Episode 147 / December 12, 2021
Supermorpheus, India’s first community driven fund ft. Sameer Guglani
3:12 Birth of Supermorpheus
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 00:00
Hi, this is Siddhartha Ahluwalia. Welcome to the 100x entrepreneur Podcast. Today I have with me Sameer Guglani, founder of Supermorpheus, a community-based seed investor. Sameer and his wife Nandini, previously built Morpheus, India’s first and most loved startup accelerator back in 2008. Some of the known companies out of Morpheus are Practo, common floor, hackerrank, and even my own startup addodoc was a part of the last batch of Morpheus. I attended several retreats with the Morpheus gang, one in Goa, the other in Aurobindo ashram, in Oroville, and another in Ramgarh, thank you, Sameer for such an amazing start to my entrepreneurial journey, which also helped me to dissociate little from outcomes. When I went on a spiritual or explored tiny bits of the spiritual path, along with you, and welcome to today’s podcast.
Sameer Guglani 01:08
Thank you, Siddhartha
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 01:12
would you like to share your journey with our audience, and what led to the birth of Supermorpheus? I think the last 12-13 years would be very interesting.
Sameer Guglani 01:22
Sure, do you want to start with Morpheus or just Supermorpheus?
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 01:24
Yeah, Morpheus. and even a little brief before Morpheus, Why Morpheus needed at that time and the whole journey, if we can talk about it in five, seven minutes.
Sameer Guglani 01:35
Yeah, sure. So basically, I have been in the startup ecosystem or startup space since 2000. So before that, I had graduated in 1998. And I remember, for every job, which I took, basically, I used to get bored in about four months, and then start looking for a new opportunity. And after three such times, once I was talking to a friend, and he said, If you want to really learn because that is really what my objective was, from a job, he said, You should join a startup. So at that time, I had no idea what a startup is. So he says, You know, I said, What is the startup, this startup is where they’re inventing the future. So at that time, I had no experience actually knowing what he was saying. But I mean, now I know that is actually true, actually, startups are inventing the future. But the line was very fascinating to me. And as I was looking for jobs, I remember having two offers one from a midsize company in Bangalore, which was paying a good salary, and one from a startup in the telecom space. And so my heart was saying, join the startup and my mind was saying, you know, be with a stable company, get paid better. And it was very confusing, I couldn’t decide.
And then I had this idea that maybe I can tell the big company, I need two months of the notice period. And actually, I have one month notice period, so I can quit, and join the startup and see how I feel, and then take a call. And that’s what I did, I call the big company, they said no problem. And I went to the startup and within four days, you know, I just felt this is where I want to stay and interesting thing is, this is where I stayed for four years next. And this is where I personally experienced excellence in my own work and growth for the first time to an amazing, atmosphere culture, which is very empowering a lot of very bright colleagues. And in those days, 2000, these founders had this vision to build the first mobile Voice over IP application and server-side. And I used to work in that team. And that work was it was so early, like, I mean, only in the recent COVID time, this has become mainstream, Voice over IP over mobile. But so we’ve got the work we did. So I used to lead the mobile handset team application team over there and had a great time I learned a lot, after that, basically, honestly, I always thought that I should be in a creative career.
And that was the thing I even tried to quit engineering in the first year to do fashion design. But my parents were kind of they suggested I should go back and finish engineering. But that idea was always there in my head. So while I was at Sonim, I was really doing well as a programmer and a tech lead so had the confidence to say, and maybe I should think of a creative career at this point. And I decided that I want to pursue filmmaking. And for that, I started hanging out in the film and theatre circles in Bangalore. And after a while, I wanted to apply to go for filmmaking in the US and that is how I met Nandini actually, I was trying to make a short film to apply for Masters in the US at that time, and we met and, we made the film together and we decided to also kind of be life partners and work partners. And, then my company shifted me to the US. I was still a programmer, actually, but working out of San Francisco, but We had this plan that will work for two years and then quit and go back to India and make films.
And one of the things we should do well, we used to watch a lot of Netflix, which was a physical DVD delivery. And we were so much into that, that we could live without food, but not without Netflix, you know, that was a thing. but instead of saying before our kind of planned stay was over, we came back to India to them for the end of my brother’s wedding, and we didn’t get a visa to go back. So that visa rejection is actually what brought us into entrepreneurship. Because after a visa got rejected, right, before we could look for jobs, lots of people are calling us to offer jobs, lots of our ex-colleagues, and bosses. And we said, hey, we are in so much demand for jobs. So maybe we can try something and then let you know if it doesn’t work out. So that is when we started our first startup, which was called madhouse.
