The ‘bad boy’ of the Indian startup ecosystem got everyone excited when he posted the above Facebook status in early September 2015. It was being dubbed as “the return of Rahul Yadav”. He even made the cover of Entrepreneur – “Rebel Reloaded: The Rise, Fall and Return of Rahul Yadav“.
Rahul Yadav’s quirky and brash antics had already garnered him a lot of admirers. Added to that was all the media attention. Many prominent entrepreneurs and investors have also shared their views on Yadav. He was basically the talk of the town before “the downturn” became the hip new topic of discussion. The fandom had escalated to the point where people would embrace and support him on anything he would do. This article by Sumanth Raghavendra nicely summarises the hype that had been created around Yadav.
By December, the Internet was rife with news of Yadav’s shiny new startup, dubbed Intelligent Interfaces. There were hints that it had to do something with governance. The rumour mill was back, with fanboys tracking him incessantly – what was he doing, who is working with him, who is backing him?
The news of Intelligent Interfaces being backed by big names likes Sachin Bansal, Binny Bansal and Yuvraj Singh had gained everyone’s attention – people who were eagerly waiting for the fallen hero to redeem himself. While it was rumoured that the funds raised for the startup were in the millions, it turns out the actual amount wasn’t even close!
As per Yadav, Intelligent Interfaces was supposed to provide intelligent data aggregation and visualisation solutions to the Government of India, to make governance 100 times more efficient. He spoke passionately about it at the IIT Bombay eSummit this February, declaring that it is an interesting challenge and that he needed “a big problem to solve”.
When It All Goes Horribly Wrong!
However, it has been over 7 months since the launch announcement and about 5 months since the funding announcement, yet no one knows what the company does or is doing.
The PR king is nowhere to be seen in the mainstream media. The guy who had perpetually been in news throughout last year, is MIA all of a sudden. But why? Why haven’t we read anything about him since January?
Within just a few months of announcing and launching Intelligent Interfaces, the startup, it seems, has already crashed & burned, both literally and figuratively. According to our sources, out of the initial 15 member team of Intelligent Interfaces, only a handful of the team are left in the company. Most of the team, who joined Rahul’s new journey, have already moved out, including one of the co-founders, leaving the bad boy behind. Not only that, the raised funding has already been burnt, and Rahul had already been working on a couple of other companies since the past three months.
And yesterday, adding fuel to these rumours, Rahul finally took to social media:
But why? What changed?
In 2007, Rahul Yadav, a bright and unflagging teenager, became the first person from Khairtal (a small town in Rajasthan) to crack IIT-JEE. With a lot of ambitions and dreams to fulfil, he entered IIT Bombay as a metallurgy student. But soon enough, he lost interest in the subject and instead got attracted to web designing and the likes. It was in his Hostel 8 room, where Housing.com had its humble beginning. His leadership skills became apparent when he got elected as class representative in his second year. His entrepreneurial side had also blossomed during this time.
Before Housing.com, Yadav had developed Exambaba.com (an online question bank of old IIT papers) and Recharge123 (an online recharge portal). With just a few months left to complete the course, he dropped out of IIT in 2011. The entrepreneurial bug had bitten him big time. Housing launched in mid-2012 with Yadav as its CEO.
What followed, makes for an engaging story. In a very short span of time (two and a half years to be precise), the startup amassed a funding of around $140 Mn. In 2013, the startup raised funding from Zishaan Hayath, Haresh Chawla and Nexus Venture Partners. Then, in 2014, it raised a series of fundings from Helion Venture Partners, Qualcomm Ventures, and Softbank Capital. At this point, it seemed nothing could go wrong. It was every investor’s dream come true.
Rahul was armed with the necessary moolah and a talented young team to fulfil his dream of doing things 10 times better and building the best company in the real estate segment. Within a few months, the team grew from 100 to 1000; the company expanded exponentially in terms of reach; things were hurried. That was followed by the #lookup marketing campaign that was worth about INR 120 Crore.
Echoing Haresh Chawla’s words, “No one asked them to pause, to review, to reflect. No one asked them to measure, to monitor, to plan.” These miscalculated steps needed an immediate course correction. But, much wasn’t done about it.
For Yadav, the downhill journey started towards the first quarter of 2015. Between March and May, he wrote a series of searing emails to his investors, board members, team members, etc. One of those included his resignation letter (in May), where he also trounced the investors and impugned their intellect.[Updated] There was also the infamous public spat between Rahul Yadav and Sequoia’s Shailendra Singh. Read it for yourself.
