Venture Capital | Startup Mentoring | DeepTech
Chirag Gupta | Venture Capital | Startup Mentoring | DeepTech

"What works very well is not necessarily to share the knowledge but to use that knowledge to ask the right questions to the startup. To help them arrive at a conclusion is more powerful than sharing my knowledge with them."

- Chirag Gupta

Asking the right questions to structure thinking – Chirag Gupta


Chirag is the Managing Partner at 8X Ventures, a Deep-Tech focused venture capital firm. He invests and enables startups that will lead disruptive innovation and create sustainable value.

Prior to 8X, he has held leadership positions at 500 Global (most active early stage Venture Capital firm with $1.8+bn AuM), Careem (MENA’s first unicorn acquired by Uber at $3.1bn), McKinsey (best management consulting firm worldwide), PwC/Strategy& and Korn Ferry. During these experiences, he helped 10+ corporations build their unique startup “explore” strategy, helped multiple startups grow to unicorn status, and partnered with govts of 8+ countries to grow their startup ecosystem.

Chirag holds an MBA from University of Chicago: Booth (#3 top MBA globally) and Nanyang Business School (#5 top MBA in Asia-Pacific). He studied Business Analytics at Harvard University (with Harvard scholarship). He also received 100% scholarship for his Bachelor degree in Finance from Faculty of Management Studies, Delhi University.

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The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery: Welcome to supporters fund ask an investor I’m your host Jeffery Potvin let’s please welcome Chirag Gupta managing partner at 8X Ventures as our investor for today welcome Chirag it’s a real pleasure having you join us.

Chirag: Thank you Jeffery uh thank you for having me on your podcast and I am very excited about talking about us and I’m Sure they lose some opportunity to talk about you I would love to know more about you and yes but let’s Dive In.

Jeffery: I love it well I’m pretty excited too chirag because only a couple times in in all of the podcasts that we’ve done that. I love it well I’m pretty excited too chirag because only a couple times in in all of the podcasts that we’ve done that we’ve actually had the opportunity to talk deep Tech and that’s what gets me excited because it’s not really a common subject and I think from all of the different YouTubes that I’ve listened to on yourself that they’re you’re in the same boat and you feel the same way that there isn’t really a lot of people diving into deep Tech because of the lack of understanding and background so we’re pretty excited to be able to dive in and talk a bit more about that but before we start and the way we love to start is that we want to learn a bit more about yourself so if you could maybe give us a little bit of your background I know that you’re well educated you’ve done a lot of things in school and and have a lot of that and I think it’s really defines a lot of things as you progress and then all the way through to your startup and obviously McKinsey analysts just give us the real deal and then one thing about you that nobody would know.

Chirag: absolutely let me talk about the my academic career so I I studied in India and for my bachelors I studied business management and so honestly I wanted to study engineering but somehow I ended up with business management I still can’t remember why but the college I went to is the best college to study undergraduate Management in India um which is under university of Delhi after I graduated from there I went to join McKinsey in India and I spent three years working in at McKinsey amazing experience the amount of structured thinking McKinsey teaches you is unparalleled and a lot of problem solving skills they taught me are still useful suppose that I I went for my MBA where I went to a Technological University called nanyang Technological University and I did a a dual degree with University of Chicago Booth School of Business so very very exciting Place both the universities a great place to learn then I continued on my Consulting career uh post my MBA and so overall I did about 11 years of Consulting and about half of my time was uh was spent on doing consulting on Startup policies startup Frameworks and startup governance to help governments across different countries set up those policies especially in India especially in Asia actually and I say this because the the in the last 15 years a lot of governments in Asia hired Consultants to figure out how to build and nurture a startup ecosystem us was definitely ahead of the curve a lot of best practices from San Francisco were very useful but a lot of local practices have have to be built to develop and nurture the ecosystem so I spent about 10 11 years doing that so I I did about 11 countries doing that uh two of my favorite experiences happen in Singapore and Saudi they both have a very extreme end of the ecosystem but they both have uh have have very very unique strengths when it comes to pulling the startup ecosystem and they’re doing it very differently post my Consulting career uh I went on to join a company called Kareem which was uh the Uber of Middle East uh and I’m using the definition uh which was used about five years back a very exciting place um and so we we were the first super app and the biggest tech company in the Middle East I was a strategy director for the global strategy uh strategy and I looked at the certain areas of Finance as well and uh we got acquired by Uber then for about uh 3.1 billion dollars very very exciting Journey um and it was a great experience because we became Uber after acquisition um I moved to this company called 500 startups which is a global VC firm uh based out of SF and about two billion dollars uh AUM so I was part of the Saudi team very exciting on um looking at this of the overall Mina ecosystem sitting in Saudi and in January this year uh I together with a billionaire and to the multi-millionaires started this company called Eight expansions which is a deep Tech focused uh Venture Capital firm so that’s a long uh introduction uh that I that kind of covers both academic and non-academic side of it you asked me a question on one thing that almost no one knows about me um and there is something very exciting which I did and I’ve been very fascinated about it so I loved coding and I’ve always been fascinated with technology when I was eight years old I coded my first computer car race game and this was in 1994 when the computer technology was at an early stage in the programming languages used to be dos and basic and Lotus so I used uh those programming languages at that time to build a very simple car race computer game and that is I I personally was very happy about it uh because a lot of people I knew did not even have computer at that time I had a computer I built a computer game and I used it uh so that was probably the first time first uh in interaction that I had with the technology and I wasn’t successful about it.

