Ep560: Mahesh Murthy – Trust but Verify Startup Founders

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Quick take

BIO: Mahesh Murthy has helped launch Amazon, over 60 startups, a few hundred brands, and a few satellites. He’s a marketer, entrepreneur, and investor.

STORY: Mahesh invested close to $400,000 into a startup only to discover that one of the founders was siphoning money via his sister and mother.

LEARNING: Verify startup founders before investing in them. Hire someone to monitor your investments if you cannot do it yourself. Invest in a minimum of 10 startups instead of just one.


“Never give your entire investment to one person.”

Mahesh Murthy


Guest profile

Mahesh Murthy has helped launch Amazon, over 60 startups, a few hundred brands, and a few satellites. He’s a marketer, entrepreneur, and investor.

As a marketer he:

  • Worked on Amazon, Pepsi, and Nike
  • Helped launch MTV and its rival Channel V.
  • Founded ad firm Pinstorm.
  • Wrote ads, including ‘Asia’s best ad of the decade.”

As an entrepreneur he:

  • Failed in his first three ventures.
  • Is taking a company public soon
  • Has taken another into space: Asia’s first private firm to launch satellites

As an investor he:

  • Has run three venture funds
  • Was voted India’s “Best VC of the Year.” Twice.

Worst investment ever

Mahesh was lucky to be in the US at the start of the Dotcom revolution working at one of the early digital advertising firms in Silicon Valley. He read about a small startup in Seattle that wanted to sell stuff online.

Mahesh went to his boss and told him about the startup, but he dismissed him. But he prevailed, and finally, the boss allowed him to meet the startup’s founders. The startup was Amazon. Mahesh started working with Amazon, and in the process, he learned a lot from Jeff Bezos.

After a few years, Mahesh decided to return to India and take his e-commerce knowledge there. He also started doing a lot of angel investing. Through this, he met two founders who wanted to teach students outside India online.

Mahesh was very excited about the idea and was ready to invest. The two founders hired teachers, and the teaching started. Mahesh was pretty much hands-off and would write a check every three months. The founders would update him on the progress and insist they had everything under control.

Soon, Mahesh noticed the company was spending so much money renting computers and an office space bigger than necessary. He kept asking why the founders were doing this instead of buying the computers and renting a smaller space. The founders insisted that they just wanted to be flexible and not invest in assets they knew nothing about. Mahesh just bought into all this.

Finally, after about two years of pumping so much money into the company without much progress, Mahesh decided to look deeper into how things were running. He went to the office, and while looking at the financial books, he noticed that the people renting out the computers and the space were related. He dug a little deeper, did a few Google searches, then figured out that the computers belonged to one of the founder’s sisters and the space belonged to his mother. This partner was taking a chunk of money from the company and putting it into his own pocket through his mother and sister. Mahesh was incensed. When he asked the founder about it, he exited the company. When the second founder heard about it, he also left the company.

Now Mahesh had very little money left, a company with no leadership, about 25 staff, and no customers. He and his partner jumped in and did what they could to find some customers, paid the teachers full pay, and slowly let them off.

About two years later, they sold the company to another company building an education giant and got some shares in it. Up to that point, Mahesh had invested close to $400,000, and he only managed to get about $40,000 back when the new owners took the company public.

Lessons learned

  • Nobody’s a good judge of character, so don’t trust people blindly.
  • Being hands-off may be easy and fantastic, but it won’t help your investments.
  • Ensure all the paperwork is correct and your tax is done correctly.
  • Hire somebody who will track and monitor your investments if you cannot be hands-on.

Andrew’s takeaways

  • If you’re going to invest in startups, invest in 10 startups, not just one.
  • Monitor your investment regularly.
  • Get your complete financial statements, balance sheet, and income statement monthly and hold a monthly meeting to review them.

Actionable advice

If you’re investing in a startup, hire a chartered accountant who will look deep into the books on your behalf. Additionally, put the systems in place to monitor your investments so you don’t get scammed.