And Madhouse was actually, we were trying to build Netflix in India recently. So because of our passion, and we actually started it more from the love of movies, less from the love of startups. But within three months of starting and working on that project, and I think we were working 16-18-20 hours a day, I remember this feeling that you know, all this time in my professional life have been trying to quit the engineering side and find something creative, you know, I was not satisfied. But this was the first time I was feeling very much at peace with my work basically. And, that is what sort of love for movies then transformed the love for startups. So Madhouse was started in Chandigarh, we launched in Delhi. And it was about two and a half years of journey. We raised an angel round from Indian Angel Network and Mumbai angels at that time, we almost read series A, there were only four or five VCs at that time and 2 of them passed on us.
And then basically Madhouse was acquired by a company from that time called 70 mm for a very, fairly modest, you know, nothing big exit, it was the very modest exit. And when we join 70 Mm, basically, you know, initially it was good, because you were able to relax, and you know, spend most of your time as free time. But I think like an entrepreneur after very fast, we got bored of that relaxed schedule. And we decided to quit, I think 10 months later, we put on our paper, and we had 12 months of notice, like 12 months, which we had to stay. And then we started to go out to Bangalore. So this was January 2008. And the community-based startup events at the smaller events were few people get together, and chat about startups that had just started in Bangalore. And we used to go to them. And what happened was that you know, we ran into founders who were basically. So while we want to figure out what should be our next startup, what happened was we actually ended up meeting a lot of young startups, which were six to 12 months old. And many of them were interested in our experience and having conversations with us. So some of those interactions then shifted to going out for coffees. And I remember the first time and somebody asked us, and you know, honestly, what was happening was whenever we met founders and discuss their startups, it was, you know, somehow we felt in a very elevated state of consciousness, something was very magical about that you felt very expansive, versus we know, our jobs, which we had big cabins and you know, 50 lakh rupee salary and a big title and all that felt like a jail, actually.
And that’s when somebody asked us, the founders, you know, would you become advisors? And give us support for six months? And then you can, you can basically, you know, we can be on our own, said, you know, great, I mean, we are having so much fun, we’ll do it. And they said, how much would you charge? And we said nothing. said why I said I mean, this is how the startup world is right? I mean, this is people help each other and people have helped us, we’ll help you. So it took two-three days, I was trying to convince this guy to take the help, and he wouldn’t agree with me. And his name is Ankit Maheshwari. And, finally, I went back home and I had to do this calculation. This is much more salaries, this is per hour cost. And I came up with this number 1%. And I said, hey, we’ll do 1% equity. And I and Nandini will help you 8 to 10 hours a week. And basically, we do six months vesting so that if there’s a breakup in between, you know, one can kind of settle down things. So basically, this arrangement became the seed of what became Morpheus later on. Because I remember a week or two weeks later, we were at another event in Bangalore, and we met Sumit and Lalit from the common floor. And basically, we met them, we hung out, they asked us this question, and we just so essentially, we had four companies, with this arrangement while we’re still in our jobs.
And our idea was still to start a startup. This was a part-time thing. Right? But we were enjoying this interaction so much, very soon we realized that maybe we can just do this as a business, a startup for startups where you work with one startup a day, in five a week, and after six months they graduate, right. And it made sense to us basically, and that is when, you know, we thought of a name and which was also another story that we were walking down Cunningham Road in Bangalore, and I had this idea that Nike is a good brand and Greek goddess of victory. And, I have this new iPhone, you know, iPhone one had this come my friend had brought it. So I opened a Wikipedia list of Greek gods. And Nandini said that our first startup was on M, so the name that M is lucky for us, why don’t we look at M, so I scrolled on M. And I find Morpheus, which is a Greek god of dreams. And the domain was available. So that is how I think in less than 10 minutes, we had the name, name done. And then so that became our kind of formal venture. And also, I think, around that time, or maybe little before that, we also became aware of Y Combinator and TechStars, which were doing similar jobs in the US, they were still new, not very validated. But for us, it was a big validation, because they had been around for two years doing a lot of work. And Paul Graham used to write a lot of good articles, which you could read and understand. That is how Morpheus started. But we changed 1% to 5%. Because we know that it was not a part-time thing, we were going to put a lot of time, and all our savings into our own life. And this is our future income. Right. So that’s what made sense at that time. And to the first three batches of Morpheus was basically, both of us giving 8 to 10 hours a week for about four to six months. And, that is when basically after that we went out to raise some money because we felt we had done some good jobs. By the time batch three, you know, we already had a common floor, we had practo, hacker rank, few of the good companies, which are more popular, there were other good companies also less known. And we raised money. And the interesting part is that almost and we knew people in the ecosystem from our