Showing posts with label Limited Partners. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Limited Partners. Show all posts

Saturday, December 21, 2013

A suitably bootstrapped perspective

As someone who routinely wears boots under Levi’s 511s, I understand the sheer utility of those small loops called bootstraps - Sramana Mitra’s high focus on an entrepreneur bootstrapping the start-up in her book “Seed India -How To Navigate the Seed Capital Gap In India (Entrepreneur Journeys)” helped me appreciate the criticality of this aspect in the Indian venture funding context.

The book’s USP is its brevity and the matter-of-fact, blog-like style but what keeps your interest on is the verbatim reproduction of the interviews. Spurred by the author’s knowledgeable querying, the interviewed entrepreneurs come up with some honest reflections & very useful insights into their successful entrepreneurial journey. Some statements though come across as anachronistic, particularly when Sachin Bansal of Flipkart seemingly undermines the adaptation, penetration & potential of digital books and affordability of e-readers in India - the fact that I was reading this book on my Kindle Fire HD made the assertion even more ironic.

While it is a welcome trend that Indian start-up stories are getting written about, I once again can’t help but notice that the term ‘start-up’ is gradually getting equated with IT/ITES/ Cloud enterprise.  Most other enterprise categories such as biotech, green-tech are clearly missing out being written about as interesting case-studies since they can’t quite compete with a typical cloud based start-up which (can..) starts generating income within few months of existence – As Sramana did admit passingly, the logic of bootstrapping one’s business is a very different ball-game if the start-up product offering is physical (~biotech) as against being virtual (~SaaS)

Coming back to the book, I felt that what was perhaps intended to be showcased by the author but not quite articulated is an observation that ‘bootstrapping an early enterprise’ comes quite naturally to Indian entrepreneurs given the culturally ingrained reluctance to diluting ownership/ stake of a start-up business early on & the practical jugaad (in a fair sense) mind-set of sailing in two boats before hitching on to the one of choice.

Considering this being a cluster/ market dominated by such lean business ethos & relatively more fiscally-conservative entrepreneurial attitude which by default de-risk the investor’s moolah, one’d have expected India to be a hot destination for an alternate asset fund manager looking for a safe-harbour for her/ his precious dollars, but quite obviously it is not. Of course it is also apparent that there isn’t enough fish in the pond for any LP to develop a serious strategy betting on Indian start-up scene & perhaps the only way to make this ‘LP-friendly entrepreneurial ethic’ work in India’s favour at scale is to seed more & more promising enterprises, bootstrapped or otherwise.


Just wondering.... the Global LPs could be a lot more interested if the Indian VCs claim to be ‘Conservative’ rather than being ‘Contrarian’ in their choice of deals :-)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Deal-Flow : Value-addition :: Silicon-rapids : Organic back-waters

Reacting to the rather weird scenario wherein some VCs are trashing their own brotherhood, Bruce Booth wonders in his latest article if this is an outcome of a Lake Wobegon-like illusion or if it is the Dunning-Kruger effect in action.

In my comment against this post, I offered my own little suggestion for this apparent case self-deprecation (OR is it not) and more....

My comment:
If I go by what Mahendra Ramsinghani said here on LPs bothering more about deal sourcing capability than value-add by VCs, Khosla’s indictment of ‘95% zero-value add VCs’ shouldn’t really rock the boat more than the supposed shake-up caused by the AngelLists’ & Kickstarters’ of the world – The ‘80% negative-value-add’ rhetoric though is way below the belt & confounding.
Perhaps these intriguing proclamations are a manifestation of nervous energy of the PE biggies that are ‘but-of-course rattled too’ by the progressive warming of the PE globe and thus eager to reaffirm their value-add alternate asset investor status to the larger LP universe.
Can’t help but note again that a lot of the above paradigms, shake-ups, prophesies & reactions are all still relevant mostly to the 'silicon-rapids' (IT et al) and much less to the 'organic-back-waters' (~biotech) – taking a cue from what you said about the CEO, I’d think the loneliest job in the world at present probably is that of a biotech venture capitalist :-)

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

End of the day it's all about the Benjamins', impressive TVPIs not withstanding!

In a wake-up call of sorts, Super LP Chris Douvos cautions GP universe that end of the day it's 'all about the Benjamins', impressive TVPIs not withstanding!...