Jeffery: That’s awesome great story um we have uh certainly a lot of um a lot of stories from from our early uh laptop computer uh man I’m trying to think of uh um the Intel side of things so many stories from from back then as well and it really kind of shows that how infancy the market was in but how exciting it was when it was just such a trouble shooting kind of process back then on trying to figure out how to get a modem to work or coding and how getting that to work on the screen with the modem being super slow and all these other things that you were trying to achieve so it makes it a lot more exciting especially when you share the stories um very nostalgic and brings back a lot of old memories so it’s pretty pretty exciting so I want to kind of take back to your time when as you mentioned you’re doing all this all this school and then you jumped into the Consulting side and you jumped in as an analyst and I know that um McKinsey and all of these great platforms I think what’s really exciting about them is that they they do teach you a lot of um process problem solving and how to get in and understand things before they become blown up and kind of get into a spot where things don’t work properly but you’re able to analyze them and I find that a lot of people that do get into the banking sectors legal side they tend to have a really strong understanding of how startups work and your approach that you went into gave you a lot of years of startup experience as you mentioned and globally can you share a little bit about how that structure actually has helped you today when you’re looking at companies and I I reach back to this because a lot of what we do in our past shapes our future and I see that a lot of that understanding is um pretty powerful and and I’m sure back then you weren’t thinking you were going to be a startup but what kind of things could you say that you took out of that and would you recommend that any any person that’s coming out of school to jump into this type of process to learn before jumping into a startup and what your thoughts are around that.

Chirag: So for anyone coming out of the University I very very strongly recommend going into uh some of the Consulting homes especially some of the top consulting firms and and same applies to the top banking firms as well and I say that because the even if you spend let’s say a year over there the kind of structure thinking that they teach you is very unparate I I think I learned more from my Consulting time than I learned from my MBA I learned more about my business management from Consulting then I learned by paying probably 200 000 to University of Chicago and to uh Technological University um and that that structure is very important to the startup ecosystem because if you realize one of the fundamental issue on why there is a winter coming the startup winter coming why there are layoffs happening and uh in some cases uh of course these genuine cases in a lot of cases it’s a it’s a business model flaw and if you think about especially uh let’s talk about fintech the in a lot of cases your business model itself is flawed it’s not meant to make money so now if your business model is not meant to make money you need to start thinking early on that what is going to be the source of your your Revenue it cannot be a venture capital fund or it cannot be Sequoias of the world it has to be it has to be the business model has to be strong itself to sustain and build and grow itself and that that learning I still carry because when we go into a due religions process for me as an individual it’s very very important that conceptually is your business model strong enough to make money or not and sustain yourself or not if that is not the case if you if your technology in the business model are not the mode any amount of marketing dollars is just going to give you a short-term lifetime it’s not going to be a sustainable competitive advantage McKinsey has a has multiple Frameworks around and all consulting firms have multiple Frameworks around sustainable competitive advantage and this is a very important term a lot of startups talk about competitive advantage on why we are better than our competitors now very few talk about why we will continue to be better than any startup or any company in the future and how we are going to be 10x continue to be 10x better than any available solution in future as well and that difference between competitive advantage and the sustainable competitive Advantage is a very big difference and in that difference actually a lot of startups uh during our due diligence process gets dropped because they have a competitive Advantage but they don’t have a sustainable competitive advantage.

Jeffery: I love that and can you give a little bit about what you see as being a sustainable competitive advantage and it’s interesting I was with at a conference in Egypt yesterday and for the last five days and one of the things that we were talking about when a question was asked was exactly what you’re talking about which is how do you see a successful company and it is it’s not what you’re doing today it’s can you be doing this better in 10 years and what is that market look like in from the terminology that you use from a competitive Advantage versus sustainable Advantage what is a sustainable Advantage for you and what does that look like for a startup company.

Chirag: So there are three uh dimensions of a sustainable comparative advantage for startups first is there a technology mode and second is your structural mode and third is your people mode and I’m going to talk about each one of them on the technology side is your technology 10x better than uh in in the next available solution right now and B how exactly you’re going to deploy the tech development moving forward to make sure that you will continue to stay ahead of the Curve what a lot of startups forget to notice is that they might have built the technology before fundraising but the moment the CEOs or the CTO start going to the fundraising process they get sucked into the fundraising and they don’t have time to do a tech development themselves and the the next layer of people they have hired is to Junior to do uh uh transformational thinking they can do transactional thinking but they are not ready to do transformational thinking which is needed for Tech development so that is the first uh part of this which is the text side of it second is a structure side of it are you as a business model structured to address the market and to keep capturing the market and and reading the market without giving them discounts I.E is your value creation model strong enough or not are you creating more that value than you are capturing the value or are you is your value that you’re creating is not significant enough that you can charge a lot of price so that is the second part and the third is the people element of it the people not the leadership team and leadership team of course has to be there but the one level down that we that you’re bringing on board are these people ready to uh handle the transformational thinking on an ongoing basis or not are they tied to the company for a long term and are they convinced that they have their role is transformational not transactional a lot of time the moment you go one layer down on the people side of it and ask people about what’s their job and what’s their job definition they they say that their definition is to uh Implement their their role is to execute their role is to uh get get this thing done uh important part if if you’re not if if the next layer is not consistently talking about innovating about coming up with a new solution identifying the problem statements on the ground they are not listening to the customers carefully then you’re not you don’t have a sustainable comparative advantage it’s a short-term competitive advantage.

