Meet the founders who declined investor advice, and have just raised $35M

Propelld, an education-focused fintech lender, was asked to focus on survival in April 2020. Instead, the founders managed to change their investors' minds and have grown 80x since then.
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Propelld, a Bengaluru-based fintech startup, just raised $35 million in a Series B funding round led by WestBridge Capital and existing investors Stellaris Venture Partners and India Quotient.

However, one of those existing investors just revealed not only the odds, but the investor pressure that the founders had to push back against in April 2020 to reach this point.

In a Twitter thread, Ritesh Banglani, on the investment team at Stellaris VP, explained how he and Anand Lunia of India Quotient walked into an emergency board meeting with Propelld in April 2020 with a feeling of panic, and walked out with a feeling of excitement.

As the pandemic started hitting India, financial lenders were seeing rising defaults from loans.

According to Banglani, even a big name like Bajaj Finance was showing 35 percent default on their loan books. The investors wanted Propelld to freeze all loans and focus on survival for the next few months.

To their surprise, the normally amenable founders refused to cede any ground. In fact, they wanted to be more aggressive.

According to Banglani, the founders noticed the environment, and had a completely different interpretation of what needed to be done next.

Bibhu Prasad Das, the Founding CEO, stated that "Anyone can lend in fair weather. You backed us for our underwriting, so you got to trust us when the waters are choppy."

Brijesh Samataray, another founder, was more pithy, saying he wanted to grab more market share immediately as "the banks are scared sh*tless."

Luckily, this gutsy approach paid off. Not only did they get their founders on board with the possibility of growth, they were also able to follow through.

According to Banglani, they took their Rs 14 crore in total equity at the time, and grew 80x in 18 months. Not only that, but they were able to take their already low 3 percent default rate in April 2020, and chase it down to 1 percent in just 90 days, at the height of the first lockdown.

As we know, this meant that not only did Stellaris and India Quotient give them more money as early as July 2020, but they've now raised a mammoth $35 million Series B fund.

As Banglani aptly puts it, "This is a story of not only grit and tenacity, but of unbridled optimism. Of three minds that were truly without fear. Bibhu [Prasad Das], Victor [Senapathy] and Brijesh [Samataray]."

Edited by Teja Lele Desai

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