"In my dictionary, “mad”, that very word, I translated into Moderate, Accurate, Determined. So have these qualities and be happy if people are calling you mad."
Arijit Bhattacharyya on how he learned from his experience in the Video Game Industry.
Arjit Battacharyya, Serial Entrepreneur Since 1998, Technologist and Angel Investor, shared how he learned from his experience in the Video Game Industry in India to utilize the unique subset of skills from his team to grow and expand as an entrepreneur and as a business. He emphasized how working together as a team can effectively resolve the bigger challenges of the organization. He also showed how his passion made something that everybody wasn’t comfortable with and turned it into something that showed that he was a leader and a real driver.
My expertise lies in the areas of International Business Development, Technology, Fund-raising Innovation, New Market Development, Risk Management, Market Entry, Deeptech, Systems & Processes .
Concerned to Sustainable Development, Humanitarian, Technologist , Angel Investor, Public Speaker , Business Matchmaking Expert, Artist, Author, Community Builder , Game Programmer , Virtual Reality Specialist , AI Evangelist , Blockchain Specialist, Startup Mentor.
23 Yrs Experience in technology, finance, art, SDG. 12 Millions Networking, Connecting, followers from 95+ Countries.
2 decades of experience in Finance & Technology
Globally acclaimed speaker on entrepreneurship, technology, motivation.
Uplifted thousands of students as a teacher.
Helped several villages to become sustainable and become self dependent.
Founder & CEO – Virtualinfocom- One of the first Game & VR development company since 1998. We make real actors and models as 3D character superhero games.
Founder Entrepreneursface. – Fund raise, M&A.
Consultant Asian Development Bank.
Judge for Startup India Award.
Panelist in Industry 4.0 Govt of India panel.
Star Mentor of Change at Niti Aayog.
Member of the Mentor Board in various University around the world.
Mentor & Advisor to several startups, SME and consultant to many growth stage companies around the world.
My expertise lies in the areas of International Business Development, Innovation, New Market Development, Risk Management, Market Entry, New Technology, Deeptech, Systems & Processes , Fund-raising.
He is an awarded top-rated global business leader, celebrated speaker, top influencer, blockchain specialist and VR specialist and a thought leader.
He is the creator of India’s one of the first 3D games based on epic, mythology.
R & D partner & creator of of Virtual Reality solution since 2001. He is creator of India’s one of the first Virtual Reality institute.
Arijit is an international public speaker and invited as keynote speaker, panelist & jury member at multiple global events which includes Entrepreneurship, New Technology, Future of business, Startup growth, Angel Investment, Fund raising, Intellectual Property, Innovation, Cyber Security, Game Development, Virtual Reality, Scale up business, Wealth management, Startup ecosystem.
Arijit worked in several industries like :
Game, VR, AR, XR, AI, Deeptech.
Import and Export
Movies & Entertainment
Banking & Finance
The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk
Arijit: hi, I’m doing perfectly fine.
Jeffery: how are you doing?
Arijit: Very good, thanks.
Jeffery: Very good. Where are you calling from today?
Arijit: Well, I’m from india. at the moment stuck here of course because of COVID. I don’t know if stuck is the right word. It’s pretty awesome in india.
Jeffery: so, I guess you’re in a good place and you’re in good hands.
Arijit: Yeah, of course.
Jeffery: awesome! I love it. Well, thank you very much for taking the time to jump on a call today with us. we’re obviously excited to learn more about your background and all the great things that you’ve accomplished and how you can help within all of the entrepreneurial communities. but the best way for us to start is if you could give us a little bit on your background, kind of where you’ve come from, the great company you’ve built all the way through to where you are today. and then one thing about you that nobody would know.
