The Entrepreneur in a Venture Capital World

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The Entrepreneur in a Venture Capital World

Imagine a food connoisseur has a vision of opening a restaurant. Selling a carefully crafted list of delicacies, whose preparation has taken years to refine. This aficionado has thought of everything. The cutlery that would highlight the preparations, what the entrance to the restaurant would be like, the kind of chefs he or should would need. Everything.

Now imagine, you, as a customer, visit that restaurant. No guarantees you’ll like the food there. Or you might have preferred a better selection on the food menu. Now let’s say you, and your friends or family who have accompanied you, get to have a say in what the menu should be. Just because you’ll be paying the bill. Or simply because a local bank or relative bankrolled the entrepreneur’s dreams, they want to have a say in what food should be served.

Isn’t this the case with the venture capital investment ecosystem? They take a seemingly great idea, imagined by a dreamer. And after some funding, in an urge to “scale” it, they put it on steroids. Often at the cost of the original dream and vision. And with the VC community, their return timelines are shrinking, so their portfolio mutation is growing rapidly. They don’t care about profits. As long as there is sufficient sales and buzz, they’re on track. As opposed to keeping fund and investment choices a little more practical. So as to build a more, bottom-heavy business. On a steady foundation.

In a way, it would compare with a risk in the investment ecosystem called Maturity Mismatch Risk. This is a capital management situation that can disrupt business cash flows. It’s seen when assets held to meet future liabilities are not well aligned from a maturity time point of view. Short term assets should deployed for projects with quick returns. Otherwise, they could cause a financial crunch in the short term. ‘Entrepreneur-Investor’ relationship could be looked at in a similar way. Where an investor who is only there for a few years, sometimes changes the entrepreneurs long term strategy to suit their investment goals.

Now this might seem to contradict my VC related post from earlier this week. One where I said that the VC space seems to have more left-brained, finance, cold-numbers people, and less right-brained, creative ones who would appreciate a good, world-changing vision and back it up in a way that it really changes the world permanently. However, they are two sides of the same coin. Business models do take the world forward. But that doesn’t mean every other potential idea must first blow up with over-funding and investor control, and then explode! And all the while, the disinterested, minority stake-holding promoter is busy with other startups he or she has invested in.

Imagine a great idea and promoter being backed by an investor who actually sees the impact of the idea from the promoter’s perspective. That means, not just scaling an idea, but rather, letting it grow to have the impact it was intended to. Then maybe some of the great entrepreneurs wouldn’t actively shun investors and patiently bootstrap their way to world-change.

It isn’t just about the idea. The entrepreneur’s vision of how the idea pans out matters just as much.

I happened to see this post on LinkedIn when I was writing this post. While decisions like come on one end of the world-change spectrum, a lot of venture funded companies aspire to be on the other. In that they would like to achieve a strong global presence with the least marketing spend. And most importantly, make astronomical stakeholder returns. For the VC community, the ideal place lies somewhere between the two ends of this spectrum. Because in many cases, the entrepreneur sets out on a well-intentioned mission to fix a huge problem for a customer base.

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Again, it isn’t just about the idea. The entrepreneur’s vision of how the idea pans out matters just as much.

The title image is that of a vulture. When I worked in the venture capital space, people sometimes referred to the community as ‘vulture capital’. Nowadays, looking at some investment decisions and entrepreneurs who focus more on personal investments rather than their own ventures, looks like vulture capital is contagious.

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Your Time Will Come

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Your Time Will Come

Three days ago, I was rushing to office after a meeting. The day somehow seemed very different. Special, in an inexplicable way. The meeting had gone well too. While waiting at a signal light, lost in the magical voice of the very beautiful Amy MacDonald singing ‘Your time will come’, when I suddenly noticed a teacher of mine from school, standing on the other side of the road. I recognized her instantly, despite not having seen her in over sixteen years. She seemed to be waiting for a cab.

She was one of a few favorite teachers I had in school, which is why I perhaps recognized her instantly. Not that I was her favorite student, or that she was lenient and kind. It was, in fact the contrary. She was one of the few teachers who was really strict; the no-nonsense kind. She used to be notorious, if I may, for her habit of twisting the ear of students who created trouble or didn’t finish homework. I had been on the receiving end of this treatment on several occasions.

Over the years, I often wondered why I have so much respect for her and a few other teachers who too, happened to be equally strict if not more. And one strong logical reason that emerged, seemed to be something to do with how they taught. It had something to do with the sheer passion the had for the work they did. Teaching. And I guess that’s what made them great teachers.

These few teachers showed a resolute and relentlessly effort towards educating a somewhat difficult-to-handle bunch of children. What set them apart was probably that they never diverted their purpose from teaching, nor give up on us students, however much we tested their patience. They never held grudges. And best of all, their efforts towards their objective was unwavering and true.

A lot has changed over the years when it comes to teaching, discipline, not hitting children, and so on. And I’m not really am expert on the rights, wrongs and different methods to teach, discipline and mould growing children. But I think the focus and dedication these few teachers showed, had effectiveness written all over it.

I was to take a right turn at the signal, but quickly made a u-turn instead. I stopped the car beside her, lowered the window and said, “ma’am, you probably wouldn’t recognize me, but I’m a student of yours, Shrutin Shetty“. She said she remembered the name. After some insisting, she gave me the privilege of driving her home. It seemed insignificant a gesture for the efforts of a great teacher.

Had I ever enlisted in the army, teachers like her would have been akin to a commanding officer. I had read somewhere about how soldiers are the true salt of the land, and how the training broke them down and rebuilt them into the refined beings they are. That’s exactly what teachers like her had been doing over the years, batch after batch.

As I dropped her off, she asked me why I didn’t visit school. I had only been there once in the sixteen years. All I could tell her was, that I will. The real reason I hadn’t gone there, however, has been because in my head, I had set an expectation that my teachers would have of us students. Expectations in terms of us reaching our full potential, making a mark for ourselves. And I still have a long way to go to achieve expectations I felt my teachers would expect from me, ones that would make them proud.

What I didn’t realize in these sixteen years though, is that while I have been busy working on my dreams, and much time will have passed before I get there, but time had not been waiting. This teacher of mine said she’s retiring soon. Not sure how many of the other teachers already had retired. When, where and how would I meet them. Be able to share stories of my trials and experiences from my journey, hear their stories about this long and disconnected gap in time. Such was the predicament that held my thoughts on my drive back.

And through the numerous people in life that I have had the pleasure of knowing, I will always be grateful and indebted to this small elite set of them, people like this teacher of mine. For however insignificant I may still be, they have played a crucial role in making me who I am today. Their undivided efforts towards teaching, indirectly taught me the type of focus it will take to achieve my dreams. And my estimation of their expectation of me will always keep me aiming higher.

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