Episode 79 / August 22, 2020

Vishesh Rajaram, Speciale Invest on investing in seed-stage deep tech startups

hr min

Episode 79 / August 22, 2020

Vishesh Rajaram, Speciale Invest on investing in seed-stage deep tech startups

hr min
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From working at PwC, while pursuing his CA to starting a Venture Fund which invests in Early-stage disruptive Tech startups, Vishesh has experienced it all. He started his investing career at VenturEast in 2007. This was where he understood the Ins & Outs of Venture investing.

From its Fund-I, Speciale Invest has invested in a total of 10 portfolio companies, some of which are Scapic, Agnikul, and Kawa Space among others.

In this podcast, Vishesh shares his experience of investing in seed-stage Hardware & SaaS startups.

Notes –

01:10 – His journey from a CA to becoming an Early-Stage Investor

07:41 – Starting Speciale Invest aiming to invest in disruptive tech startups

09:30 – Developer Tools companies in his portfolio – Scapic, Kawa Space, TotalCloud, and iauro

10:44 – Conversation AI startups in his portfolio – True Lark & Wingman

12:35 – Investing in Cynlr with a vision to evolve Visual AI and Industrial Robotic Arms

14:47 – Investing in Agnikul – India’s version of SpaceX

16:27 – His experience Investing & Exit from Vogo

19:48 – Is the Indian startup ecosystem mature enough for early-Exits within 5-6 years of investment?

24:31 – What are some of the recent tailwinds for Hardware & SaaS startups in India?

28:19 – How are B2B founders different from B2C founders in terms of Go-to-market strategy, customer acquisition, and other parameters?

31:18 – His learnings from being a VC-cum-Fund Manager and managing LPs


Read the full transcript here:

Siddhartha 0:01

Today I have with me Vishesh Rajaram, Founder and Managing Partner at Speciale Invest. Epeciale is an early-stage fund focused mainly B2B deep tech startups. Welcome to the podcast, Vishesh.


Vishesh 0:43

Siddhartha, it’s an absolute pleasure to be on this podcast as you know, we discussed doing this some time ago and I’m just glad we’re able to do it. So, thank you so much for having me here.


Siddhartha 0:56

Absolutely. The pleasure is mine Vishesh. Vishesh, to start I would love to know about your journey as a VC, you know, how did you enter into VC with Ventureast and before that, and what made you start on your own after nine years in Ventureast.