madhouse, because we had raised money at that time, I think I had a list of 70 people in my Excel sheet and nobody wants to invest. Because what you were saying was that, hey, we already get 5%, you know, for our time, so we’ll add five lakh rupees to that, and then five can become eight or nine. And you can take half of it and we take half of it right. And most people thought that, that you were trying to take 50% Carry. And they tried to and you know, basically, so it was very interesting. But the thing was, we were really clear not to change our model unless somebody gives us a valid reason. So we felt we were okay to continue just with time, right? We were not running out any money on time. So at that time, and we were looking for four people, okay, 25 lakhs rs for 4 people is 1 crore. At that time, one guy named Kapil Bhatia, basically was living in Dubai and he was a consultant in the healthcare system and he wanted to invest in Indian, startups. So he found one of our portfolio companies called Life Mojo and called them and just chatted with them and he became interested to invest in their round and they introduced me as their advisor to talk to him and when we talk after some time, he also became interested to invest in Morpheus as well as also give some of his own time to run through, a very smart guy, a very good friend of mine now, and then after a while, he came back in a few days, he came back to Bangalore, he met Lifemojo guys, he met us and before he left he made a commitment about the first right now Kapil has committed 25 lakh rupees, and after a few days, he calls me and says, one of my friend who was my roommate in New York wants to also invest 25 lakh rs and I said okay, and then both of them call me later said we have a third friend who wants to also put 25 lakh rs. So within no time, I think two weeks, we had 75 lakhs committed and then two of our other friends put 10 lakh seats. So first was 95 lakhs and this is very interesting that these are all outsiders, they had no idea about how the ecosystem works but when they talk to us and they saw the work it seemed to them it made sense, and even though I’m not allowed to disclose the number, all of them who invested in a first fund actually made a decent amount of money and there is still equity left in that. And then when we raise that third fund basically, that was much easier, and the ecosystem has developed. So we had almost everybody you know, who was kind of established at that time, Vijay Shekhar Sharma, the first guy to give us a cheque. Rajan Anandan was there and Blume, India Quotient, all of our LPs, previous ones, they repeated, they brought their friends, so sort of a great time, basically, and so Morpheus was overall 2008-2014. But I think the specialty of Morpheus was really not the money, it was really the community, right. So the community I mean, we basically accidentally stumbled upon this idea that if we put the founders on a mailing list and they can talk to each other that will unlock a lot of knowledge. And that really worked in those days. Me and Nandini, I used to live in Chandigarh, we would travel to Bombay, Bangalore, and Delhi every month. One thing we did was, we met with startups one on one, and then we had this thing called gang meetup, which was one of the evenings so basically a big party for all the founders local from Morpheus and friends and That is really on honestly Now I look back and say that was really the secret of the bonding in the Morpheus gang because people would come in the evening, six o’clock, seven o’clock, and you know, we would all stay up till late night and it was a party, you can see whatever was happening. And founders who were generally carrying a lot of stress and load outside could really relax, be themselves talk to each other. So for all of us, it was like therapy. And then twice a year, we organized what was called Morpheus Gurukul, which was basically three days in a resort in Goa, or one of these places and absolute zero agenda. And people could just relax and, you know, talk to whoever they want, do whatever they want. So all of these things, I really feel Morpheus was more primarily a community of people who were having fun. And some startups got built along the way, basically. So to me, the biggest takeaway of Morpheus is community.
And I personally got a lot of 150-160 friends or 200 friends for a lifetime. So, so 2014, basically, we decided to wind up Morpheus, a key decision was done in 2013 took us a year, primarily, two reasons. One was that you know, we saw a lot of startups coming from a very young age so if you go to a young startup office, you know, you can’t tell who’s the founder and who’s employee, it’s all a very unified energy. Everybody’s contributing, everybody’s playful, you know, it’s a very joint effort. And I think that’s what creates the magic to create a breakthrough. But as the startups went to the next stage of seed funding, and even more next stage of being well funded, we started to see a kind of a division basically. So now, if you walk in the startup office, it will be a big office, you will see the founders and separately, employees are separate, there is a division in place there is that certain kind of aggression, certain, certain stress starts to build up. So, and that we saw in a startup after startup, so basically from a very happy and light workplace, which is creating magic, it started transitioning into unhappy, miserable little bit dark workplaces, where there was a lot of focus on growth and valuation without really caring about what was happening to the humans who were involved. And that is something which we honestly did not like, and we try to talk to founders, nobody was interested. So we took a call to shut down the project, we did not want to be part of that kind of ecosystem. And I think, and basically, that is when we went into our own journey, a personal journey of inner discovery. So all three of us, me and Nandini, and Sarabjeet are interested to go into what I would call integral spirituality. So there is a form of spirituality where you say that the world has a lot of problems and conflicts.
