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Dr. Bino Pathiparampil — Doctor Turned Angel Investor

By on Mar 6, 2014 in Startup Gang |

Bino is a friend and contemporary angel investor. One of the first things that strike you about Bino is that he is a doctor who gave up the world of medicine and moved to the investment arena. A healthcare industry analyst Bino advises clients on listed stock. Bino sits on the boards of several companies such as Carve Niche Technologies and PickMe eSolutions. I have worked closely with Bino in several of the sticky situations that angel investment often gets one into. At all such times, I have been amazed by his amazing analytical ability. Here are his thoughts about the startup space in India: I Respect Entrepreneurs a Lot — I Want to Be One Too Passion for entrepreneurship and respect for entrepreneurs have kept me glued on to the start-up eco system right from very early in my career. Early on it was very informal through friends, relatives and contacts that ventured into their own enterprises; later I decided to get more formal about it. That was when Mumbai Angels came up as a great option to get actively involved without committing my whole time to it. Through my earlier informal channels and later through Mumbai Angels, I have been an active investor in early stage startups and an active mentor to several of the invested ones. Jumping myself into the shoes of an entrepreneur is very much on my mind — the plunge could happen any day. The Early Stage Is Where the Real Excitement Is Earlier the start up, the more exciting the investment opportunity — in my opinion. However, the concept behind the business needs to be proven by the entrepreneurs before approaching strictly external investors (friends and relatives could be considered not strictly external). Ensuring that the market is accepting the product or customers are appreciating the service goes a long way in enhancing the confidence of the entrepreneur and the investor. The clarity of prospects that exists can lead to better negotiation and better goal setting at the time of fund raising. Entrepreneurs: Do Not Dilute Yourself Too Much Too Soon One basic fact: the original business plan almost never turns out to be the right one and to keep maximum value of the venture with oneself, one should go for external funding as later as possible. To put to practice the above advice, one needs to be agile and accommodative and should be willing to bear the opportunity cost of entrepreneurship for an extended period of time. Also, one needs to be extremely cautious of cash burn in the business — that significantly increases the staying power and multiplies the chances of the venture emerging successful. Thinking original is good, but not always necessary — a real entrepreneur makes money where there is an opportunity — if it is in copying something else so be it. The Startup Space Does Seem Overheated, But This Is Not Cause for Concern Nothing in the real world stops at where it is ideal to stop — look at stock markets, real estate prices, religious affiliations or whatever. Hence, I think the fact that there has been a heating up is a great thing to my mind. There could be pockets of excesses, or may be the whole space is overheated, but I would be only be cautious and not stay away from the space. From a macro perspective, I think the overheating is much needed for the space — it will establish angel funding as another mainstream investment avenue in India. But one needs to be careful when looking at this from a personal investment / portfolio management perspective. Staying away is not wise; in fact, the best returns in the world are made in bubbles though one may lose part of it when it bursts. Of course, wise investment strategy is called for; else a burst will completely wipe out one’s portfolio. Entrepreneurship Is About Having a Dream and Then Going Out and Making it True I often think — those who understand their dreams become entrepreneurs and those who are lost in their dreams become angel investors. So when I understand my dream for sure, I’ll invest myself into it and not my money. The most important quality of an entrepreneur is being down to earth and having clarity of thought. Startups that are based on superficial thought process and only macro level analyses and planning are destined to fail. A start up should have clear ideas about where the first revenue will come from and well defined plans to capture secure it.  But every rule has exceptions — hence this one as well. If those who funded Google or Facebook played by this rule, those companies may not have seen daylight. In a Sense, India As a Nation Is a Startup India story is not different for start-ups and other assets — it is a big promising opportunity based on the purchasing power of a billion-plus population. However, this is not going to be a straightforward story, as we are realizing today. India story is not a simple economic growth story — it is a story of social change; economic growth will be part of this social change. Social change is something that happens across generations — not necessarily years or decades. Better education, better healthcare, better infrastructure or simply better governance is something that is needed for the evolution to...

