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.

November 25, 2013

The Venn Diagram to Winning



 

The diagram seems to implicitly point out that that the best way to Getting the Best of All Worlds (the #Win zone) is through Entrepreneurship. How else can one "Live a Dream" and get paid massively for it? If things don't work well in that zone, the Entrepreneur can most probably move to the "Rich but Bored" zone! :-)

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.

November 21, 2013

Entrevista with Cosmic Circuits Founder Ganapathy Subramaniam

Cross posted from the Entrevista Blog



Interview with Ganapathy Subramaniam, Founding-CEO of Bangalore-based semiconductor tech company Cosmic Circuits. (Cosmic was acquired in early 2013 by Silicon Valley-based, Nasdaq-listed electronic design giant Cadence.) The interviewer is fellow entrepreneur Chandu Nair.

The Podcast can be downloaded from here.

(Use Right Click > Save As to save the file to your desktop)

Highlights

Reading the Wind
How Ganapathy, as part of visiting customers in October 2012, realized that Cosmic Circuits could no longer remain an independent company. (Its customers and partners wanted a strong Number 2 player in the segment to provide a balance to the Number 1 player, Synopsis.) 

Making the company Due Diligence ready
How Cosmic's decisions to rope in a Big 4 audit firm (just five years into its existence) and go in for an ISO certification, stood it in good stead when it came to due diligence at the time of its acquisition. Ganapathy advises that, once the company grows to a certain size, even as the founders enjoy the fruits of that growth, they would do well to take the time and effort to streamline processes.

Valuing Customer Traction over Venture Capital
Why Cosmic Circuits passed on a term sheet from a Silicon Valley VC within days of starting up.

Importance of separating lines of businesses - even in a startup 
"Startups should live and die by its focus on one line of business," says Ganapathy. If one of the business lines is a cash cow, the "negativity" of the failing businesses does not reach the CEO. Specific to Cosmic, in hindsight, the company would have been better off it had separated the fabless semiconductor business from the IP business - something it did as part of the sale of the IP business to Cadence.

Focus on productivity versus putting in long hours
A firm follower of Stephen Covey's "Seven Habits of Highly Effective People," Ganapathy believes leading a balanced life - whether it is ensuring time for family or playing badminton almost everyday - helped ensure his stress levels were in control. (This outlook ensured that Ganapathy's approach to work as the CEO of Cosmic wasn't too different from that at TI.) A 14 hour or more of work just ends up making the founder irritable and leads to costly friction with colleagues, he says.

Attraction of Texas Instruments as a workplace
Apart from the great pay check, the ethical culture, the opportunities to learn from the best in the field and also the freedom to operate independently encouraged Ganapathy to continue with TI - effectively his first and last job as an employee - for a straight 16 years. When he was deputed to work in TI USA, he decided - on his own - that he would be more productive working from home and proceeded to do so for three months. And his supervisor never asked him about his whereabouts!

Impressions Left by Early Education
How his early school education (in the small town of Sivakasi) instilled a spirit of Nationalism - the echoes of which were felt later in his career, including in creating a vision for Cosmic (to build a highly valuable company out of India in the semiconductor technology space).

Man on a Mission
Ganapathy would like to help develop at least ten $100-M+ Semiconductor IP companies out of India over the next 15 years, by working with entrepreneurs, VCs and the government. He is also also making personal investments in startup companies in the sector.

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.

November 18, 2013

Entrevista with Palem Srikanth, Founder of logistics software maker Four Soft

Cross Posted from the Entrevista Blog




In this audio interview ("podcast"), Palem Srikanth shares his amazing entrepreneurial journey - from a Stanford educated logistics executive with Hewlett Packard to returning to India and starting a Dosa restaurant chain to the tough lessons from making cross-border acquisitions to the recent sale of the logistics software business (to US Private Equity firm Francisco Partners-backed Kewill) for about Rs.275 crores. 

The Podcast can be downloaded from here.

(Use Right Click > Save As to save the file to your desktop)


Highlights:
  • Importance of Financial Strength in the Enterprise Software space

  • How persistence and investing in technology (to ensure Four Soft's products
     were cutting edge)  provided the maximum return - much more than the expensive acquisitions the company made 

  • Managing the confidentiality of the transaction involving a listed company - so that there is no misuse of insider information to trade in the stock 

  • Tapping of Ex-Colleagues/Bosses for Angel Capital 

  • Advantages of going public 

  • Pitfalls in acquiring an overseas company - how buyers need think through not just "how to bite it, but  also to swallow it and digest it". For example, issues like whether the target company is entrepreneurial enough to meet aggressive growth expectations; the regulatory issues in laying off people; conflicts of interest involved in buying a company (from a financial investor) where the management team aspires to itself own the company, etc. 

