Risk Latte - A Cold Latte

A Cold Latte

Rahul Bhattacharya
Jan 05, 2004

My first name is Rahul, I am forty years of age (jeez, that hurts!) and the only outstanding attribute of my personality is my weight. Perhaps, that wasn't the case when I got married eleven years ago. Well, in fact there is another truth about me that stands out like a sore thumb in my CV; in my fifteen years of work experience I have worked in as many companies and possibly, to the horror and dismay of my mother, in as many geographical locales. But this column is about and for losers and none of the souls in pin striped suits and glass offices is going to read it anyway; so I can be candid.

Anyway, about a year and a half ago I co-founded (that sounds great!) a financial engineering company called Risk Latte Americas Inc., in Hong Kong. I started it with another partner, a mature and refined old school equity broker, who now, no doubt, has a bullet with my name engraved on it. For a long time to come after the start of our company, and even perhaps, until this day, the only interesting thing about it has been its name and the “financial engineering” part has almost felt like an aside. Actually, to be really honest that is not entirely true; we did get some good clients, at least with recognizable brand names, and so far we have managed to pay our bills. Just.

For many years now I have had only one dream. And that is to free myself from corporate tyranny. In simple English, I didn’t want to get sodomized by bosses any more (jeez, it still hurts so much!!). So when I started this company I thought I had finally found a way out. I mentioned to one of my colleagues the other day that our company’s mission statement should have only one line: “thou shall not sodomize thy subordinate”. He thought that was brilliant. We are one hell of a group here. I told you, my partner, co-founder of this firm, could kill me with his bare hands.

So we have formed a company, generated some revenue and have even developed a website. I thought this is a good time to go to a VC (I am told by some of my tech savvy friends that VC is a better term than “Venture Capitalist”) and ask for some money. A month ago I made a nice little presentation on my laptop and climbed forty floors in a swanky and posh building in central Hong Kong to see a VC. He had allotted five minutes for me, and I feel some measure of embarrassment to say that even the five minutes were the product of one of my friends’ intense persuasion. Anyway, the first thing he said was – and this was even before I had time to switch on my laptop – ‘financial engineering isn’t a good word in a VC’s dictionary’. “Good word” – what did that mean? According to him a VC will either invest in an engineering start up, “engineering” as in IT, manufacturing, and so on or he will invest in a financial services company, like internet banks, online brokerages, and so on. And we were neither. How can financial and engineering be combined together. It made no sense to him and he was pretty convinced that no VC in this world will even care to go beyond the two words – financial engineering. This guy, a thirty three year old MBA from some Ivy League school was essentially telling me, through a stifled smile, that I was screwed up in my head. I never got a chance to open my laptop or even say a word. The meeting was over in a minute and a half. As I was going out the door he asked me, almost as a after thought, ‘why did you quit such a nice job and start this company?’ I said, ‘I wanted to have fun’. He smiled and asked, ‘why the coffee name?’ and before I could answer, he waved his hand and said, ‘Your latte is cold, mate. Have fun!’

© Rahul Bhattacharya
This column is written by Rahul Bhattacharya and reflects his own views about life and business. It does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of other members of Risk Latte Americas Inc., Hong Kong (“the Company”) and the Company accepts no responsibility for any factual errors contained in the column and strongly advises readers not to pay much attention to it.

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