The Money-Agnostic Techpreneur

Sandeep Aggarwal nurtures would-be entrepreneurs selflessly

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“I have 27 investments; have seen two exits; deployed upwards of INR 20 crore so far and the average ticket size would be more like INR 20 lakh. The smallest cheque I have written is INR 3 lakh and the largest is for INR three crore,” said Sandeep Aggarwal, founder, Droom.

Droom

Aggarwal--the techpreneur, founder of two unicorns and now, a full-fledged angel investor who has been investing seriously since 2015--follows a six-point screening criteria for investments he makes. “Firstly, I invest in very early-stage and sometimes I am the first person to write the first cheque. So, from first cheque until Series A is when I invest. Secondly, I invest in technology-driven businesses. Then, I always invest in the founder; check his passion, energy and if he is uniquely qualified for what he is solving. Some other things I like are, a big addressable opportunity; businesses that may not make money immediately, but eventually have high gross margin and finally, scalability,” said the enthusiastic, optimistic entrepreneur.

He gets anywhere between 50 and 200 investment proposals, besides the other investment avenues where he puts his money.

His own enthusiasm for entrepreneurship is as palpable. He supports, one, by investing and guiding, second, guiding without investing and third, by speaking with the youth. He has panelled MTV Dropout, a reality show for startups to pitch for funding; did ‘Honsle Buland’ with ABP News and since 2011, has been celebrating an ‘Ecommerce Day’ annually, to offer a glimpse of what it takes to create a new-age company. College campuses can tour the marketing and the product department to see how coding is done. He even had masterclasses on his website until recently.

His book, Rise Again, Fall Again is about his life and how he made it big despite setbacks.

His outlook for H1 CY2022 captures his optimism. Aggarwal says, “I would be writing cheques for maybe two companies on an average per month.”

“I feel, if China and the US are precursors to the kind of social and economic impact the new-age companies can make, these are very early days for India. The country can experience the new-age companies completely changing the basic fabric in about four decades.”

Aggarwal is unfazed by his achievements and has even shared entrepreneur guidelines on his website. When asked if he is prepared to tackle the competition that may arise after following his guidelines, he is bound by pre-IPO protocols. He says, “I really don't care whether it will be very myopic for me to think that the more I share, more people will become my competitors. I would like more and more entrepreneurs to come in and unleash their potential.”

“When it was my term, I was very raw and rudimentary. There were many kinds of people who came and guided me. I definitely want to keep the ‘circle of goodwill’ going. Knowledge goes a long way; a lot of people have a lot of abilities, but sometimes they just need hand-holding and guidance.”

Speaking of his own investor journey, Aggarwal says, “In mid-2000, I made my first investment in an enterprise software company, where my friend was one of the senior officers. After that, I made one or two more small, random investments. When I came to India in 2011 to start ShopClues, first three years, investment took a backseat.”

“Then, as a fully trained Wall Street analyst, someone who had spent 15 years in Silicon Valley, and within the fourth year of operation, ended up creating ShopClues as a billion dollar company. It gave me a diverse type of experience. Starting from 2015, I became more active in investments when I made four investments and then maybe five or six in 2016. Last year, I made around eight or nine investments.”

He adds, “I have worked for 23 years of my life, eight years as a Wall Street analyst, 10 years as an entrepreneur with two companies, and the remaining with three fortune 100 companies. And by now I feel, I will make my share of mistakes. But India is kind of going through the golden era.”

“For me, money investing is not what I do for a living. Receiving a deck from a highly passionate entrepreneur or an entrepreneurial team, listening to their idea and how they are going to disrupt is more interesting. More than money, if I can play any role in their journey is something that is needed.”

A modest upbringing, overcoming personal and professional adversities and two unicorns later, Aggarwal is set to go public with his IPO.