Investor and co-founder of Venture Nursery Ravi Kiran, on startups and his bet on Middle India
Ravi Kiran, co-founder of Venture Nursery gave up a very high flying career in advertising to ‘startup’. After helping many brands and MNC clients successfully scale great heights through his 19 years of advertising career, he decided to turn entrepreneur full-time. Ravi says he did not want to do advertising and media all his life. And his way to navigate the experience and do something he loved was two-pronged. He put to use his advertising experience by starting Friends of Ambition (FOA), a consultancy firm that works with businesses based in Tier 2 towns, a space that Ravi has christened 'Middle India'. Started in 2011, FOA consults businesses having turnover between Rs 25 – 100 crore. “Middle India will be future of India, when it comes to business and economic growth. The ambition levels are high and as they grow they will also need fueling,” and that is the need gap that FOA is trying to bridge.
To satisfy his urge for entrepreneurship, Ravi has co-founded Mumbai based Venture Nursery (VN), an angel-backed start-up accelerator with Shravan Shroff. Venture Nursery accelerates pre-product, pre-revenue and early revenue ideas and start-ups. VN's model works on being an enabler by hand-holding startups and entrepreneurs at their early life-stage. VN conducts bootcamps, to identify high potential, high growth startups for a period of three weeks. At the end of the said period, participating startups get to pitch their idea/business to a group of angels in a bid to get funded – but there is no guarantee about the funding. The decision to invest is taken by the investment council, who decide independently without any influence from the partners (Ravi & Shravan) whatsoever. “As an entity we do not promise funding, what we do help is grow ideas. Whether they get funding on the graduation day or no, depends on the idea,” clarifies Ravi. Nevertheless, the value that the VN team brings to the table is something many startups have found interesting and since starting up in March 2012 five businesses have graduated from VN bootcamps.
VN has a group of 40 advisors comprising entrepreneurs, corporate executives and fund managers, who work closely with the incubatee companies for a three-week incubation period. Ravi and Shravan also actively mentor and track progress of incubatee companies. Investments done by VN's angels are upto Rs 50 lakh, in exchange for some stake in the startup. VN's work is more on the evangelism side and Ravi admits they are not making any money through it. However, angels who participate in the graduation day are charged some fees for participating. “Ours is a tough program and is not for the fainthearted. It is meant for serious entrepreneurs who want to build sustainable enterprises, create tremendous value for the community and for themselves,” says Ravi about VN. The next VN bootcamp is scheduled in October.
FOA is the cash cow that keeps both FOA and VN running. Ravi has worked with six companies to-date on project basis from Tier 2 cities, most of which are growth-based, but sector agnostic companies. FOA provides consultancy help across five different areas – people, customers, capital, strategy and technology, however they stay out of the financials of the company.
Talking about the larger purpose behind FOA, Ravi says they try to assist companies grow manifold, create better jobs, improve community infrastructure and thereby provide youngsters a lesser need to migrate to bigger cities in search of employment. These growth-stage companies have a small group of people running the organisation and normally have a tough time getting experts and high quality managerial talent to take up important role within the organisation. This need gap is filled by FOA, who help the promoter plan and therefore grow their businesses better.
Talking about VN's roadmap for the future, Ravi says their effort is to bring more and more angels into their fold and increase access to capital for startups. Startups that they have mentored so far have been across media, education and retail sectors. Ravi is also a believer of the 1,000 days philosophy: “97% businesses that startup shut within 1,000 days,” which he says is important to help real businesses grow and take their right place under the sun.