Sep 27, 2019·6 min read
Continuing with our feature series on the members of TiE Boston, we spoke with TiE Boston Board and Charter Member, Nikhil Bhojwani, Founder & Managing Partner of Recon Strategy on his journey and what led him to TiE.
Nikhil Bhojwani, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at Recon Strategy
How did you get your start?
I attended St. Stephen’s College in Delhi University earning a Bachelor in Science (Honors) in Mathematics and then started working in marketing for the Times of India Group, a large media organization. After a couple of years at the Times, I moved to a media consultancy and over a few years helped expand it by co-founding a couple of subsidiaries. It was around this time that consulting firms such as BCG were starting to establish offices in India and I was attracted to the firm because I felt that working there would call on more of my math background. A BCG consultant I happened to meet told me that I would never get a job there because I did not have an MBA from a top school (best advice ever!) so at the age of 30 I enrolled at Wharton and with fingers crossed applied to BCG’s Boston office for the summer. I loved my internship, though it was tough adapting to being at the bottom of the totem pole again. I was thrilled to go back full time and did not bother applying anywhere else.
When I joined BCG I did not know what healthcare consulting was. It was quite a surprise to me that there was even such a thing. To me, growing up in India, healthcare was about doctors and hospitals and I never thought about it as a field that required strategy and operations and organizational expertise. In my first couple of years at BCG, I worked on projects in consumer goods, industrial manufacturing, media, and healthcare and found that healthcare felt the most meaningful to me and so that’s where I put my focus on in my last 5 or 6 years at the firm.
What was it like to start Recon?
I loved working at BCG and still have tremendous affinity for the firm and the awe-inspiring friends of mine still at the firm. Moving on was a wrenching moment but with some luck, it has turned out for the best. The path to success at big firms is to sell mega projects to mega companies where much of your time is on organizational transformations that require large teams for long projects. These are important and satisfying projects, but I wanted to work not only with industry incumbents but also with disruptive innovators and to focus on strategy rather than organization work. I wanted to be in the room with leaders helping them make the big bets that would determine the success of their firms and shape the industry, and that’s why I founded my own firm.
After much brainstorming with a colleague (and my one-time manager) at BCG, Tory Wolff, the two of us registered Recon Strategy as a partnership firm in July 2010 (Tory came up with the idea of Reconnaissance Strategy and I shortened it) with the idea of exploring if there was a market for our strategy focused offering. There was. We won our first two clients in October 2010 and Tory came on full time a few months later. We still work closely with both clients, and Tory now runs our West coast operations out of Seattle. I have to say that BCG could not have been nicer about how they handled our departure. We on our part were exceedingly careful not to do anything that would hurt that relationship and to this day we continue to get great client and candidate referrals from the firm and reciprocate when we can.
On paper, starting a company is easy. It took one Google search and an afternoon to set up the entity and a rudimentary website and a couple of days to lock in office space in an early shared space (CIC) in Kendall square. I designed the logo using the first template on a logo design software from Staples. Thanks to Massachusetts having a public health exchange even pre-Obamacare, getting health insurance couldn’t have been easier. We use 3rd party services for all administrative functions including HR/payroll, accounting, legal and strategic partners for consulting infrastructure such as production, primary research, and data acquisition.
The hard part was leaving behind the tremendous sense of community we had at BCG. I had been on the Career Development Committee and enjoyed my role mentoring people and now for the first five months, it was just me in the office and then just the two founders for another year before we hired our first employee. While we were lucky enough to have a couple of clients right from day one which gave us some leeway to think about how we wanted to grow the firm, building our reputation and core client-base in each practice area has taken a lot of hard work and time and we continue to work at it.
Digital Health Track at TiECON East. From Left to Right (Nikhil Bhojwani, Recon Strategy; Mary Varghese, IBM; John Halamka Beth Israel Lahey Health; Danielle Ciofani, Broad Institute; Rodrigo Martinez, Veritas Genetics; Dane Stout, Virtusa
How did you find TiE and what made you get more involved?
TiE is the largest not-for-profit network supporting entrepreneurs and having always been interested in the startup world, I joined as a regular member in the early 2000s. I attended a couple of TiECONs then but found it hard to keep up with all my travel. Once I started Recon, I reconnected and became a Charter Member and then later a Board Member. I get a tremendous sense of satisfaction from being able to participate in and help shape the initiatives of the organization.
I’ve gotten more involved as TiE’s healthcare presence has grown. While TiE has traditionally been focused on the tech industry, the Boston chapter has been dramatically upped its presence in the healthcare space and that’s exciting to me. We’ve started by focusing on Digital Health as that’s a neat intersection of TiE’s technology roots and Boston’s healthcare innovation ecosystem. I’ve been part of the team that’s established the Digital Health Catalyst series that’s organized several fascinating panel discussions focused on the needs of entrepreneurs in the space. These have brought in leaders in the payer and provider communities to discuss their priorities with entrepreneurs and help clear hurdles. Coming soon are panel discussions involving biopharma leaders and entrepreneurs looking into digital clinical trials and digital therapeutics. We’ve also increased the number of healthcare startups funded through TiE Angels and post-revenue companies mentored through TiE ScaleUp.
Nikhil kicked off a digital health panel at TIECON East.
What advice do you have for entrepreneurs?
First, clearly define your values and ensure your founding team is fully aligned on them.
Second, develop a culture where people are candid and kind at the same time.
Third, define your purpose around the change you want to affect in the world, not based on a monetary goal.
What’s next for you?
If you think you’ve reached your destination, then you will slide backward. I’m delighted with where Recon is at this point, but we will continue to expand our capabilities and provide our team members the chance to grow professionally and leave their mark on the world. I am considering joining one or at most two more company boards as I find being on boards a relatively high leverage way of making an impact.
Thank you to Nikhil Bhojwani for sharing his story and to Hugh Rossi for capturing it. To learn more about TiE Boston and how to get involved, check out boston.tie.org or reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.