Are you really fit to be a founder?
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Firstly, a Happy Dhanteras! Today it makes sense to talk about the “money” side of entrepreneurship. Many people have the needed skills, experience & passion to be great founders. Yet they’re unfit to be one. Why?

It’s to do with “founder financial viability”. While there’s an appreciation by most founders for a need to bootstrap & work without market salary for some time, usually they grossly underestimate this duration to be a few months till first round of funding arrives.

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Is your belief in meritocracy the reason for your failure?
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As a pre-seed/seed stage startup investor, the most frequent gripe I hear from Indian founders is that they had a better product, competent team & better numbers, yet the investors funded their competitors. This makes them confused & dejected, and they lose faith in VCs & angels. A fair number of founders have remarked to me that “VCs are dumb”.

My honest answer to this is that the competition is simply selling a “better story”. But the founders are never satisfied with this response. And I believe the problem stems from a belief in pure meritocracy.

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A case against the maverick unicorn founder
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Recently, the founder of a very well-funded startup got angry on a call because he heard a colleague drink water. His comment – “If what I’m saying is less important to you than drinking water, we shouldn’t even have this call”. Stop for a moment & let this behaviour sink in. Unreal.

Over the past few years, we’ve really glorified the ‘maverick’-ness of successful founders in India. It is widely believed that it takes a unique vision & an aggressive, win-at-all-cost mindset for a founder to achieve big wins. However, this gospel has percolated extremely bad culture at a number of unicorns/soonicorns. We’ve all heard stories of some leading founders who are known to instantly explode on their team, run a foul mouth, always blame others for failures & have zero empathy.

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Failure: Y Combinator
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To all those founders who haven’t received an interview call from YC today & are feeling rejected, don’t feel down & dejected. Thousands of founders have been in the same place as you, before they figured it out & made their venture into a big success. Some of the more successful founders in our portfolio have been there as well.

It reminds me of my own experience ~7 years ago, when we pitched the idea of Globevestor to YC. We sat in Paul’s living room, being interviewed by the trio of Paul, Jessica & Sam. You couldn’t get more YC than that! Our pitch was that the time for India was here & we were on a cusp of a big shift in early-stage ecosystem in India. But none of them even knew about Flipkart or Inmobi, the two unicorns we had then.

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Failure is hard
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Failure is hard. But a lot of times founders make it harder for themselves by not being open about their & the startup’s struggles with their team till it’s too late. By nature founders are ever-optimists about overcoming their challenges, so wouldn’t like to spook the team needlessly. And they also would like to project an image of being in control. A feeling of being judged isn’t great. But an opaqueness about the startup’s fortunes slowly gets ingrained in the culture and the ‘team’ turns into ‘employees’.

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Interview in Hinglish (Part 2 of 2)
Interview in Hinglish (Part 2 of 2)
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Thanks everyone for the positive feedback on the Hinglish video on investor perspectives from earlier this week. Part 2 of the video is also out now.

In this we talk about startup events, angel investing, mentoring, exits, women entrepreneurship & other stuff. Hopefully, there are some takeaways for founders & angels.

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Interview in Hinglish (Part 1 of 2)
Interview in Hinglish (Part 1 of 2)
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It was recently highlighted to me that seemingly all startup conferences/events in India happened in English. And that the content produced about startup ecosystem was also overwhelmingly in English & sometimes jargon-laden, which a few founders couldn’t comfortably grasp.

Honestly, I never thought that English as a medium would also become a barrier for founders, but it seems that as startups move to capture ‘Bharat’ and founders/angels come up all across India, we need more vernacular content on startup ecosystem. So as a first for me, here’s a small interview in Hinglish on some perspectives as an investor (Part 1 of 2). Hopefully, this is of help to some people out there.

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The non-VC funding path
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Several entrepreneurs in India I come across have an ambition to build steady-growth, profitable & fundamentally solid businesses. While they’re not fit for VC funding (size/speed expectation mismatch), debt availability is also low for them early on. And so their business suffers and such entrepreneurs feel orphaned by India’s investor ecosystem.

While royalty-based funding has been around globally it hasn’t surfaced in India yet. This YC demo day promised that the time for income share funding might have come in the US, but will take time before we see it here.

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5 Key things investors look for in a startup
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A few days ago, I did a session at InstaOffice for entrepreneurs, trying to de-mystify startup investors and their thought process. I really enjoyed the event as it was very interactive, with lots of questions from entrepreneurs in the audience.

One key topic of the discussion was the key things investors look for in a startup. Over time, I’ve realized that things investors take for granted often comes as news to entrepreneurs, such as this. InstaOffice team did a brief video on this topic to go along with the talk, which is the focus video of this post.

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