John Chambers, who simply turned 70, prefers to take any stage at a run. In his tech fashionable uniform—blue blazer, designer denims, checked shirt, and blue boat footwear—he nonetheless exudes the bodily power of his profitable tenure as CEO at Cisco Programs, which he grew from an annual income of $2.2 billion in 1995 to $49 billion in 2015 when he stepped down. At this time Chambers runs his personal boutique funding agency, JC2 Companions, in Palo Alto, California. He prefers to name himself a mentor to startup CEOs quite than a enterprise capitalist. When he’s not in Silicon Valley he can typically be present in India, the place he advises Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s authorities on digital transformation and the financial system. I caught up with Chambers in mid-August:
Forbes Asia: Why are you curious about startups?
Chambers: I did 180 acquisitions at Cisco. Although Cisco was massive, I needed to assume like a startup CEO. I imagine that many of the improvements will come from startups sooner or later. Giant firms are motivated by this quarter and this yr. However massive improvements take you three to 5 years out, and also you want braveness to go for it and no concern to make it occur. That favors a startup mentality.
That’s not the accepted view. Many forecasters assume tech giants like Google, Amazon, Alibaba and Tencent will drive innovation for the following decade.
Chambers: Not what I see. I train at Stanford. I forgot the final Stanford pupil that went to a big firm. They go to startups. Identical factor at MIT. Identical factor with the IITs in India. Even with Polytechnique in France. The world desperately wants wholesome startups. Giant firms, due to AI, are usually not going to develop head depend for the following decade. Or perhaps ever once more. So subsequently all job creation should come from these smaller firms getting massive.
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Are you overhyping digital transformation and AI?
Chambers: No. It’s the most important development within the final 30 years, because the commercialization of the Web. Greater even. It’s going to produce an affect two or thrice what the Web did and in a a lot quicker tempo. It’s accelerating.
How do you want being a VC?
Chambers: I’m not an actual VC. I’m extra of a strategic companion with these startups. I herald expertise to assist them develop in scale. I’m a mentor and coach, and an investor. As soon as the crew will get to know me, investing might be quantity three or 4 of what they’re after by way of my time and my power. I train about 40 particular person classes a month. My thought of enjoyable is to take 12 startup CEOs on per week of tenting and fishing in Alaska.
Will Silicon Valley stay the dominant hatchery for high-tech startups?
Chambers: The $600 billion within the valuation of U.S. unicorns provides Silicon Valley a false sense of optimism. In reality, the variety of startups which can be being put within the pipeline and the quantity which can be popping out is half of what we did the 1990s.
Why are you so bullish on India?
Chambers: In case you imagine that digital transformation and AI are financial and social recreation changers, with a possible affect higher than the web, then you definitely have a look at how a rustic thinks about this for his or her future. PM Modi is the very best chief on the planet on this matter. He will get the necessity to construct a startup ecosystem as a result of that’s the place nearly all of your jobs will happen. He will get the execution, too: How you alter schooling, construct good cities, enhance safety, create inclusion. I’ve met each chief on the planet a number of instances over the past 30-some years, and Modi is within the prime three. I might say India is executing on the very excessive finish of what’s occurring anyplace on the planet. The financial system in India, for my part, will develop between 7% to 11% for the following decade.
Extra on Forbes: Former Cisco CEO John Chambers Singles Out The U.S. As The ‘Solely Nation In The World With out A Startup Technique’
Is that progress sustainable?
Chambers: You’re actually asking, “Is India totally different?” Sure, and it’s not simply Modi’s imaginative and prescient. It’s their IITs. India is graduating 600,000 engineers a yr. A dozen of the IITs are doing startup incubation teams. Keep in mind, it took China over twenty years to actually get rolling in tech startups after which go explosive within the final 10 years. India could make this transfer in actually a decade.
Type of like Singapore below Lee Kuan Yew.
Chambers: If Singapore had 200 million individuals, it’d rule the world.
Are you bullish on the remainder of Southeast Asia?
Chambers: I feel Southeast Asian international locations like Indonesia and Vietnam would be the subsequent inflection factors. Their economies are already rising mid-single digits, perhaps slightly bit higher than that. They’ve younger populations. They’ve a job mannequin in India. Deep down most of them have a concern of China, which implies they are going to be extra of a follower of India. So, sure, I feel in India is the place I’d double down at this time and Southeast Asia is the place I’d be doubling down in 5 to 10 years.