Arijit: sure. Well, I started back in 1998. So I ran one of India’s oldest game development studios called Virtual Infocom. so it was of course long back when i was 17 years old. I just passed out of school. I decided that I’ll be starting a company instead of joining a company as an employee. I will create employment. and the reason i chose game development as a line is because i used to draw cartoons. I used to create comics when I was in school and that actually was a passion which I started in class, fifth standard or sixth standard writing and drawing comics in a continuous mode. and i used to be thrown out of my history classes because I used to hate history. and in those history classes i used to draw comics and the teacher used to see me because i was a third picture all along. and he used to see that this guy is drawing comics, so i should ask him to quietly leave the class instead of creating some funny moments. but i was actually digging the science behind all those epics, all those mythology which is hidden under Sanskrit. So probably that was the passion which drove me to connect art history and science altogether. and i found that if i need to tell the story to the world, one of the best possible options is to create an interactive platform. I found in 1998 one of the best options was to create interactive movements utilizing animation, and people call it game development. I used to travel to a lot of different places in my city with my bicycle. I used to play. I used to visit a lot of cyber café. So if you remember, Google didn’t exist at that time. Google probably just started in Silicon Valley and we never ever heard about the search engines. It was the early days of Windows where I started the pc with Windows 95 with all those floppy disks, without thinking of high-end memories. so as a kid when i started of course, i tried to think of building an empire. but i failed. i felt the reason is i was too early for the market at that time in india. nobody was talking about game development, at least in Calcutta. So I’m actually from eastern part of India, the city called Calcutta, where we have a lot of culture, a lot of literature, and a lot of scientists, who usually come forward. I started talking to people. I started going towards the movie industry film directors, wanting to make them understand exactly what I’m talking about. probably that will help them to create their marketing campaign but because i was too early, i couldn’t sell myself. so the story goes like this for my life story. When I was struggling for the next one year, I decided not to struggle. Rather, create a different kind of pool, of starting an academy. so Virtual Infocom started its first academy in the year of 1998 – 1999. early days probably in the month of march and i had only one student. I decided that I’m gonna create my own employment pool and we are going to create a great game and then probably sell it to the market. there was no concept of investment. there was no concept of how sales would happen. It was all passion. so out of passion, from one student, it became 20. Twenty eventually became 500. So, I was teaching from morning to night. I became a professional faculty inside my own institution and parallelly I was doing my graduation. So I left science and joined economics, statistics and mathematics as a combination so that I can understand and learn a bit about business. After two years of continuous work with passion, Virtual Infocom became inside my blood a red blood corpuscle or something like that. so when i was sleeping, i was sleeping on that concept. I was eating on that concept and eventually we created our first game title which is based on an Indian epic story. and then i actually started talking to people with that prototype, giving them a free demonstration utilizing those days. CDs came in the market. so he burned one cd, put in a nice cover on the top of it and then i started talking to people who can actually market it inside the market. So somehow I got my first break from one of the cd resellers and he really loved that game. and he said that he would love to market your product. He would love to become your partner. so we signed an agreement with a 50-50 revenue sharing basis. that became a little bit of a hit. at least in the local market. and then, we made a basic amount of money through which we can create a proper production house. So that’s my story. That’s how we started.
Jeffery: That’s amazing. I have a very similar upbringing I guess when it came to working in the video game space. mind you, i wasn’t working on it. i was playing the games and my brothers and i would host and run off the servers that we had in our basement that we built up and we would play video games till all ends of the night and mornings. Virtually, it was a lot of fun of course but we would do land games, have buddies come over and set up speakers everywhere. and so that we could yell at each other. We never took it to the level of turning it into a business back then because when you look at it now, how fascinating when you make these little tweaks and changes to your environment, you are actually building ways to be more interactive. but we didn’t look at that time from how do we make this into a business like setting it up like a ps3 or ps2 or four. when you had headsets and you could talk to each other, it’s fascinating. While you were in this space of learning and building off of a passion, you actually took that to the next level and made this into a business. It seems like there’s a massive gap here and then you started to kind of explore how that would work. so in that time period that you were exploring graphic design and putting this all together on windows 95 which is way early, and i’m sure your graphics efforts were superseding what existed in the market, what pushed you into this space especially being in india? you maybe didn’t have the same technologies back then. Like you said, Google wasn’t even in India yet. it hadn’t expanded. so it was so early in this space. you became a pioneer in driving this. how did you find that people received you when you were trying to take this challenge on? it wasn’t coming up with a service business or anything else. you were going right deep into tech when tech was in its infancy. So how did you find that people were taking you as a business? were they taking it seriously? did they understand what you were doing or this was just totally blowing people’s minds?
