Utsav Somani bids goodbye to AngelList; launches exclusive club for startup founders Offline
Somani, who quit AngelList India in July, has launched Offline—a peer-based membership network club to select founders and CEOs. The platform aims to leverage "community as a product" play like popular global platforms such as Tiger 21, Hamptons, and Chief.
After leadingfor seven years, early-stage investor Utsav Somani is taking guard for a new innings with Offline—a member-exclusive club for tech startup founders and CEOs.
The former AngelList India CEO quit his position in July to start the venture, which has already raised $2 million from micro-VC funds like, , , Riverwalk Ventures, and .
As many as 45 founders of companies, including, , , , , , , , , , , , , and , have also put money in Somani’s latest venture.
Influencer-turned-investors Tanmay Bhat and Shlok Srivastava (TechBurner) have also invested.
Credited for bringing AngelList to India, Somani’s idea is inspired by US-based startups like Tiger 21 and Hamptons which offer peer-based membership networks to selective founders and CEOs.
“Indian founders are not exposed to the idea of executive coaching, which is prominent in countries in the US. The ecosystem has matured but founders need more in terms of intellectual honesty,” Somani said during an exclusive chat with YourStory.
The early-stage angel investor, who has invested in over 150 startups, also runs two funds—Galaxy and iseed—with AUM (assets under management) of $100 million.
With Offline, Somani wants to give experienced startup founders and CEOs a private safe space to lean on, while also catering to their personal and professional upskilling needs.
The hyper-curated platform is expected to have a few hundred members. And, the applicants need to meet these criteria: $5 million raised or $5 million in revenue, or $10 million in a previous exit.
Multiple rounds of conversations are held before the applicants are accepted, the founder said.
The members, placed in a group (known as ‘pod’) along with 6-7 other “relatable” members, will have access to “off-the-record” monthly meetings which will be facilitated by a trained executive coach, all under a strict privacy pledge.
The playbook for relevant topics of discussion has been designed by global business coaches.
The talks could range from the latest investment ideas, delegation, energy audits, mental health and routines, best practices, or something as simple as taking stock of each member's daily calendar.
Additionally, there will be speakers and workshops on topics unrelated to the startup world to give a “sense of belonging” to experienced startup founders beyond their workspace and mass events.
Members will also always have access to other chapters via the online community or at the annual retreats.
The membership charges have been kept at Rs 5 lakh per year.
“We are starting off with building a community first and would eventually launch products,” the founder said, without divulging further details about the number or names of members.
Next, the company plans to expand its chapters to Singapore and Dubai.
Paid community play
The idea of selective founders and CEOs member-exclusive clubs has been around for some time but hasn’t gathered pace in India yet.
In 2018, leading SaaS founders like Girish Mathrubootham (Freshworks), Krish Subramanian (Chargebee), Manav Garg (Eka Corporation), Avinash Raghava (formerly with Nasscom, iSPIRT), Suresh Sambandam (Kissflow) had launched SaaSbhoomi and SaaS Leaders Club with similar genesis for B2B SaaS founders.
Besides, some VC firms have also started giving similar access to their selective portfolio founders. However, as Somani points out, these firms cater to a much wider audience base.
Offline aims to replicate the success of global paid communities like Hamptons, Tiger 21, and Chief, which are pioneers in the field.
Hampton, founded by media veterans Joe Speiser and Sam Parr, is dedicated to high-growth executives. Parr is the founder of the HubSpot-acquired newsletter and media brand The Hustle.
In nine months of launch, the company, which received 3,000 new applications on day 1, landed more than 300 members, including the likes of Morning Brew’s Austin Reef, CB Insights’ Anand Sanwal, Fresh Clean Tees’ Melissa Parvis and Hootsuite’s Ryan Holmes.
Capped at 700 members, a Hampton membership costs $8,500 a year. Membership criteria include at least $1 million in revenue $3 million in funding or a previous exit.
This means Hampton is able to make $6 million annually from subscriptions.
Lindsay Kaplan and Carolyn Childers founded Chief, which is a unicorn in the field, is a $5,800-per-year women's networking startup with a waiting list of 60,000.
On the other hand, Sonnenfeldt-founded Tiger 21 is not exclusively inclined toward startup founders but caters to ultra-high-net-worth entrepreneurs, investors, and executives who discuss their investment ideas.
The platform introduces the members to new alternative assets to put their money into. Tiger 21 boasts a community of 1,200 investors worth $130 billion.
Operators Guild is another paid membership community for operators, mainly CFOs and COOs. The platform also offers co-investing recommendations.
“Different platforms have done this for various verticals and found success. People want to belong with other trusted leaders of similar backgrounds and communities where they can be exposed to heterogeneous ideas. That’s what we are trying to create with Offline,” Somani says.
(The story was updated with the correct name of an investor.)
Edited by Affirunisa Kankudti