No.1 goal for the next 12 months

Mahesh Murthy’s goal for the next 12 months is to launch more satellites and segments.

Parting words


“Trust but verify.”

Mahesh Murthy


Read full transcript

Andrew Stotz 00:01
Hello fellow risk takers and welcome to my worst investment ever stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community. We know that to win in investing, you must take risk but to win big, you've got to reduce it. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm on a mission to help 1 million people reduce risk in their lives to reduce risk in your life, go to my worst investment ever.com today and take the risk reduction assessment I created from the lessons I've learned from more than 500 guests. Fellow risk takers this is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz, from a Stotz Academy, and I'm here with featured guests, Mahesh Murthy Mahesh, are you ready to join the mission?

Mahesh Murthy 00:43
Oh, yes, I've failed. So often. I you know, I just should have been featured in all 500 of those. But yeah, happy to be here.

Andrew Stotz 00:50
Yeah, it's amazing. You know, you you said the same thing that everybody says is that I got so many I don't know which one to choose from. But I always tell people, well pick that story that really has a lesson to it. So there we go. I want to introduce you to the audience. Mahesh has helped launch Amazon, over 60 startups, a few 100 brands and a few satellites. He's a marketer, entrepreneur and investor. As a marketer. He worked on Pepsi on Amazon, Pepsi and Nike. He helped launch MTV and its rival channel V, he founded an ad firm named pin storm. And he wrote ads, including Asia's best ad of the decade. As an entrepreneur, he failed in his first three ventures, and is taking a company public soon, and is taken another indie space, Asia's first private firm, to launch satellites. As an investor, he has run three venture funds, and was voted India's best VC of the year, twice. So wow, take a minute and fill in a little bit more Mahesh about the value that you bring to this world.

Mahesh Murthy 02:05
Can I tell you the value I don't bring? I have no formal education. Andrew, I'm a high school dropout. So it's the value of being is I think, take the point of view, which comes up from the ground, which isn't necessarily taught in any MBA school that I know of. But I've hired people from all the different people from so I'm a bit of a marketer a bit of on ground truth, so to speak, as in, you know, I've been selling stuff and been walking the streets since I was 17. And I actually take all theoretical knowledge and projections and put it in a budget meter right up against, look, I've been there I've done that I've sold to these guys, that doesn't seem quite right. So I think that's the only thing I bring here, which is a healthy disrespect for, you know, what is taken to be common sense, or what is taken to be, you know, well known so called facts. So I'm the, in some ways a non NBA or the Yeah, the other voice in the room, the uneducated yoga.

Andrew Stotz 03:04
That's why the anti NBA said it, man. I like it. It's interesting, because one of the people I studied with was a guy named Dr. W. Edwards Deming. And he was saying, you know, MBA is teaching it all wrong. They're teaching people the wrong way to manage people. They're teaching people, you know, to just focus on numbers and set targets and all that, and people, many young people are getting lost in this stuff. And they think that doing a good job means, you know, setting up KPI, key performance indicators, and then kicking everybody's butt. And they just miss so much of what really, really works in motivating people and getting people excited about your ideas.

Mahesh Murthy 03:49
that end, I think the other thing about MBA is that the education kind of all got peer grouping, what's the other guy doing? You know, what's his starting salary? What's my starting salary? What's his seriously into things about? Well, I need to fit in? And I do I need to slot myself and be in that cohort. So it's about blind thinking. And often, you know, it's like, what's the other guy getting for his startup? What is his valuation, that should be my valuation? He bought a BMW five series, I can make do with a three series, I need a five series and so on, so forth. So it's blind benchmarking of senseless metrics, whether it's personal or business that's kind of, you know, because like you said, it's it, it basically puts a numerical value on everything out there. And often, numerical values by themselves don't don't have any make any difference don't make any sense. So I think that's really where even my last lesson came from, from people who just played, you know, basically, you don't blindly benchmark greed for instance, and said, well, that guy is so greedy. I've got to be as greedy as that and gave it back to you. So I think that's really where it all came from.