Vishesh 1:10

It’s a long story with a lot of serendipity in it. I’ll try and keep it crisp and short. I was a graduate in finance. My domain was largely in finance. I’m a chartered accountant, I started my career in audit assurance and consulting at PricewaterhouseCoopers. I then went on to being a corporate banker at ICICI when I was essentially lending out of a small $50 million book for engineering services. At the end of a couple of years of doing that, I decided to sort of want to go and get a business school degree. I went to the Indian School of Business Hyderabad, Susan the year 2006-07, incidentally, which is where I met Arjun Rao, my co-founder at the fund. I had gone to business school thinking I’ll take a year to figure out what to do and what next. My family was a first-generation entrepreneurial setup. My father had a pharmaceutical business, which he sort of founded back in the year 2005-06. The plan essentially was to go and run this company. But life had a lot, lot more to offer to me in both good and bad ways. I lost my father to leukemia when I was at school, came back decided that the company needed its attention. So I ran the pharma company for about a year. There are a lot of operations, streamlining. It was a very different business. It’s your people on the ground, you’ve got a manufacturing setup. It’s the real world. It’s not just building software. It’s essentially like a hardware business. So I ran that applied just one on ones of business saying that you can’t lose money, especially with your money, and did a fair amount of operation re-engineering and financial engineering to sort of lose lesser money as I could because it was a startup. And one thing led to another and I sort of went door to door selling inventory to different buyers and one of those buyers essentially turned out to be an acquirer of the company. And in that year’s timeframe, we managed to transition the company to a large European conglomerate that essentially wanted to double down on India manufacturing. And by then I sort of cleaned up the show, we had a lot of debt, different things going on. So I sorted all of that out and was essentially looking for a job. And I was very fortunate to meet the founding GPs at Ventureast and I met them when I was in business school. They made me an offer then and I was naive enough to sort of telling them that I had something else to finish. And then I decided to go back and tell them that I needed a job and they were kind enough to sort of taking me on as a first employee on their technology fund. This was in the year 2000 I got into venture capital, not knowing what venture capital was, at that point of time, quite frankly, I wanted a job. But then I took fish to water I loved this business it had aspects of building companies, some of that that I’ve done a little bit and of course seen the family a little bit. It had strong aspects of, you know, finance and governance and systems and processes which I was ingrained in and I enjoyed then doing what I was doing. I did that for 10 years adventurous, I was part of the fund one, I was part of the fund two fundraising. And then this was also a timeframe that is important to keep in mind. This was year between 2007 and 2016. And between 2007 and 2009 frankly, most venture in India was still more private equitish venture, which meant that there was not a whole lot of tech, there was not a whole lot of stuff going on back then. And hence the first one was sort of very diversified portfolio, across services, products, consumer infrastructure. And it, then sort of occurred to me that if I were to sort of continue in this business for the next two, three decades and I need to be doing something which is more fundamental, tech, possibly fundamental research. That was one. The second thing which also occurred to me was even across the portfolio adventure is somewhere seed somewhere series A, somewhere growth. And I particularly enjoyed working on the superbly early pre seed, seed companies. So it then dawned upon me that I would like to spend the next decade or two just working on very, very early stage companies, companies working on disruptive technologies. And I was also keen to build a fund which transforms into an institution which will last beyond me. And just having been, you know, an entrepreneur very briefly a decade ago, I just decided that this is the right time to possibly come out and do this. I’m very fortunate that I have a co founder who I trust immensely Arjun Rao, again I have history with Arjun now, go back with 13 14 years from our time at business school and Arjun has got an equal share of rough groundings hard times in his startups. And it’s good because in our business, you know, outcomes are never in our control, only the processes, the approach, the investment philosophies are in our control, because that’s all we control. And hence, it’s important to make sure that your co founder or your partners are people that you can trust and people who have real-world experience and that’s what got us to doing Speciale. We started, we said, this is a firm that will stand for backing companies that are building technologies of the future given that we are seen pretty much right at the bottom of the food chain in terms of risk, you pretty much have every risk loaded on the company. And we felt now that we’re taking all the risk that’s theoretically there. You might as well make it worthwhile from a return perspective. And then sort of chalked out saying, we will attempt to do frontier tech or disruptive tech companies. And I’m talking about early 2017. And a lot of this was not crystal clear on what we’ll do, what sectors all of that but that’s essentially what we talked ourselves out for. We said we’ll do early stage, we said we’ll do disruptive technologies. And we didn’t necessarily distinguish between software and hardware at that point. And that’s what got us going.


Siddhartha 7:51

And it’s been a very interesting journey because you come from a finance background, but you took a very deep standing for tech. What was the reason for that like how did you build that expertise?


Vishesh 8:03

Well, like I can’t claim to be being an expert. But what I can claim is that I’m a learner. And I think that’s the attraction towards anything tech. And also purely looking at it from a finance background. Tech, among many things, presents a strong ability for nonlinear growth, nonlinear returns as well. I mean, I’ve dabbled in pharmaceuticals, right? You want to make hundred kgs of a product and you can sell 100 kgs of the product. When you want to sell another hundred pages of the product, you got to go make another hundred pages of product, right? And that’s how that works. But, in certain aspects of tech, you’re going to be fundamentally creating things that didn’t exist before. In certain aspects of tech. You have the blessing of repeatability at very low production cost like take SaaS like software. I mean, after a point, you know, the only incremental cost of an incremental customer is the marketing cost of it, right? Because it could be servicing and all of that. But those end up being high margin products. So I think the fascination for packing businesses that could have gross margins as high as 60 to 70%, sort of what drew me to tech. And you know, we’re in a world where we have to constantly learn there is no escaping that I think that’s what I love doing.


Siddhartha 9:27

Fantastic. And can you share about the portfolio company of Speciale Invest?Who are they and what are they doing?


