03 January 2018
Dhiraj Mukherjee was one of the co-founders of music recognition app Shazam. He now spends his time searching for new, innovative opportunities to support.
How has your life changed since Shazam?
At Shazam, I worked full-time, 17 hours a day. Once it took off, I pursued other opportunities – I have enjoyed a range of roles and diversity of experience in different industries. It was only when I worked as Head of Innovation at Virgin Money that I discovered fintech, which brought out the entrepreneur in me.
When I work with start-ups, I bring together how to think and act as an entrepreneur, and how to innovate in a big company. As an adviser, I help companies develop entrepreneurial DNA. With start-ups, I help them understand how large companies think.
As an entrepreneur, all I saw was opportunity, which I enjoyed. As one gets older, one tends to look at it from a risk-averse perspective. I see it the other way round: what it takes to be so focused and immersed in an opportunity that it becomes almost inevitable.
What do you gain from meeting new entrepreneurs?
What I enjoy particularly is the cross- fertilisation of ideas. Entrepreneurs tend to be ahead of the game - I never, ever fail to learn something. Meeting people at entrepreneur events is planned serendipity - which is part of the whole principle of innovation.
I do think that being a second-time entrepreneur is a huge advantage. I heard recently that the average time to exit is 14 years – which seems extraordinary. Experience certainly helps to identify avoidable mistakes, but it doesn’t substitute for constantly learning.
An entrepreneurial mindset
As an archetype, I think that the entrepreneurial mindset is about seeing an opportunity, making it happen, not taking ‘no’ for an answer and getting up when you’re down.
The reality is that a lot of ventures don’t succeed but the experience is like training for a marathon. You do six months of hard work and, in the race, you can cramp up and drop out, but you have built a mindset that only other entrepreneurs will have. Ultimately, the success or failure of a start-up can come down to that last mile, to unexpected events, but the training is always with you.
As an entrepreneur, the right balance is being aware of how difficult it can be and still having that positive attitude and enthusiasm. It’s like a rollercoaster ride: you know it’s going to make your stomach churn, but it’s fantastic and thrilling. However, if you meet someone who says, ‘oh no, I don’t find it tough on my stomach,’ either the ride hasn’t started or they’re lying!
The unknown unknowns
The flipside to focus is balance. When starting out, you have to know that you’re signing up for something that is inherently hard and the odds are stacked against you. However, this is a job, it’s not life. Being able to talk to other people who’ve suffered the knocks puts things in perspective.
You must be really choosy about who you work with. At Shazam, my partners and I respected each other and the people we worked with: we set a high bar for ourselves. Unfortunately, in life and business, one comes across people who take shortcuts, who don’t value you - and that can be absolutely deadly. I cannot emphasise enough: it is important to have integrity and shared values.