INSAAF MOHIDEEN

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - THIS & THAT -

On the buzz I fea­ture this in­ter­na­tional su­per­star who be­lieves in giv­ing back, Insaaf Mohideen, a Sri Lankan - Amer­i­can who has had a highly suc­cess­ful ca­reer over the past 25 years span­ning across fi­nance, man­age­ment con­sult­ing, tech­nol­ogy and en­trepreneur­ship, and is one of the ini­tial in­vestors for In­sta­gram. He is cur­rently the Chief In­vest­ment Of­fi­cer for one of the largest In­ter­na­tional Sovereign Funds manag­ing a multi bil­lion dol­lar tech fund, and Found­ing Pres­i­dent of a Health­care com­pany. Ad­di­tion­ally, he has in­vested and ad­vised 100+ sto­ried Sil­i­con Val­ley star­tups span­ning across Fin-tech, so­cial me­dia, cloud com­pute, big data and ma­chine learn­ing.

Insaaf re­ceived his Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence from the Univer­sity of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia and sub­se­quently his MBA from the Univer­sity of Cal­i­for­nia, Berkeley.

Apart from all the cool things above, he also loves the out­doors, he is al­ways trav­el­ling and now at­tempt­ing a climb like never be­fore, only 2 Sri Lankans have been suc­cess­ful thus far - he wants to climb the mother of all moun­tains, Mount Ever­est with­out oxy­gen. Read all about him and what he hopes to do for the youth of this coun­try on the buzz to­day!

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON STAR­TUPS? AND WHERE DO YOU SEE SMALL BUSI­NESS IN SRI LANKA HEAD­ING?

Star­tups and en­trepreneur­ships are core to so­ci­etal equal­ity, mo­bil­ity and fair­ness. En­trepreneur­ship cre­ates new wealth and op­por­tu­ni­ties that ri­val old wealth, in­cum­bent hi­er­ar­chies and cor­rupt clas­sism. It’s been the core to Amer­i­can val­ues, so­ci­ety and suc­cess. You can be born rich, die poor. Born dirt poor and rise to the high­est lev­els of so­ci­ety.

Sri Lanka has seen suc­cess­ful en­trepreneur­ship and rags to riches sto­ries. But it's few and far apart given the tal­ent pool and en­ergy on the ground. Sri Lankan star­tups have wasted a ton of en­er­gies on me-too star­tups that repli­cate a lo­calised model of ideas that have worked in the west. That model works when you’re in China or In­dia with large lo­cal au­di­ences. Sri Lanka is too small for me-too.

I’d like to see Sri Lankan en­trepreneur­s dream big, think big and go big on ideas… new age tech­nol­ogy and eco­nom­ics al­lows us to cre­ate and launch prod­ucts and ser­vices that can rev­o­lu­tionise how we work, play and live glob­ally.

It’s when our en­trepreneur­s dream big, fail big, and suc­ceed big will we be able to at­tract ven­ture cap­i­tal and size­able an­gel in­vest­ments.

WHO HAS BEEN YOUR BIG­GEST SUP­PORT IN YOUR LIFE?

Lots of peo­ple have played a role in my life over the years. My amaz­ing par­ents never hes­i­tated or ques­tioned my pur­suit of suc­cess. My ex-wife was piv­otal in a lot of my entreprene­urial ven­tures. In fact, startup cap­i­tal for some ideas came from her when I was broke. Amaz­ing men­tors. My daugh­ters have been my cheer­lead­ers as of late.

WHEN YOU VIS­ITED SRILANKA THIS YEAR, WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS?

Over the years, I’ve strug­gled with Sri Lanka. It’s been a love hate re­la­tion­ship. Mostly hate.

Last sum­mer, I fi­nally got around to en­joy­ing it and building an affin­ity… ap­pre­ci­at­ing its di­ver­sity, unity, beauty, hos­pi­tal­ity and warmth. I’m ab­so­lutely in love with Sri Lanka. I guess I can at­tribute it to age and wis­dom.

YOU HAVE SUP­PORTED MUL­TI­PLE START UP BUSI­NESSES. WHY DID YOU DO SO?

I have been an An­gel In­vestor – in­vest­ing in seed stage star­tups – for over 20 years with in­vest­ments in over 200+ star­tups. Some have been sto­ried suc­cesses and some colos­sal fail­ures across Fi­nan­cial Tech­nol­ogy,

Big Data, So­cial Me­dia, Cloud etc. As an entreprene­ur, you're wired dif­fer­ently. Star­tups/ideas fuel your pas­sion and ex­cite­ment. Be it your own or be­ing in­volved in them via an in­vest­ment or ad­vi­sor role. En­trepreneur­s are dream­ers. Know no limits. So, it's lib­er­at­ing to be around them. All shack­les off!

YOU WERE ONE OF THE INI­TIAL IN­VESTORS FOR IN­STA­GRAM. WHAT DID YOU SEE IN IT THAT MADE YOU IN­VEST AND HOW AC­TIVE ARE YOU ON IN­STA­GRAM?

