From Founder to Funder: How his Experiences Prompted This Entrepreneur to Become a VC As a serial entrepreneur for decades, he realized that there was serious dearth of mentors who would help founders with funds and right guidance

By Komal Nathani

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In the late 90s when the start-up ecosystem was slowly taking shape in Indian with a catalytic push from the internet, a Kolkata-based teenager set out on an entrepreneurial adventure trip to give a tangible form to his business idea.

All of 19 then, Pankaj Maloo, as is true for any entrepreneur, had to face some of the biggest hardships of his life, but put a brave face on the challenges that came his way.

As a serial entrepreneur for decades, Maloo realized that there was serious dearth of mentors who would support founders financially and provide essential advice during strategic decision-making.

His personal experience prompted him to take up venture funding, shifting focus from entrepreneurship.

In conversation with Entrepreneur India, a chartered accountant-turned-entrepreneur-turned venture capitalist Pankaj Maloo spoke about how his incubation centre provides a 360 degree model to groom startups.

Early-age Entrepreneurship

Mumbai-based incubation platform Venture Catalysts recently expanded its operations in West Bengal and launched India's first integrated incubator in collaboration with five business partners. Maloo, also the founder of a successful design house Kreative Fingers, is the Managing Partner of Venture Catalysts.

So, what turned this founder to a funder? Maloo, recounting his experiences as an entrepreneur, said, "The name of my first company was "Catch Cal" and was launched in 1998. Internet was just a fad at that time and it was very difficult to make people understand how it would become the game-changer in the coming years. For me, the biggest challenge was to convince myself that it will. I believe there are many start-ups which have brilliant ideas, but they fail in the market because of lack of guidance and mentorship in India. This realization inspired me to partner with Venture Catalysts to give them a direction and right guidance."

Instead of focusing on one specific industry segment, VCats focus on very early-stage start-ups that has the potential to create enduring value for over a period of time.

Widespread Network

With their integrated incubation platform, the company founders have brought in the lethal combination of capital, mentoring and business network to help start-ups and investment companies succeed. The early-age start-ups can take assistance from its angel network, funding community and co-working facility, while investors can select enterprises that they think will be making profits.

Maloo said, "We have been in the community for quite a long time, and I think it will make the process easy and seamless for young entrepreneurs to approach us."

"We are here to build a community that could be the backend support of every individual starting up in India," he added.

One-stop Destination for Startups

Venture Catalysts will not just incubate startups, its managing team will assist them financially. The platform thus provides all services that an enterprise may need to stay afloat under one roof. "Generally, incubators just train start-ups, but we provide them networking and financial assistance," added Maloo.

Komal Nathani

Former Correspondent, Entrepreneur Asia Pacific

A firm believer of hard work and patience. Love to cover stories that hold a potential to change the momentum of business world. Currently, a part of all-women web team of Entrepreneur’s Asia Pacific edition to jig the wheel of business journalism!

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