Categories
Personal Writing

End of an Era

My maternal grandfather Sri R.V.V. Rajan left Bhoolokam (our planet) this week. Significantly, he had turned 100 last year and we believed he was going strong. His Acharyan had predicted many decades ago that he would live to be a centenarian. It was quite prescient. 

I loved my Thatha (aka Sithi). He was a fun person to have a conversation with and to just hang out. 

A conversation matters and sticks with you when the other person is genuinely interested in what you have to say. My grandfather had mastered the art of showing such genuine interest. It came to him naturally. He would ask me about other people. He would ask other people about me and my family. I think it was his way of getting a 360 view. 

He experienced the Indian Freedom movement as a youth.He participated with zest in electrification schemes in rural Tamil Nadu. That work took him to various locations. He would recollect his work at Tamil Nadu Electricity Board with fondness and pride. 

His family owned classy cars and he came to see my grandmother with style in one of those cars for the pre-engagement meetup.

He was a good looking and active man. During most of my middle and high school days, he would bike 3-4 kms daily to visit his eldest daughter (my mom) and bring vegetables from the market. I would steal his bike to take “jolly” rounds around the neighborhood. Initially protective, he gave up on locking the bike.

The challenges of raising a family of seven children didn’t seem to faze him. He went about his life tactically, enjoying the daily rhythm of life. The daily requirements of our sampradaya kept him active and engaged. 

Innately curious, he developed a great memory to people and places. Relationships between people was his strong point. He nurtured and built his own social graph and used that to power his interest and empathy. In a gathering, he was the natural ice breaker.

He visited the United States once and was in admiration of this country. When I landed in New York, he was there and I got to spend a week with him. That was such a pleasant experience. 

In later years, he didn’t let his physical discomforts suppress his positive outlook and continuous engagement. He accepted being taken care of by a non family member.

As I reflect, the change in the last 100 years in this world is mind boggling. As I hold my grandfather’s ever present smile, some human qualities are forever comforting. 

Thank you for everything Sithi.

Categories
Business Current Affairs

Ever Given

The famous Suez Canal has been blocked to container traffic for about a week now. A huge container ship apparently lost power, drifted sideways in a sandstorm and got wedged on the sand banks of the canal. The container ship “Ever Given” is as long as the Suez is wide that we now have a wedge situation.

It has given rise to hundreds of memes on the internet, including a change.org petition to remove it. The Onion has still not weighed in.

Someone suggested blowing it up.

Someone suggested unloading all the containers and building a container pyramid to memorialize the incident. 

A small excavator stands next to Ever Given like a Lilliput in Gulliver’s Travels. 

Experts are sprouting and spouting on TV about how many billions of dollars have been lost to the traffic jam. 

Is this peak Globalization? I sure hope so.

I think the world should take a break on movement of unnecessary crap across the planet. 24x7x365.

So what, if I live in the Pacific Northwest and can’t get my Chilean grown fruits during the Winter? I won’t die. Just send me a fresh GIF of the Chilean orchard daily on my WhatsApp and with the good mornings I get from across the globe, I will enjoy it virtually too.

Are there not enough places and people for Nike to set up a few sneaker factories in America?

I think capitalism and the free trade party needs to be reined in a lot so we don’t end up screwing up the planet more than it already is. 

At least, let’s start with not needing these giant container ships, ok. Screw efficiency.

Categories
Angel Investing Crowd Funding Finance Regulation Start Up

SPAC’kled

Or, why should Venture Capitalists have all the fun?

The new dawn of SPACs is here. These shell companies, as they are called, first raise money to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars from institutional investors. The Founders of the SPAC also invest their own money. Then, they IPO the shell company and list the shares at $10/share. Retail investors can now buy shares of the SPAC in the open market. The SPAC keeps its funds in a trust until it can find a company to invest that money in and effect a merge. The SPAC has two years to do the merger. If it fails to merge, money is returned to all investors with interest. The merged company gets a new stock ticker and resumes trading. The original team that created the SPAC has to do some work to identify the target company and consummate the merger. It could get a sizable (median of 2-5%) in the merged entity. 

PIPE financing may also be done if the merged company needs to raise more money during the merging process or shortly thereafter. Big funders can provide PIPE financing in return for shares of the merged company. 

I am not a SPAC mechanics expert, but that’s a rough picture.

How can this impact the current VC and institutional model of financing of startup companies? A growing and successful startup usually raises a series of rounds from VCs and institutional investors while still remaining private. During this time, the success of the startup is often visible to the general public. Or for the curious, Crunchbase or Pitchbook tells the story. Retail investors, however, can’t buy shares of this startup until it goes public in some fashion.