Andrew Stotz 04:58
Blind benchmarking of meaningless metrics? Wow, that's a great one. I think you know that the lesson too is that when you're so focused on benchmarking against another company, another individual, the big loss to society is that you're just trying to meet or match are a little bit exceed that. And you're missing the huge opportunities that are out there, that are going to come from focusing on your customer, not your competitor.

Mahesh Murthy 05:31
You know, and I keep coming up with this all the time with people who give me all these very complex spreadsheets. So you know, I've done this extensive consumer customer analysis, and this is how we're going to win against the others. And, you know, if they have features ABCDE, I'm going to do ABCDE, F, G, and H. And if he's selling at 100 bucks, I'm going to sell at 95 bucks. And that's why when, and it leads me to think, you know, and ask, Well, have you been figured that the customer wants F GNH? Or have you haven't figured that the customer actually wants to be less than 100? Or is he willing to pay more, as opposed to you know, just this entire business isn't about, you know, blindly benchmarking, as we talked about it, it's about having an insight into the customer and saying, Well, what is he looking for? What is she looking for? And what is it you can give that others can't, or others aren't? As opposed to saying, Well, this is what my rivals do. I mean, I keep saying, you know, the best way to defeat your competition is to ignore them and focus on your customers. And if you keep your customers happy, your competition will diverge. But the minute you start focusing on your competition, you're not going to get anywhere Well, you know, for a long, long time.

Andrew Stotz 06:40
So for the listeners out there, I mean, this already is a great lesson. And it's a great lesson. It's a masterclass in strategy, really, because ultimately, strategy is about where you direct your energy and where you choose not to direct your energy. And the lesson from this, I hear is direct your energy to satisfying and delighting your customer. And you'll be amazed at how far you'll go as you continue to develop them rather than trying to set your strategy to be a me to copycat, a little bit better than so great masterclass, right there in strategy, I appreciate them. So, now it's time to share your worst investment ever. And since no one goes into their worst investment thinking, Uh, well, we take a minute and fill in a bit about the circumstances leading up to it, then tell us your story.

