“I don’t care about the cheque size, I want you by my side to tell me everytime I’m stupid,” — TapChief cofounder Shashank Murali remembers telling Freecharge and Cred founder Kunal Shah on a WhatsApp call. That call led to Shah investing in Murali’s gig workers or freelancer marketplace.
TapChief’s preference for onboarding marquee investors is well reflected in the angels that have backed it, including the likes of Paytm’s founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma, Utsav Somani of AngelList India, Flipkart’s former executive Mekin Maheshwari, Slideshare founder Amit Ranjan, TaxiForSure’s founder Aprameya Radhakrishna, Innov8’s Ritesh Malik, BYJU’S CPO Ranjit Radhakrishnan, Praful Thachery of BigBasket, Satyen Kothari of CitrusPay, POSist founder Ashish Tulsian and others.
These names, along with investors such as NuVentures, 500 Startups, Stanford Angels, and SucSeed Venture Partners have also backed the early stage venture.
Recently, TapChief announced a $650K round, which takes its total amount raised to over $800K. The Bengaluru-based startup was founded by Shashank Murali, Binay Krishna, and Arjun Krishna in 2016. It started as an online advice platform and forum for job seekers, professionals and employers, but the company pivoted to become a freelancer marketplace in late 2017. Since then, the company claims to have signed up over 75K professionals on to the platform, who together earned $1 Mn through TapChief.
In addition to connecting businesses to freelancers, TapChief also provides an array of proprietary technology solutions to support and manage the complete lifecycle of freelance work starting from discovery to payments. Some notable clients of TapChief include Unilever, Deloitte, Redbus, upGrad and Dunzo.
How TapChief Tapped 50+ Marquee Investors
Speaking to Inc42, Murali shared why and how the team onboarded 50+ marquee investors.
“If I have to be truthful, but unfortunately, boring, our secret sauce behind getting investors is the sheer tenacity and determination,” Murali said.
“We have known each of our investors for quite some time before we raise money from them. For example, I was interacting with Shah for over a year and a half, before I could get him to invest,” he added.
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According to Murali, he had also met TaxiForSure’s Radhakrishna much before the investment deal went through, but could not convince him for a long time. Yet, he kept Radhakrishna apprised about ongoing product developments and his conversations with other investors and angels, until the TaxiForSure founder finally relented and invested in the company in November 2016.
“So I think what stood out for us is largely that we never gave up.” he added. Murali said that once they zeroed down on an investor, they would go all out. If the investment deal did not convert in the first attempt, the team would go back and implement the feedback that the investor pointed out and then again go back to showcase the results.
There were usually two outcomes in such follow-ups, either the investor was right and their feedback made TapChief’s product better or they found that investor’s suggestion did not work for the company’s target market — in either case the team went back to explain their reasons and findings to the investor.
As Murali said in his recent tweet storm — “We never back down!”
Further, Murali stressed on the importance of being truthful about your journey. He said, “Even if there was a month, where we let’s say, just grew 5-10% — we were candid about it, we explained what the reasons were for this slowdown.”
There are many standpoints in the ecosystem that can cause these ups and downs in the business, “And how are you correcting it and preparing so that it’s not a surprise the next time, is what I think is more important for investors,” he added.
Talking of the third factor, Murali said there is a huge market opportunity in organising the gigwork and investors realise that. “When we say that we want to help a million professionals earn 10 Lakh a year on an average in the next three to four years of our platform, it makes us a billion-dollar opportunity,” he added.
Putting More Value In Investor Partnerships
Talking about why TapChief focussed on getting marquee investors rather than a bigger cheque size, Murali said, “Obviously everyone has a dollar amount in mind that they would like to raise but I don’t think that it should become the only driving force in a startup’s fundraising journey.”
“That being said, I don’t think the cheque size matters while onboarding angel investors because most angels do not invest largely for financial returns, because obviously startup investments are not the safest financial instruments to generate financial returns.” he added.
According to Murali, angel investors usually invest because they want to be a part of the startup journey, they want to see something which they also believe can become big, impactful and influential in the coming years.
Further, he said, it’s not about the ticket size, rather it is about building a partnership with the investor, learning from them, and them contributing to the company growth.
One of the benefits of having quite a few investors is that each of them have created a few things and each comes with a certain domain expertise. As a founder, one needs to figure out what that is and how could that help in the startup growth, said Murali.
For instance, Flipkart’s former executive Maheshwari is Murali’s go-to person for anything around building a strong organisation, right from how does one do interviews? What to look for in prospective hires? How to evaluate them? How does the company get better at interviewing, and making sure the people you hire are successful, and so on and so forth.
Similarly, when encountered with anything around branding, Murali chooses to counsel with Paytm’s Sharma, given the fintech company’s resounding success in becoming a known brand across both urban and rural India.
“Overall, the biggest motivation for us behind getting so many investors is what can we as a team, as founders, etc, learn from people,” he added.
Murali believes that the vision of what the company is trying to build is large enough, and now it’s just a matter of correct execution. Hence, the company’s idea has always been to find more and more partners who can help them get better at every aspect of business right from technology, to recruiting, to marketing, to operation and so on.
“Because the mission is much greater than all of us. This is about people, their lives, and we need to punch above our weight, accept criticism with grace, and be better than yesterday because there’s no better way than to emulate and operate like Rahul Dravid,” — Shashank Murali, TapChief.