After meeting over 200 investors in a year, an ex-entrepreneur found out the secret to a profitable Indian startup



Two years ago, Misbah Ashraf faced the worst predicament that any entrepreneur would want to face. With a heavy heart, he shut down his Cibola, a payment venture he founded after dropping out of college from IIT Delhi. But, that setback didn't cause a dent in his entrepreneurial spirit.

He wasn't one to give up.

What Misbah instead decided to do was help startups and small funds learn from his experience of failing at an early stage startup. He interacted and worked with entrepreneurs in the Bay Area and Singapore and it was during those conversations that a realisation dawned on him.

He began processing the fact that the Indian startup ecosystem was missing something crucial. Afterall, why else would young entrepreneurs come to him with problems such as finding the correct target audience for their product or product position when they had the guidance of investors working with them?

Soon after, he had the answer to his question. Most often than not, Indian investors limit their guidance to just writing a cheque, instead of being fully involved with the startup and guiding them through every obstacle.

A little more digging confirmed his views. "I found out that most of the time startups get investors just for the sake of few thousand dollars, and there is no other tangible value," he states.

From his own experience, he knew that early stage startups have two fundamental requirements that can make a world of difference for them- early money and the right set of mentors.

But, as he soon found out, early stage Indian startups prioritised funding way more than the importance of value creation. Most were following the 'how things have always been done' mentality instead of carving their own path.

This is where Ahmed thought he could help. After meeting over 200 investors and entrepreneurs, Ahmed has come to a conclusion- it is imperative that the Indian ecosystem sees a transformation in the way early stage funds have been functioning till now. Shifting to a value creation perspective is the need of the hour, he believed.

According to him, most of the early stage startups have the common problem of not being able to figure out product positioning, the right product and how to monetize their traffic. And, these issues have invariably become the reason of failures and shutdowns.

He suggests two major changes for early stage funds taht will help startups. Here's what they are:

1. Community Building: If you are an early stage fund, why don’t you build a community of founders in the house where everybody can help each other with their expertise and network rather than fighting with each other? Early stage startups can’t survive by just competing with each other; rather they have to help each other to grow.

2. In-House Talent Team: Experience and attitude towards learning always beat everything. Why don’t we put together some smart people in the house who are struggling to find their next series of their life? While they are fighting to find the next magical wave, they could add incredible value to your portfolio companies with their skill set. Since they are about to start the journey of starting up, they would do it passionately for learning and impact also. Design and growth are two skill sets which are hard to find, and it shouldn’t necessarily to any early stage team 24*7. So, an early stage fund could put together the talent pool of these skill sets in the house.


Having figured out the solutions, Ahmed didn't just want to be a passive participant. He went a step ahead. Last year. along with Amit Agrawal, the former head of Youtube India, he launched 'India Goes Global', an initiative that lends strategic advice to Indian internet startups to maximize their potential in a hyper-connected world. It helps driven entrepreneur teams with working products to scale up by leveraging global business trends.

From bootstrapped companies to start-ups, it distils rich global experience to help new ventures move forward in a shifting business landscape. It stretches their boundaries to build agile business strategies through working lean principles. By staying approachable and friendly while mostly working pro-bono, it encourages them to take the leap and play big.

From help on scaling up, speed monitoring to startup roundtables and acting as a bouncing board for startups, the duo aims to contribute to this startup ecosystem and help India create multiple profitable businesses through their initiative.

It's time to show the real potential of Indian startups.



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