Chet Kanojia talks importance of people and relationships with Startup Grind NYC

During his recent talk with Startup Grind NYC, Chet Kanojia, CEO and co-founder of Starry, spoke to a packed house about building relationships and the power of teamwork.

Starting with his involvement at Aereo, a company that allowed people to receive HD television broadcasts on their smart devices, Kanojia described the rise and eventual fall of the organization. Long story short, facing a long, arduous battle with the Supreme Court on the basis of copyright infringement, Aereo was forced to file for Chapter 11 in late 2014. Kanojia said, “Despite the outcome, Aereo accomplished a tremendous amount.”

And one of the main reasons why is because, through it all, a core group of team members stuck by Kanojia. Several of whom have come along for on his new journey at Starry, a Boston-based startup service that simplifies Internet and Wi-Fi access.

Born in India, Kanojia was always an innovator. By the age of 13, he and a friend were building and selling speakers and amplifiers to make money. When it was time for graduate school, Kanojia decided to expand his sights. Having traveled extensively with his father throughout childhood, Kanojia liked that in America, “Ice cream is everywhere.” This, along with a documentary about JFK that he saw in the early 1980s, inspired Kanojia to make the move. It was here, as Kanojia was working towards his degree in education that he realized while he loved to teach and engage others, “the business of teaching is terrible.” He realized that he could pursue his passion to teach elsewhere, which is how he began working in startups.

Co-founding Navic Networks, Kanojia led the company for nine years. Despite the feeling of comfort that comes with being in the same position for that long, he says the startup grind is never stable. Luckily though, Kanojia had “great, supportive” investors and employees, which hasn’t changed over the years. He credits his employees – many of whom have followed him from Navic to Aereo to Starry - for the bulk of the achievements. He notes, “Get great people, give them the tools and resources they need, and get out of the way.”

When it comes to working with different personalities, be it difficult employees, or even co-founders, Kanojia says you have to have the awkward “pre-nuptial” talk. Your co-founder should be someone you can vent to or share with on a daily basis. In particular, you need to know how they handle certain business-related problems, like stress or change. He said, “You need a work spouse.”

Ultimately, Kanojia says, “Building, conceiving, visualizing, and selling, engaging with someone to convince them that what I’m doing is compelling. I’m only doing things I want to do, not building things I think people might want.”

Startup Grind NYC’s next event is on Tuesday, March 1, where they’ll speak with Elite Daily co-founder Gerard Adams.