Mahesh Murthy 07:31
Alright, so my background basically was, I was lucky enough to be in the US at the start of the.com revolution I, I was with Silicon Valley from an advertising firm, one of the early digital advertising firms. Actually, they goofed up and made me a board director, etc. They gave me a territory to run. And I read about the small, tiny startup in Seattle that had five or six people that wanted to sell stuff online. And I remember going to my board and saying, hey, you know, those guys, those are the guys we must handle. And my partner said, come on. I mean, it's b2c. It's never going to happen. b2c, that's nonsense. And we were doing a lot of work with MCA and McDonald's and a bunch of other kinds of b2b companies. Right? And, but I really prevailed and I kind of began to notice that I've got to go this, you got to get this and finally they blessed and said, Alright, go meet, meet them. So I went to her, you know, met this little step, you know, stepping up, a company called Amazon started working with them. You know, a couple of years that I had designed, I learned a lot from Jeff, who was my dad, kind of only seven people in the company, and so on, so forth. Anyway, fast forward. After that, I decided the company my company went public got acquired, I had a couple of CO Jobs was interesting, I thought I'd kind of come back to India and bring this little ecommerce and, you know, knowledge back to India. So I came back to India and I started also a lot of angel investing in on the west coast in the US. And so my background before that I was an advertising guy, it reflected so interesting. When I was 15 years earlier, I was working with a small agency and I had applied for a job in a bigger place. And this guy kind of interviewed me and said, my work wasn't good enough. So alright, so anyway, 15 years later, I was doing some interesting work and, you know, so I came back to India and who were approached me about this guy, my ex boss, you know, and of course, I the switch spot for him. I had a lot of respect for him and kind of, you know, little he was the guy who turned me down and didn't hire me. And he came to me saying, hey, you know, my partner and I have a good idea. What we want to do is we have so many teachers in India and we want to teach students outside India, right school students. And, you know, education, we are good teachers. And we simply want to deliver the education online. Now remember, this was 99 2000. Back then. So I was off by, you know, maybe 1015 years, much bandwidths were like 9.6 kbps, or something that sucks. Nevertheless, I was very excited and said, Okay, this sounds great. Let's create this company to, you know, hire teachers in India and teach students outside India. So we started, and we kind of figured, alright, and because the teachers in India, were teaching to particular set Indian School syllabus, we said, let's actually start with Indian schools, and schools that run an Indian service outside India. So there's lots of places including every embassy, large Indian Embassy in the world, plus places where there's a lot of Indians as in the Middle East, or, you know, East Africa and Southeast Asia, where there are Indian service schools, right. So we focus on them, we hired teachers, and we started. And, you know, my entire thing was, I was pretty much hands off. And every month, it's how's it going? And he's got he and his partner comebacks, it's going really well, it's going really well. And every few months, I say, it's going well, you know, we will have breakthroughs convenient, because more money, and I put in more money and more money. And I think my, you know, my naivety and my stupidity was that I was a little in awe of this guy who's my, you know, was senior to me. And I just believed him. And I, all I did was every three months write another check and said, That's good. You know, tell me how I can help is no, no, we're doing fine. Finally, after about two years of this in 2000, to 2001, and he said, you know, we need a lot of money. At which point I, you know, my partner, I was investing from my own pocket, and I said, let's, let's dive into this and look a little so we went to the office, you know, and it was not my, I believed it was a little uncool to land up at your industry companies offices, and kind of be, you know, be the investigator. But but we did, because it was two years. And, you know, we kept hearing promises, and, and we saw, you know, and oh, sorry, a small segue, every time we'd say, Look, we're spending so much on renting computers so much on renting office Fine, fine, just buy these computers, right. And back, then you can buy a decent computer for, you know, I'd say about 30 or 40,000 30,000 rupees, and we were still paying at that time about, you know, 3000 rupees a month to rent each computer. So in that sense, we could have bought it within 10 months of the rental, we paid for it, but it was only 24 months, we were still renting. And I keep saying, you know, why are we paying for this? And why are we paying for this space, you know, we had large space, we had about 20 teachers, and we had about, you know, they could easily fit in 2000 square feet. But we rented 4000 square feet. And you know, those line items, so computer rentals and, and space rentals would just simply, you know, wipe a huge amount of cost out every month. And I kept saying, why are we doing this? And I was told by others? No, no, you know, we just want to be flexible. We don't want to invest in assets that we don't know anything about. And you know, we'll grow. That's why, you know, we don't take space here, we take it right to the beginning. So I just bought into all this. And a couple of years later, I said, Look, come on, we're not growing, we're still renting computers. 