So I need to get out of the world. But there’s another form, which is called integral spirituality, or we call it where you realize that all the conflicts are actually within yourself. And what I need to do is observe and resolve them one by one, keep dropping them. And I can experience that harmony while living in the world. So that’s the journey which we were on. And during that journey, basically, I also started another community with some friends called the oneness community, which was a community of people who are on a similar journey in the city, right. And many founders actually were part of it, including so that, you know, they were exploring themselves, and many of them came to a point where they could feel a lot more harmony, peace, and balance in their own life. And then in 2020, I was asked by some of them, to help them integrate these ideas into their own startups. Right. And that was something honestly very exciting for me because I was always kind of this consciousness of startups was something which I thought should merge. And I had to pick one, in 2014, but I would love to have the book together. And also, earlier 2020. So basically, I started working with some startups and helping them integrate these ideas. And this is not an easy thing. It takes time. Basically, it’s a very work of patience and love. And that idea started developing. And in 2021, January, in fact, I had this idea, because my mentor had asked me to write a book on conscious business. But at this idea of saying that I don’t know much about businesses, because businesses are very large canvas, corporations SMEs, but I know a lot about startups. So maybe I should write a book on how do you merge startups and consciousness. So in January, I started that up, and in March, I had the first draft ready. And, as I was also working with startups, so basically, so these things are going in parallel. So there was a book in which I was developing this thought of startups and consciousness, and then I started working with startups. And suddenly these two things started to merge basically. So I decided to invest in one of the startups in which I was working within Chandigarh.
And the moment that happened, I had committed five lakh rupees. Basically, the five became 15. Because within the seven years from 14 to 21, I think a lot of people had made wealth from startups, and they were willing to invest it back to startups so four of my friends. Three people joined basically said we will also invest. So we did a co-investment of 15 lakh rupees and that company did well. And you know, they continued to grow without losing consciousness. And then they, through an introduction, I made they raised 50 lakh rupees from another investor. So what I learned basically one of the realizations had was, let’s say the market, right the market, which fund startups, it has set an expectation, let’s say wants for a particular startup it wants 10,000 users being there right. Now, actually, the market is not asking you is it conscious or unconscious, the market is in 10,000 users, right? Of a certain quality? Now, have you gotten the user through a conscious process or unconscious process that will be left up to you, right? So I could see that a conscious startup can also raise money and build wealth, right. And then you see all these years we had exits for ourselves, but we never invested into a startup because we had this disconnect going on, which was not getting resolved. Right.
So we became a bit open. And me and Nandini, I decided we will start investing some capital back into startups. And then another opportunity came up in this company which was run by Ashutosh who was also a Morpheus, gang founder, for the first startup didn’t work out. So this was the next one. This is a deep tech company where they were building technology to auto-balance scooters. So they were raising around three and a half CR and I said, I’ll invest with you guys. And that again became a co-investment instead of putting 10 lakhs, personally, we put 14 lakh between eight people. And then through that actually, I met Aneesh Reddy of capillary who was also an investor. And both of us had kind of similar views on spirituality and consciousness in business together, we became friends and then through him, another startup came up where it ended up being one corrode round, which we participated and with 15 people, so what was happening was every New Deal, basically, more people were kind of return, you know, these people whom we have known always, and there was this word going around which I had heard that Morpheus guys are back basically. And, but for me, it was still a part-time thing, you know, just doing like, 5 or 10 hours a week. And then COVID came, the second wave. And after that July happened, and honestly, that that part is still a blur to me, because through July and August, things were happening, deals were coming. New people were joining Syndicate, we were executing the deals. It’s only middle of August that I realized that I was working 15 hours a day. And we were doing one deal a week as Supermorpheus syndicate and the syndicate had grown to 50 people. And I was absolutely comfortable.