Vishesh 9:36

Yeah, so, so at this point, you know, we’ve made about 10 investments across the first two and a half years, we’ll make another seven to eight. I think our belief is a portfolio concept will be about 18 companies for every fund, and every fund will invest over a four year period. But in the middle of raising our second Fund, which I think we hopefully have it sorted before the end of the year. In terms of fund one, we made 10 investments, four on the hardware side and six on the software side. On the software side, we’ve sort of got two broad categories. One is developer tools and infrastructure. We’ve got companies like Scapic, which is a inocle tool for creating AR and 3D content. And applications include advertising and commerce. We’ve got Kawa Space. Kawa Space is a company that helps draw intelligence from space for business decisions. Again, no code, no product you come in, and you can sort of define outcomes. Total Cloud is a developer tool solution for managing cloud infrastructure across a multi cloud environment. And some of the key things we offer is security compliance and among other things, cost management. And I think the last one in that category is a company called iAuro. This is a product galloping company that sort of pivoting from having people developed products to sort of going down the no code route. You’ve got a couple of them on the SaaS side and mostly SMB SaaS. But what’s exciting for us in these SaaS companies is that they are deep dication their own nature which is a sit on the convergence of a couple of moving or evolving trends. Both these companies incidentally sit on the convergence of conversations and AI. One is a textual conversation the other one’s a voice conversation company. Voice conversation company is called Wingman, they are a YC company. One line description, their revenue intelligence platform that listens into sales, sales SDRs and customer conversations to draw insights. The other company is called True Lark. This is a conversational AI company that helps small businesses manage customer calls and bookings. So one of the sectors they focus on is hospitality where they’re essentially taking customer calls and convert them into revenue and bookings. So that’s on the software side, again, careful to try and make sure that there is some element of technology moat, if not immediately, then at least presence leverage of technology for the company to differentiate and innovate. And hence, we believe that those two categorizations being developed infrastructure and the other one being called convergence voice and AI are all technologies of the present and the future and, and will sort of build good outcomes. On the hardware side, there is a little bit of theme that automatic nature there. We spent some time on the robotic space and we ended up working with some very smart founders who are now a company called Cynlr. Cynlr essentially builds the vision and the intelligence, which in other words, means the eye and the brain, on top of an existing robotic arm off the shelf. To make it to human like tasks. So today, a robotic arm can do a few things. And it’s reasonably restricted in how it can do what it can do. Because while it’s programmed and all of that it does not have a brain and an AI to sort of deciding on the go. And this company essentially brings that element to it. So, it’s got some deep tech in terms of DNA, in terms of machine vision and the convergence of both hardware and software to build solutions if I can call that. We then spent some time on photonics. I, when I started, I didn’t know what that meant. But then I quickly realized that it is a world of optics. And optics is generally quicker, faster, and better than electronics in multiple industries. And that then led us to spend time we spent time on seeing if optics can be used on top of chips to sort of make them function faster, better. One of the other use cases that we really like like to use of optics for communication. Today communication is typically done using RF and and that’s limiting in both terms of cost and bandwidth. And we think optics can do what fiber optics did for the internet for, let’s say, telecommunication. And we back the company called Astragate precession essentially builds optical communication systems for communicating between ground in space and for communicating into space. Very exciting company. It’s just the tip of the iceberg, I think in terms of what they can do for you know, inter-satellite communication and deep space communication is quite phenomenal. Of course, within the fund, one of our other favorite companies is Agnikul which is, in my mind, sort of the SpaceX equivalent for the Indian markets and the current situation. This company that’s incubated out of IIT Madras. Excellent founders. And I think what drew us was that they were sort of building a solution for whitespace within the launch sector, a couple of thematic shifts satellites were getting smaller, cost of launch was getting lesser, which essentially meant there were a lot more people building satellites to send out. And the big challenge was when satellites were getting smaller, the rockets were getting larger, which meant that satellites had to wait for months and years to get on to the payload because, you know, if you are a 50 kg satellite and you’ve got a rocket that 60 tons and you’re in the queue to when you will be launched. And then that said that, can they be a methodology for manufacturing a rocket which essentially will bring down the time from years or months to days? And can they be a approach to designing these rockets, which is is very much modular or Lego blocks like that you can upscale or downscale the rocket depending on the size of the satellite? Essentially, think of it as mass customization of rockets for satellites. And that’s what this company is doing. That sort of gives you a sense of what we’ve done on the hardware side what we’ve done on the software side, I haven’t covered the company that we exited recently. It was a good exit for us, triple digit IRR. This was a company in the gaming side. It was sort of our experiment to do something which was B2C while something that still had strong tech moats in it. This was a company that, it’s called pocket 52. But and what excited us was that they essentially developed a gaming engine ground up with strong layers of cryptography and, and things like that are hard to hard to build. Most people license from outside and these guys were building that ground up and that’s what got us excited when were sort of the first check in them. I think about two years ago


Siddhartha 16:58

and you exited this to a larger company?