As if creating an Enterprise Software Product out of India has not been challenging enough, Srikanth  now has a parallel career in active politics - he is running for Parliament as part of the Telugu Desam Party. You can follow his political career into the 2014 elections and beyond on his web site at http://www.srikanthreddy.com.

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.

October 06, 2013

Rhyme of a Bootstrapped Entrepreneur's Life!

 

  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.

The Paths To Higher Productivity



The only tip I'm ambivalent about is "doing easiest things first" (that would be email!). Some experts suggest just the opposite. See http://vientrevista.blogspot.in/2013/09/email-vs-productivity.html
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.

October 04, 2013

What if Your Competitor’s Life Sucks?

John Morgan has a nice post on why "keeping close tabs" on the competition is often a waste of precious time:

Competition produces copycats. You start copying them, they start copying you and next thing you know the marketplace is bored! Additionally you’re comparing yourself against something unknown. You don’t know what their life is like. It may suck.
I once ran a full page ad in a magazine that cost me a few thousand dollars. The ad didn’t convert at all and was a complete failure. But it did look pretty, and because of that in the next issue not one but TWO of my competitors knocked off my ad. They copied it because I did it. They had no idea the ad didn’t work. :)

Don’t play their game. You lose your initiative and innovation when you’re copying others.

You can break out of this trap by focusing on yourself and your own initiative. Be so busy you don’t have time to know what the competition is up to. You don’t want to succeed for the sake of beating someone else. You want to succeed for the sake of helping others and your family.  The competition trap robs you of your potential. There is no freedom in placing others above you.

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.

September 07, 2013

Story of Education Loans Firm Credila

From the Business Today article:
Credila started operations in March 2008, two months after DSP Merrill Lynch invested in the company. From March 2008 until HDFC bought out DSP Merrill, Credila had disbursed only Rs 20 crore. Since then it has sanctioned more than Rs 2,000 crore and disbursed nearly half that amount. The big surprise was in 2012 when Credila received more than 90,000 online applications for a cumulative loan amount of over Rs 8,000 crore. "It was more than we could handle," says Anil Bohora, Chief Operating Officer at Credila. The company looks at applicants' credit worthiness, the repaying capacity of parents, collateral, and the institute they are applying to while scrutinising loan applications.

...In some ways, Credila mirrors HDFC's own journey. HDFC was founded by Deepak Parekh's uncle, H.T. Parekh, in 1977. It had the first-mover advantage as there was no other mortgage lender in the private sector at the time. But this was also a disadvantage because, unlike state-run banks, it had no access to low-cost public deposits. What helped HDFC survive and expand was simplicity of products and a focus on customer service. Karnad sees these attributes in Credila too.

...The Bohora brothers, who in 2003 sold their healthcare claims processing venture ClaimsBPO to WNS Global, have ambitious plans for Credila. They want to create India's first dedicated education loan company on the lines of Sallie Mae, the largest provider of study loans in the United States. It is not surprising they are taking inspiration from a US company. Both previously worked for US companies - Ajay with insurer MetLife and Anil with media company AOL Time Warner.

...it disbursed more than Rs 1,000 crore from only eight branches in a handful of cities, whereas state-run banks have hundreds of branches across the country. Although the brothers, who own nearly 11 per cent of Credila, are serial entrepreneurs, they are content working for HDFC.

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.

September 06, 2013

Celebrating The Small Entrepreneurs: Who Never found themselves a job, because in a job they would have never found themselves

From an ad by financial services firm Shriram City Union (in Businessworld issue dated 9 September 2013)
Hello, Boss Here's to those who never needed to have someone down the corridor telling them what to do. Here's to those who never delegated upwards. Here's to those who only served one boss: Their Passion. Here's to those who never found themselves a job, because in a job they would have never found themselves.
Click Here to download and view the original advertisement (scanned pdf ). 

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.

August 26, 2013

Key Question: Are You Equipped to Execute Your Idea?