Arijit: Okay. To be very honest, I got a tagline after my name origin, “mad.” So when I was talking about high technologies and it’s not only about making games, I was actually at that time, I was talking about converting real models into game characters. So of course people will think that I’m probably a crazy guy which is unthinkable at least from an Indian perspective. but we actually didn’t stop there. So whatever, I think my friend always executes and that’s probably how our secret songs work in the company. So I thought that I’ll be integrating real actors and actresses inside our game. In 2008, we released our first game based on another Indian mythological character called Usher Moon. another model wherein we integrated the real actor and actress, we fired them literally and simulated them, took their 360 degree pictures and then converted them into gaming characters. The smartphone revolution was coming, and ultrabooks were coming into the market. We became partners with a lot of different MNCs and we started making games with real actors and actresses and eventually they became our partners. they became our consumers and customers. i’ll tell you that probably a lot of people don’t know it. maybe i never ever shared this information to the audience yet. so as a local celebrity, people feel that i am popular in bengali movies, i’m popular in hindi movies which is local language. but when you create a game and then you publish it worldwide properly with publishers, with partners, they become popular through our games. So eventually what happened, these celebrities came to us and asked to be managed as a person. so i said, okay we can do that. We can make you a digital asset and we can do a lot of different events. and that encouraged me to create another entity which is separate from virtual.com called Glam World Base which eventually became a platform for all these actors, actresses, photographers and musicians we evolved in due time, and we didn’t put a dot into that particular concept. we moved more. We started going to the poorest poor villages in India, trained people how to do fashionable garments, superhero costumes and we started probably our own cosplay show in india. and we started selling them through a particular portal utilizing our network and brand building and probably in 2008. from 1998 to 2008, i never got any kind of mentoring. I mean nobody could probably support or understand me. I couldn’t make them understand what exactly i’m trying to do. so i thought, let me give back to the community maybe as a mentor. Maybe I can help them out as an investor or probably as a guide. Whatever I have learned for the last 10 years, if I can give it back to the market, maybe to the world, I’ll be happy enough. So from a game development studio, we slowly evolved into a mix of fashion, government industry, a mix of cosplayers, a mix of actors, actresses. So I started floating different small entities and I did my first investment into a completely different sector which is nowhere related to gaming. it was actually an online delivery and doorstep solution on specs. I was getting a reading from the market that the market will evolve towards augmented reality and virtual reality. By heart, I am a programmer and I’m an artist. I do a decent amount of coding, probably a self-learner. I did a couple of certificates. So what we did was, we used to send optometrists to people’s homes and they used to check their eye. and then we used to check their face, recognize it and then we used to tell them what kind of frame needed for their face. and they used to choose it, give orders. That was my first initial investment. I took an exit after four years, after that investment. But, I understood how investment ballgames can be done. and eventually entered as a mentor into a lot of incubation centers, floated different kinds of verticals of business which can eventually connect with each other. that was the game plan which started around 12 years back 2009 onwards and slowly i felt that probably this is the right time to enter into the market as an indian investor and create couple of connection into the world with people like me who actually understand, who can actually take the risk, who are basically risk takers and probably support each other. After four years, we together created an angel syndicate based on us and we brought that entity into India, registered over here and then eventually we floated another investment banking company in Australia with three of our partners which eventually became brothers and sisters. so we did that from that point of view. If you ask me, a boy who was an artist and a programmer, eventually learned a little bit of entrepreneurship, probably sells skills slowly, became a different person who is on the opposite side of the table. So for me now, I understand the struggle of any entrepreneur who is bootstrapping. I understand exactly what a bank is talking about. So I’m going to the advisory council of a lot of different banks. Of course, I serve them as a consultant. I took those kinds of roles intentionally so that I can learn and understand what is going on in the market, learn the highest curve of VC fund creation to execution, understand the iq model, do a couple of deals, and negotiate a couple of bills for people. So from that perspective, if you ask me the question, I’m coming back to your question that you asked me: what exactly people don’t know about me. so probably the secret was i used to be an introvert person. but now i talk almost every week, maybe two to three days in a week as a keynote speaker on multiple different platforms. I really don’t want to name them. Probably, i stopped calculating after my 700th speaking slot. So probably, deep inside, I’m still that introverted person who really understood how to convert himself into a salesperson and probably to become a good public speaker. so probably that was a secret which maybe i have never ever shared with anyone. and another aspect. When I get people, we have our HR Team. but the instruction to the HR Team means we never ever recruit people who are probably coming from an exact programming background. Rather, we encourage people to come to us, tell us they don’t know anything but they are great in stats or maths or logic so we take them as an intern, train them up and then grab them as our programmer. The same thing goes with the artist team. We usually encourage people who are good in proper, normal , traditional art and then if there is an addition of graphic design or probably 3d or maybe 2d in computers, that’s an added advantage. but we don’t recruit people who are only digital artists. We get people who are traditional artists. It solves a lot of issues. So probably, that’s two things that I would love to share with you.