'tis the central dogma of investing alright, but still leaves enough scope for a small repartee of my own - here goes;

My comment
Not sure if it’s a norm, but it’d surely surprise me if the GP takes an investment call in a particular portfolio company without as much as doing a cursory review of its exit potential & potential exit valuation – they probably do too, but don’t necessarily assign a value, given the magnitude of arbitrariness in doing so. It hence is somewhat ironic that the exit valuation in this model is merely a derivative of the overall size/ value of the fund raised by the VC and doesn’t factor-in anything that’d determine the potential of an individual investee enterprise – confounding this  further is the VC having to justify this derived value.

So while the proposed analysis does sound like a non-nonsense approach to assessing the fund performance, that part about “reality checking those putative outcomes” would still remain the single most challenging & expectedly the most contentious aspect even as LP-GP engage with an intent to cracking the funding arithmetic.

Nonetheless, it’s good to be reminded that for all practical reasons the sum of individual valuations of portfolio companies in a particular fund is but an unexciting statistic to the PE Portfolio manager in the LP organization keen on showcasing something akin to the promise of an ‘absolute return’ his hedge-fund counterpart typically presents :-)

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

There's some traction (in exits') for Indian VCs & that ain't bad!

Expectedly, there was some excitement & some skepticism over the recent acquisition of redBus by Ibibo. My comment on one such recent article "Is the redBus exit really good for the VC ecosystem inIndia?" on StartupCentral is as follows;

My comment:
What you have said above sounds (to me) like;
If only the ‘sheer-return achieved on one exit’ by the VC is looked at in the broader context of ‘performance of the fund’ as such (disbursed funds?) rather than merely as a nX return on investment made into that particular company, only then will the overall picture emerge.
Now, just because you mentioned 200mio USD fund in your article, I wish to know if I can assume that one of the three VCs (or all three as an average) who disbursed funds of ~200Mio USD across past 7 years among multiple portfolio companies has hitherto managed only one attractive return of ~15-20X? (of RedBus) & this sheer return still doesn’t amount to being anything substantial to the LPs from whom the 200mio fund was raised?
If the answer is yes, I agree with you that for the Indian VC universe ‘Dilli abhi dhoor hain..’ (loosely translates as ~miles to go before resting on ones' laurels...)
Of course I’d also be cautiously optimistic when I say that if only the VCs that invested into RedBus used a similar good-sense & judgement while identifying, nurturing the other portfolio companies within this 200mio fund, then it is likely they’d still see some more good exists, including some from an IPO even.
Overall I guess there’s some traction & that aint bad. 

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

My question, merely rephrased, is still open - IRR v/s Impact Investing: Do financial institutions necessarily go through this dilemma?

So I now can save some breath by saying 'Impact investing' whenever I have something to say about social impact of investments - that still doesn't mean I get the whole picture now! 

Below is my comment on a recent article on Forbes titled "Pierre Omidyar, Steve Case And Mike Milken On The BusinessCase For Impact Investing"


Earlier in Jan 2013 I posted a poser on my blog titled "IRR v/s Social Impact: Do financial institutions necessarily go throughthis dilemma?"

Even as I am still unclear how social-impact can coexist with bang-for-the-buck at the macro level (~LPs), I see a definite hope in the approach being pursued by Omidyar Network, which made a great start just by terming itself as "a philanthropic investment firm' – The document “From the Field: Lessons Learned in Impact Investing” goes on to showcase how ON takes this moniker seriously – Bravo!!

From all I could see, ON is still an investment firm that’s funded (largely) by its philanthropic founders & there is no ‘raising of fund from LPs’ involved in this unlike most VC/ PE firms that dabble in similar volumes of investments/ portfolio.

That brings me back this intriguing question of how the likes of JPM measure their social impact? – I am sure I am missing something here.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Nobody’s saying no to India’ – phew, that’s a relief...

The survey of a few global LPs by VCCircle that was intended to understand 'what a LP wants from Indian PE managers" but actually feels like "why a global LP wouldn't want to put his best bucks in Indian PE" threw up some expected & some strange surmises, but nevertheless makes an interesting read –

The link to the article is below & below that is a repro' of my own comment on the article;

My comment:


Interesting surmises!