Bruce Kasanoff has a great post and slide show on LinkedIn

If you are an entrepreneur - or intrapreneur - your first question needs to be: am I the right person to bring this idea to life? 
  • If you are a marketing professional who doesn't understand code, you are not the one to "leapfrog Google" and launch the next generation search engine. 
  • If you always take a three-week vacation in August, and two weeks at Christmas, you are not the one to "take down Oracle." (They are fierce warriors compared to you.) 
  • If you are a genius at coding, but you can't work with an interface designer or pick a font to save your life, you are unlikely to create a top ten consumer app.

 

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.

August 19, 2013

Entrevista with Ratish Nair, Founding-CEO of Interactive Avenues

Cross posted from the Entrevista blog at http://www.entrevista.in

Interview with Ratish Nair, Founding-CEO of Interactive Avenues (IA), the Mumbai-headquartered, Sequoia Capital India-backed digital marketing agency which was acquired in March 2013 by US- and Europe-based ad agency Interpublic. Interview focuses on the company's founding (5 co-founders who earlier worked at another digital agency Mediaturf); Angel Funding (from Anupam Mittal of Shaadi.com); VC Funding and relationship with Sequoia Capital; and, of course, the Exit (how IA ran the process, the role of the VC, the role of the intermediary, internal dynamics, etc.).

The interviewer is fellow entrepreneur Chandu Nair. (Chandu earlier founded, successfully raised venture capital for and exited from Scope eKnowledge, one of the earliest KPO firms in India.)




The Audio (podcast) version can be downloaded from here 


Other Highlights


Synergistic Co-founding team

How, having worked together in the past (at Mediaturf which they left as a group to found IA), the co-founding team knew each other' strengths and weaknesses and were able to hence work in a synergistic manner.

Leveraging the Brand & Network of VC Investor

How IA tapped Sequoia Capital for not just the money, but also to add to the startup venture's credibility (when pitching for clients) and also for generating business from the investor's other portfolio companies.

Advertising as a way out of small town

Interesting vignettes about a small "mining town" upbringing and how advertising was seen as an escape to the exciting world of the "big city".

Also how the lectures by Prof. Subroto Sengupta at IIM-Calcutta served as an inspiration to join the world of advertising

Advise to other Entrepreneurs

"Never raise more money than what you need - else, you might relax and 'miss the bus'."

August 16, 2013

Whe is an Employee Ripe for a Promotion

From an article by Avery Augustine in The Daily Muse:
1. They Have the Numbers to Back Them Up

...I’ve found it helpful to have some sort of tracking measure in place to stay aware of employees’ performance, like a spreadsheet to keep track of project closures and client feedback. This will allow you to see patterns emerge (e.g., “Jennifer always manages to exceed her sales goal during the last week of the month”), so you’ll be able to immediately pinpoint the employees who should be on track for promotions.

2. They Don’t Clock Out at 5 PM

...Pay attention to the employees who are willing to jump in wherever (and whenever) they’re needed. This doesn’t mean they always need to stay late—but it’s nice to know that in a pinch (and when given more responsibility), they won’t leave you or their clients in the lurch.

3. They Voice Solutions Instead of Complaints

...In doing this, your employee is proving that he or she is ready to step up and take responsibility for what goes on with the team and help everyone succeed—instead of complacently accepting whatever happens by chance and not doing anything to change it.

..4. They Seek Out Opportunities to Share Knowledge

..5. They Further Their Own Knowledge

..6. They Ask for Feedback—and Take it Well

 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.

August 13, 2013

Why Are Indian Entrepreneurs Satisfied with Small Outcomes?

From a post by Mukund Mohan of Microsoft Ventures:
Given that the effort over several years to create a $10 Million outcome at your startup is the same as one that has a $1 Billion outcome, why dont we focus on the large opportunities?
  • Is it fear of failure?
  • Is it that we are “happy” and content with even the small things?
  • Is it that $2 million is such a large change in our lives that the $1 Billion does not seem worth it?
  • Is it that we really don’t aim big? Notice I did not say think big, I said aim big? Nuance, but a big difference
  • Is it lack of exposure to large markets?
  • Is it that we are not hungry enough?
  • Or is it something else?
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.

August 03, 2013

Generating Four Cups of Tea for Your Employer - The CRISIL Employee Credo

The "work ethic/culture" of initial employees at a startup is often a crucial determinant of the success of the
venture. I have also often wondered how much of work ethic/culture of an employee is determined by "nature" (i.e., individual specific) versus "nurture" (organizational level stuff like vision & mission, work culture, etc.). Personally, at my first (and so far last) job, I used to break down my salary to a "per working day" number - to be used to ask "Have I done justice to that number?" at day end. And, if the answer was No, to try harder.