24 months later, we paid for the computer three times over already, and they still renting them, which is about 30 machines, and we're renting all this space, you know, double the space that we need more than double the space we need. And we're not taking revenues, etc. And unrepented right, and I then met the teachers are, you know, you know, they're very enthusiastic bunch, so and so forth. You know, obviously, one issue was we were not having sales. So try to figure out why that wasn't happening. Meanwhile, as an aside, I said, Okay, you know, I just said, Just Just send me all the receipts and so forth, right? And I just want to see what all the expenses and they were kind of handled. Among the expenses, I kind of found the strange thing where the middle name of often the people signing the receipts for the computers, was the same as the middle name of some of another person said, you know, signing the rental receipt. So that's very strange. We are, you know, we have quite a we renting coincidentally. I mean, is it a coincidence that people that were renting the computers from are related to the people that were renting the space for? And then I dug a little deeper, I did a few Google searches, then I figured out that we were renting the computers from the founders system. And we were renting the space from his mother, you know, not this guy, but his partner that incensed me. So essentially what he was doing was he was simply taking a chunk of change and putting it into his own pocket. Right. My buddy teacher has been getting paid. He was making sure he was getting paid hand over fist because literally, you know, two thirds of the running costs of the company was this computer rental in the space rental. So he He was paying himself friend, why his mother he was paying himself for the computers by his wife, who was being himself something else, why his sister? And he kept saying, you know, I'm not thinking really any salary. And I got incensed, because, you know, for me, this was an extraordinary breach of faith. So I went to him and said, you know, is it true that you're, you're renting the space? From your mother says, Yeah, well, you know, it's, I'm just being commercial rentals. I said, but you're renting two and a half times the space. And you know, you've been taking this money from day one, while we've not been able to hire teachers, or invest in marketing, citizens to be renting all these computers. Oh, yeah. But you know, but we have to do that. So but you know, in all this time of all the money that I've given you, you've taken 60% of your money home personally, yourself. Alright? Aren't you ashamed of yourself? And he got very pissed off. So you know, what, you don't look at the other guys in other companies with how much they're taking home? I, you know, am I at least I need to take home this much. And, you know, be, you know, I'm not just taking it home this way. You know, we're, you know, it's market prices, who works at market price, you know, you're a startup and so on, so forth. And there was a really, really long and not very pleasant discussion. And well, at the end of it, he came and saw you seems like you've lost faith in me, I just don't want to work with you. I'm gonna get out of this company. I said, Alright, man, that's, that's fine. Because this is, this is cheating. Cheating, right? You're just basically ripping me off by simply sending me bills from you know, unrelated people, from you know, from related people for things that you don't need. And, you know, the other font of my, the guy who's who I have a lot of respect for. I said, Look, dude, you know, I expected a little more muted this do you notice happening? This is yeah, he was a bit of a, you know, fist bubble guy was a creative guy. And yeah, but you know, it's okay. He's a business guy. And, and, you know, the worst thing that happened was he came a month later, I said, Well, you know, if you can fire him, um, you know, what, what base do I have? You can find me as well. It's not firing in the sense he was cheating. And, you know, that's, that's a clear breach of the agreement we've written, but he was cheating me. Right. And you should be lucky. I haven't reported him and put him in jail. This is No, no, no, you know, I'm very insecure not but because if you can take out that guy, if you take out this guy, before you take me out, I'm going to leave as well. So suddenly, we had this crazy point where we had to settle, but 60% of the money had been stolen by one of the founders, the teachers, the poor, people who'd left good, you know, tenure jobs were not being paid. We had very little money left, and put founders had exited, and we were screwed. So, I had this company with no leadership, about 25 staff, no customers, no money. And so that's been the hottest started, that's when you know, my partner, I dug in, jumped in, did what we could, we went abroad, try to find some customers, we did whatever it is, it took about one and a half years, we found a little bit of money, some few customers here and there. We paid the teachers, we slowly let them off, we paid them, you know, pretty much in full and we developed some content. And about two years later, we sold it for some, you know, I think 2002 or three to another Fence Company who was building an education giant, and we got some shares in that company in 2003 or two. And then what was worse was that, you know, by sending money to this guy, I was sending it, you know, from one of these, one of my bank accounts, and he had failed to report it as an investment. Right, he had kind of reported it as revenue. So we started getting hit with tax bills, because my investment was reported as revenue and the revenue guys came and said, pay tax on that. So it was like a triple whammy, right. So I put money and then had to pay tax on the money. I have put in a huge amount of time to clear that out. We fought cases in court that lasted the next eight years. You know, it was a terrible, terrible story overall. But finally, I think in 2017 or 1815 years after I sold the shares for a pittance. So, you know, I'd invested something like $350,000 Something like $4.8 thousand it went public and I got about $40,000 back. So I made 10 cents on the dollar or something of that sort.