Jeffery: Well, I like that. That’s awesome and quite the endeavor. So I guess what you’re really doing is looking for people that have a small subset of skills and increase their skills just as you did when you started off as just a programmer or just an artist. you layered in until you continued to grow and learn. but you use that core as your strong suit and then you layered on all the digital aspects that would help you expand and grow not only yourself but your business at the same time, which is the same thing you’re doing with other local artists or designers.
Arijit: true. I learned it in a very hard way to be very honest. To do business, you actually need three things. One, your new talking capability. How do you network? it’s not about how many people you know. It’s the opposite. how many people know you. Okay, second. The biggest part of it, passion and execution should be one. I don’t call any failed entrepreneur a failed entrepreneur. entrepreneurship is actually a story for me. It’s a learning curve but the reason they don’t get success is sometimes they mix the passion part with the execution part. when you are working, when you start your own company and you say that i am CEO of my company, CEO is a post. Being a CEO doesn’t mean you are only the founder. but as a CEO, you need to take harsh decisions that’s required as a founder. Maybe you are not making a lot of decisions which are really hard or maybe very rough. but if you are running an organization, you need to be rough. you need to be very precise and specific. what exactly you’re doing. The reason is that unless you are not running a charitable organization, if you don’t make money, you cannot pay your employees, you cannot do good for your company. you cannot do good for the society to have to be that rough. the third point which i firmly believe. Creating a great ecosystem is the key to success. I have seen a lot of companies start struggling to survive and then when they need someone they cry for it. you need someone to safeguard yourself from problems. But from the initial days, maybe after starting your own venture, maybe after a year, if you are building an ecosystem or being a part of an ecosystem, it helps a lot to be in touch with people. It is one of the keys to success. and the fourth and last point, i would love to share with you, create a great team. team doesn’t mean that you have how many employees. it doesn’t matter if you have 10 employees or 100 employees. employees will be employees. they will come. they will work for you. they will stay with you. they will move to some other organization. but your team is the group, the core who knows your secret, who have the same vision, same kind of passion. they are not working with you for money. they are with you to build money along with you. If you don’t have that, you are probably making some amount of mistakes. it’s not easy if you are probably a single man army. I understand if you are a promoter of your company. Unless you understand the ball game and how to create a great team, it may not happen that you can create a great organization. it will only become a company building an organization requesting these kinds of skill sets. you need to be open enough to understand what you don’t know and where you lack. So if I can tell that I am lacking one, two, three, four, five and I can bring these people in the team who can actually enhance those kinds of skill sets, that’s what I call a great team. and probably as an investor, people are looking for such a great team oriented company wherein they can bang on to that team, not to a particular one person, one man army.
Jeffery: I love that. and what is great about the four points that you brought up. the last one being around the team. I liked it in some of your other podcasts. it’s when you dived into the team side. you really structure it differently from saying that there’s people you pay and then there’s people that are part of your team in growth. they’ve got your back. they’re there to support you. they could be there forever as long as x. So what is that as long as x? What does that mean to you? like what does that person do? How do you get that person to be on that team? How do you get them to be part of that founding team? if you will or the ones that want to make you money, what makes them different from someone that’s getting paid and how do you delineate the two? Is it through compensation? Is it through the hours they put in? What really defines that person? so that you know they’re part of your core team.
Arijit: Okay, so if a person is actually with you for only the percentage, I think it’s a hard decision to make whether he’s a 14 member. it actually depends on person to person. but for me, if i’m taking someone as a co-team, i would probably take my sweet time of maybe three months to four months to understand each other and once he or she says i want to be with you in your journey because i really love the vision of the organization not only you, i love the company, i think that’s the key for you to understand this is the right kind of teammate for your organization to bring in. it cannot be the opposite. it cannot be like, say for example, i want you to be a part of one of my ventures. maybe yoga training for you. And I’m saying that, you know what, you love yoga. you do that. you understand the nutrition. Please come and join me. it should be the opposite. you should be able to see my vision in the same eyes and you should be able to see where i lack and you should be telling me Arjit, you know what, you’re running yoga training for you but i feel that your website design doesn’t actually match with the kind of work that you’re doing. I’m just giving you a rough example. Okay, I should be open enough to accept that criticism. It is important. if you get someone on board who can actually criticize you and tell you on your face and you can absorb that particular person. then probably the relationship can build and can happen. and it may happen that he or she is becoming your great team member. That’s what I feel is perfect. and i think that there’s a way to evaluate everything. and if you’re not spending your time learning about how to evaluate your team, you may find that not everybody has that same vision. So I think being critical and accepting criticisms is huge. but i think that all goes back to you again. It’s that they’ve got your back and are learning who has your back in this process. and I think that’s great feedback. and i also like the first point too. Well, they all were great points but the number one point was building a network and understanding how that network works. i think a lot of startups have this fear that they don’t want to provide too much insight into their business out to the world. they don’t want to let the cat out of the bag. they’re afraid. They are always in stealth mode. and i think that those years of not promoting and pushing themselves actually helps them but decreases their value because they’re not out networking. they’re not out talking about their business. Is there anything that you can share that would help a startup better realize that the more marketing, the more branding, the more push, the more you get out there, the more you network, the more you talk, is going to actually be a plus to your business and help you grow?
