Entrepreneur Media spoke to Archit Gupta, founder and CEO of ClearTax, on what it takes to get picked by YCombinator and how his association with Paytm has helped him nurture his company in the long run.
Founded in 2011, ClearTax helps people file income tax returns online. The company plans to launch a mobile application very soon to enable customers file IT returns via mobile phones.
What does YC look for in a startup
“According to me YC selects those startups that are solving something fundamental. They like to pick companies that are hard tech; solving difficult things. That could be genomics, drones, self-driving cars, solving payments. They are not looking for ideas, they are looking for founders. Founders who are formidable and are looking to build something that could change people’s lives."
Archit recalled days at YC where he got a chance to interact and be interviewed by Paul Graham. Graham always spoke to him about how they should stay with ClearTax for the long haul and advised against selling the company and told them to build a long, lasting empire.
Archit , along with a couple of other founders at YC, would often take their car out and go on a drive singing Taylor Swift songs from 1989 album. That was their methodology to de-stress back in those days in Palo Alto.
Nurturing friendship with Paytm founder
Archit and Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma carry a friendship of five years. It started with Archit hosting a hackathon at Paytm’s Noida office. It was at this hackathon where Archit found his other co-founders as well. Post that hackathon, Archit and Vijay decided to meet up at Greater Kailash-1 market for an hour. The meeting stretched on for four and a half hours!
“I always looked at Vijay for mentorship as he knew the struggles of an entrepreneur. I never had an agenda and did not want or need Vijay’s money. I was just looking for some friends in the ecosystem. I was never pitching to him. It was always exchanging our entrepreneurial stories with each other.”
How can young entrepreneurs find a good mentor?
“One needs to be upfront and transparent about their challenges and motive. The more honesty and vulnerability you show, the better it is. Don’t wait for mentorship to get started. Pursue your work aggressively and show progress at your work so that when a person meets you know that you are working diligently to solve a problem. The people-to-people connect will happen with few and will not happen with the rest, you cannot force that connection. This connection and rapport is always genuine and you cannot fake it.”
Working on something that involves the government
Dealing with the government is surprisingly good in our case. There are electronic systems that are solid and stable. However, the people in the government, who are decision makers, may not necessarily be technologists. So as a startup, you need to sit with them and have longer conversations to get fruitful results. We have seen that the government is really motivated and mission oriented with the right intent.
Any startup working on something that involves the government should have patience because you are dealing with an entity where the decision making is slower out of necessity. Their decision making cannot be as quick like the way we are used to in the startup space. Expect the government to not understand technology as deeply as we do. It is our job to communicate and have a dialogue with them.
Evaluation while hiring senior officials
ClearTax recently hired three senior executives from Flipkart.
ClearTax looks for deep “sense of people” in leaders. Will the elected person nurture the team and should inspire and lead the rest of his team through walls and fire. We also spend a lot of time with people who have worked under this person and reported to him. We do 5-6 reference checks before we hire someone.
The Flipkart employees we have hired have seen the unicorn grow from a small user base to a large user base. Success breeding success is a strong principle because they know what not to do and what to care. There might some amount of unlearning that might happen because of our target consumers being different. But fundamentally they know that they have to focus on the consumer.