1 August 2023


Men make plans so God can have a hearty laugh. That is about the best way I can explain how I un-retired to join the Family Office of the Rothschild family (Five Arrows Principal Investments) to take the helm at Juvare.

Hitting a new country every month, picking up new skills, every evening with Sharmila and the dog at a bar… retired life was everything I wanted. Then came a call from the inimitable Vivek Kumar. As impressed as I was with the opportunity, I set the bar fairly high for myself.

“Vivek, if I can convince myself that it is exciting enough that I will work for free, I will know it is time to un-retire. CEO Pro Bono – now that is a title I can aspire to.”

Over thirty meetings on either side of the Atlantic later, I got convinced. I have some blurred memories of Robert (“Bob”) Watson (my predecessor and another great leader who helped me thru the process) catching Covid after our meeting, chasing Patrick Lane around the Marta station, showing up in my motorcycle clothes to meet the impeccably dressed Patrick Macfarlane, some great scotches with Fraser Handcock and Sacha Oshry in Scotland, Jeff Telford getting stranded in the bar when downtown Roswell shut down around us, Bryan Kaplan making do with some savories for breakfast in the executive club of a Marriott in DC and so on and so forth.

Finally, it came down to
(*) the mission of the company and
(**) how relatable the people I got to meet were. It felt like I can “belong” in this group.

Frankly, in the last two weeks, as I have gotten to know more folks in the company, I get the sense that maybe, I should be paying to do this job!

As exciting as it is for me, for all the rest of the team, I have to believe it is a bit of an anxious time. I hope you will come across some of my teammates soon and when you do, give them your frank opinion of me. It will help them understand me quickly and make our relationship that much more productive.

Just don’t mention my silly jokes. For even after un-retiring… “Dad jokes. That is how … I roll…” 🙂

25 July 2023

CEO Announcement! I am feeling *real* good !!

About 5 years back, I was having a conversation with Hiten Varia – who was my boss for way too many years and then on my Board for a different company Riverside Insights … and when I asked him:

Me: “Hiten, let’s get past what the investors want. That is table stakes. How do I judge that I have created sufficient internal value for my own team?”

Hiten: “Well, I know you do not care about money personally. But have you thought about creating 25 millionaires?”

Me: “You mean, build the company and spread the wealth so as to create….?”

Hiten: “Yes”

That is a conversation that changed a lot of my outlook towards self-goals as a CEO.

I know he is happy – at least, in paper money – where I finished out that job.

Later, I was thinking – what might be another good metric as a great organizational leader?

The one I could come up with – after a lot of thought – was how many of my direct reports got a job as a CEO as the next job? That would prove I was really instrumental in creating great leaders.

To be clear, I am not saying they eventually became a CEO. I am talking about they left the company to be a CEO.

Also, I am not counting folks who start their own companies. Taking no credit away from them… just saying somebody else did not select them to be the CEO.

In my living memory, Matt Tebbe is my first (and so far only) mark of success there. (Somebody, please tell me I am missing somebody else)

Here is the news article. https://cartus.com/en/about-us/press-room/cartus-appoints-matthew-tebbe-as-president-and-chief-executive-officer/

Funny story… Many moons back, I had written a post in Linkedin on effective ways to network. That got Matt to start networking with me purposefully (he and I had worked before and till then, the only networking we had after I left the company was my birthday call)s. That, much later, led to he being interviewed for an opportunity in our company and eventually he became my direct report.

And now a CEO, himself.

Would love you to join me in congratulating Matthew Tebbe on this great opportunity, recognizing the power of networking and as undeserving as I might be, being in the right place and right time to say #1 done in my list of CEOs I have created.

31 March 2023

Signing out one last time

The journey that started in 2018 came to an end today. Like every time in the past, I will forget the numbers and even product names. But will always remember the people. Every team has made me stronger. This team especially so.

What I learnt from the Riverside Insights Team:

(*) The magic of a worthy mission. Teams can deliver outsized results when they align on mission and values. When the mission aligns with something that gives them meaning to life. It was not about being the best in anything, it was not about being the biggest in anything, it was about “Enriching 1 Billion Lives by 2030”. That it became the best and biggest was a mere outcome, not the end goal.

(*) The power of independence. This was a carve out from a large public company. It was amazing to watch when given enough independence to think and freedom to act, how a team responds. The results delivered were of unthinkable magnitude compared to our original estimates pre-investment. We did have to remind ourselves at every step that independence also meant accountability. If we were not accountable, we would lose our independence.

(*) Optimism is a force multiplier. Covid hit Edtech very hard. We had some really tough days. And yet, at the end of it, the team emerged much stronger. It used this as an opportunity to fine tune long term focus. Going thru the tunnel of darkness brought out the most innovative side of the team constantly trying to adapt to the havoc that the pandemic was wreaking. The core of that was the belief the team had that bad days were not going to run for ever. We needed to be prepared for the turn in the tide.