I had no discomfort which I had felt Because somewhere my idea or my need for startups and consciousness being together was being met. And when we started this journey, I had thought that we will find very few startups maybe once a quarter, who would agree on tune ideas like this. But to my surprise, you know, almost everybody has been okay. And now our philosophy is basically the baby says, Let’s build great startups. Let’s do wealth creation, and let’s take care of human progress and consciousness. So this is a new thing for me, because, in 2014, I used to feel that startups, big startups, and consciousness are mutually exclusive. So I used to feel there is a gap. So I picked one, but through my own journey of growth, and through especially the book I was writing, I saw this possibility of integrating startups, which is the energy of an entrepreneur, and wealth and consciousness, if you do these three, we can create a conscious startup and conscious wealth. And that’s really the principle around which superMorpheus is built. So when this happened, I realized that we should need to do this full time.
So that is when we started to organize ourselves from just being an ad hoc operation. And the name also came at that time, because what I had realized was that all the 160 founders, which Morpheus had in this portfolio had also grown up and look at you yourself, so that you have gone through so much, right? So this was really a superior team, right? So it might be said that, in Morpheus, maybe with three, four of us who are mature enough to help 150 founders who were younger, but right now I think they are 150 Plus mature people trying to help the ecosystem. Right. And also, obviously, we make investment right, so So the first thing I did was to revive the Morpheus gang community. And the name which came to be one of the nights as I was sleeping was superMorpheus. And initially, I told myself that okay, you know, it’s 11 pm and I’ll see in the morning, but the voice was so strong that it had to wake up at 1130 and put the name down. And that, I think, to me, it seems quite appropriate actually. And then, so we had 150 founders from Morpheus rejoin the community 150 angels who had joined New and about 30 founders we had done about 15 deals.
So the beginning of the Super Morpheus community was 200 people, which is let’s say, you know, September beginning and by now we are already 300 Plus, and the one difference from the Morpheus time, the Morpheus gang community but basically the portfolio founders. But right now the community of super Morpheus is open to all founders from across the world who resonate with the two themes, right? One is the theme of being a community, right. And this is a real living community of people who care about each other who help each other. And it’s not a network where you come to just see what can I take. Also, as a community, our core theme is to see can we realize the possibility of great startups’ wealth creation consciousness at the same time.
So while 300 People are working together, about 100 of us are also part of the Syndicate, basically, where we make angel investments. And over in less than a year, I think we have made 35 Plus investments. The pace is about two deals a week right now. And we’ve been also very fortunate that due to our interpretation and the network, basically, we get access to very high-quality deals, almost on a daily basis. In fact, our problem has been not the deal flow, which basically the capital flow, right. And, but what we have learned is that at the pace at which we are working, syndication becomes a little difficult process, because the overhead of syndicate every deal is very high. So it seemed very natural that we should set up a fund. So as of now, we are quite close to setting up a fund in Singapore, which will be a small fund, tend to contribute 20 million dollars mostly money will be raised from the community and the individuals who are already connected to us. And the model is the same.
So fundamentally, in Super Morpheus, it’s a community-based investor model, which means all the deals are coming automatically through the community, because so many people are there, they know, founders in their own network. And even for evaluation of every deal, we are able to make three people team for every deal, who are the three experts from that domain, and we can trust their judgment. And once they recommend the investment to go through. And typically we do 100k on an average deal, then the money will come from the fund and the syndicate. That’s the story.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 27:12
you have told us multiple retreats, would like to know, right? What has changed fundamentally in the startup ecosystem, one of the first principal basis in the nature of the founder of the nature of the VC, that you see much more aligned, you are now much more conscious being, you know, and also you are now more aligned to the startup ecosystem, which is in 2021?
