Why Kalaari Capital decided to launch Kstart, ‘yet another seed programme’
Kstart wants to work with amazing entrepreneurs who have disruptive ideas and dream of building the next generation of game-changing companies. At Kalaari, we decided to set up a separate fund for this, offering ‘yet another seed programme’ among the plethora of such options that exist today, but one that is singularly focused on enabling visionary founders to build the next big disruptor.
I’d like to share our motivation for doing this and why we think what we are doing is very important. Let me start with a little background before I dive into the details. I was a tech entrepreneur in the Valley for a decade, so I’m familiar with the trials and triumphs that go into transforming an idea into a high-growth, disruptive company. I wanted to take those experiences and enable other entrepreneurs to succeed in actualizing their vision. I have attempted to do this in the last decade as a venture capitalist in India, funding young companies. I am thrilled and proud about how the Indian startup ecosystem has matured significantly, even beyond what we could have predicted. We have about a dozen unicorns, $40 billion in value created, bringing in an inflow of $10 billion in venture funding.
Most importantly, startups in India have provided unique, almost custom-made solutions for the country and been transformative for most Indians. Today, we can buy everything from shampoo to sarees online, and download apps to schedule a service – taxis, laundry, plumbing, nursing; the list goes on. Whether it is education, agriculture, finance, or healthcare, everything has a technology-based solution to uniquely solve for what Indians need.
The velocity of funding too has accelerated, while the cost of starting a company is going down. This is good news indeed: if you want to be an entrepreneur, it has become much easier to do so. However, this also means that the percentage of companies that will achieve success on a large scale will decline. How so? Well, take publishing for instance. Technology today allows anybody to become author and (self)publish a book. But very few of these become blockbusters. That doesn’t stop people from writing – at last count, there were more than 2.2 million books published annually, but only 141 books have sold more than 10 million copies and only 11 have sold more than 100 million copies; just three books have sold over a billion. The same principle applies to startups. The cost of starting up has come down, but blockbusters are still rare, and hence aptly called unicorns.
What the venture capital industry needs to do is to allow for a rapid prototyping model (RPM) to enable founders to calibrate their ideas and have a fair chance to succeed. We at Kalaari have always thought of ourselves as entrepreneurs, willing to bet boldly on our convictions and to be pioneers in influencing an eco-system. Kstart, therefore, is an answer and outcome of these reflections.
When we conceived Kstart, our goal was to create an environment and ecosystem to inspire and support young people with the passion to change the world and push them to dream big, address fears and challenges head-on, and collaborate with thinkers and doers from all fields.
Why apply to Kstart
At Kstart, we live and work by certain values. Chief among these is that we put the founder first, always. It’s our job to provide them with the best support, keeping their interests at the forefront. We believe it is our job to enable founders by providing them access to the right networks for growth through our catalysts, technology partners and peers, be it with respect to technology or hiring, market access or culture. We love founders who think big, so we’re looking to fund bold, disruptive ideas that can positively impact millions of lives. And while doing all of this, we remain committed to the highest standards of integrity and fairness in all our interactions.
So what is the advantage for Kstart companies?
Our goal is to establish long-term relationships with founders and contribute positively from the very first day of our journey together. Beyond equity funding we want to offer invaluable resources. We back this with the right core values. We are also patient investors. Temporary market variations exist but always go away. We are unfazed by that. We look at the long-term opportunity and back the entrepreneur 100%. With this in mind, we have created an integrated platform that incorporates factors that are critical to a startup’s success:
We know raising capital is a massive challenge – it’s why we’re making the funding process transparent, responsive and attractive. We won’t take any equity at the seed stage and instead offer capital as a convertible note.
We have created deep partnerships with industry-leading companies like IBM and Google, widely regarded for their unparalleled technology expertise and market reach. These companies are committed to helping Kstart startups thrive and grow, through various initiatives.
Augmenting the Partners are group of distinguished leaders, the ‘Kstart Catalysts.’ For me, putting together this group was more about what they bring to the table for our portfolio companies rather than the fact that they are high-profile. Young companies need time from mentors and catalysts. We spoke to people individually to ensure they were in a position to devote this quantum of time. Each of our catalysts and mentors is deeply and personally committed to helping the entrepreneurs who will be part of Kstart’s portfolio of companies.
Kstart Institute will provide focused and topical three-day in-person training modules for entrepreneurs to give them the skills and knowledge on the most important aspects of building and growing a technology-driven venture. This includes structured insights, expert interactions and opportunities for peer-to-peer learning.
I have always believed that environment and energy can have deep subconscious impact. For me, a key ingredient for creativity to flourish is an environment that nurtures it. So Respace was about creating a community space that exuded a certain energy around pushing boundaries, innovation and reimagining the world.
We have the building blocks in place and Kstart is ready to receive applications. Talk to us – together we can build great businesses.
(Disclaimer: Kalaari Capital is an investor in YourStory.)