I therefore found it quite interesting to read about the employee credo at ratings & research firm Crisil in the book "Doing what is right: The CRISIL Story".

Extract from Page 92-93 (describing a pre placement talk at an MBA school by early employees of the firm):

    "What is the work culture at CRISIL? What is your management philosophy?" It was a bespectaled youngster in the second row who was taking down some notes.

    "Our philosophy is that if the employer gives you one cup of tea, you should generate four cups of tea for the employer." It was Rao now, in his inimitable style.

    As the nonplussed youngster looked on, Rao continued.

    "One cup is paid as tax. The second cup of tea is given to the promoters and stakeholders as dividend. The third cup of tea is reserves. The fourth cup is again given back to you as reward."

    A quiet buzz went around the packed auditorium as Rao soldiered on, enjoying the effect he was generating.

    "If you generate five cups of tea, you will get the fifth cup as an extra reward. As long as you can produce four cups of tea for your employer you will  never find it difficult to maintain your job. That's CRISIL. That's our philosophy." 
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.

July 30, 2013

The Work-Life Juggle: Which Ball can You Afford to Drop?

From Source of Insight:
In his 30 second speech on work-life balance, Brian Dyson (CEO of Coca Cola) gives us a powerful metaphor for thinking about what bounces back, and what does not:

“Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. You name them – Work, Family, Health, Friends and Spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the Air.

You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back.

But the other four Balls - Family, Health, Friends and Spirit – are made of glass. If you drop one of these; they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. You must understand that and strive for it.”

Aside from the rubber ball metaphor, the take away he gives us is … work efficiently during office hours and leave on time.  Give the required time to your family, friends, and have a proper rest.

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.

Dealing with Customer Complaints

Dave Kerpen of Likeable Local has a great article in Inc.

1.  If you take it, you own it.No matter the seniority, the person at your company who takes a complaint is fully responsible for following it through to a resolution. Don't pass the buck. Make sure it gets fully resolved.

2. Act quickly.
Here is your chance for the company to shine. Look at the complaint as a gift, a moment to show off the brand--that is, the part of it that makes people satisfied, not the part that messes up sometimes.

3. Validate.
Let customers know--in the immortal words of Bill Clinton--that you feel their pain. Let them know that you empathize with what they are going through. Say, "I understand how upset you must feel." Who can argue with that? This will work for you even when you've done nothing wrong. You are not necessarily agreeing with the customer or apologizing, when you say it. You're just walking in his shoes.

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.

July 18, 2013

The Power of "Next" in Dealing with Highs & Lows

Smart CEO has an
article by Adam Leipzig where he describes how Disney and Dreamworks executive Jeffrey Katzenberg handles his team's successes and failures. The Monday after the big box office opening of the movie "Honey, I Shrunk the Kids":
We were all full of laughter, high-fiving each other and passing around compliments when Jeffrey strode in. He took his customary seat at the head of the long table and looked around the room. “Congratulations,” he said, simply. Then, with barely a pause he said, “Next.”Next? That wasn’t what we wanted to hear. We wanted to hear praise for the next hour! But no, it was back to business. I thought I understood the meaning of “Next” that morning: we shouldn’t focus on our success or we’ll become complacent and self-congratulatory. But there was a deeper meaning, and I didn’t learn it until months later. We assembled for another Monday morning meeting, this time after we had opened a movie called An Innocent Man....But the movie didn’t attract enough audience, and over the weekend we knew it would be a financial failure. By Monday morning, we were glum and depressed. Jeffrey entered right on time, as usual, at eight o’clock, and settled into his place. The room went still. He surveyed our stolid faces. “Next,” he said, then turned to his notes for the morning’s agenda. We breathed a sigh of relief, because we’d expected to get chewed out. But we weren’t. No one had done anything wrong with the movie – the creative team had made it well, the marketing campaign sold its message, and the distribution group had booked the right theatres. The audience simply wasn’t interested and, in a risky business like show business, that comes with the territory. What did we do in the face of defeat? We simply moved on.
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.

