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The Godmother of Indian Technology Startups: Asha Jadeja Motwani

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Before I tell you why I have anointed Asha as God Mother of the valley, the following historical perspective on Asha’a late husband, Rajeev Motwani is to be understood. 

Rajeev was not only a noted professor in Computer Science at Stanford University but he has the author of the famous Page Rank paper that lead to the formation of Google. In fact, Rajeev was the third individual stockholder of Google – the other two being the co-founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin. 

The financial benefits from shares of Google and other companies enabled the creation of DotEdu Ventures which was managed by the husband-wife duo. Your’s truly had the pleasure of meeting Rajeev on one occasion and was truly impressed with his knowledge, professional network, humility and helpfulness. He was known to be extremely approachable and did his best to help entrepreneurs realize their vision. Rajeev had always wanted to help budding technology entrepreneurs from South Asia. To help realize his vision Asha started Rajeev’s circle. 

WHAT IS RAJEEV’S CIRCLE?

In 2013, Asha and her team launched the program. Over the last 7 years, approximately 150 fellows from South Asia have been selected to participate in the 6-8 week program based in Silicon Valley. Rajeev’s Circle pays travel, lodging, meals and other expenses related to the Fellows “immersion” in Silicon Valley. 

These Fellows are mentored by local volunteers who assist them with their technology and business vision

A significant percentage of Fellows have launched successful companies. 

THEN CAME ALONG MITLI…    

According to its website, MITLI’s mission is, “to advance technology, innovation, Influence government policy and support women in leadership.”

An example of MITLI’s work is the India booth at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in January of this year. MITLI was the primary sponsor of the booth. Asha was appalled that unlike other countries the Government of India did not have a both 

She has been very vocal about the International “boondoggle” trips of Government of India Babu’s that do not appear to provide any benefit to Indian technology startups. Moreover, she does not believe the government does a good job in operating technology incubators and is hoping to channel government funds for more effective uses. 

In order for Indian firms to access global capital, MITLI has been lobbying the Indian government to let Indian companies directly list on overseas exchanges.  The current regulation requires the companies to first list in domestic and then seek overseas listings. 

Asha is not bashful about her strong opinions on “Babudom” and “direct listing,”  in fact she is bringing it to the attention of the PMO’s office via Twitter and Facebook. 

MAKERFEST

Asha has been solely responsible for bringing the MAKER FEST concept to India. MAKERFEST are informal events held in local communities that use/tinker with a few materials to develop products. 

SCHOOL ON THE CLOUD

Asha’s foundation calls the School in the Cloud platform as a self-organized Learning Environment (SOLE). Online instruction is available via the cloud. Typically, students are responsible for managing and maintain computer equipment. Her foundation has launched these schools in Argentina, Australia, Greece, India, Jamaica, United Kingdom and Serbia. 

Why is Asha the Godmother of Indian Technology Startups?

Aptly, the first result on a Google search for Godmother provided the following definition:  

1. a woman who presents a child at baptism and promises to take responsibility for their religious education.

2. a woman who is influential or pioneering in a movement or organization.

Although Asha is not presenting her Rajeev’s Fellow for a religious baptism, she is present for their entire “silicon valley immersion” baptism.

Asha has pioneered the Fellows program via Rajeev Circle and MITLI. I do not believe any other person of South Asian heritage comes close to matching Asha’s initiatives. 

Rajeev must be smiling.. his wife perfectly fits the definition of Godmother based on his research on page rank. 

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