Andrew Stotz 19:28
It went public as in the company that you sold it to that you got share. Yeah,

Mahesh Murthy 19:32
yeah, the choir went public and I you know, I, I had a kind of 0.1 exit on the entire things apart from an extraordinary loss. So it was you know, my partner, and I would, we would keep consoling ourselves saying, you know, when we were going through this harder by saying look, this is a character building exercise.

Andrew Stotz 19:58
Character building

Mahesh Murthy 19:59
you By the end of it, we said, you know, my muscles are bulging with character. I can't take any more character, you don't have way too much character right now.

Andrew Stotz 20:07
I'll take money now. Yeah, I

Mahesh Murthy 20:08
just don't want any more character. I'm like, simply, I'm buffered character right now. So that that if anything was one, one of the horror stories so how

Andrew Stotz 20:19
would you? How would you describe the lessons that you learned?

Mahesh Murthy 20:23
Oh, gosh, right. You know, of course, you know, the first one was, I was, you know, I always thought that I was a good judge of character. And just a reminder to myself, nobody's a good judge of character, right? Even even no matter how much you think, too. I kind of figured that. It's, you know, being hands off and all this very cool, but it's not very useful. I mean, you've got to be hands on far more often, you know, because if one more company asked for this happening later on one of the guys, you know, had particular headcount on his salary sheets. But we went, when we went to his office, we found three people on the head, headcount, we're not in the office, and later on, be on inquiring, we found it was his wife, his wife, sister, and you know, a brother. Right? So again, we shut that company down. Because, yeah, this is a common way for Indian entrepreneurs. I don't know about Tyra, you know, siphoning Yeah, to siphon money out by by putting, you know, fake people on the, on the payroll soon. So one lesson was, don't don't go with don't just, you can trust anybody, it doesn't matter. Make sure the paperwork is not. Second, again, the importance of people when it comes to I was sending money. And, you know, I had no idea that these guys were accounting it wrongly, right, they're accounted as revenue as opposed to as investment. So it was a huge tax issue. So make sure your tax stuff is right. Third, make sure there's a second line, you know, if you end up firing, the founders of the founders cheat, or steal money, there's got to be somebody else. So you're gonna end up running the company, and for two years, we ran a company to do nothing about right, doing anything, we could spending a lot more money and, you know, in effect, throwing good money after bad. And maybe, you know, in retrospect, we could have simply shut it down earlier, and just let it all go. And, and we would have probably come out slightly further ahead. But we just kept trying to do the good thing. And we were able to salvage, you know, a tiny, tiny bit point 1x, at the end of the entire exercise, so loads of lessons on pretty much a wake up call for me. I mean, I was then merely angel investing. And that was the road to creating my first venture fund. And so I was, you know, it just, once you do this on the ground, you you you learn, you just learn a lot better in terms of the tests, the checks and balances, you need to do the paperwork, you need to no matter, you could be investing in your in your best friend. But you still got to get a hack to get the paperwork done.

Andrew Stotz 22:54
So maybe I'll summarize a couple of things I take away. The first one is that I basically categorized all the mistakes, or let's say, six most common mistakes that people make, I've come up with that. And the number one most common one is that they failed to do their research. Number two is that they failed to properly assess and manage risks. Number three is that they were driven by emotion or flawed thinking, but I'm thinking about you about number four, which is misplaced trust, they just trusted the wrong person. And you know that that was significant. And then number five, I think, also relates to this, which is failed to monitor their investment. And then number six actually relates to because it's called, invested in a startup. And I just found so many people that have lost all their money in startups, you know. So the takeaways that I would give number one is, if you're going to invest in startups, invest in 10. Startups never invest in one.

Mahesh Murthy 23:51
And to be honest, in 20, right? Statistically, I've looked at this, the numbers start working for you. And when when you vary the 20 mark, you have a reasonable chance that two or three of them will give you 10x, another two or three mmm, with up to 3x Five will die, and another five or seven will be zombies, you know, put it all together, you will end up with 20% of, you know, 15 to 25% IRR depending on how it works out, right. So it's 20 its portfolio game, it's like you don't invest in one stock, you invest in penny stocks, you invest in 20 startups. Perfect.