July 06, 2013

Leadership Lessons from Dhoni Bhai

In an article for Economic Times, K Sudarshan of executive search firm of EMA Partners International draws out some lessons from the "Mr.Cool" of Cricket, Indian Captain M.S.Dhoni.
4. Managing success: Dhoni dealt with his early success with a lot of maturity with his feet firmly on the ground, which eventually led to his elevation. It requires a great degree of level headedness and humility to handle fame and money at an early age. In a corporate context, early success need not lead to brash behaviour towards colleagues and customers. We have seen that, at times, young managers who see success early lose their balance and face early career burnouts.
5. Managing pressure: Ability to stay calm and keep his cool with a seemingly uncluttered mind is Dhoni's greatest gift as a leader. This soothes the nerves of the rest of the team and ensures that they stay focused and continue to believe in themselves. Dhoni is a lesson for all leaders in terms of their ability to manage extremely stressful work environments. Managing periods of high stress without losing your composure is the key to long-term success and good health.

6. Focus: Dhoni has immense ability to insulate himself from the surrounding environment and continue to focus on the job. The current Champions Trophy campaign is a case in point in the wake of the IPL controversy. In a corporate context, it is vital for managers to stay positive and focus on the task at hand and avoid distractions and negative energies in play at the workplace...

8. Managing failure:
After the heady success of the World Cup 2011, it was just downhill for Dhoni and his team. After a string of embarrassing losses, it required great character and attitude to bounce back. He did this in style and answered all his critics with the sheer weight of his performance once again. At the workplace, failure has to be dealt with the same fashion as success and one has to continue to be focused on the job at hand.

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.

July 05, 2013

"Never promote an employee for performance; promote only if there is potential"

Lovely column by Devdutt Pattanaik in Economic Times with examples from Mythology - Ram and Bharat (humans) vs Vali and Sugriv (monkeys) vs Ravan and Kuber (Demons) - in answer to a question from CEO on succession planning. (Emphasis mine.)
A yajaman is proactive in decision-making and responsible for its consequences. Did your CMO do what he was told to do or was he taking independent decisions and responsibility? Did your CFO just do his job, but go out of his way to take decision and take responsibility, not just for success but also failure? Most critically, did you see any one of them groom people to take their respective job. If they don't help people grow, if they don't think beyond their domains, if they are unable to think future and take risks, they are probably not good to be leaders.

To be a yajaman, one has to take people along. Who amongst the two tries to take people along? This does not mean consensus all the time. Sometimes it requires force, a little pushing and pulling. Who can handle the consequence of losing the other? Who can find a replacement quickly enough? Who is capable of retaining the other?

You need to list all the things that you feel you did to be a good CEO and map if these qualities exist in some measure in either of the candidates. You need to check if either of them empathizes with the organization and understands the market and can handle change that even you cannot anticipate today. The CEO position cannot be a reward for a job well done. You never promote for performance; you always promote only if there is potential.

  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.

June 26, 2013

When an employee feels his/her job is "monotonous"/"boring" and would like "a change"

You can point to the articles by Prof. Sreekumar Rao in his Economic Times columns here
If your life is mechanical, it is because you have made it so. Human beings have a great capacity for making anything and everything routine and eventually, 'boring'. ... Why do you go to your 'mindless' job? It is likely because it gives you a paycheque. With this paycheque - inadequate as you may feel it to be - you support your family, pay your rent, save for retirement and entertain yourself. At some level, you know this. At some time, you were aware of this. But this knowledge has become buried in layers of the 'routine' that you now complain about. Dust off this knowledge and bring it to the forefront. Keep it there.
and here
Your knowledge of your current industry gives you an edge that you can use. In every industry, even the shrinking ones, there are some companies that are growing and gaining market share. What can you do to make your company one of these? What I hear in your question is that you are concerned about your personal prospects. This is independent of company prospects. One of my students joined a company whose major distribution partner decided to become a competitor. Sales nosedived. While people were being laid off in droves, he was promoted rapidly and many times in succession. And no, he as not the hatchet man prized for this ability. He was simply very creative and came up with all kinds of ways to both increase revenues and contain costs. So he was quickly identified as a 'keeper'. See what you can do to become a 'keeper'. You will not only increase your 'job security' but will actually find more fulfillment as well.

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.

