Editor’s note: This story has been updated to insert several words that were dropped from the original version in the editing process.
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK — Vivek Wadhwa can be forgiven for having delusions of grandeur as he ventured forth into the world of movie making. After all, the money, the prestige, the attractive stars and wannabes are enough to seduce the strongest of men and women as the history of Hollywood has shown.
Now, his “illusions of great glamour” are gone, and the serial entrepreneur has turned from movie making in Bollywood (India) and Hollywood to focus on teaching as an executive in residence at Duke University.
“I have not been involved in education before,” Wadhwa says, enthusiasm filling his voice. “I was just thrilled they gave me so much respect here.
“I am feeling strong again. I’m in a new world now, and I feel I am where I should be.”
Bollywood is “completed,” he says firmly. “Now, I’ve lived it.”
And what he “lived” was not necessarily all he imagined.
After leaving his post as chief executive officer at Relativity software and recovering from a near fatal heart attack in 2002, Wadhwa took time to dabble in the world of movie making in Mumbai, India. He admits there was a certain sensual appeal about the gig.
“I’ve met three Miss India’s, one Miss Universe, and lots of movie stars,” he says. “I’ve met all the movie stars I was fascinated with since I was a child. But believe me, the fascination has worn out. I’m done with it now.
“The bottom line is, it’s not my world. Hollywood and Bollywood both are crooked universes. I had illusions of great glamour.”
Wadhwa co-produced one film (“My Bollywood Bride”), which is scheduled for release in the first quarter of next year. “And believe me, I will be pushing you to promote it,” he tells an interviewer.
New Title: Professor Wadhwa
For the time being, Wadhwa is savoring his position as Executive in Residence and Adjunct Professor at Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering.
“You can call me Professor Wadhwa now,” he says proudly. “I get to work as much as I want to work, and I’m committed to at least 20-30 hours a week.
“I’m actually blown away by what I’ve seen over here. The caliber of people, the students — I had no idea how good Duke is. The types of talent, the type of energy have exceeded my expectations.”
Wadhwa hopes to give back some of the knowledge and experiences he has gained over the years as a technology entrepreneur and executive — from the good of building companies such as Seer technologies and Relativity out of nothing to the rigors of venture financing.
“This is what I want to do for the next year or so,” he says. “I’ll be working with engineering; the medical school; the sociology department and to the Fuqua business school.”
Working for Duke was an easy decision, he adds.
“I came to the point in my life that I wanted to do something less stressful for a living (which film production is NOT), and to give back to the community,” he wrote in an email to friends and contacts announcing his decision to work with Duke.
No Executive Suite Yet
Wadhwa, who also writes a column for BusinessWeek Online, has no plans right now to return to the executive sweet of another company.
“I need a break right now,” he explains. “I turned Relativity around after battling company investors, and I didn’t get a chance to get my health back. Then a year of lawsuits took a lot out of me.
“To be unstressed, basically, is what I want right now. I want to utilize my creative energy and experience and not have to go through stress fighting battles. This is my sabbatical, and then I’ll decide what’s next.”
Wadhwa and Relativity reached an agreement a few months back to settle a lawsuit he had filed over a variety of issues. Relativity counter sued in a nasty split that filled a lot of newspaper and web space with insider details about corporate infighting. Terms of the settlement were not disclosed.
“I am completely done with Relativity. I resigned from the board and as chairman,” Wadhwa says. “I’m very happy with the outcome. I got everything I looking for. We departed as friends and are supporting each other.”
First Lady To Speak at DonorsChoose Event
North Carolina’s First Lady Mary Easley will be among the VIPs at tonight’s DonorsChoose fundraiser in Durham.
The wife of Gov. Mike Easley is expected to deliver remarks at the event at 6 PM. The DonorsChoose social is taking place at the American Tobacco Complex in the Bull City.
DonorsChoose is raising funds for Hurricane Katrina relief. The more money the group raises, the better chance it also has of winning a $1 million matching grant in a competition among 10 charities being sponsored by Amazon.com.
For information, see: www.donorschoose.org/ncparty
For LTW’s preview of the event and details about DonorsChoose, see: www.localtechwire.com/article.cfm?u=12307