Despite this incident, the board reaffirmed their faith in him and he was retained.
He again made the headlines later that month when he announced that he will give away his Housing.com shares, which was estimated to be worth between $23.58-31.44 Mn, to the employees. Yadav said, “I’m just 26 and it’s too early in life to get serious about money etc.”
Then, in July, he was finally shown the door for good. The investors and board members had finally had enough of his antics.
I have to tell you, at this point, I felt bad for him and was kind of ready to reason with the angry young entrepreneur’s viewpoints. Let’s agree that the man is very outspoken (to an unwanted extent), daring, and extremely funny – qualities that we, the millennials, and the media seem to value very much. No wonder, he became a darling of the media so quickly. And a youth icon too. As of today, he has more than 80,000 followers on Facebook (quite unusual for an Indian tech entrepreneur, right?).
Notwithstanding his troubled stint at Housing, his unwavering enthusiasm however continued, and soon he resurfaced with the announcement of his new startup.
Back to the Present
At Intelligent Interfaces, Yadav was joined by his former Housing Chief of Staff, Azeem Zainulbhai, and Amit Das, another former Housing executive, as co-founders. Azeem is the son of former McKinsey India Chairman and current Quality Council of India Chairman, Adil Zainulbhai.
According to RoC filings, besides Sachin Bansal, Binny Bansal and Yuvraj Singh, two more investors – Sanjay Singh Mahida and Dotcom service India Private Limited, have invested in Intelligent Interfaces.
However, there were reports that Vijay Shekhar Sharma of Paytm and Rahul Sharma of Micromax have also invested in the startup. While many reports quoted this round to be in the millions, MCA documents accessed by Inc42 tell a different story. The company had raised just INR 3.1 Crore at a valuation of INR 170 Crore. But well no harm exaggerating these numbers. After all everyone does it?
Here’s the unforeseen part. People who have closely worked or are working with him say, Rahul Yadav was no longer interested in the startup.
The startup town celebrity has apparently burnt through the INR 3 Cr. in a 2-3 month period, of which INR 1.5 Cr. was apparently taken as a reimbursement for a trip he made to the Valley and a few other expenses, said a few sources close to the company.
Most of the team of 15, which was based out of YouWeCan’s office, has left the company. Amit Das recently joined the mobile services startup, UrbanClap, to head its design and product development team.
Yadav is apparently concentrating on improving his relationships with people, and holding things off in favour of his engagement and marriage (congratulations to him by the way), that’s what people said.
But hold your horses, because there’s more to this story.
After digging around a little we found that Rahul Yadav is also working on three other companies apart from Intelligent Interfaces. Interestingly, two of these companies were formed as JVs with Nishant Singhal, the other partner in YouWeCan Ventures and one other company with Azeem.
RY Advisory LLP
Registered in Mumbai, the company was cofounded with Azeem Adil Zainulbhai and was incorporated on 4th March 2016. There wasn’t much details available about this company.
Rental Solutions Private Limited
Incorporated on 4th March 2016, the company is based out of Gurgaon, Haryana and is founded by Rahul along with Nishant Singhal. According to the documents filed at the ROC, this startup will be dealing in the real estate sector as well.
“…carry on the business of renting of properties, homes, land and building physically and through online portal including consultancy technology support and provide assistance for property rental, online listing of properties ,aggregation platform for buying, selling and renting of properties including residential, commercial, land and building in india and outside india.”
In this company, Rahul holds 75% equity and Nishant holds rest of the 25% equity.
Could this be the re-re-return of Yadav?
Tetres Advisory Private Limited
This is the second company with Rahul along with Nishant Singhal as Directors. The company was incorporated on 25th February and is based out of Gurgaon. Here as well Rahul holds 75% equity and Nishant holds 25%.
We had reached out via email to both Rahul & Nishant for comments. Though they’ve read the mail, we haven’t heard back from them yet.
In a perilous time, when many startups are biting the dust due to a funding crunch, and unicorns like Flipkart & Zomato are facing lethal markdowns, here’s a ‘maverick’ who has been squandering the talent, resources, and the vision he has been endowed with.
This perhaps teaches us that funding and PR don’t maketh a company.
The truth might discourage a lot of entrepreneurs, but it should also serve as a lesson for many!
Update: An earlier version of the article pegged the valuation as INR 17 Crores instead of INR 170 Crores.