How I sealed my first round of funding over a 50 minute phone call
I never treated "funding' as the end all and do all for my business, as I have always been focused on making my business work – first for the customers followed by all other stakeholders in the mix.
I think, given the constant chase for "alpha", the global liquidity situation and the increasing optimism about India which is all translating into a very fertile funding environment, especially for start-ups and new entrepreneurs, if people believe you are capable of executing what you promise and are addressing a real opportunity – they will want to invest in you.
My learning experiences have been beyond what I ever foresaw. When I first started the business, I was of the mindset that I will build a business out of my savings, earn money, reinvest it and grow steadily, but organically. I never understood the whole start-up funding play and considered it as some fad. It was only later I realized that I may or may not be able to scale up my business as quickly as I want and create barriers to entry without a boost of growth capital.
In addition, I saw the value in kind, especially with the relationships and capabilities most funds were bringing to the table for some of my friends, who started out on their own which made me appreciate the value in going this way.
As a first step, we decided to identify and only reach out to people who would understand or relate to our business and target market segment and add value in more ways than one. Through this process, we zeroed in on YouWeCan Ventures through whom we saw tremendous value in having someone of Yuvraj Singh's stature associate with us.
The next step was identifying the right way to reach the decision makers, since we felt most investors will be overwhelmed with the proposals they receive through their website and ours may never see the light at the end of the tunnel. Thankfully, it wasn't too difficult with my co-founder Sudheer's support.
The Eureka Moment
After garnering preliminary interest, the discussion then was literally a phone call of some 50 minutes through which the synergies from this investment were very clear to all, including us and Yuvraj Singh.
In fact, our investors sensed some skepticism in me towards the idea of funding and requested that I take a couple of days to think over it. To me it was a big step – parting with something, which has taken endless days of toil along with the added responsibility of delivering what I am promising. Looking back, I am happy we took this step.
Whilst my experience is very limited, my biggest learning that came out is most Indian investors still prefer to follow an established investment template – an idea that worked in another market or a team that has the right education pedigree without necessarily chasing innovation or the next big breakthrough. This makes me wonder if we will ever have the next breakthrough ever coming out of India. Why couldn't an Indian product go global? Why can't the next Uber of X be from India? Also, explaining a fresh idea to Indian investors is difficult, especially if they do not see themselves using the product or haven't heard about it or seen it before.
Six Start-up Tips to Young Entrepreneurs
JetSetGo was born out of a need of the market, from the learning's of interacting with customers and the shortcomings we saw in this space, which we knew if addressed well, meant having a trusted customer base of the movers and shakers of India. With such a customer base, opportunities to scale up and expand into other offerings are only limitless. With this in mind, here, I would like to give few tips to the emerging young entrepreneurs in the country:
1.Brilliant businesses were not built on money, but on great people and great ideas.
2.Your customers are god – deliver what you promise. If you don't, pick up the phone – say sorry and make up for it.
3.Use every "no' as a stepping-stone to success. Turn every "no' into a "yes' through your journey.
4.Tears, blood, sweat are all part of the game – no one said it was going to be easy. Remember, there are no shortcuts.
5.Going lean will never go out of fashion – irrespective of whether it's your money or your investors. Fancy offices, snazzy cars and big ticket spends never gets you customers. Watch every expense and focus on getting more than what you planned out of every rupee spent.
6.Communicate and be transparent – whether it's your team, customers or suppliers.