Jeffery: That’s awesome and I like that because when you’re looking at um when you’re building this all out you’re kind of trying to figure out um step by step moving forward in a progressive manner but knowing that the CEO has to become a CEO and they have to step down from the roles that they’re already been used to which is the Hands-On the execution and what’s great about this is that um in our last posted episode which was uh with Steve um tokaz he actually talks about that and he says you know the best learning I had was when I was in a startup and I had to learn to take a step above and I had to learn how to be a CEO and he said before that I thought I was a CEO but I was looking at it from the wrong angle and I had to step up a little higher in my position which was to overview everything build strategy and let everybody else execute and then you kind of push those layers down and when you’re pushing those layers down that’s where people start to fit in figure out how they’re building that strategy forward and then they’re pushing the execution down to the next layer so to your point I think they’re um when you’re diving into that that does come up little bit higher in the layers of companies meaning more close to series a because you got past that executable but you’re going back again to where you talked about the technology side and the structure side which is I’m not a startup anymore I’ve brought in some financing how have I actually layered the structure of my code and my product and my platform so that it can now start to expand and grow is it built modularly and can I just start to grow off of that without having to throw a couple thousand servers on it just to support the growth because the code hasn’t been correctly put together so now what you’re doing is you’re just trying to offset it with bandwidth instead of actually having real efficient code that’s been built to maintain and grow your business.

Chirag: Absolutely you summarize it very nicely actually

Jeffery: So which is which is really exciting that from a deep Tech perspective that you guys are really analyzing that portion of the business and seeing where that comes in um and then what I love about it is that from your background and you know maybe over the years you always wondered is there a real value working at a McKenzie or is there you know when people say I’m a consultant or you’re really getting the real meat and potatoes of being a consultant and it sounds like it’s paid off in droves of dollars in value here that um the understanding that you’ve taken is that you know even at a analyst level there’s extreme knowledge transfer that’s happening that had you inside the thick of things but really analyzing someone else’s business and figuring out what position do these people fit in the storyline of how this business is going to grow and can it be sustainable uh without like you used earlier discounting the hell out of their product just to keep themselves sustainable.

Chirag: And I will also add like one part of my experience which was uh there was one specific meeting where I actually learned this message very clearly and loudly um and uh late 2019 I was in a meeting with the CEO of Kareem which was sold for 3.1 million dollars and I was reporting to the CEO and so we were presenting a small part of the strategy he looked at it and the first question he asked us was is this 10x better than anyone who’s going to do in the next year he did not ask me is it 10x better than what people are doing right now he asked me the question is it 10x better than what people are going to do next year all the other competitors are going to do next year and that kind of took me off guard at that time but that question was very deep and very important that what people might be doing right now but what we need to know is what they are preparing for what they are what they what they might be able to do what kind of hiring people they are hiring and sometimes but just by reading about what kind of people they’re hiring you can understand what direction they are running for so are you going to be 10x better than that or not so that was a very important question and when the moment I started answering that question consistently it became a habit and I I feel it’s a very a very powerful question to have.

Jeffery: Agreed very powerful and I think when you look at that and well you know one of the things that um I tend to to lean on when you’re working with early stage or you’re explaining how something has to build is your vision of where you want the business to go you roll it back and then you create this strategy when you’re rolling it back to create the strategy you go to that crawl walk run and you know you have to crawl before you get to that running stage and in this case what they’re saying is that that crawl walk run is usually a 12-month period Well I need to know is that at that 12-month period which is next year from where we’re sitting today is our strategy aligned with everybody else’s strategy and are we going to be 10x better than that spot because if we’re looking at it as you said from today we’re not going to be ahead of the curve in that next time period we’re going to be behind we’re going to lose out so what is everybody else done what homework have you figured out that they’re doing so that we’re aligned or better in a year from now so that when we 10x going forward we’re going to crush it and the competitors aren’t going to be able to last through our growth rates so um very powerful I love the I love that chair that’s brilliant.

Chirag: Thank you thank you

Jeffery: So to take that and go back into Kareem now I’ve used Kareem uh the product because um Kareem is uh in most of the the Mina region it is accessible everywhere so as soon as you jump into Morocco or um Dubai and Dubai you can use Uber as well but uh Kareem was in Morocco and in Egypt and a few other spots and it works very well it’s a great product there’s a lot of drivers on the system maybe share a little bit about that on that experience it sounds like that also was impactful to you because you were jumping into a progressive company that of course got acquired so everybody’s excited about that side of it but during that what was the what was the atmosphere the health of the organization was it still in that startup mode of mentality of driving everybody just pumped to push this business as fast as it could and the tech wise very supportive what was the overall feeling on that and was there any um key things that you took away from that experience.

Jeffery: So Karim was the startup in the true West form that even though it became like a unicorn the the CEO had uh had a strong control and strong understanding of what’s happening in every team every Department he can walk on the floor and I’m quite confident uh even at the point where we were I think around 1400 people I’m sure he knew names of half of them at least at the certain level of seniority he knew names of almost everyone and because the the overall organization was extremely agile something that you said was you were when you were talking about Kareem uh and I want to it’s very important that I clarify that Kareem and the taxi business is a very small segment of Kareem Kareem is actually a super app and has the probably the most amount of services that any other app offers in this region uh even now right now so from uh I think the latest number is somewhere around 13 or 14 services on the platform right now uh so taxi was the original service that got a lot of uh customers on board and make it made it like a used important use case but Karim launched so many other services on the platform which helped scale uh or increase the the share of wallet from every customer so the way they attracted as a company attracted the customers to the platform and once they were on the platform they were able to monetize it by selling different services to the same customers and that was a brilliant strategy and and it ties back very nicely to what you were talking about earlier that if you don’t figure out how you’re going to keep capturing the value not just from your core services but also no other peripheral Services that’s very important and that’s what Kareem did very nicely I hope I answered that question.