Arijit: okay. So, if the question is from the startup perspective, I really firmly believe that you need to network. it may not happen that you are sharing each and every detail of your business. but you should be able to talk about probably what is your USP and why you are there and what exactly you’re building and what help you need and what help you can do. It’s pretty important. and maybe when you’re growing, maybe when you’re big, i would never suggest that you should share your entire history, what you’re doing in social media. there are people, there are competitors who may be watching you and they may affect you. but when you are growing, please understand, when you are a startup, you are bootstrapped. people already have affection for you. They usually love that somebody’s building something .They usually support you, chanting unless you ask for support. things may not match your number one, number two, doing things in stealth mode of course. if you are building something which is a product which requires a lot of concentration, you really don’t want to talk about it perfectly. Fine, not a problem with that. let me not give you the answer you know in a straightforward way. rather let me take a help of metaphor. if you have watched a series called Justice League, i’m not talking about the movie, i’m talking about the real DC series, i’m sure that you have heard about a character called Batman. so if you feel you’re a batman, you don’t need anyone, great. but then when time is there, when you really can’t execute alone, he also needs to create a group of people he needs to handshake with other superpowers so that they can together solve issues in the entire world. even superman needs help. I wonder if women need help. so don’t feel that we can do things all alone. alone is great. but if you are doing it as a team, as a group, sharing your vision to others which are similar minded, it helps. I would love to probably share this information with you in my initial days. I used to network like crazy. I used to meet people like crazy. I didn’t care whether people were calling me mad or crazy. it’s perfectly fine in my opinion if somebody’s telling you that you’re crazy. and you’re doing something completely odd and people call you mad is good. I’ll tell you the reason. In my dictionary, “mad”, that very word, I translated into moderate, accurate, determined. so have these qualities and be happy if people are calling you mad. be happy if you are in a group of people where nobody is understanding you. then you are on the right track. Some of the business, some of the product oriented business, is not for the public. it can happen but, you can actually get feedback where you lack so networking is important over there.
Jeffery: I like that. Can you share the three letters again? I wholeheartedly agree with you. In the past, I would always look for early stage companies, founders and psychotic founders. but it didn’t come out very well. people didn’t really appreciate the word psychotic and thought it meant a bad thing. and to me it meant mad. so just as you were saying that they were mad founders. and then the other day, i came up to classifying them actually as another gear. so when you see Lebron James, they would always say, he just had this extra gear that we didn’t know about. and that’s what the performance level was. So I think it’s very similar in the context of looking for people that have this extra gear that they’re mad about. but it’s because they refuse to fail. they refuse to not let this work. and what i loved about your example on the team side, taking the Avengers is that you’re right. it didn’t just have one person going to battle and taking down all of the bad people. It was a team. a collective group that had to come together, figure out their indifferences, battle through their indifferences but they did that together as a team to combat all of these outside problems. and instead of saying they’re combating other characters, they’re just compounding, competing against the rest of the problems that this startup would face. so they’re going to be faced with a lot of different challenges, from supply chain, coding all the way across and i think sometimes we forget that these things are easier to tackle as a team, that people can have those expertise that you may not carry in accounting or in marketing areas that aren’t your areas of top-notch efficiencies and you’re going to be able to pin that person who’s on that team that has your back. they’re going to solve those problems because they care that the organization can thrive and grow and build into the future.
Jeffery: so well shared. The last kind of question that I would ask on this is that you really gave us some great points on how to get this company moving and get it off the ground and finding the right team now. How do you get them to understand what a scalable company looks like? Because as an investor, this is kind of a crucial piece for any investment is that you could have a great company and you can be doing the little things. but if you haven’t put yourself into a scalable position, investors won’t look twice. So what are the things that get added on to this business now that you’ve set up this great team? They’ve worked through their problems. they’re growing. How do you scale that?
