April 08, 2014

"There are No Failed Entrepreneurs. Only Failed Wanta-preneurs."

Mukund Mohan of Microsoft Ventures has a wow blog post on why illustrated with a couple of examples of startups from the firm's accelerator:
For every two of these entrepreneurs, there are 100′s I know whose story did not end up with funding. It ended with a company that closed, or a marriage that fell apart and a kid that had to go to a tier 2 college, because they had spent a lot of their life’s savings in their startup. To them as well, I say “you tried, and did not succeed, but you did not fail”. Those who “failed” are the ones who did not try at all. The ones who failed are the ones in a safe job, 9-5 assignments who keep telling me “they want to start a company some day”.

I think we should have entrepreneurs that succeeded and those that did not succeed. I liken it to giving the gold for the successful ones and silver to the unsuccessful ones. The ones watching on the sidelines and commenting are the ones that “failed”.
Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

April 01, 2014

External environmental challenges faced by startups in India

Entrepreneurs like Sanjiv Bikhchandani of Naukri, Murugavel Janakiraman of Matrimony, the Bansals of Flipkart;  VSS Mani  of Justdial, etc. deserve massive admiration. What they have achieved is more like conquering Everest. Good to know that once they have climbed the peak, thee environment also helps protect "their" turf. From a blog post by Dev Khare of Lightspeed Ventures (emphasis mine):

Many of India's successful startups have navigated a maze of challenges, creating leading brands and sustaining for long periods of time.  Correspondingly, it is much harder in India, relative to the US/Europe, for competition to unseat leading brands.
...Startups need large markets (Rs 2500cr+ or $500 million+) to get large and succeed.  This is hard to find in India, perhaps due to early consumer demand, unorganized markets, regional differences or foreign substitutes.  For example, digital advertising is a roughly $400 million annual business here, with mobile at 10% of that. To access and maintain growth, almost every new startup here needs to increase their focus on creating and evangelizing their category versus just focusing on their own startup's growth.

Some examples of overcoming this challenge include:
  • spending large amounts of capital to create a category (eg ecommerce, OTA, wireless telecom).
  • expanding into adjacent markets (eg Info Edge, which expanded from jobs into matrimonials, real-estate, education etc.).
  • building or piloting in India and transplanting to the US (eg Zoho)
  • aggregating several emerging markets outside India, perhaps before proceeding to Western Europe and the US (eg InMobi, iFlex, Subex).
  • attacking a large spend base (eg Micromax for hardware, Cafe Coffee Day for coffee/tea/snacks, BillDesk for bill payment).
...Many brands in India are created from execution reliability at scale rather than product differentiation.  Brands  in India are disproportionately more valuable as they represent a trusted provider of products or services - think about the enduring value of the Tata brand in multiple unrelated categories.  As one consequence, I believe more startups should think about brand-building here in India relative to if they were in the US

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

March 31, 2014

Why You will Never Ever Hire a "B Player" Again

Was wowed by this powerful quote I'd heard yesterday: "You are the average of the five people that you spend the most time with." (It's attributed to Jim Rohn.)

It seemed to be much more powerful than the famous Silicon Valley mantra of "A Players hire A Players; B Players hire C Players."

Since for most working professionals (and especially so for entrepreneurs) almost all the 5 people (that we spend the most time with) are likely to be co-workers, why would we ever hire a "B Player" again?

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

February 06, 2014

Gururaj Deshpande's Dash of Hope for Desh

Was wowed by Deshpande's simple yet powerful speech and interaction at the TiE Chennai organized event on February 5. Amazing how someone who's been living in Boston for 30 years is so much in touch with the grassroots issues in even small town India - and more importantly able to come up with practical solutions to them.

My top takeaways from the many that he provided:

India's Creme-De-la-creme is Taking Charge

2% of Indians are Globally Competitive. And the cream of this segment is now applying its intellectual and financial resources to tackle some of key problems of the bottom of the pyramid. The advantage that we enjoy, as compared to say China, is that citizens here enjoy the freedom to take action (and, as required, also partner with the state) to deliver these basic services.

The Govt should have an M&A arm to acquire NGOs!

Just like how big corporations (especially in developed countries) keep a keen watch on the innovation experiments being made by venture capital-backed startups and acquire the successful ones (to bring innovation capabilities into their fold), the Indian Government too should watch the various experiments being carried out in the NGO sphere in various parts of the country and acquire the successful ones and help scale them nationally!

Size (of company) no bar for being a mentor

Even an entrepreneur whose company's turnover might be just Rs.1/2 crores is a "big guy" - and hence qualified to be a mentor - to an entrepreneur running a much smaller business (for example one which is dependent on day-to-day cash flow). The former can teach the latter basics of accounting, management, etc. Teaching itself is a great form of learning and hence provides ROI to the mentor! Super stuff.

Thanks Desh!  

PS: D.Murali has put up the video recording of the event on Youtube here.

Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

January 22, 2014

Thumb Rules for Tech Pay Scales

From Mukund Mohan's
post
There are 3 primary parameters I have seen used when people hire folks to determine their salary. 1. Experience – usually measured in # of years working on relevant and related technologies. A rule of thumb I have seen is 1.2 to 1.5 times the number of years of experience + starting salary of a fresh graduate at 2L ($3K) per year to 6L ($10K) per year. For example, if you are looking to hire a developer with 5 years of experience, then you will pay 5 years times 1.2 plus 2L per year if you are a startup that’s not funded. 2. Type of technology – The more arcane the technology the more you can expect to pay for it. For example, you can expect to pay much less for a person who knows PHP and more for someone who knows Android app dev or Ruby on Rails. Some common technologies and your base times multiple is below. I am assuming php developer is the base at Rs. 1. All others are multiple of what you’d pay the php developer. I dont mean this to think of php developers as bottom of the pool, but that’s the most prevalent skill, so the supply of engineers is more than the demand, making it a skill that’s easiest to hire and least expensive as well. ...3. Stage of company. Generally a company, which is bootstrapped pays less and one that is funded pays more. Larger the company, the more you are likely to pay, If the unfunded company pays INR 1, then I have seen number of upto 2.3 times that being paid by larger technology companies.
Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.

December 09, 2013

The Secret to Entrepreneurship and Parenting... Patience & Keeping at it


From the post by Eric Ortiz, founder of Moblish (emphasis mine):

The only way to build a company with staying power is by doing – by rolling up your sleeves and getting to work. Every day is a series of micro wins and micro losses. Some days you are up. Some days you are down. Some days you pull an all-nighter. Some days you pull back-to-back all-nighters. Some days you are sick. Some days you are tired. Some days you are discouraged. But you keep showing up. Seven days a week, 365 days a year.

There are no breaks for startup entrepreneurs. Parents know the feeling. When you want to sleep in and your toddler wakes up at 5 a.m., sleep time is over. Your kids are counting on you to feed, clothe, shelter and buy them stuff. As an entrepreneur, the startup is your other child. And you keep showing up. The same temperament is required when finding a UX designer takes weeks, not days as you thought it would.
Arun Natarajan is the Founder & CEO of Venture Intelligence, the leading provider of data and analysis on private company transactions, valuations and financials in India. Click Here to learn about Venture Intelligence products that help entrepreneurs Reach Out to Investors, Research Competition, Learn from Experienced Entrepreneurs and Interact with Peers. Includes the Free Deal Digest Weekly Newsletter: India's First & Most Exhaustive Transactions Newsletter.