Vishesh 17:02

It was an m&a. Yeah, so we sold it to a larger Gaming.


Siddhartha 17:07

Fantastic. And I believe you have some exits on the personal side as well. You know you were an early investor in Vogo.


Vishesh 17:15

I think we’ve been fortunate. We’ve worked with a few other stellar entrepreneurs and I think between raising the fund and getting it up and running, we did a few investments. Vogo was definitely one of them. We were first investors and backers worked closely with Padmanabhan. Saw through the experimentation, the market creation of bike sharing or bike rentals for short-haul travel. So, that takeoff was sort of part of the very hard journey of transitioning from you know, car rentals, which was the first thing they did back then, to now doing what they do really well, which is bike-sharing network. Yeah, we exited the company in sort of the follow on round after that. We’re also earliest associates with Check Gaadi company in which, which we sold to TVs automobile. We were early investors in a company called Surukam, which was a legally AI company that essentially had the capability to read documents, understand them and do a bunch of things on top of it like extraction. Then, you know, understanding what’s being extracted, and then sort of rulebook comparison contract building all of that, again, a very deep problem to solve for, it’s superbly complicated because not only do you need to understand the paragraph, you need to understand the preceding paragraph in the following paragraph from the context of the legal clause, etc. The terrific team there again. We had an early acquisition from the symphony group. We had a good exit there as well. You know, exits, like this have been good. But, you know, we know we’re backing deep companies and sometimes a waiting period has to be longer if you want to create, you know, nonlinear upsetting and I think we were aware of that and, and we’re playing for it.


Siddhartha 18:59

But I believe there’s been a fantastic journey where you’ve spent the first, let’s say 10 years in learning venture capital and learning, you know, deeply at Ventureast and then you went all in, you know, and had some personal exits which you shared and ones from the fund. So, do you believe India has the right timing for exits, you have seen like five of them, it’s not plain luck. It’s a repeated pattern now. By investing in tech, and do they exist, we don’t have to wait for lets say 10 12 years in a company’s lifetime for that?


Vishesh 19:39

So I think, let me break it down into three parts. I don’t know if I have a perfect answer, but I have a few thoughts. I think the rest of the world is now well aware that India is very well capable of building technology. And we have some very good examples of not only building technology but Also scaling technology. Right? So I don’t think we have a situation where people doubt the capability of innovation coming from our country. There are trends that are there. I think the belief has been maybe better in SaaS than in hardware at this point of time, because there are more successful side SaaS companies, and than there are in the hardware side, but these are all cycles. And I think, in a 2030 year time frame, all cycles will sort of see their full turns and full life cycles. The important part to keep in mind is that real value comes typically when you scale companies, you know, 6,7,8,9,10 years. I think three, four years ago, it was an unwritten rule that strong value creation takes about 10 years. Of course, now there are examples like Postman and a few others, which essentially show that it could be sooner. It can’t be two years or three years for sure, but I think it’s more in the 6-7 years timeframe, if not, if not shorter. And if you’re truly playing out for the big wins, and you know, building big companies, and you’ve got founders that have the vision for building these big companies, and building them over a decade or two, which is generally how long it takes to really create a lot of value, then you go all out. But then you’re also in certain situations where the company itself is riding a technology curve that may not be there for 7 10 years, it may be shorter. And in those cases, you have to then iteratively find ways to transition the company. And you have to make sure that you know, your sector is sort of still in fashion and still available and then find a way to do in all of this, it’s important to make sure that capital efficiency is maintained and capital efficiency I define as you know exit value by capital consumed. And one of the draws towards doing software and industrial hardware is that we generally think that capital efficiency is one and a half to two times more than the consumer startups. Of course, consumer startups have much larger outcomes, more unicorns on the consumer side than on the enterprise side as we speak. But capital efficiency is what attracts us to doing what we do, in addition to the fact that we really enjoy doing what we do and it’s deep in our DNA to do what we do.