Meet Investor, Entrepreneur, and Startup Enthusiast: Anirudh Damani

By on Feb 14, 2014 in Startup Gang |

I have known Anirudh Damani for a couple of years now. He is a fellow member at Mumbai Angels and we take active interest in some of the same startups. Executive Director of the K Damani group, Anirudh has had an early start to his role as an investor and lender. What I especially like about Anirudh is the fact that is able to rapidly distill down to the most important aspects of a deal, and not get mired into the nitty gritty. If you get the opportunity to meet Anirudh, one of the first things that will strike you is his energy and affability. Recently Anirudh talked to StartUp Gang and shared his experiences about the startup space. Here are his thoughts Indian Entrepreneurs Are Weighed Down by Shackles. It is Time to Break Free. In my honest opinion the Indian entrepreneur is like a beautiful dove that has its legs tied with a 100-meter rope to a 100 kg weight of bureaucracy, poor infrastructure and an oppressive tax regime.  So while they are allowed to fly a good distance and look pretty, they aren’t allowed to touch the sky! Even after all these hardships, Indian entrepreneurs build companies that compete with the best in the world. Indians are respected worldwide for their intelligence and “jugaad” thinking. With this we have managed to build our economy with a 6-7% average growth rate over the past 10 years. That is something we should all be proud of. I Look for Complete Commitment and Some Traction in Startups A start-up team that has discovered a niche in the market, has innovated a USP and is willing to bet everything that they possibly have, those are the ones that I find very easy to invest into.  As a long-term strategy though, we avoid investing into very early / pre-seed stage companies. Required Reading for all Entrepreneurs Read the book E-Myth — the lessons given in that book are vital to any entrepreneur’s success. Success Formula = Hard Work + Planning + Opportunity It is my belief that all start-ups give it their best effort. However there is a bit of “luck” required in success. To me “luck happens” when hard work and planning meet with opportunity”. So while there are a few companies that have done exceptionally well but have found themselves without adequate opportunity (and vice versa), there are a handful that have hit the nail on the head. Some examples: Oravel: A trusted social marketplace for people to discover and book affordable and delightful accommodations around the world — online or from a phone. Pickme eSolutions: Provides doorstep pick-up and drop services to authorized centers for gadget repair and ensures their safe return to consumers post servicing. Inventure: First global credit scoring company that utilizes mobile technology to unlock financial access for all. BookMyCab: First radio taxi service in Mumbai and possibly in India for metered Black & Yellow (non-air conditioned) taxis as well as metered Cool Cab (Air conditioned) CarveNiche: An education technology company that has developed an exciting range of product portfolio combining the latest learning theories with the best in technology and is focused on the K-10 segment. Entrepreneurship Is a Cultural Movement and India Stands to Gain Tremendously From It The momentum in the start-up space, has allowed a lot of what were otherwise “reluctant” entrepreneurs to finally take the plunge into entrepreneurship and they have made their, their employees, investors and customers’ lives a lot richer. India needs a very vibrant and growing start-up culture if we are to get close to the 9% growth rate that will lift millions of Indians out of abject poverty. This rapid growth has created its own set of problems, which are primarily — the over exuberance on e-commerce start-ups and the rise of multiple “me-too” start-ups. Another peculiar trend that I have seen over the past few months is the emergence of excellent engineering teams that are pigeon-holing themselves into areas that cannot do justice to their talent. A lot of these tech teams have and are building great software/apps but while they are willing to innovate with their skills, they aren’t willing to innovate with their target market. This is something that drives me crazy, especially since we definitely see the large market that the team isn’t capitalizing on! If You Have a Viable Startup in These 3 Spaces, I Am Interested in Hearing More I have 3 pet ideas that I have wanted to invest into: Location Based Video Advertising sold via “Live” Auction Booking a cab at my destination when I check-in (And this was something that came to me this morning) A power search engine that can give a timeline map for a specific search keyword (like the name of a company/person/product/etc) which allows me to see and build a story But do not contact me with any business idea that takes 40 PowerPoint slides to understand! The India Story Is Real and We Are Already Seeing it Unfold I am a believer and continue to believe that India was, is and will be the greatest country in the world. It is unfortunate that we are better respected outside our country than by our own countrymen. So while there are and still exist various challenges and impediments for Indian entrepreneurs, these too will crumble, what speed will we grow at then? The industry...

President of Mumbai Angels, Friend of Entrepreneurs: Anil Joshi

By on Jan 2, 2014 in Startup Gang |

If you are a startup in India, you have certainly heard of Mumbai Angels. And if you have heard of Mumbai Angels, you have certainly heard of its president Anil Joshi. Anil is a familiar figure in entrepreneurship events, conferences, forums, ecells, and the like. As the operations head of Mumbai Angels, he supervises the screening of well over 100 business plans a month. I have known Anil for 3 years now and am envious of his unending store of energy. At the inception of StartUp Gang, Anil Joshi shared his thoughts about his work and about the startup ecosystem. The Real Challenge Is Identifying Good Ventures to Invest In If you have identified the right ventures, all the other pieces fall into place. And that is a challenge. The selection process to go from a thousand business plans in a year to a handful that Mumbai Angels’ members actually fund requires a lot of effort. I Have Witnessed the Startup Space Expanding in India So many incubators and accelerators have sprung up in India that today aspiring entrepreneurs have a good shot at raising money and getting supported. The environment has turned to be quite conducive to setting up your own enterprise in India. This has substantially increased the size of the deal pipe for us at Mumbai Angels, but the real big positive is for the people who are turning entrepreneurs today. There Could Be a Serious Mismatch Between Expectations and Outcomes in the Ecosystem Many participants have jumped into the startup gold rush. We have seen incubators, accelerators, and other similar enterprises jumping into the fray and deploying their efforts and resources. If things go well and their investments bear fruit, everyone will be happy. But if that does not happen, the expectation mismatch may cause several shops to shut. Successful Entrepreneurs Articulate the Problem and the Market for their Solution Having seen such a huge volume of entrepreneurs applying for funding at Mumbai Angels, I have started developing a sense of what seems to work. The entrepreneurs who are most likely to succeed are the ones that basically can clearly articulate: the problem or the gap that they are trying to address. the market for their solution their strength in executing the proposed business plan. If the entrepreneur can do that with clarity and passion, it is a good sign. Several Winners in the Startup Space There are many interesting stories of great outcomes in the startup space. Some of them are: Inmobi, Apalya, Reverse Logistics, Myntra, and Serial Innovation. In addition there is a lot of good news arising at Mumbai Angels that may not yet be in the public domain. At Mumbai Angels we are pretty positive about early stage entrepreneurship, and keenly look forward to many more successes. Anil Joshi is the President of Mumbai Angels (Twitter), and can be reached on LinkedIn or...