Arijit: okay. So, to be very honest, I invest as a group. I don’t invest alone. like if i’m investing, i call them friends because we actually became friends for the last eight years. so we know each other. So the way we usually look at it is like if I start this company, can I execute it if I was in their position? What is my network? Can I execute it? and if i’m taking probably a timeline of 10 years to execute that, these guys whom i’m banging on, can they do it less than our time frame better than ours? and if we probably bring our muscle power and money power into our whole network, can it be a faster execution? if these things match, we usually go for it. So to be very honest, when we act as a VC, our call is different. but when we act as a syndicate of angels, it’s more of a gut feeling now. It’s very difficult to explain how we make a decision at that particular time. We are probably happy. what’s gonna happen and maybe the impact that’s gonna happen, sometimes we take a call wherein we don’t see a lot of money is making. but maybe the impact is huge. so maybe sometimes we feel that it may happen, that this person can’t give us a great return. but the impact that he is going to create is going to affect some other investments that we have made so far. so these are the things that probably we take into consideration. I can go on with a lot of technical jargon but I really don’t want to do that. i want to tell you the exact thing which you really wanted because this is a more of a corporate discussion that we are having. We really wanted to know what was in our mind. so that’s what we usually decide and that’s how we usually go for an investment. and you mentioned uh the angel vc side. so there’s obviously two hats and two different times that these groups come in. How do you, as a startup, recommend they go about angel investing? and how do you recommend vc approach?
Arijit: okay. it’s more of like raising a daughter and raising a son so if you are raising a daughter go for a vc way if you are raising a son probably probably initially go with the angel way did i answer that with a metaphor uh yes but maybe you can expand on it so um the difference between the angel and the vc i guess there’s a big difference between raising a daughter and raising a son. But what is the difference? If you are going to raise a son and you’re going to raise some angel dollars, from the mentoring side, coaching side, and then VC side, it’s expanding and growing at a rapid speed and putting a lot of money into it. so one comes before the other.
Jeffery: But how do you emphasize the difference between when and how you should operate within an angel world and or vc and, or do you do both? Which one starts?
Arijit: I will answer this way. If you are really ready to share a lot of equity in your company and you are raising rounds after rounds increasing the valuation and then you are in the game of creating value and giving return to your investors, the best possible route is to go with the VC route. vc will always bang on you to make money and then when you are giving a return, you are probably increasing your valuation and then bringing another set of investors. maybe you are done with your seat round and then after that the growth round, then you are going for series after series. vc root is one of the best because they are coming as the proper so-called boon to your company which can actually make you much bigger than you have ever thought of. but at the same time, some of the founders have a mental blockage. they feel that i’m probably diluting a lot of equity and this should be the calculation. That should be the calculation. it all happens with the negotiation. There is no set rule. There is no set formula which you can define and say I’m not going to dilute my five percent in the next round. it never happens. it always happens on the top of the table and this is the skill set. This is the kind of situation you are going to face when you are going for the vc route. Now, if I may compare the angel route, some people, their product pipeline or maybe their service is meant for VC. Some people and companies are meant for the angel round, maybe giving a good return and then maybe selling it off or maybe growing or buying back the stock. So if you’re in that kind of ball game, angel road is one of the best ways. so it completely depends on the organization that you are building. you may be doing mix and more. I usually love when an organization is raising funds step by step, smaller rounds are the best. smaller rounds are the best to keep your company in your own hand bringing some more people in. they are becoming more like a mentor guide supporting you and then you’re growing and then you’re looking for a larger fund. maybe you’re going for a private industry pool or maybe you’re going for a large loan pool. There are private investment loans available also in the market. So that’s one of the best feasible ways which I usually love. So if I’m a startup and everything is validated, and we feel that we’ll go for a round, I would rather take initially the engine around, learn, understand then go for a VC round, step by step, grow and go for an IPO.
Jeffery: I like that. So we’ll kind of transition a little bit here into a new question because I haven’t answered this before. But because of the merging market that’s going on in India and the way that investors have been really building up in India and starting to jump behind a lot of these early stage companies, there’ll be two questions. the first one would be, is there any company that you’ve invested in that you really enjoy working with or they’re kind of a hidden gem, to that effect? Secondly, what attracted you to them?