With the ad­vent of the smart phone and so­cial me­dia, we are in­un­dated with news/up­dates/so­cial con­tent /ads. It’s an over­load. So, it was ap­par­ent that this in­for­ma­tion cu­ra­tion had to sim­plify. How do you get your point across vis­ually and how do you fil­ter out the noise? Only visual con­tent wor­thy of your eye­balls ul­ti­mately fil­ter out. That was In­sta­gram!

TELL ME ABOUT PRO HEALTH, WHICH IS BASED IN CAL­I­FOR­NIA?

Pro­health is a Health­care com­pany pro­vid­ing Se­nior Health­care, namely Home Health and Hospice Care. It was founded out of my bed­room; my cousin, my ex-wife and I started this with a mod­est bud­get and a big dream. 14 years later, it’s one of the largest Se­nior care providers in North­ern Cal­i­for­nia em­ploy­ing over 300 doc­tors, nurses, ther­a­pists and health­care pro­fes­sion­als. We con­tinue to have big dreams for it – grow it into a Bil­lion dol­lar provider.

WHAT DO YOU THINK SRI LANKAN YOUTH ARE MISS­ING? WHAT DO YOU SAY IS THE BIG­GEST IS­SUE THAT THE YOUTH FACE TO­DAY IN SRI LANKA?

Sri Lankan Youth are blessed to be in an amaz­ing democ­racy with ac­cess to all lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion. With ap­pro­pri­ate lev­els of so­cial fund­ing and en­able­ment, they are not miss­ing out on any­thing. All op­por­tu­ni­ties and exposure are avail­able lo­cally.

How­ever, I get a sense that they are not as vested in so­cio-po­lit­i­cal dis­course and land­scape. This is dis­as­trous. When the youth are dis­en­gaged, the coun­try suf­fers.

WHAT MADE YOU VISIT SRI LANKA AFTER THE EASTER AT­TACK?

Wit­ness­ing those at­tacks a week after we cel­e­brated my dad’s 80th at Shangri La, threw me into a state of ex­as­per­a­tion and help­less­ness. Oh no, I don’t want a war-torn Sri Lanka again. Re­mote do­na­tions and lip ser­vices has never been my style.

I’ve never shied away from hands on help be in depths of Africa, Ro­hinyga or Nepal.

It’s the first of many vis­its to help re­con­nect Sri Lankan so­ci­ety as

“Sri Lankans first” be­fore reli­gion or eth­nic­ity. It’s ours to keep or lose. This is a cru­cial point in our his­tory where the youth, ed­u­cated and the pow­er­ful need to step up to en­sure last­ing peace and har­mony pre­vail.

I was frus­trated at the inertia and paral­y­ses among lo­cal youth and my­opic lead­ers.

So, I packed and headed to Sri Lanka to visit the im­pacted com­mu­ni­ties as well as some hot but­ton ar­eas. We had amaz­ing di­a­logue with the elders, youth, com­mu­nity lead­ers and re­li­gious lead­ers. We were also able to bring de­cent sums of relief to those needed. Hosted some Dhansal style if­tars etc

YOU HAVE WANTED TO WORK WITH THE YOUTH IN SRI LANKA WHAT IS THE PROJECT YOU’LL BE START­ING?

I’m hop­ing to host an event that’s not only ex­cit­ing but invit­ing to Sri Lanka youth from across the coun­try.

Hop­ing to or­ches­trate an ideas hackathon; un­der­stand what it is that mat­ters to them across the so­cial, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic spec­trum. And then de­velop a youth gazette for Sri Lanka: Sri Lanka 2.0

Idea is to spark in­no­va­tion and ef­fi­ciency across the spec­trum by get­ting the youth to care and take a stake in shap­ing the fu­ture.

With Youth in­vig­o­ra­tion, I can help bring for­eign ven­ture cap­i­tal, ideas, in­cu­ba­tors, advisors and men­tors to the lo­cal scene So, yes, I’ve had a ton of fail­ures and they’ve cul­mi­nated in suc­cess!

YOU LIKE OUT­DOOR AD­VEN­TURE, WHAT HAS GIVEN YOU THE BIG­GEST SAT­IS­FAC­TION?

I love bi­cy­cling. This is a pas­sion that’s de­vel­oped over the past 8 years.

Re­cently I rode my bi­cy­cle from San Fran­cisco to Los Angeles: 3 days, 380 miles, 25213 feet of el­e­va­tion. Rode through beau­ti­ful moun­tain­ous and beach ter­rain and equally dan­ger­ous and very busy free­ways.

When I visit a place… I like to walk around. I can walk a neigh­bour­hood for days get­ting a feel for its ar­chi­tec­ture, food, peo­ple, style and mi­cro-cul­ture. Rid­ing a bi­cy­cle is sim­i­lar in that you're able to cover a larger span and ab­sorb ev­ery­thing around you.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHEN YOU’RE ALONE IN YOUR CAR?

Ab­so­lutely ran­dom thoughts!

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE ’90S JAM?

Re­turn of the Mack!

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