Ev Williams on "When to Sell Your Company"

Great
post by the founder of Twitter and Blogger. Couple of interesting takes:
Sometimes the threat is internal—an inability to execute on one’s opportunity. Friendster might be an example. When they turned down $30 million in pre-IPO Google stock, it was not a dumb move from a “capturing the upside” perspective if you consider they were the first big social network, and they had no real competition. It’s not clear how obvious the internal threat was, though. ...Sometimes the founders or other key people may just be done. This is actually quite common and drives a lot of small acquisitions. It doesn’t apply as much as companies get larger, because everyone is (eventually) replaceable—especially if the company is doing well.
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.

June 21, 2013

VC Valuation Guide: How much to dilute at each stage

Useful Quora answer by Seedfund's
Mahesh Murthy
At the friends and family round, you give out 5% to 10%. So your post valuations are typically around Rs. 1.5 cr At the individual angels round, you give out 10% to 15% so post valuations are Rs. 3 cr to Rs. 5 cr. At the established angels round, you give out 15% to 20% and post valuations are typically Rs. 10 cr or thereabouts. At the seed stage, you probably give out 25% to 33% and the typical post valuations are Rs. 25 cr or so. At the growth stage you give out 25% to 40% or so and your post valuation will be at Rs. 80 cr or so. At the late-stage you might give out 25% to 40% or more and your post valuation will be Rs. 150 cr or so.
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.

June 12, 2013

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly of Venture Capital Term Sheets

Useful PPT (by Tim Dick of US-based Startup Capital Ventures) for entrepreneurs in fund raising mode. If it makes your head swim, you know you need to hire a good lawyer (ideally one does not do work for investors as well).

Hat tip: Sidd Das


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.

May 22, 2013

"Startup seeds are best planted in fertile soil"

Seth Godin in Economic Times:
Does it snow in Utah because that's where they built the ski areas?

Of course not. It's obvious that you find the snow and then you build the ski runs...Whether you're a non-profit fundraiser or someone selling b2b, understanding the profile of what's succeeded before you is a little like understanding where it snows. Sure, it's possible to invent an entirely new market dynamic, to persuade the previously unpersuadable. If that's your mission, go for it. But if your goal is to make your project work, to engage in a way that makes a difference right now, you're better off planting seeds in fertile soil.
 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.

May 20, 2013

How to get featured on startups blogs and columns

Dharmesh Shah of OnStartups has a "tell it like it is" post on how entrepreneurs and their PR agencies should go about pitching to bloggers like him. (My feeling is that these lessons apply equally well - in "The Indian Context" - to say, pitching Economic Times' Friday page on "Power of Ideas". In fact, Indian journalists and bloggers - self included - can learn a lot on what to screen for - from a readers' perspective - from this post.)
Don’t tell me your story is unique. No offense, but it really isn’t. There are thousands of Ramen noodle stories. There are thousands of 3 am “Eureka!” stories. There are thousands of maxed-out credit cards, relatives won’t return your calls, last-minute financing savior stories.

Your story is deservedly fascinating to you because you lived it (just as my story is fascinating to me), but to the average reader your story sounds a lot like every other entrepreneur’s story. Claiming your story is unique creates an expectation that, if not met, negatively impacts the rest of your pitch.

...The best articles let readers learn from your experience, your mistakes, and your knowledge. Always focus on benefiting readers: When you do, your company gets to bask in the reflected PR glow.

..So,readers don’t want to know what you do; they want to know what you know. If you started a company, share five things you learned about landing financing. If you developed a product, share four mistakes you made early on. If you entered a new market, share three strategies you used to steal market share from competitors.

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.

May 19, 2013

Should Indian startups aim for "passionate" employees?

Mukund Mohan of Microsoft Accelerator has a
post suggesting that entrepreneurs set their expectation realistically on this front.
The question I get asked by entrepreneurs a lot is what persona type should I hire? I see most entrepreneurs looking to hire that elusive work-work persona. There are so many Indian entrepreneurs, who claim to have a culture that attracts the work-work persona, and those folks that are passionate employees. I hate to tell them they are being fooled and really if I talked to their employees, they’d tell me they’d rather start their own company, but dont have the risk profile to do so. Here’s the real truth. The work-work folks will not be working for you in India. They would rather be entrepreneurs themselves, since they live their work. So the best you can do as an entrepreneurs is to hire a work-hobby or work-life persona. I’d highly recommend you dont get frustrated if they dont give you a 100%, because really their mind is elsewhere. As long as they give you what they commit to, be happy, move on.

To the comments, I had added the following:

While high-growth oriented startups might argue the point, I think this is highly relevant for non-tech/SME/life style" entrepreneurs. As someone who runs a relatively small shop, I would definitely recommend the "work-hobby" variety.