What makes the takeaways less validated however is the lack of disclosure or at least a categorization of the LPs surveyed**. This gap I felt more acutely for a few like the question # 9 the response pictorial of which indicates that 50% of LPs surveyed will put money in PE/ VCs that're focused on investing in growth-stage enterprises – this averaged-out response doesn't allow one to assess if this is the response of each LP sub-set falls within this range or if some LP sub-sets deviate from the mean significantly.

I also felt a lot of the questions were overtly leading & that could skew the responses in favor of the inherent bias/ prejudice in the question (for e.g. 10 & 11..)

And yeah, the sliver-lining… It warmed my cockles that LPs have acknowledged of the promise of Healthcare Industry in India & the candid confession that ‘no body’s saying no to India’ – phew, that’s a relief.

**I realize it’s possible this can be done still from the data available OR it has already been done… only I couldn’t see it in the downloaded report.  

Monday, May 6, 2013

Dear HBR, defend your research!

In the May 2013 issue of HBR that has a ‘spotlight on entrepreneurship’, Adi Ignatius observes in the very first paragraph of his editorial that the “IPO market has been soft for years” & on a closing note hoped for ‘a steadier flow of IPOs’ as the economy is on the path to recovery.

This angst I thought pretty much reinforces the dominant LP complaint of an ‘absent IPO market in venture backed firms’ these days. Given this, I expected the articles to focus on elucidating about scalability of an early enterprise to the entrepreneurs – which I realized wasn’t the case after reading through the same.

Each of the four articles & the one interview instead seemed standalone in content & interestingly anti-VC in tone & tenor – not sure why. Since an elaborate hypothesis on these already elaborate academic articles didn’t appeal to me, I felt capturing the essence of each article in a single line would make it crisper - but given the duality of the message in the articles/ interview, I decided that the take-away messages should be in two sets, one for the entrepreneur & one for VC.

Here goes;


Go the Lean-way or Fade away1
Seek out the client, not just an investor2
To err is VC – YOU, be the driver3
Marry the VC if you must, just make sure the pre-nup is not one-sided!4
If you are good, a Top VC will find you / If a Top VC funds you, you must be good!5


Lean is in – Junk the flab (read: 5yr business plan et al.)1
Failing early is a virtue, at times, most times2
Focus on great returns, not on large fees – Stay relevant3
VCs are good but dated – Brace up for the Gen-Y entrepreneur4
If you aren’t a top-quartile VC, tough luck!, great deals don’t happen to you5
Article reference:
Click link to access the article, (I pay for my Kindle edition tho’..)
1.        Article “Why the Lean Start-Up Changes Everything” by Steve Blank
2.        Article “What Entrepreneurs Get Wrong” by Vincent Onyemah, Martha Rivera Pesquera, and Abdul Ali
3.        Article “Six Myths About Venture Capitalists” by Diane Mulcahy
4.        Article “How to Negotiate with VCs” by Deepak Malhotra
5.        “In Search of the Next Big Thing, Interview of Marc Andreessen

Most of the above messages have been around for some time now, only this comes across as a tacit academic endorsement of the market grapevine - If I forget scalability for a moment, my summarized takeaway from the above is;

Whether or not there’s something basically and drastically wrong with the current VC model, the emerging new trends in the start-up strategies make it pertinent that the early investors, in particular the VCs, should evolve in tandem – This is important not only for sustaining the radically different new-gen start-ups but also for the sustenance of the VC domain itself.

I always liked the way the professors are called out to defend their research in “Idea Watch” section of HBR, So do I now say; 

Dear HBR, defend your research? 

Game on…

After thought:

Ponder the following exchange between Adi Ignatius (Editor HBR) and Mark Andreessen (Venture Capitalist) - ref: In Search of the Next Big Thing
Adi:    You’ve developed a strong philanthropic focus. Is the next generation of investors thinking about social investment?
Marc:   No. [Laughs.]
Adi:    So much for my hopes for the next generation.
Marc:   Many younger entrepreneurs have a social mission or a philanthropic agenda. They start early. Investors, not so much.
Considering this is towards the end of the conversation, I thought Marc was pretty dismissive about another aspect that investors both big and small HAVE to eventually look at "Corporate Social responsibility" of financial organizations. I pondered on this in my earlier article titled "IRR v/s Social Impact: Do financial institutions necessarily go through this dilemma?" - No answers tho'.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Series A crunch for start-ups rooted in progressive de-risking of VC model?

