based on one side. Now with the both sides in place, everyone is free to make up their minds.

    Its really tough to accept failure in public domain as you really did in this post is a learning again for many who are starting out their professional journey.

  9. I have not met you f 2 f but don’t know why i regard you a lot. I came to know about you through an event in Kolkata and since then follow your tweets/updates and i love what you are doing and how. Keep doing what you are doing.
    Best wishes.

  10. Mukund – Everyone change!

    I got to know about this startup through my brother. They had a good product, but was struggling to even find a single customer. I agreed to get involved in exchange for fixed equity. Within 3 weeks, helped them for 2 recurring contracts. The equity is still in the emails & wasp messages!

  11. Hi Mukund, kudos to your thought to respond and not react! Especially in trying times such as these, it is difficult to act maturely. To me, a fact based argument is mature. Which I think you tried to do in your blog. Your humility to accept errors, express regret and apologise so openly has just taken you one more notch higher in my view.

  12. Mukund – We met only once briefly at a NASSCOM 10000 startups event, but liked your enthusiasm and energy. I don’t know about the episodes you mention, but opening up to the world about your shortcomings takes courage and I salute you for that. Wish you all the best, and hope you turn things around soon.

  13. We have not met and I even have no clue about the article with allegations against you.
    You have saved a stranger like me with one email response during my first start up failure and it was that interaction that helped me to revive and launch my next one. Whatever people say about you Mukund, you are doing a great job. keep on doing the same and continue helping and saving many entrepreneur like me. Thank you very much.

  14. Mukund, we all live and learn. It’s how we continuously grow as people and professionals. I have thoroughly enjoyed working with you and, as you know, would work with you any day. Excited to see what you build through NapkinStage.

  15. Hey Mukund,

    Two things – if people are digging hard to find cracks then it actually means that you are making a difference to this world. If you weren’t doing something good, then why would anyone invest time and effort in proving that you aren’t exactly as good a guy as you claim to be.

    Second, we all exaggerate. You, me, my wife, my boss, Apple etc. There is a difference between ‘lying’ and ‘glorifying’. The world feeds on glorified stuff – the startup pitch deck, VC’s story to the fund of funds, Presidential candidates etc. ‘I convince my boss to take the right decisions about the company’s future’ sounds lot more impressive than ‘I make my boss’s stupid decisions look good on paper’. That last part refers to my job by the way 🙂

    Take this episode as a social proof that your significance is increasing. And at the end of the day, your real friends will be your real friends whether you are a VC or an entrepreneur or cog in a corporate wheel.

    Have fun and more via email!

    Cheers,
    Rohit

  16. Dear Mukund,

    Plain simplicity which has clearly conveyed the message.

    I have been following your articles and must say that they have been real eye openers. Have been benefited by it many a times while taking important decisions.

    You sure are a great value to the ecosystem.

    Cheers,

    Venky

  17. I am not sure what the controversy is, but as a startup guy myself I do understand a little bit how hazy the startup documentation process is. Many a times I have written a check because a friend was starting it, and a few times I have joined companies at idea stage months before anything became legal on paper.. It sure screws up your CV but …. I guess no true entrepreneur works to build a CV…. 🙂

  18. I salute you. Accepting mistakes is not a easy thing to do. Thanks for clearing everything. I just loved the bottom line.

  19. You must be honest, if you can list out everything like this in a blog, Mukund. Very respectful deed indeed. I am not sure what prompted you to write this…may be I missed some news. But, looks like it prompted a major introspection which is positive..Even bad news can impact positively sometimes.
    Take care of the kids and see that it does not affect them.
    You are a rock star in startup world and keep engaging and inspiring.

  20. Dear Mukund, it takes both courage and maturity to respond in a measured manner – and even more importantly use it as an opportunity to reflect and grow. I wish everyone of us had the same _viveka_ or discrimination that you’ve demonstrated in your response. I know it would help with two teens at home. But doesn’t hurt in the world at large. Stay authentic my friend. Your work speaks for itself. Keep on motivating.

  21. We all make mistakes, but this post is something that rectifies all the faults ever made. Staying true to yourself is the best thing you can ever do. You are for sure that one person who i will look for inspiration when it comes to accepting all my mistakes.
    Cheers! To the things we do everyday to make this world a better place. Success, failures, mistakes are a part of it. Right ? 🙂

  22. Mukund,

    Those who really know you, they don’t need to read this whole article to know you. They don’t give it a fuck to what people say. And if you think that you made mistakes so I completely disagree with that, It’s just that people like you trust people very easily and we don’t go in to legal documentation and all and that’s y all this shit takes place. For people investment only comes in money, their is no value for time.