Siddhartha 22:30

And India, you have seen, you know, the last, I would say 13 years of venture investing, do you consider today to be the most exciting period or what how would you classify today as compared to the rest 13 years you have seen?


Vishesh 22:46

Well, if you ask me today, I think significantly ahead and better if you do this podcast 5 10 years from now, I think I’ll say the same thing. I think certain advancements have been made, just in terms of technology infrastructure. And I think culturally, the entrepreneurial ecosystem has also evolved significantly from when I started investing in 2007 2008. Your typical entrepreneur persona was someone who spent 15 20 years in the domain single founder has been at this for five years already and then is raising capital for growth today. Now the spectrum is much wider, you’ve got anywhere people just graduating from college to sort of taking an idea to slightly more senior folks and you’ve got people in between them. I think what’s fundamentally changed is the appetite for risk. There is no stigma attached to failure. People don’t worry about failing, people don’t worry about getting a job if this doesn’t go anywhere. So I think they give it all they have in sort of how they’re building these companies. I think the environment is also different, you know, failing in a company 15 years ago, and I’m sure had a lot more taboo to it. Then, you know, having a startup that went down Now, people ready to live with that situation. And I think the world is seeing failure very differently from how it saw two decades ago. I think that’s a big shift. Everything else is technology trends and shifts, and they keep, they keep shifting constantly. And I think, which is why I said 10 years from now, I’ll have the same thing to say.


Siddhartha 24:23

And what do you think are the two three tailwinds behind the sectors you invest in?


Vishesh 24:28

So, on the hardware and the deep tech side, I think there are quite a few things. I think there are two three curves. One is just the majority of optics prices of lithium sort of stabilizing. I think we’re seeing that there are technologies which have seen their cycle once and now beginning to see their cycle twos. And generally cycle one is where there’s a lot of learning and unlearning, in cycle two in some of them is when the commercial viability and opportunity sort of represents itself much better. And I think some of those, typically lean on in Support. A hardware company is very technical, for example, 3D printing is one of the core elements of it right? And trying to do this 15 years ago was virtually impossible versus trying to do it now. Take a robotics company now. It’s a convergence of both machine vision and optics and DNA models and clearly not something that we could do 7, 10 years ago. If you take our optics, photonics company, the same thing applies to it. Clearly, on the software side, it’s also the question of evolution of the market, more people using software and enhance that sort of having a ripple effect or a snowball effect. A lot of these we couldn’t have done some time ago. And these are opportunities that are emerging of other opportunities or other trends that constantly move. And hence, we’re not a single sector fund. We’re not a robotics fund. We’re not a space fund, we’re not an EV fund. We have ultraviolet In the past, we don’t do only that I think we see what are the trends that are coming into economic viability that would be disruptive or additive to a large market. We see if these are founders who can build these things, whether these outcomes can be above 100 million dollars for us and then sort of get into these companies.


Siddhartha 26:22

And so, one of the key things which you mentioned is you know, there should be market trends, which are currently very live for example, in Wingman they are building software for SaaS companies currently the salesman in a SaaS company can use it, you know, to enhance his closing rate and his sales pitch. This would not have happened, let’s say five years ago when India SaaS was not known. Or even the global SaaS was not as good as it is today. Right? It may be the perfect timing for it. Kudos to you for spotting this industry.


Vishesh 27:05

Yeah, absolutely.That’s on the market side that’s on the market. And then I think we’re also reaching a point where Why is transcription understanding wise sort of reached a certain amount of maturity that the big tech has sort of led its way. And then we’re now using AI in a very contextual and a very specific way. I think one of the things we believe is, while there is AI, we’re big believers of AI that works in a very narrow scope, then general AI, I think, general AI is a lot more harder to sort of build-out. And hence sort of building an AI solution that works within a certain sector within a certain segment with a lot of known things around such as customer product, all of that, then I think, then the accuracy rates are a lot tighter, the standard deviations are a lot lower, and the algorithms can work a lot better. Right. So those are also timing wise, all of them sort of coming in together. for it to work. Yeah. Most importantly, you need smartest of founders to be working on that problem. And I think in strings, the combination of Shruti Shekhar. they’re pretty strong.