My comment on a peHUB blog post titled "What Series A Crunch? Why Some Startups Are Immune"


Keen insight John!

Interesting to note the theme of 'venture capital model being broken' is being evaluated from very different perspectives by different people – while I’d love to see the perspective of an LP on this, haven’t come across any till date…

Earlier in Feb 2013 when Drug Baron proposed Venture Capital 2.0 on his blog, I felt he placed the onus for this handicap on the VC firms themselves & hence proposed the need for a disruptive innovation of the venture model itself. I made a comment against this entry & posted the same on my blog under the title “What when the boundaries blur between VC & PE?

While my response was more from the angle of overt de-risking of VC funding being counter-productive to sustenance of early enterprise, I felt that in some fashion resonates with what you say here…., particularly when you quote Jim Andelman “these market dynamics combine to leave good companies unfunded”.

My comments incidentally remain ‘non-commented on’ on Drug baron’s blog :-)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

IRR v/s Social Impact: Do financial institutions necessarily go through this dilemma?

The news on Times of India Social Impact Awards & what Nicolas Aguzin, chairman and CEO of JP Morgan- Asia-Pacific said during his speech there about JPM's commitment to its social responsibility triggered a cackle of thoughts that're simultaneously standalone, contradictory, inter-connected and inter-dependent;

  • CSR (Corporate Social REPONSIBILITY) isn’t necessarily the same as CSI (Corporate Social IMPACT)
  • Given all the progress out there in the science of measuring impact, it’s possible a lot of companies have figured out OR will figure out sooner than later, how they could reposition their CSR as CSI
  • In an effort to make their social impact measurable, it’s possible that corporates' inadvertently project & expect social-change in a defined, time-bound (& not practicable) fashion?   - While objectivity & accountability are a must, through my wife’s  work in the development sector (at an implementation level..), I could sense/ witness how some inappropriately designed impact measures of a funding organization can/ have killed or maimed a promising social initiative, which if supported on a longer term could've indeed resulted in replicable, scalable & sustainable social change
  • Finally, if not blatantly so, at the very root most CSR initiatives tend to carefully (& smartly?) avoid any conflict of interest with the organization’s business goals – while this is understandable since the very purpose of a business is NOT social impact but profitability in the longer-term, it definitely makes more long-term business sense to ‘tangibly’ align the CSR/ CSI with an organization’s core business mission. While I wouldn’t risk associating this with the “social business model” of Prof. Muhammad Yunus, I’d think it’s nevertheless related, but limited to formulating the CSR plan – Social-Aligned Business Responsibility-SaBRe anyone?? :-) 

While attempting to apply, superimpose the above ethos onto the social sensitivity of the investing universe out there, I could only come up with a posse of questions, but no obvious answers – ponder this;

  • What would amount to a social impact of a financial institution (LP)? – i.e. apart from making sure the eventual investments (through GPs) are in alignment with certain mandated geo-political guidelines – I do see some institutions following macro-level charters like the Equator principle et al & that’s no doubt a great start, but not sure if that’s comprehensive enough in all complex geological, social contexts and effective for what length of a long-term?
  • In a climate where the accepted investment efficiency measures employed are the time-bound investment-to-exit cycles & IRR, is there a safety catch, any checks & measures that’d  ensure sustenance of an innovative enterprise that may have a greater social impact, if not an eye-popping ROI?

Food for thought…

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Is the LP bias against investment into life-sciences contra-logical?

17 January 2013

Early Stage Biotech Showing Positive Signs of Scaling Its Wall of Worry by Bruce Booth on Forbes

Despite the apparent consensus opinion at JPM that innovative new start-ups are continuing to attract capital, I wonder if in reality the venture funding, particularly from big-pharma CVCs, is mostly channeled into development/ acquisition of potential clinical candidates - THIS anomaly of an 'uncharacteristic aversion of domain biggies themselves towards investing into early innovation that'd feed their own pipelines' is WHAT I feel is the primary reason for a strong bias in the LP universe against investment into Life Sciences......