There’s something therapeutic about a carefree walk in the aisles of a mall or a supermarket and (window) shopping. Despite all its convenience, e-commerce fulfills ones needs, but not as much the heart. And therefore, although revenge travel has been talked about much more, the time is nearing for revenge retail therapy. Already happened in China as people reclaimed their lives. I’ve been itching to visit a mall and indulge in some revenge spending myself.
Planning to spend time every Saturday with 2-3 startups at idea/prototype stage, starting this weekend. If you’re a founder ideating or very early in execution & need a small sounding board session, hit me up. DMs are open.
Friends/network: Kindly help reach right founders.
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.
Rezolve.ai (Actionable Science), one of our portfolio SaaS firms, announced a $0.5M fundraise yesterday.
We backed Saurabh, Manish & Udaya, stalwarts in the enterprise technology space, over 2.5 years ago at Globevestor when global SaaS out of India wasn’t a big theme. This team had that solid mix of domain expertise, sales experience & tech chops for us to instantly get excited about the problem they were attacking.
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.
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.
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.
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’.
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.
There may not be consensus on this, but my experience is that women founders carry a relatively higher burden (esp. emotionally) & have a tougher journey compared to men. Every investor (incl. me) feels that we aren’t biased against them, yet it seems there are lesser women founders compared to the ratio in broader workforce. At most startup events, you see a smaller percentage of women than in a large firm’s cafeteria. Structurally, there’s little additional support available to them given their unique challenges.
That’s why I really liked Aishwarya & Vikas’ mission at Rebalance. It’s a new accelerator aiming to improve diversity in tech in India, esp. supporting women founders by providing them network & mentoring. Their first cohort just graduated. And it’s a job well done with women founders tackling problems across the spectrum.