Andrew Stotz 24:22
So that's great advice from a master. And I think for the listeners out there, you know, the next time someone comes to you and say, I got this great idea, and I want you to invest, you just tell them hold on. I've got to invest in 19 others before I start investing in yours. So the second thing

Mahesh Murthy 24:39
I have to commit to investing in 20. You know, I mean, you may be number 14, but I can't give you all my money, I need to make sure that my money is divided across, you know, 15 to 20 or more startups. So there's a reasonable chance that two or three will because, look, if he knew which two or three would work out, we would never invest in the other 17 But we don't know. Right? So hence you have to roll the dice 20 times And we'll get that and then two or three will come up 60s. Yeah. The

Andrew Stotz 25:03
other takeaway is something that I tell like I do an out one part of my business as an outsourced CFO, where we basically just help companies particularly that are struggling to get their accounting and finance in order and all that. But what I've realized now, after my own experience, investing in my own businesses, and the like, is this have monthly, full financial statements, balance sheet, and income statement and have a monthly meeting to review them? If you do this, almost all of the problems that you are going to face can be resolved, because you would start saying, wait a minute, why is this revenue booked? When we didn't have any revenue? Oh, wait a minute. So you're, you're booking the capital influx into the company as revenue? No, that's got to stop now? And what are these expenses, you know, and that type of thing. So you can solve a lot of problems. And I know that the thing is, is that we want to trust people, and we want to say, you know, they know what they're doing, and all that. No, they don't. Most people, most entrepreneurs know nothing about accounting and finance. And they just put it aside, they think that they can just do it later, and then accumulate an absolute mess, and undoing a mess. That has happened six months, 12 months, 24 months ago, is a huge project. So that's kind of my biggest takeaway. And for everybody out there, for your own business, for businesses that you're investing in, get those financial statements every month. And if somebody goes, nah, we just need to have him once a year, we've got this account, and he doesn't know, for my money is once a month. Anything you would add to that?

Mahesh Murthy 26:44
Well, my thing was, you know, the two kind of modulations of that is I was happy with three or once in three months, because there was simply not enough business, we didn't have enough money to pay Carmen transplant, but once a few months is reasonable check, given that it's a low amount of outflow. The second thing is, you know, I couldn't change my character, I can't, couldn't become an uninteresting per person overnight. So I really went from trust, to trust but verify, right? So finally, so there is still that, you know, right brain side of me that says, Yeah, I have to emotionally bond and understand what this is about. But I need somebody else. So essentially, I had to do a good cop, bad cop thing. I had somebody else in the front and said, Look, this is a DD guy, and he or she is going to dig in, you know, do the truck ology or whatever it is to figure out because you can you can get an invoice but somebody has to dive behind invoice to see who's invoicing. Is that a legit party? Is it a related party, right? Because just not the appearance of, you know, putting a number on the spreadsheet, but diving into see is that number here, because we got the correct numbers. It's just that those numbers were from a wrong source, right, were from a related party source, which kind of sort of, you know, and you've got to put the numbers together with the story saying, This person keeps insisting that we need to rent computers and rent more space than we need. And then we'll have figured out that he's renting from his wife and sister. Right? So when you put that together, you know, it's fraud. So you know, so it's both of these, you need the soft and the hard sides. And probably, if you're an investor, make sure that you have somebody who's hard edged. So you can keep your good cop, you know, smile longer guy and not necessarily become an asshole or whatever. But you have somebody else in your side who is doing you know, the deep, the deep dive. So those are two my own kind of slight, you know, views on that.

Andrew Stotz 28:30
Let me introduce you to my Pitbull. He's really nice. Except you for a nice off leash.

Mahesh Murthy 28:38
Yeah, we just said that's my DD guy, my duty. I have a DD guy, you know, you kind of don't, that's my DD guy. Don't worry, he's gonna look into it. Later on, they find out that you know that person is that's a pretty forensic exam that person is doing.

