Raghu Misra, whose latest venture, the link, opened in July, is also the entrepreneur behind Wired2Perform, Sapna Foundation, ShipXpress and more. The link is a unique business incubator, co-working space, technological marvel and cultural hub in Nocatee Town Center. Misra has said the idea for the link stems from time lost while driving his son to martial arts classes and then waiting for him in the car. The centralized “learn-play-think-do” facility, like so many of Misra’s ideas, is a solution to a problem.
You have launched so many innovative businesses that you have been described as a “serial tech entrepreneur.” Where do all these ideas come from?
Getting ideas, frankly, is not hard, because there is so much room for improvement everywhere. My favorite thing to say is: I’m lazy. And to me there is a positive aspect to being lazy. There are a lot of negative things, but there are a lot of positive things.
Bill Gates had one of my favorite quotes: “I choose a lazy person to do a hard job, because a lazy person will find an easy way to do it.”
Because they look at things quite differently, and they’re the ones trying to make things simpler, because they want simpler stuff for themselves.
So, to me, the whole reason why the link happened is because I’m lazy. I don’t want to drive.
That tells you how I think. That’s why every opportunity I get, I’m actually thinking: There has to be a better way.
Everywhere you see, there’s an opportunity to get better. The harder the problem, the bigger the opportunities. You see there’s a problem and now you start figuring out: How many people are having the same problem I’m having?
Each of your ventures is unique. Is it difficult to get others to understand and appreciate your vision?
Yes. Like they say for the restaurant industry: Location, location, location. For the entrepreneur, it is timing.
I tend to be five to 10 years ahead of my time. So the issue is now going to be: Are you ready? Or, is the industry ready? Are customers ready?
Because inevitably, I find myself having to educate the community and the customer base about why they need something. Why they need the link. We’ve been open for a while, and people still don’t understand what the link is all about.
That’s a very common occurrence in my life. Partly because, like you said, almost everything I’m doing is so drastically different from something else.
Timing is a very, very important aspect. I don’t think everybody will get it right all the time. To me this whole “Midas touch” that some people claim to have is just being lucky.
The link recently opened. What was it like to see this dream of yours become a reality?
Overwhelming, to be honest. Those three days of the opening ceremony, it’s a big blur.
I was very pleasantly surprised with all the dignitaries that came by, all the number of people who came by who I didn’t know.
What was very satisfying was the number of people who said, “Raghu, we moved to Nocatee because of the link.”
Tell us about your background.
I started my first company when I was 17 years old.
The moment I finished my high school, I started a company. So, now that I had a company, why study? I thought: I don’t need a degree.
Luckily, my father said, “Raghu, it doesn’t matter to me what you do in life, but I want you to show me a degree.”
So, thanks to him, I have a degree. I have a bachelor’s degree in arts, majored in maths, statistics and economics.
People ask me, “Raghu, how did you start your technology career,” because I was very poor at studies. I did not have to work hard for building computations and stuff. My first language that I learned was COBOL. It just came naturally to me, and on my first test I got over 90 out of 100.
So, that’s when the first lightbulb lit up. I can do this.
That changed my life.
I came to the U.S. in October ’97. And the first six months, I was in Raleigh, North Carolina, for a subsidiary of CSX. And in ’98, I came to Jacksonville for working for a start-up, and ShipXpress happened.
And everything is not hunky-dory, right? My definition of a serial entrepreneur is somebody who has a series of failures. Nobody openly talks about failures.
The other mark of – not just a serial entrepreneur, but any entrepreneur – is risk-tolerance levels. People think entrepreneurs are risk-takers. No. If I gave you a profile of an entrepreneur, their risk-tolerance levels are much higher. Because failures will happen.
What do you like best about your career?
What I like best is the number of industries that I’m able to disrupt – disrupt, as in getting to solve bigger problems at a massive scale in different industries. To me, disruption is a step change.
Steve Jobs did not create a better Nokia. He completely changed the landscape. And the same thing with how refrigerators happened. People did not come up with better ice factories. They just changed the whole thing; ice factories in your house. It’s the same thing with Ford. They did not come up with a better breed of horse. They just created an automobile.
To me that is skipping cycles. That is when disruption is happening. That is when true innovation is happening.
For me, disruption is a positive, is a good thing.
When you are changing the way people think, the way people behave, the way people consume things.
What do you like to do in your free time?
Just talking to more entrepreneurs. A lot of people say that their job gets them out of the bed. So, to me I’m living that.
To me, entrepreneurship is very contagious. It’s like-minded people hanging out together.
That is what I’m trying to create from a culture standpoint, where that energy is, everybody in the building is feeding off of each other’s energy levels, and they’re here to help.
I wake up at 4 and start to work. I’m actually here at 7:30 because I want to be here. It’s very exciting.