Arijit: A lot of test cases like that. you’re talking about india. Okay, I’ll give you two examples that happened very recently. one example is a company based in the US very recently. i took a very small equity into that company. i never ever cry for big equity that doesn’t actually make any sense for anyone neither for them, not for me. attraction actually happened because that guy is actually an ex-banker, wanted to do something on technology, created a prototype, never wanted to raise money. He actually wanted some amount of guidance from me initially. While creating the prototype, he understood he needed someone on board who is from a tech background. He was taking one person as a team member from some other resources and then slowly we started talking with each other. I found there is a big need in the market and he’s looking for help rather than asking for money. Eventually when we started talking, he said, “Could you please come on board?” and frankly speaking he never ever asked for money. But eventually, when the time comes, do you need some amount of help? Do you need something to do? and he said, okay if you are coming on board, if you are bringing maybe x amount of this, this is my timeline with this. I want to grow this product from the prototype stage to the manufacturing stage and I want a couple of companies to come forward to do the marketing for it. and for that reason i’m lacking this x amount of money. if you can help me with that. Before that, he offered me a percentage in the company. so it actually shows me that guy is passionate enough. He’s not looking for something which people usually ask for. I usually ask for a different thing initially that gives me a comfort zone and understanding about his mindset. I really like the way he created the entire team coming from finance background, creator team of technologies. it’s like some credibility. So that’s one example. second example. a very recent deal that happened mainly into a hardware product. It’s a product-based company based out of india. I really don’t want to disclose that name at the moment. But, I really love the entire business model. It’s not only about the team. they’re right now building the team at the moment. but the way they thought of making the entire business structure, i loved it. I’ll tell you the reason why sometimes I judge people on the entire team. They don’t have anyone who can understand finance properly. but their IQ level is such that these groups of engineers and two three guys are normal graduate people from arts background, they are able to create a business model which is not perfect. It’s okay. but they became, within six months, they are now generating revenue. and their model was completely unique, that attracted me a lot. It talks a lot. and they decided to live their career, so-called bright young guys, so-called usual traditional jobs. but to perceive it because they really want to do it and most important point, they are not crying for evaluation. They are looking for faster execution and expansion and probably that was the key point for me and four of my friends to come forward and invest into that company. if that helps.
Jeffery: I love it. It’s always good to understand how an investor looks at an investment and the things that get them excited and why they take the leap at such an early stage. So I think that’s very valuable. and to keep that storyline going around early stage companies, perhaps you could share a story that really resonated with you on what it takes to be an entrepreneur. How did he or she struggle? they may go through the roller coaster to get from a to b. Is there a story that kind of resonates with you that just really shows what it takes to be a fantastic entrepreneur?
Arijit: I’ll take the example of one lady based out of Serbia. She is about 43 now and started her first venture around four years back, not very successful. struggling a lot, she created a dress which you can wear for five different options. like you just remove some part of it, it becomes a fashionable dress. you add something, it becomes a corporate one, like that. I really loved her way of thinking. Passionate, she knows that probably she is not building something which is rocket science. it’s very basic but the entire three people came. They don’t have a very big team. the entire three people team, they left everything to pursue their passion and to pursue their passion. They are investing probably 16 to 17 hours a day to get new consumers, new people on board and trying to get a lot of partners when I meet them. online in one of the event that we usually organize in our world leader summit is a symposium where they were sharing their business ventures and all i found was deep passion of these three ladies who really want to make a mark. and probably they are not looking for anything else but some amount of someone to say that you are doing perfectly fine and a good amount of millionaires wherein they can flourish and tell the world that this is what we are doing is who we are. so i have been through my friend. I have been through a lot of stories such as impressive people who are doing good work. I shouldn’t say massive good work but maybe they lack PR. They lack the media. It happened to me. It felt like everything was okay. So my first fresh news actually came out in 2007, half page long in an Indian newspaper. I never ever went for it somehow. It happened but when I am watching these kinds of people they are looking for some moment of recognition and focus. Maybe as an introverted person, I usually go for it, try to help them. So what I did initially, I did a story about them and then connected them with a couple of media newspapers in India as well as in a few other places in Europe. They got a lot of blog news, a lot of video news, a lot of podcasts and now they are becoming a little bit popular. So maybe as a person, we should forget whether we are investors or working with vcs. rather if we can help them like this without any expectation, i think that’s the boon and that’s the value addition to the ecosystem. That’s what I call an ecosystem. so probably this is needed. I’m sure people like me are actually doing it without any expectation, without any return and that will probably give us a hand holding support that will probably give us a great opportunity to understand each other and work with each other.
Jeffery: that’s a great story and i think it kind of attests to that as an angel investor, as the founder and as a startup and as an entrepreneur that giving somebody a leg up once in a while can really go a long way. and you may not realize how far that can go by just working with somebody or promoting them or getting behind them. A little bit of those little things make a big difference in a startup world.