Jeffery: Yeah that was perfect there was another piece that um I wanted to kind of jump into and that they were able to keep up that mentality and that drive forward did that come from the startup side was that the sorry the founder side was it something that was driven by them that they just didn’t need to get into that corporate side of things or was it just the type of people they hired what kind of structured that energy because I think that that’s what really makes these unicorns or make business as powerful is that they’re able to maintain that culture.

Chirag: So a definitely the founders the the founders of Kareem even even when we were acquired by Uber the the behavior of acting like a startup did not change the the behavior of expecting things let’s move fast let’s break uh the unusual let’s do something which people have not done before that did not change so the questioning and the behavioral Founders did not change then the next layer that was uh that was higher was also almost all of them came from unusual backgrounds they were exceptionally smart people but did not come from any uh standard Cooperative environment and hence they did not come with a predefined notion on what is the right way of doing things so they were exceptions so like one of the one of the person in the way senior position was used to be a news reporter now for a news reporter to run a business operation is very different but because he did not know the what is the right way of doing it and the common theme was the person has to be Excellence the excellent and they have to be a passion to drive excellence and that person had the passion to drive excellence and that kind of made sure that everyone who came on board was trying to figure out what’s right for Kareem and how can we move really fast and not solving for uh this is the right way this is the right protocol people were not so much concerned about it and what I hear right now even now people are not concerned about the right protocols what they’re what they are answering for is what is right for Kareem and can we move faster.

Jeffery: I like that and and you talked about a few other things in there that really kind of uh shaped this business and one of them was that they started to layer in more value for their customers so they weren’t just a car application um and I’ve seen this in a few startups in Egypt actually that they’ve been pitching um their product really early on and they’ve they’ve offer Bank transfers car pickups they’re doing so many things and I found it was interesting but I also thought wait a second I think you’re trying to do too many things at this point in time is there a time frame where you start to see the layering you know I can talk about from cpg to deep Tech I’m always pushing people to say you know what the first few years just focus on the core let it be that you’re known for one thing then layer things on that way you can focus it doesn’t take away your time and effort um what’s your thoughts around that and and do you see that that is being a great model and I can just throw in one tidbit I saw a presentation from the CEO of steam whistle Brewery this is was probably five six years ago and they were like selling one beer for 20 years and I’m gonna make up a number but they were doing like 500 million sales in just one type of beer and then they decided we should come out with a second we’re the best now now we’re gonna come out with a second so is that kind of the the same mentality or you’re saying you know what you got to go fast so year three that’s when you should start expanding your product offerings.

Chirag: No I I think um there’s a Slightly North answer for soft Tech versus deep Tech here so for the soft Tech I think that uh if you spread yourself too thin you lose a lot of focus and that’s a definitely a problem in the Deep Tech you cannot even if you want to you cannot spread yourself uh too widely because for every product you have to spend a lot of time doing a lot of research and coming up with a technology which takes years and if you’re trying to build too many Technologies at the same time you’re actually going to end up with nothing so the the in the in the Deep Tech in in the soft Tech it’s a matter of choice do you want to spread yourself thin or not in the Deep Tech I don’t even see that as a choice you have to go with one product or two products Max go deep into that build the technology around that and then you can find other use cases or you can find other products or peripherals around that but you it is just not technically possible to build multiple products at the same time unless you have a very very deep pockets and you have millions and millions of dollars rolling in all the time you won’t be able to do that.

Jeffery: Yeah makes sense and and it’s time too and I think you’ve taken your um your consultative background you can look at you know economies of scale and decide does this make sense if we add in these three new products from a financial cost to recovery does this allow us to work quickly or is it going to take away the team and the effort and can this actually be more of a um a loss to the business over time and not actually gain any ground because of the time it takes to implement so that uh that’s that’s very valuable for sure but it sounds pretty cool and pretty exciting that you were able to kind of go through these different extremes on the business side going in and doing analysis from one side into people’s businesses then jumping into a big company that’s going exit and then jumping into a couple other big companies and even into your own startup so in all of these kind of areas that you were able to get this great amount of exposure to and learning from can you share maybe a couple of things that really defined even maybe in the startup side when you were in that it’s helped you actually reconnect into the startup phase and what Founders like about it because I’m going to kind of guess that with the experience you have this knowledge and then having that startup experience Founders must be just drawn to you right away because you can understand the problems they’re going through but you’re also taking a very programmatic approach which again are not a lot of people have that value to offer because they’re either coming from a ex-founder or they’re coming from a corporate Banker side of things so there’s such a big difference in gap of understanding and you’re kind of fitting in the Middle with all this great knowledge so how are you finding the the founders are taking uh your approach to um a business.

Chirag: So um I generally spend a lot and and you rightly actually said something that uh every startup is so different and you go from extreme to extreme uh within deep Tech as well that it sometimes takes forever just to understand what is the problem that they’re trying to solve and I have to be honest with you uh probably with the startups I very rarely give them any solution every time I get a call from any sort of CEO I end up asking probably 20 questions and I keep asking questions and questions and questions and and at the by the end of the call probably after an hour either they come up with the the they have structured their answer in their mind because of those questions or they get get tired of the question and they drop the call because they realize that I’m not giving them an answer that they’re looking for but the learning has been uh and for me what works very well is not to share necessarily the knowledge but to use that knowledge to ask the right questions to the startup to help them arrive at a conclusion is more powerful than sharing my knowledge with them um and a lot of times when I keep going back to them asking them questions instead of telling them what do I think uh it forces them to structure their own thinking and sometimes when they uh started blurting out uh completely random information I forced them to uh force him by telling them that can you just structure by saying that these are three thoughts that you have or the other three buckets of problems that you’re facing and the moment I force them to bucket their thinking it kind of becomes clear to them what is the problem and more often than not they are the one actually coming up to the conclusion by the end of the call that what do they think is going to uh make sense for them and and almost always I’ll say okay why don’t we do this now this is the conclusion that you have come up with we tested out for a few weeks and then we can have another round of call and sometimes when they give me another round of call I’ll go through again the same series of questions but I it has very rarely happened that I’ve offered them a solution or an answer of what do I think is should be the answer I I think that kind of resonates a lot more with the founders instead of trying to uh preach them on uh or be a know it all guy uh that some of the VCS do try to do.

