For those closely tracking the Indian startup ecosystem, Ritesh Malik is no stranger. He entered the ring when venture capitalists (VCs) were just picking up the threads at the fence and today, the angel investor-turned-philanthropist who has invested in over 80 startups is extremely bullish on the future of startups.
In a free-wheeling chat with Inc42, Malik said that while he is happy over the great influx of top dollar which is churning out unicorns after unicorns in the country, startup aspirants should always aim to gain a real wealth of knowledge from successful founders.
“The best way to support the Indian startup ecosystem is when established entrepreneurs invest and back budding founders. I feel that what successful founders who have gone through an entire journey of creating, innovating and building great products can do to nurture young talent, angel investors simply cannot do,” Malik stressed.
“For me, learning from a thriving, homegrown business model like Paytm and proper guidance from a successful founder like Vijay Shekhar Sharma is much more than just receiving the capital,” he emphasised.
The logic is simple: Successful founders know all the risks — from legal to policies — involved during the journey.
“For a founder, nearly eight startups from a club of 100 will eventually flourish. They are the ones who will help you sail through with their vision and guidance,” said Ritesh Malik who in 2016 started a co-working platform called Innov8 which was later acquired by SoftBank-backed OYO in 2019.
Currently one of the leading Indian co-working companies, Innov8 was incubated and seed funded by Y-Combinator, a San Francisco-based startup accelerator.
Post Y-Combinator, Innov8 was seed funded by Vijay Shekhar Sharma (Paytm), Rajan Anandan (Google/Sequoia), Kunal Shah (Freecharge/Cred) and Ambiga Subramanium (MuSigma) etc.
Malik has been one of the most active angel investors in the country. After selling Innov8 to OYO, he now focuses on his philanthropic goals across education, cybersecurity, startup policy regulations, village empowerment and healthcare.
Malik is one of the leading Covid warriors with a pledge to help around 10 lakh people get vaccinated via his Radix Healthcare facility in Delhi.
He said that India has moved beyond just being a back-end BPO or a customer base for the world.
“We are creating world-class products. We will be a huge digital democracy by 2050 and the largest software producer of the world. This is the first time when founders are more relevant than the investors. This is the right time to be an entrepreneur, grow and create value out of the capital raised. Founders need to fully leverage new-age technologies like AI/ML well,” Ritesh Malik said.
He emphasised that founders should be ready for a marathon process, at least for 9-10 years, and learn all the ropes especially the legal ones during their journey.