Jeffery: yep completely. I love it. Well, it’s a great story and glad that happened because I’m sure that they’re looking at their future a lot brighter today than they were before, so kudos to you guys for that. we’re gonna jump right now into our rapid fire questions. so it’s pick one or the other. we’ll see how it goes but we’ll start with the business questions first. Are you ready?
Arijit: Yeah, but I have only eight minutes left.
Jeffery: alright, founder or co-founder?
Jeffery: unicorn or four-year 10x exit?
Jeffery: tech or cpg brand or tech tick ai or blockchain?
Arijit: You can’t differentiate.
Jeffery: first time founder or second or third time founder?
Arijit: First time follower.
Jeffery: board seat or observer?
Jeffery: favorite part of investing? like what do you like the most about investing?
Arijit: creating a great team and building the organization.
Jeffery: number of companies you invest in per year?
Jeffery: when you make an investment into a startup, what two things stand out the most to you when you’re investing?
Arijit: team and business structure.
Jeffery: Okay now we’re gonna jump into the personal side. book or movie?
Jeffery: Superman or batman?
Jeffery: the last question based on all the things that have gone on with trump, do you think this tax thing will put him in jail?
Arijit: no, I’m sorry.
Jeffery: What’s your favorite sports team?
Arijit: So I actually love different sports so I am a lover of mma. So I’m not sure whether that will help you or not.
Jeffery: That’s awesome. Okay, favorite movie and what character would you play in the movie?
Arijit: Avanti. It’s an English classic. so of course, the hero.
Jeffery: I’m gonna look into it. favorite book?
Arijit: No favorite book. I have a lot of favorite books to be very honest.
Jeffery: And the last question we have is what is your superpower?
Arijit: silence. within a minute, for example, you are talking to me. i’m talking to someone like we are chatting with each other and you actually made me open somehow some way. I never ever shout back. i never ever talk bad in your back. I will never ever talk nonsense in your back. I’ll just take the root of wolves. So I will live quietly in life. I have learned that if you are meant to meet me in that life circle, you’re going to come back to me again. So I’ll be silent then once you have done something really bad to the world, I’ll understand a person what he or she has done with me because I am a small entity into our vast universe. but if your act is not good for humanity, that’s a black book for me. There, I really don’t communicate with them. I cut off the top of everything and I removed them from my life. but I never talk badly but rather I become really silent. The reason it became a superpower is that I’ll tell you, people who do wrong things have a fear. So when you become silent and when you are not doing anything, they fear the next step that you’re going to take. That’s probably my superpower.
Jeffery: I like it. it’s very clean and easy to manage and i do agree that the world needs to shift the bad people out and let them go find other ways or avenues but in our universe or in our worlds, we need to keep scrubbing and iterating and removing the bad from the good and keep working in that good direction. So I like that it’s great and silence is a good way to treat it. Well, Arjit, I want to say thank you very much for all your time today. As I always do, I took lots of notes. It was great chatting with you. I’ve learned a lot. I loved all the different points you put together. but in summary i think you’re doing a lot of great things in india and around the world and we appreciate all the things that you have done. and the way we like to end our show is we like to give you the last word. so anything that you want to share to investors or to startups and to entrepreneurs, we leave it to you. but again thank you very much for all your insights and time today. Thank you so much.
Arijit: Probably, we should learn how to become like water. That’s the key. I really want to give everyone a thought, learn to be like water. It helps a lot.
Jeffery: I like it. very well said. alright that was great. Arjit shared a lot of great things. i enjoyed the whole mad piece of it and i’m gonna have to uh dive back into the three, that’s moderate, accelerate, determination. calling people crazy mad, extra gear. I just like the way he kind of dove into taking something that everybody wasn’t comfortable with and turning it into something that showed that he was a leader and a real driver. Behind that he had four great pieces that really define what it takes to drive out and get investment, network passion and execution, build an ecosystem and build a great team and really define what those things look like. so i really like that. and then from the investor angle, putting yourself in the startup shoes and in a time frame of 10 years and how can they get there, how would you get there, what would you do to execute to win and i just think that all those things are very accurate in how to really help people understand what it takes to be a startup but also what it takes for an investor to dive into a company and how they should be looking at investments. great discussion. Thank you again for joining us today. If you enjoyed the conversation, please subscribe to our youtube channel or follow us on spotify, apple podcast and or stitcher. You can also check us out at supportersfund.com and for startup events visit opn.ninja. Thank you again and have a great day.
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