Jeffery: I love that and I find that it works out significantly better when you find the answer um and I think even a lot of um coaching life coaches they all tend to do the same which is um ask the right direction ask the right questions that are going to set a direction and allow the the person to gravitate into them feel what’s going on understand what’s going on and then be able to leave with more clarity of what’s going on in the environment that they may have been say overwrought with and being unable to really explore you’ve opened that space up for them and now it gives them a little bit more clarity or at least they can go ask more questions and that’s going to really allow them to hopefully come up with a direction if not now when they don’t sleep all night they’ll be able to come up with that answer in the morning.

Chirag: Absolutely

Jeffery: I love that that’s awesome so brilliantly how you’ve gone or gone through this you’re working really nicely with Founders you guys jump in and start to create your own fun maybe you can share a little bit about this journey uh what got you interested in going full Venture and then a little bit more about I have a bunch of questions that I want to ask just on the on the whole back end deep code side and how you guys analyze all of this but maybe just start off with what got you started in um on the Venture side and deciding to create a deep Tech Venture firm and then we’ll jump into a couple more quick questions.

Chirag: So the reason we build up a deep Tech VC firm was the conviction that the Deep Tech is a under valued right now and B uh it’s underrepresented in the VC ecosystem and when we started digging that Y is is it like that more often than not the answer came to the point that conducting a due diligence on a deep Tech startup often takes way longer and re-engineering uh the Deep Tech business or model to achieve quick results is a lot more complex which and both the points basically if I have to summarize mean a lot of BC time per startup investment and because there is a lot of BC time in going in and sustaining and getting an exit uh compared to the soft Tech the your return per person that you can generate or the number of deals that you can generate in soft Tech versus deep Tech tends to be somewhere around one is to three if not if not worse and because the the uh for the same amount of money you’ll be generating the same amount of returns the VCS tend to stay away from that but having said that the realization was also that when the market turns sour the softer soft Tech are the ones that actually go sour first and Deepika are the ones which are relatively less less uh likely to go go down south so fast because the technology is so strong that you can actually liquidate the technology in worst case scenario and still make a lot of money out of the P10s or the technology that they’ve built over the years versus soft Tech when it goes down the likelihood of you making any money out of that is very low so so I understand that soft Tech may not become a unicorn in three months or six months what we have seen in some of the cases like the rapid scaling of the businesses it might take three years it’s a slow and ready days but probably I we as a promoters for this fund were a lot more comfortable with a slow and steady race versus uh finding a quick Win race so because we were more comfortable the conviction was there that you can actually build a massively big businesses around that we decided let’s do that.

Jeffery: Awesome I think that’s a great plan and um slow and steady always wins so I’m I’m a big fan of that um philosophy so I think you’re certainly onto something there which is brilliant now how do you taking all things aside from AI to blockchain machine learning how you tie all this together how do you actually on your side do the analysis to come back and make sure that the companies you’re investing in are actually doing what they say versus I’ve built all these algorithms mind you there’s no algorithms it’s a matching algorithm instead of utilizing AI to the fullest fullest how have you gone as structured that and is it benefiting you from being able to go through and analyze this code and are you getting more deals come to you because people are realizing that you’re doing the extended work in order to get this company into a better position.

Chirag: What is working in our favor the most is our relationship with academic institutions and when you conduct the due diligence for a deep Tech startup without access to Industry experts irrespective of how big you are or how smart you are you cannot do that technology is always evolving the amount of number of Technologies and the different types of technologies that that exist in deep Tech is very wide they are experts in every topic every subtopic in every Sub sub topic and the only places that you can find uh the experts in all of these areas are actually quality academic institutions so if the first thing that we did did when we built the fund was build deep relationships with Indian Institute of Technology so just like you have MIT in the US they are iits in India and iit’s almost always have extremely high quality professors so what we did was we spent a lot of time building relationships with those professors uh the universities the the incubators which are hosted inside the iits and because we build those relationship a lot of time we are able to access that relationships to help take pick their brain on what do they think and take their resources their help in conducting due diligence and that is a lot more powerful more often than not the conclusion that they the professors give us about the technology is a lot more powerful than uh most of the VCS provide in terms of the analysis and the technology comes from that all the business model all the financial analysis is pretty much similar for any industry for any uh function of the of the startup that you can look at so that is I don’t think it’s very complicated it’s a pretty straightforward templatized uh solution the harder part is the technology and is there a need for for this technology or not and are there alternatives to this technology or not that is something that can only be answered by Industries but and that’s where there’s Academy institutions come in very handy so we spend a lot of time I personally spend a lot of time in academic institutions uh our daily office is based inside uh in Institute of Technology and that gives us access to a lot of resources as well.

Jeffery: Oh that’s awesome I didn’t know that that’s pretty cool uh being inside of University basically you knock on anybody’s door and ask them to start doing something for you that’s pretty uh pretty fast way to get things done.

