Is Funding the End Goal For Startups? Maybe Not!

"I've seen a reduction in congratulatory messages today compared to the past, when someone raises money, which is good!"

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Global MNCs are gradually becoming more active in the startup accelerator space, wherein, they are not only nurturing nascent stage startups, but are also helping them get their first active customers. Today accelerators also work with slightly later stage startups as well, so as to help them get the right customers, traction and hiring.

Microsoft Accelerator

Entrepreneur India caught up with Bala Girisaballa, who will now lead Microsoft Accelerator in India as CEO-in-Residence, on how he plans to take the accelerator forward in India.

Girisaballa takes the baton from Ravi Narayan, who will now assume the role of Global Director at Microsoft Accelerator.

“I think the accelerator is where I can bring some interesting perspective, because I’ve been a part of both the territories. I have worked with large companies and then stepped into a startup environment,” he said.

Bala said that he understands the psyche of a big company and at the same time realizes the need to have consistent momentum to get things done on time. “A lot of times, startups face a challenge trying to negotiate big companies to be a part of their customer base.  Startups move way too fast and they do not have the patience to work through the cycles quarter by quarter. So I think I can add value to their day to day business, because I understand both sides of the ecosystem,” he added.

Through his career, Girisaballa, has switched between entrepreneurial and corporate environments. Prior to this, Bala was with Zinnov as Partner & Practice Head, helping out in their research and development primarily.  He has also been associated with technology companies like Yahoo, Oracle and Infosys. At Yahoo, he was responsible for founding and growing the Yahoo! Entrepreneur Network.

Nurture the other BIG problems

Start-ups usually face problems when it comes to recruitment and maintenance of a stringent hierarchy at work.  According to Bala, entrepreneurship is a very lonely journey and there is a lot of pressure on the founders, who have a team to lead in a business at a critical stage. “This program actually helps bring different entrepreneurs under one roof and we help them reflect on their journeys. When they notice the similarity in problems faced by others and themselves, they realise that they are all part of the same journey in this ecosystem,” he said.

Advice to Series A stage startups

In the current environment, Series A  startups are finding it difficult to take the next leap in funding and beyond.  Sharing some advice Bala said, “I am glad that the ecosystem has matured in formulating the notion that funding is not the end goal, and is just   one of the means to get there. Funding is something that aids in the preparation for something else. Funding is the index to something, and not the number itself.”

Bala said that he has seen a reduction in congratulatory messages today compared to the past, when someone raises money, which he believes is good for the ecosystem.  He said that equity is the most expensive money an entrepreneur can get. Therefore start-ups should be responsible about how to turn that around in their favour.

Early last year, Microsoft Accelerator in India redesigned their programs to cater to market-ready startups. Since then, it has graduated three cohorts which include startups like iBot, CustomerXPs, Altizon, CloudCherry and Reverie Technologies. It has also formed partnerships with Temasek, TCS, Citi, Reliance Industries and other Multinational Corporates under its corporate engagement program, #CoInnovate, to help the startups in their go-to-market efforts and global expansion.