(*) Attitude to change matters. The only way I can explain the post Covid meteoric growth of the company for nearly three years is the attitude to change. We brought some changes and some changes were brought to us. Clearly, we liked one more than the other. But the difference with this team was that more often than not, it learnt how to leverage change to grow regardless. It did not come naturally always, it certainly did not come without making a lot of mistakes. But believing change itself is not the differentiator – attitude towards it is what would make a difference is what stood out to me.

(*) On a personal front – five jobs, five industries. I have abandoned any hope of becoming a domain expert in anything. And yet, while businesses might be different, the picture of “business of business” becomes clearer and clearer. Understanding the core patterns – how does money flow in an industry, how to build talented teams and culture, how to not underestimate the complexity of a “customer”, how impedance mismatches get created in product market fits, the power of having balance at the top, the need to thin down the ivory tower and move power to people closer to the customer, the inherent non-linear nature of scaling and so on and so forth… they seem to become clearer and clearer.

I wish I had all these learnings at a much earlier age.

Heartfelt gratitude to this team that left me a better leader and a humbler human being.

21 September 2022

Well, this just happened

Some of you may know that professionally, I work in a company that assesses students (and younger kids) from their achievement levels to abilities to special needs and all that. In our all company call over Zoom, this time the topic was the “life of a typical user” – a teacher – and how would they use our product. Specifically, how would they interpret the scores. The idea of the organizers was to ensure everybody in the company understood what it took to walk in the shoes of a user.

It was extremely well done.

Towards the end, there was an exercise. The audience was divided into small groups and they had to discuss and interpret the score results. The 11 students they had “chosen” were uncannily the Top 10 leaders in the company and yours truly.

And in the made up reports (I insist, made up), apparently, I scored 13 in Social Studies!!

Each group were to discuss about how they interpreted the results and what actions they would take on their assigned student.

I know my business card demands that I maintain certain level of gravitas and all that in all company meetings. However, truth be told, I was rolling on the floor on live video!!

3 May 2022

How Not To Present Yourself

I seem to attract more than my fair share of LinkedIn requests from folks who describe themselves as “visionary”. I wonder if one were to do reference calls on them, how many would use that word to describe them.

What do you think? Can one call oneself “visionary”? (that too in a public forum?). Shouldn’t one wait for others to call them “visionary”? Considering oneself “visionary” seems to be merely hallucinating.


8 June 2021

Where did the bear go this time?

Kids have been coming back to school and teachers are scrambling to get data on their learning and growth in these crazy times we have gone thru. This means, on one hand, our business has gone thru the roof. On the other, we are working incredible hours to give the customers the support that they need and deserve.

Did you know that Riverside Insights is hiring 100 people to support teachers, school psychologists and school district admins help elevate the potential of school kids? Ask Tyler Morrison, Ashli Florek, James Duval, Lela Day or anybody in Riverside Insights if you wanted to know more.

I walked into office straight from the airport yesterday. After realizing that the bear was not at my desk to harass me, I got naturally curious about what he was up to.

Walked around a little more… and found him here!! The poor guy had heard about the long hours of our Customer Ops folks and decided to answer the phones to help out…

Maybe I was a little hard on him on his annual performance!

Give it up for our Customer Ops team and The Bear !!

18 May 2021

He got too busy for me

This week, I am back in our Chicago office again! Was wondering what the Big Bear was going to be up to this week.

Surprisingly, did not find him at the front desk or at my desk. Went around snooping to look for him. Found him in a conference room talking to a customer!!

Came back to my desk quietly so he would not notice me and start following me again! 🙂

6 May 2021

It is those smiles!!

One more thing that I am going to miss if everybody starts to work from home – those impromptu getting togethers around a cubicle. Sometimes to brainstorm, sometimes to just have a good laugh! You know… those small things… that build culture and kindred spirit.

Our vaccinated teammates are taking advantage of the flexibility at work – some come to the office everyday to keep a clean separation of work from life and some come on specific days or for specific team meetings to be able to balance the needs at home and work.

Personally, I have started flying to Chicago every other week. Mostly to drop into these impromptu meetings to crack some completely unnecessary and irrelevant jokes!!

But watching people who I work with smile at work? Priceless!!

4 May 2021

Got caught sneaking in…

Went back to Chicago after a week to work from office. Was wondering if the bear had gotten over the performance appraisal and moved out of my cubicle.

It was worse!

He was sitting right at the entrance of our office floor with that “And where were you last week?” look on his face!

I tried my best to ignore him and slinked my way to the cubicle!!

14 April 2021

This is what I am going to miss if we all start working from home forever

Came to office in Chicago this week. Walked into my cubicle and was immediately met with a good humored prank from a colleague. (The needle of suspicion points to Chris or Deval 🙂 ).

Loved it. Does the bear not look like somebody who is not happy with our recently concluded annual appraisal? 🙂

This is the kind of fun I am going to miss if everybody starts working from home forever.

Recently, in a CEO forum, I saw something that resonated strongly with me. The CEO’s quote was:

“What is the human side of work? How do you maintain a culture? That’s what we want. The Number One source of happiness in this world is having a good job, working with good people, doing good work that you enjoy. Is that going to mean sitting at your computer in the bedroom with your cat jumping on you?”