Sameer Guglani 27:39
Yeah, I think changes have happened on both sides. I’ve also changed, I think I had a very hard stance, that startups are into consciousness. So I think I’ve also grown and become more accepting and more flexible. But I think there is a change in the I think startups, if you look at startups are the most evolved form of corporate, right. And startup itself, the learning cycle is very fast. So I am seeing this, honestly, super Morpheus that our scope of work is global. So we work with teams in the UK, US Singapore, I’m generally seeing a lot more aspiration in entrepreneurship build, they still want to build big businesses, they want to create wealth, but with consciousness, I think that is very strong. But it is more visible in which entrepreneurs, which basically means people who have been in the startup ecosystem for five to 10 years, have either tried to do some startups on their own, or they have been in ownership positions in different startups. Right. So, people who have been through the journey for five to 10 years, have come to that maturity, or they have evolved to understand that consciousness is as important as well. As startups, as technology is disruptive it is emerging to be a very strong element in the startup ecosystem. That’s what I see. And I’m absolutely happy basically, for me, I mean, I couldn’t ask for anything more basically, you know, merging of consciousness or startups or something, you know, it’s, for me, it’s a double high.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 29:06
And for listeners, could you please elaborate more, you will use the word consciousness Many times I know it because I have been associated with you for almost seven to eight years. But if you can elaborate more on it
Sameer Guglani 29:21
See, it’s a hard one to define essentially a subjective matter, but I think in the case of startups, one could say that conscious startups are looking at what is called integral growth for all right. So, there are two-dimensional advantages, one is growth itself typically tends to be seen as growth in terms of financial growth, or growth or scale, which is what most successful startups have, and even in terms of their own teams, they would look at, for the team members. Growth, in wealth, in finance, in career, in professional right. In the talk about integral growth, it goes beyond just the financial professional ideas, looks at the growth of the mind, growth of the vital, and growth of the physical. And, when you look at these dimensional growths, and these are not applicable just to the founders, it is growth for all would mean was the founders and the team member equally concerned about the growth for the team, the core team, which helps them build the startups, employees, if it’s gig economy, the customers. So everybody’s growth is equally important. It is not to say that the founders should not make a disproportionate amount of return, that is fine. But what we ended up seeing is that in most startups, as the power builds, right, as the valuation builds, there tends to be a certain tendency to look after the interests of the people who are in the center, basically, right. And everybody else’s interests start to take a backseat. So the idea of a conscious startup is to be very conscious of the impact it is having on the founders, on the core team, on the employees on the customer economy as such. You know, because in a stressful startup, even the founders are very miserable. And you know, that story has been told many times,
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 31:00
I want to know that, what role did having certain financial freedom played in your journey, to make choices to dissociate from the startup ecosystem? And just to focus on your own personal and spiritual growth back in 2014? Or even earlier? When you said no to many things?
Sameer Guglani 31:42
Okay, that’s a very important question. Because I think fundamental financial availability of funds is important to gain certain freedom in life and to also enables you to actually do stuff, right. So basically, when we started madhouse, I think through that journey, we were fairly financially constrained. So we were tied to certain things, then we will also be young learning, but once we left our job, that job after Madhouse was 70 mm, we had 15-20 lakh rupees of savings. First, this enabled us to take a call that we should not raise any money until we do the kind of work which we are doing let’s which is what we started to work with startups right away. And we were actually able to continue to work till batch three, you know, that we had companies like practo, and even after that, we still had the freedom to actually go out and try to raise money but not agree to the terms which people might be trying to dictate to us, people who didn’t understand what was to be done right. So I think the capacity to continue to execute at a certain level whatever is your clarity and vision was very important, it’s very liberating, right. So that is what allowed us to continue and we could wait till the time we found the right investors or they found us right. And after that, we reached a point I think especially if you are trying to pioneer or try to introduce new ideas and new models, right? You will always face doubts and resistance that I think ability also which has been there between me and Nandini ability to bootstrap your life. See, we used to live in the US you know, my salary was $111,000 into them for a very, very comfortable life. We came back which Chandigarh, we were doing Madhouse, we were living in a very small room in our parent’s house. You know, we had one bike and we used to eat like we used to remember share one plate of chole bhature in the morning right so our expense, personal expense only 5000 rupees, obviously rent and food was taken care of. So we’ve also had this ability to scale down the quality to the bare minimum right I think that is also important we have so in the Morpheus time. We all traveled only by train in the beginning right and of course, we had so many friends with founders, we never had to stay in a hotel, these would stay with friends. So there was a lot of stuff you could do to actually you know optimize as per your financial. So there is also that part involved. So you can your runways longest in that sense, right? You have the freedom. And I think what I have seen so recently I was looking at a founders presentation about certain markets and he was talking about the market opportunity and how they will target and attack and capture the market. And it didn’t make any sense to me. You know, I said him I said he said you should pause I think you don’t have a market opportunity. What you have is a value creation opportunity. Right? So I think fundamentally, as an entrepreneur, what you should see like this, this you know, arjun ki aankh that you see a value creation opportunity and you go after that, if you can create value in the market, the right market will reward you with valuation with revenue with whatever it is because that is a law of capitalism. Right. So now that I look back at Morpheus, I think we were just in love with founders, and creating value for founders as friends of the founders was something which we that’s all we did, right. And it actually led to a lot of financial rewards as well. Right? So by the time see, we were still Bootstrap, by the time we quit Morpheus, there was no big exit so far, and the fund size is very small, they couldn’t really pay your salaries, right. But at that time, we could easily see there are so many companies which are not very nice trajectory, that we could assume that within a year or two, exits will start and it will take care of our life. And that’s why we quit right. And we could really be off all kinds of work, 2014 onwards, since then we have not earned anything else, all the money which we have, even the money which we are using to invest super Morpheus is money which has come out of the work, which we did in Morpheus, and there is still sufficient amount, which is, you know, basically most of it is in stock, that we can actually live our life, you know, without anything. So this is This also enables us to, at least for me, absolute clarity that I am only in Super Morpheus because not to earn any more money, right, not to work with more startups than enough startups not to gain validation. That’s also happened. The only possibility, which is exciting and interesting for me is the possibility of consciousness and startups right. Until the time I see the possibility I will work till the day doesn’t work, I can step out. Right. So that I think gives a lot of very strong leverage and clarity to stay the course. So I think in that sense, I would definitely advise people to kind of look at financial independence as a core thing, which can give you the freedom to do we really want to live without any corruption and adulteration. Yeah.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 36:35
And it allowed you to explore I believe, from 2014 till 2020. You stayed in Chandigarh, you explored staying in Pondicherry and you could spend time on self-development?