 1) At least, they are passionate about something.

 2) Especially if they are quite good at their "hobby" (which just doesn't pay the bills), they tend to have better work culture (i.e., they have less time for gossip, office politics, Facebook, etc); have relatively higher IQ and EQ; and tend to stick around longer (especially if the employer is flexible vis-a-vis their "hobby").  

Caveat: If the employee has more than one hobby/passion to keep up with,  1 & 2 don't apply!


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 24, 2013

ESOPs vs Sweat Equity vs Equity for Services

The folks at NovoJuris have an
article on the tax impact (salary and capital gains) and the implementation of each of these. 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 22, 2013

"Don't Delay Layoffs; but go the extra mile with outplacement help"

Mukund Mohan  of Microsoft Accelerator (emphasis mine):
There may be tons of reasons, which are all very valid and humane, for you not to take any painful measures. Your first commitment should be towards your people – so do what it takes to help them land on their feet someplace else, but take the necessary actions to ensure that your business will live to fight another day. You owe it to your dream, your passion and your family to give your startup a fighting chance and keep it surviving as long as you can.
...I have been in this situation two times just in the past 3 years. At both times, revenues from a customer suddenly were in jeopardy and I had to take corrective action very quickly. The day we got to know about it, we had to let go of 4 folks in a very close knit team of 7 and the second time let go of 3 people in a smaller team of 6 people.
I had to be ruthless about the business since I wanted the company to survive. Without those cuts, the business would have folded and the folks would have been out of a job in 3-6 months anyway. I thought it would be more appropriate to be proactive. I also had to be compassionate as a leader so I took great pains to call at least 50+ friends to find a position that paid better and was more stable for most of my colleagues.
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 17, 2013

Getting the Balance Right Between Bramha, Vishnu & Shiva/Mahesh in Business

Uday Kotak in Outlook Business (emphasis mine):
In my 25 years of building this business, I have learnt that embracing change is about creative death. In every organisation you need Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh -  the creator, preserver and destroyer. Most of the time when you start getting successful there are too many Vishnu’s and you will not find as many Mahesh’s. But to continue to be successful in a changing world you need all three. Getting this combination right is crucial and also contextual. At a particular time, you may need more of Mahesh, at another time you may need more of Brahma and some other time, more of Vishnu. It is not one fixed formula, but that is what management and leadership is about. For example, we had an investment in a company called Matrix that was a fascinating idea, but it came to a point where it was not working. We decided to exit, took the pain and moved on. As a firm grows and becomes more successful, exiting becomes more difficult; however, if you don’t cannibalise your own products, someone else will.

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 02, 2013

A VC is a boss you hire; but can't fire

From an Inc. summary of panel discussion involving women entrepreneurs:
Eight weeks after emerging from the Tech Stars accelerator, Fitton's company, OneForty, closed a $2 million venture round. It happened fast--too fast, said Fitton. The company wasn't ready for it. "Our burn rate went way up and we became much more expensive," she said.

That happened before OneForty had quite settled on a direction. Taking venture capital means "hiring a boss you can't fire," she added.
Ferraro's venture investors insisted she relinquish several projects that mattered to her, including work in the community, and with the homeless. "I had to do it under the radar and behind their backs," Ferraro said. She advised attendees to consider debt first and "keep your equity in your pocket."
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 19, 2013

You are an entrepreneur if...

Tom Evslin has ten ways to identify whether you are an entrepreneur. Here are some of them:

10. You can’t bring yourself to call anyone “boss”.

8. Instead of saying “there oughtta be a law”, you say “there could be a business…”

5. Some of your favorite people are VCs (condition applies only after obtaining at least one round of VC funding).

4. Some of your least favorite people are VCs (condition applies only after ATTEMPTING to obtain at least one round of VC funding).

3. You are most likely to start a new business immediately after thinking in the shower.

2. You have to take two zeros OFF the numbers in your business plan or no one will believe it.
 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 18, 2013

Right Age for Entrepreneurship?

"Entrepreneurship is living a few years of your life like most people won't so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can't.
But, which 'few years' of your life?