Andrew Stotz 28:52
So based on what you learned from this story, and what you continue to learn, what action would you recommend our listeners take to avoid suffering the same fate.

Mahesh Murthy 29:01
Make sure that you don't invest alone. Make sure that if you're investing that you have, you know, a chartered accountant or somebody, an accountant you really dislike who's been unkind to you, because they were so thorough, but get that person on your side working for you was able to look at the books and look deep into the books as opposed to look at them. Superficially, that's, that's one that I would really recommend. And, you know, outside of that, just make sure that the company has a second line or a third line because uh, you may be you may end up at a point where, if it's a one person company, and that person leaves is nobody else, make sure that there is a C team, you know, there's a CX team of somebody who can take over till you can find somebody else. And in the early stage, do you know make sure that if you have, say, you know, $20,000 keep $10,000 for each of 20 investments, don't don't give every you know, one person $100,000 So make sure that you have the stamina to be able to do that or invest in a group there are angel groups everywhere. sure they're in backlog, they already come together investment group, but make sure in those cases as well, there is your Pitbull DD person who's whose job it is to go, these things tend to get cleaned up a little as you go, you know, as you get into CS ACSB, but not fully. Indian papers are full of entrepreneurs who have raised 100 million who are unicorns who have defrauded their companies of 50 million plus, personally. So fraud is rampant in the entrepreneurial space, because it's greed, it's rampant. So just make sure that you get, understand that there's a bunch of people who are out there who are taking your money, and they don't think it's enough. So they will do whatever it is to rip as many people off of money as possible. So just make sure you don't know who they are, to make sure you put the systems in place. So that that doesn't happen to your money.

Andrew Stotz 30:49
Last question, what's your number one goal for the next 12 months?

Mahesh Murthy 30:55
To launch more satellites and segments, you know, send more of them. So we've done for already, I hope to launch another for the next 12 months. And, you know, that's a big business I can do, I spent a lot of time in advertising, where you'd spend, you know, one month, you know, two weeks doing a campaign two weeks trying to sell it to a client and at the end of the day probably make, you know, five figure US dollars in fees. So you know, figure for that kind of work. Selling satellite service. You know, you sell one, it's you're in your you're in the you know, six, seven figure mark already, you know, so it's just, I've learned the difference between good products and services. So I kind of go through a bit of a chain myself, somebody, advertising copywriter, turn, satellite, guy, whatever, you know, it's a beard.

Andrew Stotz 31:46
There you go. When you look up in the sky, we'll see you well, hopefully

Mahesh Murthy 31:50
not the birds out there. I'm not going to go up there. So these communication and observation satellites, and there's a lot of fun. I've learned a lot in doing this in making

Andrew Stotz 32:00
exciting. Well, listeners, there you have it another story of loss to keep you winning. If you haven't yet taken the risk reduction assessment, I challenge you to go to my worst investment ever.com right now and start building wealth the easy way by reducing risk. As we conclude, Mahesh. I want to thank you again for joining our mission and on behalf of a Stotz Academy, I hereby award you alumni status for turning your worst investment ever into your best teaching moment. Do you have any parting words for the audience?

Mahesh Murthy 32:31
Split verify,

Andrew Stotz 32:33
trust but verify what great parting words and that's a wrap on another great story to help us create, grow and protect our well fellow risk takers. Let's celebrate that today. We added one more person to our mission to help 1 million people reduce risk in their lives. This is your worst podcast host Andrew Stotz saying I'll see you on the upside.


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About the show & host, Andrew Stotz

Welcome to My Worst Investment Ever podcast hosted by Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, where you will hear stories of loss to keep you winning. In our community, we know that to win in investing you must take the risk, but to win big, you’ve got to reduce it.

Your Worst Podcast Host, Andrew Stotz, Ph.D., CFA, is also the CEO of A. Stotz Investment Research and A. Stotz Academy, which helps people create, grow, measure, and protect their wealth.

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