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CBA officially launched Startup2Startup in India on 16th January 2015 at Taj Lands End with a mix of select 50 entrepreneurs and investors. The theme of the evening was Building Value to Exit and the event took off with a Panel Discussion on the subject, followed by Round Table Interactions between the audience.
Akash Sureka (Founder & CEO of Hoopz Planet Info), who exited to Persistent Systems, set the tone of the panel discussion by sharing his journey. “What I have always believed is – what you start, defines your exit. For me, it was clear that we wanted to build a great world class global product which could be used to build, in the longer term, a multi-billion dollar business by may be another bigger competitor player”. He added, “For many entrepreneurs, what matters is whether they choose to build a great company or a great product to nail down vision in right ways and plan for future on that vision with stakeholders involved”. While speaking on the apt timing for an exit, Kaushal Chokshi, Chairman of the Scaale Group and one of the panelists for the evening shared, “The timing of exit and market in which the business is operating, defines the value which can be unlocked by the entrepreneur. An entrepreneur in an extremely competitive market should look at exiting sooner”.
The Panel also featured David Costa, CEO, Everis UK, who had travelled from London for the evening. On investing in an exitable venture, David Costa said, “As an investor, you should know where to invest. You plan not the exit, but the resources that you need to make it happen (sic). As a mentor to early stage ventures, what I look at is, ‘If they like what they are doing and they understand the market”. Nived from Pearson Affordable Learning Fund (PALF), which invests in innovative EdTech companies that are affordable to the large mass, gave a fund’s perspective on exit, “From our perspective, we are a long horizon fund, 5-7 years, so it’s more the idea/ technology/ entrepreneur/ team that we invest and back. We focus on strategic investments and, when the fund invests in ideas or at seed stage, we first allow the venture to reach a specific stage and then look at the roadmap towards exit”.
Post the panel discussion, the audience at the round tables deliberated on angel investment practices that have evolved from the West and how they are becoming increasingly exit oriented.
Manish Shah, Founder, Big Decisions that exited to News Corp recently, shared the importance of tying up with the right partners, “The right strategic partnerships go a long way in deciding the fate of a venture, for the investors & potential acquirers too”. Arvindra Kanwal, Co-Founder, Bindaas Party believed that the focus should be on building value and exit follows naturally, while Ruchita Dar Shah of First Mom’s Club felt that the focus should be on building the correct product. Global applicability would then depend on the nature of the same.
The experience was refreshing for startups who were at the growth stage & for angel investors, new to the ecosystem. Gaurang Chandarana, Co-Founder at 14 Squares, shared “Everybody has the same questions about their ventures, but each one answers it differently & knowing how they do it, is a great learning experience”.
Pankaj Krishna, CEO, Chrome DM, who is also a CBA Investor, shared “It was refreshing to hear ideas round the table and a pleasure to see globally scalable business models being built using technology as a backbone to address consumer needs”.
The general view of the evening was that ventures in India are also moving away from the IPO route towards an exit via an acquisition. The key take away of the event was building startups with an eye on exit.
However, in all cases, timing is key, as Kaushal quoted “If I knew when to Exit, I would have made Billions!”