Hacking and Surviving my second year as an Angel Investor
Can’t deny that time does fly fast. Feels like it was just yesterday that I was recounting my days of pondering over the thoughts of early stage investing. Here I am again, to share some of my hacks, tricks and learnings for someone who wants to get into ‘angel’ investing at a time when all the media, naysayers and doomsday experts have written down the startup dream in the year during which PM Modi had unveiled the grand Startup India plan with much fanfare.
My personal portfolio had seen some movement and a deeper sense of involvement from me in 2015. I am sure all of them are entering 2016 with a strong sense of resilience. Some ventures (LogiNext, DoorMint, Testbook) raised a significant upround, some were quietly building products & services (Tavaga, Truce, NexGear, Qustn) and some were rapidly acquiring customers along their journey (Betaout, Bounty) but all of them helped me remember that it is about finding hustlers who are not looking for a handout but instead giving me the right to partner with them & their vision.
I am sharing some of my observations while starting 2016 with a sense of measured optimism -
1. Be prepared to piss off more entrepreneurs than you can imagine (for all the right / wrong / unknown reasons) but make sure that the ones who you work with can vouch how helpful & supportive you have been in their journey of venture building. Pseudo entrepreneurship can sometimes be just as rewarding if you are good at doing what you do currently.
2. You do not have to be a first-generation entrepreneur to have a similar level of passion, enthusiasm and understanding of technology to come into this field and hopefully even succeed with time and some effort. There are enough VCs, Twitter trolls, Tech Gurus who do this for a living and aren’t afraid to call out people who try to break into their zone.
3. Entrepreneurship & Starting up is overrated & glamourized and so is ‘angel’ investing. Do it only when you have the right reason and the absolutely necessary drive needed to go into overkill mode. Day in & Day out it is becoming commonplace that ‘entrepreneurs’ are building the next me-too business or a clone of a Western world venture totally unsuitable to the Indian scenario (while investors are chasing them with more and more money) because MBA → Job route seems to be passé.
4. Miss the hype-cycle investments as you will almost always be not sure of its success and picking a winner. Good to have missed the trendy investments of FoodTech, Hyper-local delivery or the next fastest grocery delivery service. Glad I learned about this early on and focused my energy in identifying which ventures are focused on creating real value by capturing white spaces or creating ones to be filled.
5. Grassroot work required in Tier 2 cities. Being part of panels at some of the Tier 2 city college fests, it was evident that we need more grassroot activism and ensure that the college students there get access to better mentorship, knowledge base and touch points with the startup ecosystem present in the metros.
6. Having an investment thesis does not really help much because the Indian startup ecosystem is not that wide and deep. Choose your friends wisely, your co-investors smartly and your founders decisively.
2015 was some year in terms of activity in the startup ecosystem. It definitely started off extremely high on exuberance and I am glad to have lived through it to know how a downturn would look like. Currently, I am looking forward to spending time with the angel community at the second edition of LetsIgnite taking place on March 10,11th where most of these pointers would be touched upon as well as dissected. There are some exciting things in the pipeline for 2016 for all of us, so it’s time to weed out the noise around us and focus on what lies ahead. Kaboom!