If one can label them, then Rahul Chowdhri, Ritesh Banglani, and Alok Goyal, could easily represent the new VCs in India who are more entrepreneurial in their DNA than the rarified club where investors of early days used to reside.
After all, the three of them have built Stellaris Venture Partners from grounds up as a fund that actively invests in entrepreneurs and opportunities that address three things - Building for the next 400 million internet users; digitally enabling SMBs in India; and building enterprise software for global markets from India.
Rahul, Ritesh, and Alok, all ex-colleagues at Helion Advisors, established the early-stage fund in 2016. Among them, they have over two decades of experience in the Indian startup ecosystem and venture capital universe. With early investments in startups like TaxiForSure, BigBasket, and Simplilearn, today, the early-stage fund boasts of portfolio companies like MamaEarth, Vogo, Whatfix, Loadshare, and Loco among others.
I had an interesting conversation with all the three partners recently. Besides their deep insight into the evolving startup ecosystem in India, the camaraderie they exhibited was infectious. Needless to say, all three share an easy relationship with one another which has contributed a great deal to their success as an early-stage fund.
As Rahul tells me, “The idea was to build a new kind of a firm that captures the opportunity that startups in India will present over the next two decades. So that was the drive to start Stellaris, it's been four years now and we are really happy with the journey.”
The three are completing 10 years together. Ritesh says, “At some point, we figured that if we could tolerate each other for so long, it's probably meant to be. I'll tell you a little story. When we were thinking of starting Stellaris together, I went to my wife, Anusha, and said, ‘hey, we are going to start a fund together. It means that we might not be able to raise the fund. If we do raise the fund, we are going to have to invest our life savings into it and it's a risky asset class so we might lose all our money.’ And her response was classic. ‘I don't know about you, but if Rahul and Alok are doing it, it must be a good idea.”
Among the other things that worked for them, Alok believes that one of the most important was to build a strong team rapidly.
“This is a business of people. We often joke, actually people ask us what has been the hardest part of the journey to date? It's actually been hiring. And it's not a joke that for every investment professional we have hired, we interviewed a hundred people. But I think getting those good people onboard has been very critical in this journey.”
The partners claim that they do not suffer from FOMO. Says Ritesh, "We don't look at the hot spaces of the day and try to find companies in those spaces. In fact, our thesis is that if a space is hot, it is already beyond our stage of investment. So we will not go after the latest fad and reach out to 10 entrepreneurs who are doing this. It has served us well in the past and I'm hoping that we can continue to avoid FOMO as a concept."
Watch the full interview here
[At 00:00] Find out about the intent, the drive, and the reason that they started Stellaris.
[At 04:30] Find out the vision behind Stellaris.
[At 06:57] Find out how they make a decision, and how much of it is a gut instinct when they meet an entrepreneur.
[At 11:14] Find out their learnings as an investor.
[At 19:11] Find out their views about the exit scene in the Indian startup world.
[At 29:12] Find out how they say no to an entrepreneur.
[At 30:56] Find out the common mistakes they see entrepreneurs making during a pitch.
[At 36:48] Don’t miss the Rapid Fire Round.
(Edited by Dipti Nair)
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