I am compelled to write this post out of my personal experience.
As the founder of iScribblers, a content marketing, and PR company, last month I realised the need for growth investors in my company. Impactful enough to bring in their network and experience to supercharge the seemingly stagnant growth of my company.
Apart from capital, (which a self-funded company like mine doesn’t need, I needed a mentor who could provide an unbiased insight into the threats and opportunities my company encounters. And help to refine the price structure.
This is when I met ApurvaChamaria, an investor who is more of a founder’s friend. Today, he’s more of an advisor who I look up to for every advice I need in the working of my company.
Curious to know what other investors also bring to the table, I reached out to the top 7 for their insights. Here’s what they had to share:
#1. Apurva Chamaria, a founder’s friend.
The three key things Apurva helps his investee companies implement, to defend its ground from the competition are:
- Strong Brand:My investee companies have developed strong brands which have helped them set themselves apart from the competition. This is critical in hyper-competitive sectors like Co-working where Innov8 is taking on WeWork and AWIFS and Chqbook which is challenging Policybazaar and BankBazaar. Some of my investee companies are also market leader brands in their sectors like Lucideus Tech in cyber-security.
- Culture as a differentiator:Many of my investee companies have built a very strong employee culture to attract, retain and enthuse employees. WittyFeed and Josh Talks stand out in this aspect.
- Focus on Hiring “A” talent:All my investee companies have focused on hiring and retaining exceptional talent which has helped them increase their lead over rivals.
Almost all his investee companies have a repeat customer base of between 91-95%.
95% of his investments are revenue generating and 100% are growing rapidly.
For company’s which are at a relatively earlier stage like Josh Talks, I would be more formally involved in helping founders Supriya and Shobhit with a wider range of functions right from raising investments or product roadmap, sales and hiring.
Similarly, with Vinay Singhal of Founder & CEO of Witty Feed, often we end up speaking very late in the night on critical issues he could be grappling with.
I also reach out to them if I need to pick their brains on something I’m grappling with and share a great relationship with founders of all my investee companies.”
#2. Japan Vyas, Sixth Sense Ventures – “Being available to the founders whenever needed”.
“I am available to my founders “as much as they need me”. In some cases my involvement is very active and hands-on covering strategy, helping with sales and marketing, branding, financial and people decisions etc. In some other, especially with second-time founders or senior professionals turning entrepreneurs, it is more hands-off as they have their bases covered. In such cases, involvement is restricted to occasional brainstorming sessions, chats, and a shoulder to cry on.
One of my investee companies, Dimension NXG was attempting to do the audacious – building an AR headset out of India. I am invested in it from even before the company was formally incorporated and I purely went by my investment ethos “people matter”.
I worked closely with them on all aspects of their business (excluding the coding part!). Today they have successfully raised two angel rounds and are ready with their AR headset – Ajnalens. There are a couple of other investments which were in a bad shape financially where I bet on the people and got to work on cleaning up the balance sheet, people issues and restructuring the product portfolio. Happy to note that both of them are on a growth path now attracting a lot of investor interest.”
#3. Sanjay Mehta brings in the 5-C’s.
“I bring in 5Cs Cash, Counsel, Contacts, Content and Capability.
After investment, I help companies in their initial 90 days to lay a strong foundation with 5 Ps Purpose, People, Product, Pricing, and Platform.
RepUIp an online reputation management company for hospitality industry post investment I helped them with next round of funding, industry connections, go to market strategy and helping them scale.
#4. Revathy Ashok, the sounding board for entrepreneurs.
“Entrepreneurship can sometimes be a lonely effort and good investor provides much more valuable than money, namely, access to networks, be that sounding board, mentor, a guide to navigating this long journey.
I have over 15 companies in my portfolio. Different companies have different requirements depending on the stage of growth of the company and the relative strengths of each entrepreneur. At the early stage of growth of a company, I believe that an investor has a lot to offer because of his or her experience primarily in the following broad areas.
Strategy: Helping the entrepreneurs to think through their product strategy, growth, business model, customer acquisition, market positioning, funding strategy, making the right connections etc.
Execution focus: Once the product/ service market fit has been established and the early customers are in, the focus has to shift to execution. The investor because of his or her prior experience can clearly help them in thinking through systems and processes, performance goals, metrics, reporting and monitoring that need to be put in place in order free up time for the founder to focus on business growth. This is clearly an area where entrepreneurs need help because, after the initial growth spurt, they might find the business stalling.
Governance: Governance is typically a blind spot for entrepreneurs and early-stage investors since everyone is chasing growth and survival. But history has shown us time and again that poor governance can kill a promising startup and investors have failed to call it out early. So the investor needs to provide that right perspective and insight in a timely manner to the entrepreneur to protect them from a big fall.
Survival:Last but the most important one is to help them think through a process that allows them to manage their cash well and conserve it until they secure the next round of funding. In the life of a startup, the distance between survival and death is only a few months away. Any misstep at this crucial stage could simply kill a good business or a business with potential.
