3 Things Anupam Mittal Looks At Before Investing In A Company If you want to commit to entrepreneurship, you have to commit to a very long-term game, he says
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The startup boom has democratized entrepreneurship in India. So much so that 'startup' is a household word today. In fact, because of shows like Shark Tank India startup terms such as Series A funding, unicorn, and TAM, among others have found a place in dinner table conversations in Indian households. However, 10-15 years ago, only a few hundred people knew what a startup meant, and only a handful of people were running or investing in startups.
Anupam Mittal, founder and CEO of People Group, is one such entrepreneur and angel investor, who has been around the space for many years.
"When I got into it, I didn't know what angel investing meant. We didn't really have these mentors and frameworks to understand entrepreneurship, let alone angel investing. But, we didn't have much to lose either. I was working in the US and I experienced stock options for the first time. And, I became a multi-millionaire because of these stocks. But I lost all of it due to the dot.com crash. So, in my early 20s, I had made something big and lost it all. Then I came back to India and found my role model in my dad, who was an entrepreneur. There began my journey," he said at Entrepreneur India's flagship event, Entrepreneur 2023.
Entrepreneurship is not for everyone
Mittal believes that one can't read a book on entrepreneurship or go for a course to become strong because it's a very novel quality that only a few people have. "Resilience is something that is a combination of nature, and nurture. I can tell you my own example. While I'm a big pessimist in the short term, in the long term, I'm an eternal optimist. So, I'm fundamentally optimistic about the outcomes in my life and everybody's life. That gives me the courage to keep going, even though I fear the next move, the long term it keeps me going. But if somebody were to try to develop these attributes and these skills I don't think it's for everyone," he said.
He also spoke about how the only real vacations he has had were the ones he took before he started his own company. "After you become an entrepreneur, it's very hard to switch off."
Talking about how in the last few years, capital has become available for everyone and everybody's reading about the success stories of their friends, which has made them think that she or he can be an entrepreneur, he said, "The media prints the success stories about people who went from zero to one. But what you don't hear about is the 99% of people who never made it. Because they are not celebrated. It seems a lot easier. But if you were to commit to one, I think you have to commit to a very long-term game."
Be greedy, but be long-term greedy, he advises entrepreneurs.
"Unless and until you think you have the quality to go against all negative forces and your strength of purpose is far bigger than the day-to-day discomforts that you will endure over the next 10 years, don't take up entrepreneurship."
He also thinks that anyone on the entrepreneurship journey will doubt herself or himself. "I haven't met any successful entrepreneur who has not had doubts. There will be days you feel on top of the world. But there will be days that you feel like a total imposter. I do even now. So, what you cannot cure you endure," he said.
He also shared with us the three things that he looks at while investing in a company.
TAM, Team and Timing
Investing, he believes, is as much an art as it is a science. Particularly when you come in at a very early stage, there are so many variables stacked up against you, he said.
Mittal says that he is not great at financial engineering, so he plays to his strength, which is, his experience in technology and internet business. "I'm terrible at optimizing. That's not me. That's great for private equity investors or chartered accountants, but that's not me at all. Therefore I've chosen early-stage investing because what that allows me to do is play for zero to 1000 returns," he said.
Given the time he has spent in technology and consumer businesses, he can look at an idea, or a concept or a business plan and the team and have some sense of whether this will find market acceptance. And, because he is coming in so early, if he is right, the outcome is 100x. So he doesn't have to worry too much about super optimization.
So, for him, there are only three things that matter at a very early stage, as mentioned below.
"Investing in a company is really a long-term affair. If you ask me, particularly in India, companies don't get built in three, or four years. It's a 10-year journey. So unless there's chemistry with those investors, or with the founders, and unless you enjoy meeting and talking to them, what's the point? So, besides high IQ, which is a given, you want to ensure that you have chemistry and you look forward to talking to these people."
Total Addressable Market
"The reason total addressable market or TAM is important is because large markets are very forgiving. By pivoting, you will end up finding a niche business in a large market. But if the market is small, no matter what, you will struggle. And sometimes there is no market. Then you have to find proxies. When we started Shaadi, there was no market, then how do you determine the total addressable market? Then, you have to really get close to the customers and understand their problems. And if customers are really screaming for this without actually articulating it, if you can develop that sense, then you know that the TAM can be big."
"The third and final point is timing. I will give you an example. There was a device called the Palm Pilot, which was launched way before Apple. It was a touchscreen device. People used it in the US for productivity, managing work, email etc. But, why did Apple become what it did and Palm Pilot didn't? Simply because of timing. When Apple launched the smartphone, there was ubiquitous internet connectivity, and therefore, apps were available on your phone. Without the infrastructure of the internet, and the ability to always be connected to the internet, you could not have had an Apple phone. So the timing of the launch was perfect. That's just one example. There are many other such examples. So timing plays a very critical role. Understanding the timing is right for this business or for this business model is key. And that is something that comes with experience."