Chirag: So sometimes you have to you have to beg borrow a steal but uh when you are inside the university you can actually uh just knock on someone’s door and ask for a five minute favor and sometimes their five minute knowledge is more insightful than two hours of easy conversation.

Jeffery: I love that I love that might be our next move I’m a big fan well shared uh in one of your presentations you talk about identifying uh winners in deep Tech startups um we’ve talked a few of those points and hopefully I’m not throwing you out there right now where you’re going to be trying to remember what those three points were but you did bring up three things to really Define what you look for when it comes to uh diving into a deep Tech I thought that was great and of course that’s why I’m bringing in some of your content into this but could you share what those three things are because I do think it makes a big difference in the founders World on when they’re building something that generalizing it these are some of the things that they should keep in mind when they’re building their company.

Chirag: if you can give me the headline I want to make sure that I am consistent in that if you can give me the headline on what are the three things I said I can elaborate on that if you have it with me if not I can share my fresh perspective.

Jeffery: Uh you can you’re welcome to share the perspective I’ll give you the headline in in two seconds here while we’re uh we’re chatting because you go into identifying the maturity of a startup you’ve got your uh L curve and you’re basically talking about the developments and the bets that how you guys are making that approach but you identify the maturity of it you identify the sustainability and competitive advantage and then identifying the Readiness of the startup to scale and the Deep Tech side of it so those are kind of the three things that you um you dived into.

Chirag: So I I will actually just put it in a simple x y axis and this is something that we do a lot internally so and I’m trying to put all of these three things in a simple conversation so if you think of our X or x’s and x axis is uh the Readiness of the technology and y axis is a Readiness of the market now what happens is that a lot of times the technology is not ready and the market is ready or the technology is ready and the market is not ready for for us the they both have to function so you have to be in the top right quartile to actually make sense that they both are working hand in hand and once that both the technology and the market maturity is there that’s when the the due religion starts and that’s when we start the conversation on a the first layer is are you uh using a sustainable competitive Advantage which is in the first bullet within that is to make sure that you’re using multiple Technologies uh and a combination of that the second bullet is that you must be uh you must have a deep roads into the overall a deep Tech ecosystem you should not be a standard on either you are associated with the corporate venture capital or you associated with the academic institution or you are stated with a incubator which is known for the Deep Tech you cannot be a standalone uh uh uh yourself and the third bullet point is that the founders have to be technically very clear on where they are and where they’re getting into so so that kind of uh filters us down and then we conduct an uh once uh the startup needs those criteria then we go into a typical dividends process which is very similar for most uh VC forms.

Jeffery: I love it and I’m glad you’re able to explain that and I know it was so randomly throwing it in there but um I like to do research and come up with the right cool stuff to share but that was brilliant and the reason why I really like that was that um you’re finding where they’re positioned and that they’re not a standalone I think that’s important but also where the tech fits in the ecosystem because if they’re too early there’s a big chance it’s going to fail and if they’re too late then they’re just spinning their tires and they’re not going to be able to go anywhere and in deep Tech that’s really important because again it costs a lot of time and effort and money to build a company and I think it’s something like 40 percent of companies fail because the tech isn’t where it’s not the right spot it’s not ready.

Chirag: Yeah absolutely

Jeffery: That’s pretty cool well I think the the last thing I’m gonna that it before we jump into um a case study a real quick case study is that you mentioned um a lot of the things that you’ve learned are structured problem solving governance and Frameworks can you just touch a little bit on that because I think it’s really important that when a startup really starts to dive into this and maybe it’s at a seed stage that they really start to focus in on what is my governance how am I governing this entire platform to get to a series a and am I really solving the right problem and uh structurally if I put this together in the right product the right technology to move forward and allow it to be modular and grow maybe you can share just a little bit about that on how you guys look at this because I think this again becomes a pretty crucial part for deep Tech.

Chirag: So uh there are three components to that first and this is like a very uh typical Consulting thing that I’m getting into first is the your how’s your operating model uh that is the first Formula second component is what are the processes that you follow internally to do the technological innovation and when I say process to follow uh conducting Tech Innovation is also a process it it’s it’s not just a one person saying that okay I come up with this idea it has to be a process on how you ignite the idea how do you test the idea how do you repeat the idea and third is a resource part of it so for the the question that you asked is about the governance and how do we make sure that we keep moving forward using the governance uh you have to and there are multiples of factors under each one of them the the the operating model side of it the process side of it and the resource side of it and resources can be a financial resource can people resource can be multiple other resources so when you go into those conversations on how you’re preparing for the subsequent fundraise or how are you paying for the next stage of growth or the next Milestone uh all three elements under these three buckets have to come together and make it work the operating model cannot be uh cannot be unlinked to the process which cannot be unlinked to the resources that you are that you have they all have to talk the same language eventually I’m not expecting you to have a 100 page PowerPoint deck but as a CEO or the founder of the company you should be able to Simply in a simple language articulate to me what is the operating model uh article it to me very simply what are the what are the process that you follow for the technological innovation what are the processes did you follow for the administrative work what what do you do when a customer has a complaint what do you do when a customer is happy and keeps calling the founder which is taking a lot of his time instead of calling the team which happens all the time actually uh what kind of resources do you have what kind of human capital do you have what kind of financial all these things are governed their covenants around each one of those components to make it happen.