Siddhartha 28:13

And you mentioned on the founder side, so you have worked with both b2c companies and b2b companies. What are the key, you know, qualities or trends? I would, if I ask you they are in the b2b founder, because I believe we both come from a different DNA.


Vishesh 28:34

I think the common denominator is his hustle ability to survive and desire to survive in build. Right. I think that that’s sort of common across both because capital is always scarce. But then I think the markets are always a very fundamentally different right? Particularly the go to market, the customer satisfaction and the ability to pay all of those I think fundamentally different businesses. And I think generally the B2C ones need a lot more capital to play out, which means that the founders themselves need to first understand that. And understand that fundraising is not a seasonal job. It’s an everyday job, you’ve got to be constantly fundraising for their companies. And I think, in the b2b, while you do need capital, and it’s not that, you know, you do one round and you’re done or they need capital, and there is a certain amount of capital that typically goes towards sales and marketing, which, you know, which sort of as a company grows, needs more money. But, there are strong proof points at each level, you know, it is at the policy level, you’re looking for founder market fit and at a cetirizine level, product market fit and then I’d be looking for go to market fit. So in sort of the, in all of those cases, some parameters. Some yardsticks for evaluation are largely there. In B2C, it’s a lot more complicated. You know, for A category 100,000 users are good for B category 1 million users are good. And then stickiness and downloads and utilization engagement. I think it’s a completely different and hard problem to solve.


Siddhartha 30:16

And sometimes you will be measured across daily active users and monthly active users.


Vishesh 30:21

I think if you’re a smart founder, you will be setting the metrics that you get evaluated on. And that’s what you should do, as again, sort of fitting into other metrics.And yeah, I will flag with a bunch of not everything that we’ve invested in, but lots of other companies where you see very smart founders building b2C companies.


Siddhartha 30:39

Yes, and I think leaving them out must be hard for you as a thesis because you see, like brilliant founders in b2c who are in touch with you


Vishesh 30:51

The venture capital job is a hard job to do you need to make money. That’s the ultimate goal. You need to make money. You need to make money for the LPS in a strategy that is repeatable that you understand can relate to and subscribe to. That’s the core. Getting a strategy that makes money is different from getting a strategy that is relatable by you as a fund manager and repeatable by you as a fund manager. And I think my DNA and I think my partner’s DNA is a little more inclined towards saying, let’s take 75% of the fundraise and go build product and R&D. As against saying let’s take 60% of the fundraise to go to sales and marketing. And then a natural byproduct of that inclination is we end up doing more enterprise software and industria hardware products, which end up being deep tech or frontier tech or whatever is the next nice word used to describe that and that’s what we like doing more. And hence, while money, no doubt, can be made on the b2c side and in large numbers, and you’ve got a lot of great top quartile top decile VCs that show us consistently they can do that. We have high regard for them that they can repeatedly can do that. And we think we want to build ourselves a strategy that we can repeatedly do. And we’re sort of showing some very early, very early signs of doing that, in what we are trying to do that.


Siddhartha 32:30

I think that awareness is fantastic. So tell me, Vishesh how have you evolved, you know, as a person in the last 13 years in this industry? What are the fundamental changes which you see in yourself as a person.


Vishesh 32:44

I think nothing surprises me these days. There’s just so much to learn. There’s so much going on. But I think a certain awareness needs to be there as an investor on what is your role to play. What is the specific thing that you bring to the table? And what outcomes are you aspiring?