Sameer Guglani 36:49
Yes, absolutely, So, see, in fact, I came to a point where I, in the beginning, had this start in 2014, when I started my spiritual quest, initially, I felt the money was something not so good, actually. Right. So I even felt resistance to money. But I think that got resolved at some point. But definitely, the availability of capital was a very big enabler for me to go on a journey of my own self that I could search for myself, I could learn thing which I wanted to learn, you know, I read a lot of books I traveled, you know, I learned Sanskrit as a language because which is obviously nonmonetary. Nandini, on the other hand, discovered, ceramics and pottery as an interest six years ago, and still today, she has been able to pursue learning, we have set up a studio at home, she makes fantastic stuff, but there is no pressure to make money, right. So this is a very interesting thing that you can continue to do something which you love to do and become better and better at it, and even finance it, because of course, something in pottery, you need a studio n all. So it is a very big enabler, I would definitely agree. But obviously, it comes after you earned your money. Right. So basically, that is true.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 38:03
Also, it was because you were very patient, there was no hurry. You know, your first initiative, Morpheus came out of love to work with the founders. And then, you know, you were patient there, there was nothing that you wanted, immediately, any immediate anxiety. So how can founders optimize you know, now you have worked for founders for more than I think 13-14 years? How can founders optimize to build for the long term with patients and make sure that the result just takes care of itself rather than worrying about how because there is, you know, unfortunately, the pressure to create a large outcome from everyone, from investors.
Sameer Guglani 38:50
See, this is something I think, you know, we understand with maturity, and we when we study life, and how, I wouldn’t say large, but I would say large slash high quality, long-lasting outcomes, where do they come from, they come from, if we are able to work without distraction on the task at hand. And we are able to enjoy and so basically, good work is also the work which we enjoy doing. Right? And you can only enjoy doing something in the present if you are free of outcome bias. So this is something people learn over a period of time at least I’ve been fortunate enough to learn that, I think so you can only not worry about the outcome if you’re having so much fun doing what you’re doing right. So, I think that is something which if people can discover something which they love to do, which basically means, you know, it goes back to what is the reason a founder is doing a startup right? If the reason is an external achievement that I wish to achieve popularity, validation, or certain financial outcome for myself, or I need to prove something to the world That will never go too far. But if the reasons are intrinsic, right, the reason is something, the joy, which you get when you perform that act of whatever the job is as a founder, right? I think for us if you see the mafia journey started, when we were meeting founders, you know, just on cafes, and feeling that drive within us, right. So when we continue the journey, the financing really did not matter. And that allowed us to be very true, faithful and committed and participate in the journey for founders. It was never external. And, honestly, between me and Nandini and Sarabjeet, we have probably been part of 1000 plus startup journeys, right? Even though we own stock only in a few 100 Plus, right, because for us, it’s not the outcome of that startup income, which, which is why we do it, we do it because we love startups. And we connect with them so much, right? So I think finding that connects and then doing stuff is really one of the keys for founders to really feel that do they have an inner connection with the problem they’re solving with the work which they are doing, and all the founders I know who have that inner connect, they do? Well, they create stuff, which is very long-term and makes them very happy to see. And the financial outcome happens, actually, the quality will just happen, basically, you have to just to do everything at times.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 41:17
And so if you have to reflect back, you know, and now because these relationships with the founders are more than a decade old, if finding patterns in those relationships that you enjoyed, over a long period of moves, what were those patterns? Or what were those founders building or thinking?
