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 :-)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Crowdfunding good governance

Like many other educated, emancipated, intelligent, idealistic denizens out there, I too tended to avoid politics and considered the omnipresent, overt & covert culture of politicking the bane of this country – and this till I came across the cleansing potential of the broom and relished the realization that the eye-of-the-storm is the best vantage point for any one claiming to wanting to scrub-out the corrupt political typhoon & that staying on the fringes would have only increased the chances of their getting blown away.

Like many of the aforementioned illuminati, I too was cynical about what these Gandhi-capped, broom-wielding weirdos would achieve in their fanciful war against the high and mighty of the Indian political class – and this till I came across their online campaign to collect funds to fight the elections & the success of this Obama-like model that I never assumed will gain any traction in India.

Crowdfunding models fascinated me always and I’ve been tracking this model of enterprise creation and sporadically touched upon these aspects on my blog. While I can’t really prophesize on whether crowdfunding is indeed the paradigm-shift or is more a tectonic-shift in the entrepreneurial terrain, I’m but all sold on what the broom-wielders have demonstrated, the possibility of crowdfunding clean governance or more appropriately, the possibility of crowdfunding the promise of clean governance.

What kicks me up is the fact that in order to invest in this promising enterprise, I don’t need to be an accredited investor nor comply with the lower and upper limits of individual funding - What warms my cockles is the fact that I don’t need to bother measuring my returns in absolute quantitative terms and yet cherish the qualitative outcome. And what comforts me is the fact that my exit would also mean the exit of a stagnant enterprise & that would pave way for another cycle of funding a promise.

I like change, I love the promise of a change & now I dig crowdfunding the promise of a change.

Like hell, I-am-a-glass-is-half-full guy – Cynics, eat your heart out.

Disclaimers & Disclosures:
  • I have donated Rs.1000/- to AAP, against an email appeal received from Arvind Kejriwal, vide online transaction number 6996652 on 09 May 2013 15:33.
  • Neither I nor any members of my family, friends & acquaintances have contested the recently concluded Delhi elections nor any are members of AAP