When I finally left Microsoft, I left with two pieces of paper. One was a $1 bill signed by Bill Gates. So the rite of passage in Microsoft is when you argue with Bill and Steve, and can hold your own. That’s when you win respect.
Once Bill had come to India and we boarded his plane for Chennai, at around 11.30 pm. Melinda was also there, and Bill began grilling me intensely. He was curious and it was his way of testing if you know your stuff. We got into an argument that night — about something that wasn’t particularly consequential. I was tired too and irritable, and thought why should I back off? Bill’s wrong. I was unrelenting, and after half an hour, he gave in. He said, you are right! Melinda turned to him and handed him a dollar. He signed, “I was wrong — Bill Gates” on that and gave it to me. It was a little humour on his part but it’s something I treasure… the framed bill, that’s my retirement plan! I’m going to auction it, if I ever need to!
Overall, those eight years at Microsoft were spectacular. But, by 2010, I was bored silly. I decided I had to move on and did not want to be an employee again. There comes a time when you are not enjoying what you do, but you don’t know what else to do. Usually, people stick around but I walked out, without much of a plan.
I had lunch with Mr Murthy one day and asked him for advice. He asked me to join the board of Infosys and, in April 2011, I did. I was already on the board of Volvo, and I had also started writing my first book Conquering the Chaos.
By that time, Will Poole had started Unitus Ventures and he persuaded me to join him. That’s one of the most active impact investors in India today. He asked me to start Social Venture Partners in Bengaluru. I did, and today it’s a thriving organisation across seven cities with 250 partners.
Thus, a picture of the perfect life began to emerge for me, which had board responsibilities, writing, teaching and philanthropy.