    I am sure you will overcome all this drama very soon and will prove once again that you are a rockstar.

    Cheers,
    Anuj 🙂

  23. Dear Mukund,

    Leaving aside facts and if the allegations are true or not, it requires enormous courage to accept some mistakes and apologize in public.
    Your decision to put this to rest and move on is also the right one, and please follow it as it would be very difficult when more follow-up/response is written to this articlof yours.
    TCM

  24. Show me one person on this planet who claims to have not lied or embellished and I will show you a liar. You have done something bigger than most; admitted, accepted the wrongs and are striving to do better. That takes a lot of courage.

  25. Muk, you know how I feel about all of this.

    I have to admit that article disappointed me a little, but regardless of what was in it, you worked hard at Microsoft Ventures, you literally gave your heart and soul to help hundreds of entrepreneurs globally.

    With that said I always appreciated your incredible work ethic and always on attitude.

    Personally I feel like this is your best written blog yet, and glad you tried to clear the air. One thing I’ll say is entrepreneurship is hard, and most of what we see in the ecosystem is bullshit. Stay away from the bullshit man.

    Best wishes to you in the future mate, I’ll see you around.

    Rahul

  26. Extremely mature & balanced response. It takes a lot of courage to go out in the open and speak your mind with such maturity! Truly amazed. Thanks for writing this. It will make everyone who will read this, a better person.

  27. Mukund – Its takes great courage to write such an honest and transparent post. Hope this clarifies things for the others.

    You have inspired many, and will continue to do so. I have always found you willing to pay it forward, without expectation of any return as seen in early days of AasaanPay. Hope to work with you someday soon.

  28. Mukund,

    You’re an inspiration to many (in your success or even the way you admit your failts) and one of the most over-achieving and down-to-earth people I’ve met. You will get through the this fine and let’s catch up next time you are in bay area. Hope you and family are all doing well!

  29. We all make mistakes, but this post is something that rectifies all the faults ever made. Staying true to yourself is the best thing you can ever do. You are for sure that one person who i will look for inspiration when it comes to accepting all my mistakes.
    Cheers! To the things we do everyday to make this world a better place. Success, failures, mistakes are a part of it. Right sir ? 🙂 Kudos to your courageous post. #raisedthebarforeveryone

  30. Mukund, thanks for openly sharing your detailed, candid response. You have always been very generous with your time & passion to so many initiatives within our ecosystem – mentoring founders, helping connect folks to each other, capturing valuable insights via your blogs, helping host and organize countless small to large events, evangelizing the ‘India opportunity’ at overseas forums … the list goes on and on. In my book, those many contributions over the years earns you a solid bank balance to draw down upon to recompense for the stumbles you openly admit to above. I hope this sets the record straight, allows you to dust off and get back in the saddle full force again. We certainly need engaged folks like you especially at the Napkin stage!

  31. Hey Mukund,

    I have personally interacted with you twice. I find you to be the epitome of wisdom & simplicity.

    My take on this article: Now that this phase too has passed in your career, I am sure you will shine much brighter & much higher in every others.

    Journey ahead is all that matters, best wishes for the same!

    Cheers!

    Sunil

  32. Mukund, you have been a fantastic support for many startups and I have seen you helping out many people selflessly, including me. Thanks for sharing your thoughts candidly and for being you!

  33. Hi Mukund,

    I am not sure you remember me. I used to be at VenturEast and we had met a couple of times.

    I have been regularly reading your blogposts and enjoy them immensely. One thing I was always struck by was the positivity of tone in your articles. Not sure what triggered this or which is that online piece that you are reacting to, but I hope this is in the past!

    Good luck and best wishes! Keep doing the good work!

    Regards,
    Aditya.

  34. Mukund, thanks for writing such a detailed insights and clearing the air. A learning for me from the episode is to have as much transparency when in public view. There are many people watching and not all of them have good intentions.

  35. Hey, well done Sir.
    Lots of guts required for what you pulled off.

    Again what is online is only a small part, that too I feel a tad one sided.
    As a novice you were the first one to accept my LinkedIn invite so all I can say is what is done is done, move on.

    All the best!!!

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