Jeffery: I love it and I like that you talked about the repeat model that’s very important as well like commercializing how you’re doing it and what does that look like and when would you actually hit commercialization so I think all of those little pieces that you shared really helped Define that governance as a business is growing and they’ll re-evaluate it at a series a series B in order to keep scaling and growing that business so um I think everything you’ve shared uh chirag is obviously super valuable and I can keep talking and picking your brain more but we’re going to have the transition or we’re going to be here for another two hours so um which would be exciting for me but I’m not sure you’ll uh the audience can handle uh uh three hour lessons here but you never know maybe we could break it down in stages on that on another podcast but um maybe we transition and and dive into a case study now in the experience and exposure that you’ve had in the markets could you share what it takes to be a startup founder what you know any of the startups that you’ve worked with any of the uh the businesses he or she what they’ve done to really kind of prove to you that they’ve got what it takes to be a founder and you know they got you excited because of maybe um a circumstance or something that they went through or what you’ve gone through just anything that you can share because I think the audience loves to learn a bit about what it takes to be a founder.

Chirag: I’ll talk about the Journey of a Founder which I’m always very fascinated about so this founder comes from a very small town in Bihar which is a small state in India and it’s a highly underdeveloped state in India so now he comes from an underdeveloped State and within that underdeveloped state he comes from a very underdeveloped or underprivileged City he went to study Engineering in one of the top universities in India because he was exceptionally talented and when he was at the University he was offered multiple jobs at some of the top Universe top companies uh in India at a salary which is uh probably matches the U.S salary and typically the Indian salary tends to be a lot lower but he was paid U.S salaries in India he did not take it and what he decided was he’s going to solve a problem which is very prevalent in the smaller cities in India because he had the privilege of understanding the problems of small cities and he also had the privilege to understand how the technology can solve the problems so what fascinated me the most is that he had a very deep understanding of what exactly is the problem and how does the the problem impact the society not going to the details of the startup but that particular problem actually impacts almost uh 10 million Indian people and then in a million Indian workers working at a very day wage basis and because you’re talking about 10 million people on a daily basis and that that problem makes their life very hazardous they are the day-to-day life allowed us and once you figure out technological solution uh to to make their solve the entire problem for the 10 million people he realized implementing the 10 million that that solution might mean cutting down 10 million people’s job to 1 million people now that of course you can do that in the name of technological innovation but he came up with a business model which is brilliant he said that instead of selling a fully full robotic solution to uh which which can actually eliminate 10 9 million people of uh employment I will I he built a interim robotic solution which is like a Midway any empowered all of these is right now empowering all of these 10 million people to to train them how to use that robot and which will save their life and make it a lot more safer for them and because instead of competing against those 10 million people he made made them their his channel partner and now there are 10 million people talking about this solution all the time and all of these people talk to each other and the the product is scaling so rapidly they they can actually cannot even manufacture at the scale at which that’s needed in the market the learning for me was of course you can cover the best solution that can actually solve the problem completely but you need to also think about uh does the operating model work or not if you would have gone for a complete robotic solution the operating model would not work the the resources to require to sell when I was talking about remember operating model uh process and the resources the resources are required to to sell uh like 10 million units would have been massive the cost of uh selling would have been massive the political backlash would have been massive so the resources should sustain the company which is a highly automated robotic company would have been a big problem so instead of doing that he actually went to the government and said that you know what I’m going to repurpose 10 million people to do something else which is which improves their quality of life so the government and 10 million people became his channel partner immediately and the product is rapidly scaling so so sometimes like figuring it out going through the Journey or on a deep take on and especially in the Deep Tech World figuring it out how you are influencing the lives is very important and that has been a very interesting case study to me I’m not sure this is exactly how you were looking for but that has been a very interesting experience for me.

Jeffery: Sure that was probably the best story that I’ve heard so far on sharing a case study on what it takes to be a founder and I I love that I think that that really defines what it takes to not only change an environment but grow within the environment so that you can have a lot of people uh that become your champions in a product and in a business and he found 10 million people that got behind it and will help build that product and that business so that’s absolutely brilliant so great chair great chair all right we’re gonna we’re gonna jump into our rapid fire questions the way the questions work is pick one or the other and you’re coming in as an investor and then we’ll do personal so we’ll start with business and you just pick one or the other looking in the lens of an investor which you are you decide which one fits best Fair.

Chirag: Okay fair

Jeffery: All right founder or co-founder

Chirag: Co-founder

Jeffery: Unicorn or a four-year 10x exit

Chirag: uh Four-year 10x exit

Jeffery: Tech or cpg

Chirag: Tech

Jeffery: Nfts or web 3.0

Chirag: I want to say none can I say no none

Jeffery: You can say that I like that AI or blockchain

Chirag: AI

Jeffery: First time founder or second third time founder

Chirag: indifferent

Jeffery: Okay first money in or series A

Chirag: First money in

Jeffery: Angel or VC

Chirag: VC

Jeffery: Board seat or Observer

Chirag: Observer

Jeffery: Safe or convertible note

Chirag: Actually I want to say none equity

Jeffery: Okay perfect that’s a good conversion right away go right at it lead or follow

Chirag: Lead

Jeffery: Equity or interest payments

Chirag: Equity

Jeffery: Favorite part of investing

Chirag: Sorry say you again

Jeffery: Favorite part of investing

Chirag: Conducting due diligence

Jeffery: I like it number of companies invested per year

Chirag: 12.

