Sushma Sharma is a lawyer turned entrepreneur with double masters from the University of Oxford and Columbia University. She lived and worked on Wall Street as a corporate lawyer doing billions of dollars of transactions. She lived in Hong Kong heading a department at university teaching thousands of students. And for the last twenty years she has continuously looked for her passion. Konversai is that passion.
In this interview, you hear about her unique story and background, the struggles of moving around the world while finding your passion and the ultimate inspiration behind her new company.
Konversai enables meaningful conversations between people over live video. It’s mission is the democratization of knowledge, putting human back into the heart of technology, and making the world a better place — one person, one connection, and one conversation at a time.
[0:30] It starts with a K. So when you Google Konversai, it’s K-O-N-V-E-R-S-A-I. Konversai is the world’s largest database of personal knowledge. This company is changing the way people use social media.
[1:16] Konversai is a Silicon Valley startup and world’s first market place for live video conversations. Konversai is the culmination of all [Sushma’s] life’s learning. Konversai is that passion.
[1:40] I moved to California two years ago. And everybody who has relocated knows the pains of relocation. So when we were moving from Hong Kong, we had another issue, which was my daughter was not well. And that’s when I realized that I would pay to talk to someone who’s going through what she was going through.
[2:24] I was looking to talk to someone who could help me through this situation. And I didn’t find that person.
[2:46] Why can’t we talk to someone about substance when we desperately need it? And I do not mean blogging, I do not mean writing on the net, searching, none of those.
[2:57] Live conversation with someone, why can’t we do that? Any conversation one can imagine, any knowledge one can dream of becomes accessible through Konversai.
[4:23]You need to charge me something. And if you don’t want it, you might not need the money, it’s completely fine. You donate it. We are gonna give you provisions or ways to donate that money.
[5:02] So let’s say I can teach math, I can teach guitar, each one will have a box with like…I can charge you $30 for 30 minutes for my guitar class. We don’t want people to believe that things that are valuable are free.
[6:39] I could see that you’re engaging a lot of people who are retired, and stay-at-home moms, and college students, which is great because, you know, these are the people who do have a little bit of time on hand. Like for retirees, they have a lot of experience and time on hand. Stay-at-home moms too can, you know, find time and they have their own skills and own knowledge.
[10:17] About entrepreneurship: The dynamics are very different when you’re working for someone else. Because the ultimate responsibility to train you, to get the work out of you, lies with someone else.
Entrepreneurship is hard
[11:28] It is just plain hard. It’s very nice and sounds very glamorous to say, “Hey, I’m gonna start something new.” But you are the person where basically everything ends. This is what I told my co-founder last week, that, “Hey, I cannot afford to take a sick day.”
[12:06] So there’s a different dynamic there. So you have to be ready for it and the pressure and everything. You can’t go in, and that’s something that I’ve seen in the Valley. Trust me, I love that I live here and I love the fact that this gave me an opportunity to start something new. But I have seen lots of entrepreneurs who are creating things believing that they wanna sell it in six months or one year.
That is not passion.
And without passion…that is not what will make your company successful.
[12:44] Technology is growing at a speed we can’t right now capture. If the interaction is through technology, then we’re going to use it. Use that for meaningful conversations.
Sushma’s three tips for new entrepreneurs in their 20s:
- If you are trying to build anything for people, you need to first understand people. And for that, don’t rush. What’s the rush? You’re in your 20s, you’re in your teens. You have a lot of time. Pace your life, make it fun. Don’t rush, but keep dreaming.
2) You learn when you work in big organizations, you learn how it’s run, how people work together, or how the chemistry works, how the human resource works, how people make decisions. If you want to build one, you better know how one works.
3) The final thing would be learn to have fun. You know, there is time when you will say, “Oh, I wish I was in my 20s and I had done that.” So do all that, don’t have any regrets, have fun. And make friends, as many as you can when you’re that young. Because it gets harder the older you get.
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