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June 25, 2001
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'Why hire people who agree with you?'

Sukhjit Purewal
India Abroad Correspondent in Santa Clara

Vivek Ranadive, CEO, TIBCO CorpHe calls himself a 'dream merchant' and if a New York Times bestseller is any indication - there are a lot of people who want to buy what Vivek Ranadive is selling.

What he sold to a riveted TiEcon audience is the experience of a fabulously successful entrepreneur who is admired for his leadership skills and the ability to look into the future.

Ranadive delivered the keynote address on the third and final day of the eighth annual TiEcon to a pared down audience. He opened his talk by quipping that although people have butchered his name more than once and some have referred to TIBCO Software as an acronym for "That Indian Bastard," to describe him.

"Our technology rules on Wall Street," said Ranadive. TIBCO, which designs real-time infrastructure software for the Internet and business enterprises, raked in $250 million in 2000.

Ranadive's new book The Power of Now has received high acclaims for its depiction of how emerging technologies will shape the business world. Sun Microsystems' CEO Scott McNealy wrote the forward for the bestseller.

Ranadive shaped his talk, which was laced with a rich dose of wry humor, around the path of his own entrepreneurial career. Ranadive started his own journey in 1984 when he decided he wanted to start his own UNIX consulting company, an earlier incarnation of TIBCO.

It was an ominous time with no venture capital to be had. Not unlike the current economic climate.

"But I had an idea I couldn't get out of my head," Ranadive said.

After finding a single VC who agreed to loan him the money if he could find a customer to buy his product, Ranadive went to Wall Street where he sold his idea to former US treasury secretary Robert Rubin who was then with Goldman Sachs.

Ranadive related the anecdote of how when he had to deliver his pitch to the other Goldman top bosses over breakfast at the company office, he kept getting interrupted by a man who would walk in just as he began talking.

"The third time this happened, Bob Rubin leaned over to me and said 'every time you tap your foot it summons the waiter'."

The TiEcon audience roared with laughter but as his somewhat stoic speaking style, Ranadive betrayed only a smile.

Ranadive told the crowd that one of the reasons his company has been so successful is because he hasn't been afraid to go against conventional wisdom like surrounding himself with people who are smarter than himself and wasn't afraid of hiring prima-donnas.

"Why hire people who agree with you?" Ranadive asked rhetorically.

Ranadive ended his talk on a high note telling the crowd that the high-tech market will reach a point when the pretenders will be flushed out and the real entrepreneurs will weather the storm.

"In strong winds even turkeys can fly." And again the audience roared.

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