I have a theory that, given the Indian social and economic context (despite early stage funding options getting better in recent years), it would be good for folks in India to turn entrepreneur at either of the following two stages of their lives:  

1. Straight out of bachelor's education - or maybe with 1-2 years of work experience. Especially a good idea if the idea/opportunity you are going after cannot wait (i.e., someone else will end up executing on it to your lifelong regret). Also, at this stage of life, you have nothing very significant to lose by giving it a shot - say for two years. Getting back into the job market before you turn 27 or 28, isn't difficult at all in today's context.

2. After you have saved up enough to put your kids through school/college (Think MindTree). This option has the added advantage of the founder(s) having seen an industry from within; identified gaps and key pain points; and networked with enough folks to be able choose the right co-founders and early employees (again think MindTree).

While there will no doubt be lots of exceptions - of folks who start-up in their late 20s/early 30s - and still pull it off, a recent post in YourStory - by Talvinder Singh, Founder, Tushky.com and also the other young entrepreneurs who have chimed in on the comments - has served to reinforce my theory.  

Update: There now a trending post on The Rodinhoods from another young entrepreneur naming EMI, Matrimony and (of course) Aunty as the Enemies of entrepreneurship.

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 27, 2013

If you HAVE TO outsource product development...

 Nilesh Bhojani has some advise on the best practices in Yourstory:
Plan to spend at least a couple of hours on product development every day – answering queries from the development team on detailed requirements, reviewing and testing  progress, thinking about the next set of items to be built, reviewing and testing what has been done so far, and so on. If the product to be built is complex and the development team is bigger than 2-3 members, you might have to spend even more time. If you can’t commit that kind of that time, you must hire someone who understands the domain and someone you can trust – this person can be a bridge between you and the development team. If the development team is remote, this person should be local to you and he/she needs to have the authority to make day-to-day product decisions.

...Also, the development team working on the project usually notices a number of things that can be done different or better and this could be valuable feedback for you. But if it’s a fixed-bid contract, their focus is on “delivery”, not on “development”. You should go for an engagement-based contract if you want to build a good product and want to use the experience  of development team you are paying for. Go for a fixed-bid contract if short-term cost savings is your main goal.

 ...Every company has a few star performers: the rest are just good or average. In a bid to win a deal they might make you believe all their best people will work on your project, but that’s unlikely to happen in practice. Make sure you get a realistic team of good dedicated developers.

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 15, 2013

Crucial Connect to Venture Capital & Private Equity Investors



Accelerators, Incubators, Angel Networks, Seed Funds, Early Stage VC  Funds, Growth Stage VC Funds, Mid Market PE Funds, Buyout Funds, Large/Global PE Funds…. the Indian PE/VC Investor Ecosystem is getting more and more stratified and specialized each year.

As a founder/promoter/senior representatives of a growth oriented company, its is crucial to remain updated on the developments in the investor ecosystem – at least once a year. Which is what the annual
APEX PE/VC Summit & Awards (February 13, 2013 at Mumbai’s ITC Grand Central - Parel) provides you in one power packed day long event. The Star Studded Speaker Line-up at APEX’13 includes:

For The Big Picture:

How about someone who was Deputy Governor of the Reserve Bank Of India until last month? And Chief Economist-Asia-Pacific at a top global rating agency before that.
For The Public Markets:

How about the CEO of the Asia's Oldest and best known stock exchange, the BSE?

About Private Equity:

How about the founder of India's Best Known Home Grown PE shop? How about the India Head of the World Biggest PE Firm?
About Venture Capital:

How about two Managing Directors from the best known VC firm in the World, India included? And many, many more rising stars (from accelerators, seed investors and growth capital funds).

About Starting Up, M&A and the Life After:

How about the founders of a pioneering KPO venture (acquired by Thomson Retuers) and a pioneering assessment services firm (acquired by Manipal Group) who have since turned investors?

Click Here to view the list of Star Speakers and Click Here to download the detailed Event Agenda.
APEX Showcase Manual
Is your company looking to raise capital right away? Apart from the power packed content and well planned networking opportunities at the event, participation at APEX'13 provides a unique opportunity to reach out your company's profile and funding requirements to ALL ACTIVE PE/VC FUNDS IN INDIA.
The APEX'13 Company Showcase manual, featuring your listing, will be handed over to the investors/advisors attending the event and, post event, also emailed to all active PE/VC firms, Seed Funds, Angel Investors, Incubators/Accelerators & Investment Banks.
To participate in APEX’13 yourself / refer us to anyone else in your company / other organizations, please email us at apex@ventureintelligence.in. We will then send you the corresponding registration form and payment options.