Invest in the driver, not in the bus. This was Paytm founder and CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma's advice to investors at the Techcircle Startup 2016 summit in Bangalore.
At a fireside chat with Raju Narisetti, senior vice president of strategy at News Corp (the parent of VCCircle), Sharma said investors need to bet on the founder, and not necessarily on the business model. Sharma, who has himself backed 37 startups, said he prefers to support entrepreneurs who have large, audacious goals, and the tenacity to stick with these goals.
"I am a fan of entrepreneurs who build companies and trends and not their ideas. Incredible entrepreneurs try to address larger problems," he said, adding that exceptional firms are often built out of the self-need of entrepreneurs. For such entrepreneurs, a refusal by a potential investor is not necessarily the end of their dream, as they find new ways to raise money and make ends meet.
According to him, going for a down round, where a startup raises money at a valuation lower than the previous one, is not bad if a company believes that it has a strong business model. "Down round is not bad for a Mallya but is bad for an Ambani," he quips.
Claiming that Indian VCs have not been big risk-takers, he said that it has taken an Alibaba or a SoftBank to show that India is a big market with a huge potential.