There was a case where the entrepreneur was looking at only a B2C model. We helped him successfully transition into a hybrid B2B and B2C model creating two separate revenue streams with separate “go to market” strategies. The delivery strategy did not undergo much change but this also necessitated a change in the product development roadmap.
Thinking through all these issues in a holistic manner is key.
BTW … in the investments that I lead or I am closely associated with I try to work on all the four principles that I lay out…If I cannot solve a problem, I will point them to the right person who can be of help.”
#5. Sonali Thapar, Director of Thapar Investments, the support partner.
“The Family Office brings vast experience and exposure to diverse business models that are followed in our group companies. We share the best practices in the fields of finance, marketing, technology and HR etc. with our portfolio companies that aid in achieving their growth, scalability and financial targets.
We’re partners – together in success and failure, providing support continuously.
I bring a fresh perspective— female eyes and empathy are key ways to evaluate any problem that a startup faces across their lifetime. Opening doors, helping hire the right talent and working on capital growth strategies are some of the things that excite me as an investor.”
#6. Satveer Singh Thakral of SGAN, the growth partner.
Investors play a pivotal role in giving shape to a company along with an entrepreneur. While every person who starts out with a venture has enthusiasm in plenty, what is also needed, speaking practically, is straight answers to some tough questions. These come from the investors and for a good reason. Before investing in a startup, investors need to be completely sure of answers to some compelling questions about the venture, the market landscape, competition, and the business dynamics.
At SGAN, we are no different. We bring to the table strategic thinking, networking opportunities, access to capital (both at the first round and further rounds), geographical expansion, and opportunities for further growth.
SGAN was born out a desire to promote the culture of entrepreneurship and to support the growing startup ecosystem in different countries. It is an early stage VC anchored by the Thakral
Group of Companies. As an entrepreneur, partnering with SGAN will not only provide startups with the risk capital but also grant immediate access to the parent Group’s network and unmatched management expertise. Through this door-opening and practical mentoring approach, we strive to maintain long-term relationships with our portfolio companies. This model has been tested successfully across our investments where our portfolio companies have used this network to scale and raise further rounds of institutional capital.
With the Thakral Group operating in over 30 countries and with 20,000+ employees, our operational breath covers a wide range of activities from distribution and retail of Consumer
Electronics, Computers & Peripherals, IT services, Real Estate Development, Hospitality,
Logistics, Manufacturing of Yarn, export, and retail of branded garments and accessories.
We help portfolio companies in their next stage of growth enabling companies to scale across the Region, namely by providing strong geographical knowledge and access to large, diverse networks.
There are a few distinct ways SGAN helps companies leverage these strengths:
– Connects to domain experts made possible by a vast expanse of connects/network in a diverse set of industries ranging from Healthcare to Logistics to Hospitality, so on and so forth
-By being actively involved with our portfolio, we make sure that we either mentor our portfolio companies ourselves or make relevant connect for the same by leveraging our large network. We also have a dedicated team who works closely with the majority of our portfolio companies, assessing their needs every now and then.
– Our strength lies in our network. We help companies leverage this network in several ways: introductions to potential clients, product validation, and advice from domain networks
– Geographical expansion: Given the parent Group’s presence in over 30 countries, we help assist startups with things like company incorporation, registration, office space, etc.
– Help with fundraising by the means of constructive feedback as well as introductions to large, institutional investors.
Shanti Mohan, founder, LetsVenture (India’s largest online fundraising platform), “SGAN brings access to global, HNI investors within their network. SGAN brings good quality deals that they’re leading/investing or evaluating, to syndicate on the platform. Having SGAN as one of the investors helps close the deal quickly. They bring in tremendous value to the startups, given their huge network and experience in the APAC region.”
For the startup Anchanto, which is now at the Series B stage, SGAN brought in a vast network of its existing business relationships, portfolio companies, offices and reach across Asia. This was helpful because Anchanto needed to shorten its regional time to market by leveraging on the right level of shareholders network.
To quote another founder, Satyam Darmora, founder of i2e1, “SGAN has been a super investor to i2e1. The team has been great at allowing us all the freedom to operate and at the same time provide critical business inputs. SGAN opened various doors for client & investors for us.”
#7. SheetalBahl of growx ventures, the strategic partner.
We work closely with our portfolio companies in three ways: strategic planning, business development and sales, and fund raising. These are key for startups and align well to our strengths.
As an example, when Locus approached us for their seed investment in 2015, they had some great tech with a B2C application, but we saw much more potential for their product on the B2B side, and encouraged them to experiment with our funds on that side. They found great success with enterprises, and eventually pivoted completely to B2B. This has helped them raise over $7 Mn subsequently, and they continue to grow rapidly.
Concluding – I’d love to know more about how your investors have helped you. Please share in the comments below.
Disclaimer – Apurva Chamaria is my mentor. I’m not financially affiliated to any of the people mentioned in the article.