The SPAC vehicle has the potential to accelerate the stage at which retail investors get to own shares of a startup company. We are talking possibly Series B/C/D stages that a company is suitable to be SPAC’kled allowing retail investors to invest in the majority of growth phase of the company. 

This allows retail investors to invest in an index of startup companies, diversifying risk. However, one should be cautious. SPACs are investing in moon shots and the target companies are not making revenue for decades. So, after getting de SPAC’kled (post merger), one could see big drops as investors get clarity on valuation and growth prospects. 

The first issue is that retail investors do not know beforehand the target company. They may know the target sector from the SPAC prospectus, but not much else. However, the SPAC gives voting rights and redemption rights to it’s investors once the target is announced. This allows the retail investor to get out if they don’t like the deal. There is a backstop redemption clause of $10/share in theory. As of this writing, I don’t know how well that is going to work

The second issue is the rigor of due diligence conducted by the SPAC. One goal of SPACs is to reduce burden on startup founders and companies and accelerate going public by limiting the need to disclose exhaustive information. As a retail investor in the SPAC, it is likely the case that you will not find details like you do in the S-1. So you have to trust the SPAC promoters that they are doing quality diligence and valuing the company fairly. 

By creating a lock up period for SPAC promoters to sell the merged company shares, it’s possible to reduce the motivation for them to flip. Some SPAC promoters are playing nice and adding lock up periods in their prospectus.

If SPACs work with good intent and are regulated efficiently, retail investors can stand to benefit. For VCs, it can act both ways. They could liquidate their “cash suckers” via the SPAC and breathe a sigh of relief. On the other hand, they don’t want to see their strongest performers go public before they can double down. They may still do that, but their control goes away.

Categories
Personal

Fearlessness

(this article inspired by a discourse by one of my Gurus today)

In our life, we are afraid of many things.

More recently, we fear that we may contract COVID.

We fear the extremity of the seasons and weather.

We fear the repercussions of not being able to organize an event smoothly.

We fear that our travels will not be safe. 

We fear the results of an exam ; about not getting admission to our desired university ; we fear poor job performance. 

There is no end to fear in our lives. Even our last breath can be fearful. 

Our guru Swami Desikan has written an entire work called Abheetistavam dedicated to dealing with fear and how to eliminate it from our lives. It’s in praise of fearlessness. 

In it, he says that utmost faith in God (Lord Ranganatha in my tradition) is the only way to remove fear. He welcomes everyone with his eyes. He is waiting for us. He welcomes everyone. His vow (Sankalpam) is to make everyone lead a life without fear. 

If one sings in praise of Lord Ranganatha, one can become fearless.

If one says that one doesn’t know how to sing, one can just bow down to Him. That makes one fearless.

If one says, “I don’t reside in the same town, how can I go and bow down to Him?”, then one can just face his direction and utter His name. That makes one fearless.

Barring all this, one can do just Vakthi, which is just an impulse of saying God’s name. That’s enough to become fearless.

So, go ahead. Believe and trust in your God. You can become fearless.

Categories
Life People Personal

Carrom Bonding

The Carrom Board is a rite of passage for Indian families. To write this article, I looked up the origin of the Carrom game. No surprise, there is strong evidence that it originated in the Indian subcontinent.

For many of us, Carrom is not only a game. It is a family and friends bonding platform. A game can go on for hours with lots of interspersed small talk, jabs and pokes of the mental type, tantrums, taunts, distractions, exhilarations, near misses and a captive audience waiting for it’s turn to play. 

I remember one annual game that started at 10 PM and went on until 3 AM. At 3 AM it was time to get showered and head onto the temple for the Vaikunta Ekadasi festival. The twists and turns of the game were so exciting that no one bothered to get a shut eye for the night. 

The beauty of the game is that one can bring in their own technique and personality. Some believe in precise geometry and physics and wouldn’t hesitate to crow about it when a coin was pocketed. Some play it quietly and can’t tolerate chit chats and distractions during their turn. The same kind do not reveal their techniques for fear of copycats. Some would lean back so far back on their backless chair to strike a coin that it was certain they crossed the international border to SriLanka.  A person’s true personality came through loud and clear.  

The carrom coins are of 2 colors – brown (white) and black. There is also a red one. The brown carries 2 points and the black carries one point. The queen (red) is valued at 5 points. You can note the color discrimination there too in the value system.

The powder is the substance that makes it all work. Boric Acid and Nycil are the two common ones. Without the powder, it is practically impossible for the striker to move smoothly on the  polished board made of plywood.

Last week, we received our new carrom board. We finally replaced our previous one that has gone missing for years. I feel like a kid again. To my horror, I taunted my wife to play and she gave it right back to me. However, we are spending more time looking at each other across the table than viewing the TV next to each other. 

Game on! What’s your Carrom story?