Creating Transformational Solutions to support Startup Ecosystems

Shalini Prakash, Principal- 500Startups

Shalini believes in the magic that happens at the intersection of entrepreneurship and technology. Her interests lie in understanding how these intersections can be empowered to create transformational solutions for different ecosystems. Her vast knowledge and experience gives her the unique perspective ability to operate in cross- disciplinary roles and industries, create inter-relations and develop creative solutions.

Over the last 8 years, Shalini has had a broad range of work experience ranging from being a Venture Capitalist, Startup Evangelist, Marketing to being a Software Engineer.

Currently, the Principal at 500Startups, a global venture capital firm and accelerator based in Silicon Valley with US$250M under management, Shalini takes pride in being at the helm of affairs of the world’s most active early-stage investors with a portfolio of over 1,500 companies across 50 countries. Prior to joining 500, she was working with INKtalks ( previously in association with TED ) where her roles involved promoting INK’s platform through collaborative programs and partner networks. Apart from these engagements, she was an “Entrepreneur in Residence” at GSF Global Accelerator Program, Mentor in Residence for IDEX Accelerator Program and a Program Manager at Kyron Accelerator Program

She holds an MBA from Liverpool Business School and is an Engineering Graduate from RVCE Bangalore. She is currently pursing a Master of Science (MS) program from London School of Economics (LSE).

Here are some insights on her journey, as shared with team ABT.

Who is your greatest inspiration and why?
It is hard to point out to one person. People that inspire me are the ones who strive to change things for the good and always seek to make a positive difference to the people/ communities around them.

What is your take on the growing startup ventures & ideas in India?
India has now become one of the largest bases for startups in the world. Thousands of startups sprouting each year, hundreds getting funded, hundreds joining accelerator programs and working with corporates.  Enablers, accelerators, and incubators providing startups with space, mentors, growth advice and decision-making tools. It is a wonderful time. Startups in India have given rise to more startups- which has resulted in job creation. This has also created a new market- the digital marketing where there are millions of people coming online to create the next largest market. Things have slowed down this year, but the fundamentals remain strong. And we will see a strong growth story come out of India.

What is that one milestone in your life that makes you happy
I have always wanted to do my first big solo travel adventure and this is an extremely important milestone for me. I have believed this is a best way to self- introspect and have some fun.  This could give a break from the daily routine and allow one to self- examine one’s own thoughts, feelings and gain insights.  Re-assessing life could help one let go of what served one’s purpose in life anymore and having the courage to pursue what one truly believes in. Apart from this, travel helps you in generating empathy, compassion for everyone, and teaches you many things. Embracing other cultures and ways of living can broaden our lifestyle views.

Do you feel there are more opportunities for women today to create a niche for themselves?
Yes. With improved access to education and work opportunities, women are entering the workforce. There are many women who work quietly behind the curtains and move to the top.
Over the years I have had the opportunity to meet many women from different backgrounds. These women travelled great lengths – from visionaries, climbing corporate ladder, launching startups or living their life with their own terms. No matter what they did,  there was always one constant: Each one pursued their dreams and cultivated her own success in their own unique way.

How would you describe your leadership style?
The key to successful leadership is to be able to lead in a variety of situations and with a variety of people. I work towards modelling excellence and self-direction for myself and my team.  As a part of my previous job responsibilities, I mobilized the team to work towards a common vision and focus on end goals, leaving the responsibility to each team member. This would ignite an entrepreneurial spirit, build a sense of responsibility and accountability, and drive enthusiasm for successfully achieving the end goal.

If you could do one thing differently, what would that be?
When I was 18, my human fears of failure and facing the unknown stopped me a few times from trying new things. But little did I know,  that I have to rise above these fears and my life’s journey is a culmination of many near wins, failures, and small varied experiences. And the more varied experiences I have, the more interesting my journey could be. I opened myself to new opportunities much later in my life.

However, retrospect is a good thing, We humans are designed to be continuously improving based on past experiences. I am who I am,  because of the near wins, struggles, and failures. Through this amazing journey, I have become a better person and have more clarity than ever before. Over the years, I have managed to carve an area of interest and work for myself. I am happy where I am today!

What would you like to achieve in the next 5 years?
I took a plunge into venture capital and startup ecosystem development,  to combine my passion for entrepreneurship and technology, and my newfound vision to bring the US’s Silicon Valley mindset to India. Through my work at 500Startups, I want to create a platform that can change the way an entrepreneur learns, approaches a problem, and thinks about scalable and smart solutions.

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