Sameer Guglani 41:43
see, basically, it’s the same thing, the founders, which were really, somehow they felt an attraction to solving a particular problem, or a particular set of problems, like they had so much joy and obsession with that, the problem they were trying to solve, I think those are the founders, where we have seen you know, and they will be also they will be long term, they will actually take time to do the work, they will not be like, high speed. In fact, honestly, what I’ve seen is all the high-speed ones, which we work with, they don’t go places. Another thing is that these founders, you know, have very little ego basically. So, they are interested to solve the problem for which they are ready to constantly learn, and because nobody knows all the answers, because they are so interested, they are always open to learning, learning from their own peers, learning from books, learning from all kinds of sources, learning from their customers, right. So they so humility tends to be very, very, you know, openness and humility, lack of ego. I think that’s a very big enabler for founders, where we’ve enjoyed interacting with them, and people who like to meet other people and equal places, like to respect their team. You know, that’s where, you know, we found a lot of resonance, basically, you know, and people who like the community culture, I think the biggest thing about Morpheus Supermorpheus is that you are not alone building a company, you almost feel like part of a family, where everybody is building a company. Right, which means you can participate in many more journeys, and you can invite people to participate in your journeys. I mean, it is absolutely magical experience. I have no words to explain it. But you know, Morpheus, and super Morpheus, that’s what I felt, that’s what people enjoy, that you are actually literally part of many journeys. And see another thing, which is, at least what we did is we were always interested in the growth of founders as a fundamental outcome. It was never the growth of the company, never to go to valuation, as long as founders are happy. And they were growing. And many founders, you know, found that startup was not something which they wanted to do. That’s what they discovered, and they found another path for themselves. I think that is great. Right? So I think it’s a growth of humanity and the growth of humans. And so that would mean that people are looking to grow, basically, they are always open to opportunities for growth. They’re open to giving, they’re open to talking, I think that’s some of the qualities
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 44:07
and how could you find entrepreneurs, who are also you know, above competition means, because startups are extremely competitive, in the sense that, especially in b2c, where the notion is the winner takes all. So, and to ascribe to the qualities that you mentioned, one has to be certain, you know, disregard would not be the right word, but disattachment from the competition, what are they doing?
Sameer Guglani 44:39
see, there is a line which my mentor used in some other context, where he said competition is for mediocre, excellence has no competition. So if you truly understand the nature of business, basically you know that excellence is very rare. It’s very hard to achieve. And if you can achieve excellence, you will be anywhere above and ahead of the competition, right. And if there is somebody else who achieves excellence you are going to celebrate their excellence equally, because you know how hard it is to take to come, to that point. So I think, I think the commitment to excellence requires you to take your eyes off the competition, see, you need to be aware of what is happening in the market, we need to know what’s happening. Many of the things can be knowledgeable, it can be inspirational. But again, competition is external, need for excellence and internal, like, I would say, probably if Steve Jobs was the only guy building iPhone, and there was no competition, he might have still built an excellent product. So for somebody who truly loves what they’re doing, they don’t need competition to create insecurity in them. They are committed enough that even if they were alone, building that thing on an island, they will still build the most excellent. I think how could I find it? I honestly don’t know. But I think what I’ve seen in life is there is this law of resonance. Right? If you are clear and resonating in a certain frequency and personality, somehow the universe makes you meet people, like I don’t know how we met, right? Basically, I mean, that’s, it’s some kind of resonance. And see also the thing is if you meet somebody and you feel authentic and original, then who you are, is very clear that people can make a call to build a relationship or not. And most of the relationships that we have had a very long-term basis in nature, these are lifetime relationships, their relationships, which have no agenda, fundamentally, other than to be friends. So we should be friends if we enjoy and we grow together, right? What we will build together, you know, there’ll be many startups in Morpheus, which financially will let to no outcome, right, you know, but, I mean, we are still friends, all of them. So the friendship was above, you also been non-transactional and non-commercial in life, I think has for me has been very useful. As I mean, it is not that I understood that is how I was basically somehow from my childhood. So it has been also very enabling basically, not to focus on near-term gains. You’re not to focus on eating the other person, right, basically. But, you know, how can you collaborate and all of us can do better. Like I personally don’t understand competition at all. I only understand collaboration.
Siddhartha Ahluwalia 47:18
Thank you so much for me, I wanted to go on and on. But I want, listeners to come back and imbibe the conversation that we had. Thanks again. It’s been great to deep dive again, you know, this time into your journey, your thought process.
Sameer Guglani 47:37
Thank you for that. Thank you. Have fun