Kris Nair, probably one of the coolest VCs we know, started his first company at the age of 17. He exited his first two companies with 10x returns and since then, in his own words, has been "baby sitting" entrepreneurs. Currently, Kris runs Opdrage Venture Partners, that claims to be the "earliest" stage mentor capital fund. In a conversation with YourStory, Kris tells us about his investment philosophy, his views about the startup eco-system and his journey so far.
You have been an entrepreneur for over a decade now, and have been investing in companies since 2007. How have you seen the startup ecosystem evolve in India?
Earlier, people who were in senior positions would leave their jobs and startup companies. Now what we see happening is, 17 year old boys starting companies, which is a good thing. This is the key difference which I have observed.
What is Opdrage venture partners’ investment philosophy?
We invest in lines, not dots. We like to engage with entrepreneurs and work closely with them right from the idea stage. For six to seven months, we hang around with them to understand the way they work and mentor them. After this period, if both the parties are comfortable with each other, we go ahead and invest. We call ourselves ‘mentor capitalists’. And we don’t charge the companies for mentoring.
What do you look for in a startup before investing?
We invest in leaders. We look for somebody who is chasing a strong market and is passionately curious about that market. We are comfortable investing in some domains.(like technology, social ventures and aerospace).
What are the traits that you see in successful entrepreneurs?
Good Entrepreneurs are good Psychologists. They know how to Motivate a team, they Lead, they Push the limits, and are Positive all the time.
Have you invested in any social ventures?
We invest in hybrid business models when it comes to social ventures. We invest in ventures started for or by the Bottom of the Pyramid(BOP), and have got a massive scale of capacity. For example, through one of our portfolio companies, IndicArts, we are trying to create a massive market place for dying artisans and their families by enabling micro-entrepreneurs. What we do is identify, nurture and enable women entrepreneurs from the BOP sector. Initially, most of these women, used to take home around 1500 Rupees per month, now they take home about 17,000 Rupees per month, creating a substantial impact in the eco-system. Currently, we are working on creating one lakh micro entrepreneurs.
You started your first company in 1999 when you were 17. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
My first company was called Navigator Media Intelligence. It was a market intelligence company. We used to conduct surveys for ad agencies. What we created was an algorithm of excel sheet full of data that can be used by ad agencies. In one and a half year’s time, we were earning two digit lakhs in revenue, with premier southern India’s ad agencies using our product. Within 3 years of starting, it commanded a valuation of six crores, and that was big money for us at that point of time.
Your Twitter profile says you are an Indian Military Academy (IMA) Drop out. Tell us more.
Military was always my passion. Generations of my family served army. I studied in a military school, and for me it was a natural thing to join IMA. I met with an accident while I was at IMA, I tried really hard for a month to get back, but I lost the opportunity. To get out of that phase, I probably started a company.
IMA’s loss is startup eco system’s gain. We at YourStory believe we need more investors’ in India who are fun to be with and of course do not charge for all the mentoring support.
If you want to reach out to Kris, you can tweet to him at @krisnair (sure shot way of connecting with him). For more details, please check out http://opdrage.org/ and let us know your thoughts on this story.