Siddhartha 33:04



Vishesh 33:06

Well, let me be clear, these are just expectations that you need to write somewhere so that you don’t keep changing. But none of that may always play out. Right? I think it’s just good to have a lot of situational awareness of what are you trying to do and what your role plays so that you know, you don’t, you don’t either end up one day investing your time with a portfolio company or over investing your time with a portfolio company and you find ways to constantly understand and manage expectations on both sides. I think the one thing that I’ve evolved that sort of stands in my mind is I’ve evolved saying let us have clarity in whatever we do, because as it is the business is filled with ambiguity, startup etc. So, to the extent you have clear views, let us communicate that clearly to each other. Let us not hold back our communication or founders hold back their communication and let’s make sure that we have a free flowing exchange of information so that there’s no information asymmetry, plans may happen may not happen companies may fail, may succeed in all of them is a derivative of market customer founder effort capital and a bunch of other things that go into that magically. But the one thing you want to have in all of this is to make sure that there is clarity and communication is simple between like portfolio and the investor. And expectations are recalibrated constantly, if they are changing constantly Well, I think there are many other things that you know one changes I end up doing a lot more now than ever before. And then you sort of living certain habits that help you in the job. I mean, if I were on the shop floor and in our automotive company, then I would have done things yeah. differently, because that’s what’s needed for the job. Certain things are needed for this job for you to sort of build this with a certain sustainable way. And, and we’ve got some excellent people have set examples of trying to do what they do. So we’re constantly learning. That’s the other thing other than awareness. The other piece is possibly just learning.


Siddhartha 35:20

And what are you reading right now? What are the habits that you have built, you know, or in making?


Vishesh 35:29

Well, I have to confess, I’m not very good at reading large, large volumes of content and hence I I think between a bunch of subscriptions on substack and what comes way and following smarter people. This is enough to read here. And you know, we bought a portfolio of 10 companies we’re sitting on top of it, I mean, working on and so and we’ve got a new fund coming up so there’s enough going on. I’m always couple of hundred newsletters behind my reading anyway, because I still have catch up to play on weekends.


Siddhartha 36:07

And what about the habits that you were mentioning? You know, if I may ask you, what are the habits that have developed Vishesh today who is a successful VC?


Vishesh 36:17

I think it’s very individualistic habits, none of what I do, may or may not have relevance for the business I am in, I think I definitely hit the bed early and I’m up very early. That gives me time to sort of do things very early on. I’m very organized, I’m sort of paranoia to make sure I don’t miss out on things. I’m pretty tight on my tasks, my calendar thing, the only thing that I have is time, so it’s really important on how I prioritize my time. So those are two or three things I’m very picky about. But other than that, I’m just another normal man.


Siddhartha 36:54

And you have been a VC and then as an Individual Angel and now a VC again, many folks entering into the startup ecosystem as investors either with previous exits or HNI or even CXOs of large corporate in the hope of you know, this is a wealth creation industry. Is it so what do you believe?


Vishesh 37:25

That’s a very complicated answer to give. This is a hard industry to create a lot of wealth. It takes time. You need to be building that strategy that is repeatable and successful. And I think it’d be on a couple of cycles of repeating you possibly would have made that sort of wealth. I think this is an industry you come because you’re either naive gullible or you love what you’re doing. And then over time, returns are a byproduct of doing what you love to. Otherwise it’s a hard industry to make a lot of carry. I think there’ll be a handful, If I rolled back three years, there would have been a handful of funds that I made carry. But I think in the last two, three years, things may have changed. You’ve got of course, a lot more blockbuster exits coming. But otherwise, it’s a hard business to build a strategy there’s one thing is to invest in a company and I know there’s an intelligible. giving our money, is among other things easier to do, because you’re giving. Taking back is an order of magnitude harder, right? And then building a process to give and take, give and take and then making it a cycle is where the, the core IP sits are the core process sits for great funds. I think that’s what we aspire to.


Siddhartha 38:50

Thank you so much, Vishesh. It’s been a fantastic conversation with you, learning about your experience and the insights you have built in 13 years in the venture industry.


Vishesh 39:02

I’m very humbled that. You asked me these questions, putting me in a position of having knowledge. And I must confess a lot of this is just on the ground learning what founders tell us and how we pick things from our vantage point. And I keep saying I at least have a couple of more decades in this industry and I’m here to sort of enjoy that journey and hopefully we’ll do great things along the way.


Siddhartha 39:27

You plan to enter with some gray hair and exit with a lot of gray hair in this industry.


Vishesh 39:35

Yeah, I know. I came in when I was 23. So I had a lot of black hair, but, but I’m getting there. I have a lot more white hair now than before.


Siddhartha 39:44

Thank you again, Vishesh, it’s been a pleasure.


Vishesh 39:48

Enjoyed it. Thanks so much for having me, Siddhartha.


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