Jeffery: Awesome any preferred terms I think you just mentioned Equity being it anything else

Chirag: Equity lead and uh at least worst case scenario three percent ownership

Jeffery: Perfect verticals of focus

Chirag: Cleantech industry 4.0 biotech

Jeffery: love it two qualities of startup needs in order to stand out to you

Chirag: Uh very very very strong Tech focused founders and very very very clear on the problem statement

Jeffery: Like it all right we’re gonna do the personal side book or movie

Chirag: Book

Jeffery: Superman or Batman

Chirag: Superman

Jeffery: Restaurant or picnic

Chirag: Restaurant

Jeffery: Five minutes of Bezos or Oprah

Chirag: Oprah

Jeffery: Five minutes or sorry mountain or Beach

Chirag: Beach

Jeffery: Biker or run

Chirag: I want to say none but I I I’d probably say it uh

Jeffery: Yeah you can choose either one or I guess none a Big Mac or chicken McNuggets

Chirag: Uh chicken McNuggets

Jeffery: Trophy or money

Chirag: Trophy

Jeffery: Beer or wine

Chirag: Beer

Jeffery: Camera or mobile

Chirag: mobile phone

Jeffery: King or Rich

Chirag: King

Jeffery: Concert or amusement park

Chirag: Um amusement park

Jeffery: Fortune cookie or birthday cake

Chirag: Birthday cake

Jeffery: Ted talk or book reading

Chirag: uh TED Talk

Jeffery: Tick Tock or Instagram

Chirag: Instagram

Jeffery: Facebook or LinkedIn

Chirag: LinkedIn

Jeffery: Most famous person that pops in your mind uh

Chirag: Um Elon Musk

Jeffery: Favorite movie and character you’d play

Chirag: I forgot the name of the movie uh uh anyways because all the movies I can think of is Bollywood right now so yeah I don’t think the audience will associate.

Jeffery: Oh Bollywood yeah of course Bollywood rocks we’ve interviewed lots of people from India and you’re the first one that’s used had had used Bollywood so that’s good I like it. uh favorite book

Chirag: Prepared book uh Power Play by uh Tim Higgins it’s about uh the story of Tesla

Jeffery: I read that book too and I think it’s great it’s a it’s a good interesting read I’m uh I agreed I like reading the I like getting the understanding of where people come from versus the uh other side of the story that you can’t believe is how it worked but I like to Deep dive into things and that’s pretty cool.

Jeffery: Um first brand that pops into your mind um

Chirag: Mac

Jeffery: Favorite sports team

Chirag: i i i i i i i play uh cricket so I’ll say India

Jeffery: Love it we’re almost there what’s the meaning of success to you

Chirag: I want to look back and say I was part of a couple of really successful companies that actually made an impact on the society and made money.

Jeffery: Perfect and the last question what is your superpower

Chirag: Mathematics

Jeffery: I like it numbers brilliant all right well

Chirag: I love this rapid fire

Jeffery: Yes we uh um it sounds like um I’m working for McKenzie and I’m trying to learn as much as I possibly can about you and then I’m going to come back with a profile or something but um I like data and I like understanding things and it was my way of trying to be personal so that I could learn more about somebody without feeling awkward to ask questions so it comes out nicely and it gets you a good understanding of of the person that you get to talk with and hopefully this allows other people to find ways to connect with you because they can reference the book or they can talk bring some Chicken McNuggets over to the over to your uh firm and boom everything’s rocking and shaking.

Chirag: Yeah I I love chicken McNuggets

Jeffery: So hopefully that’s the way into your uh into your investment pocketbook so we’ll we’ll see how that works but um either way chirag I want to say it was brilliant chatting with you I learned a lot I took a million notes um I got to go out and find some more paper because I don’t have enough I wrote too many notes on these ones but again man it was brilliant I appreciate all your time and everything you shared absolutely awesome and um just before we turn it over uh how can people get a hold of you maybe share a little bit about that and and then the last thing I want to say is uh we like to turn things over to you give you the last word so anything that you want to share to startups to Founders to investors I turn it over to you to share that but again thank you very much for all your time today was absolutely awesome.

Chirag: So uh how people can reach out to me is LinkedIn I am very very active on LinkedIn uh if I am not active someone from my team will always respond uh to the messages but almost always at the bare manual I’ll check LinkedIn once a day so I will always point in the messages on LinkedIn um any so the second part of the question was any thoughts from me to the founders uh irrespective of what you’re doing is going to be a very very Rocky uh start or rocky days that you’re gonna have there will be days you’ll go home sad there will be days you go home Happy uh they’ll be uh days you will decide you will feel that it’s a waste of time it’s not everything that you’re going to do is actually 10 years down the line it’s going to be so much more valuable than actually joining any corporate job so just keep doing what you’re doing um if if you’re confused about what to start do go and talk to some Consultants especially from McKinsey BCG and Bane these guys are amazing I’m sure you’ll get a lot of startup ideas from them if you’re already on a startup keep doing what you’re doing it’s going to be Rocky but it’s going to be worth it uh I know the recording is still on uh I can you you have you have been in the start of ecosystem for a long time Jeffrey and I want you to also give some closing closing thoughts on how people can people can reach you and what’s your recommendation to start a formulas.

Jeffery: I love it cheer egg thank you I appreciate that for um I I guess throwing throwing me in there to help out as well and share um I’m a big fan of the startup community and and I can share that from over 20 plus years of working in the early stage Community I can say that I I started off as a cheerleader and and um I remember so many times being in meetings and saying we just need to give the startups a chance you guys need to let them come in and operate and work with your business um and people would just look at me funny like who is this guy and why is he saying these things but you know today I think a lot more businesses are so much more open-minded regardless if it’s cool to work with a startup or not I think it’s you know they’ve changed the world and they are making a big difference and we’re seeing that every day so it’s um it’s been a pretty exciting journey and to be part of and I think that you know when when companies are uh starting off and you know there’s a couple things that I would recommend for startups to to really look at and I think the first one is find somebody that’s in your industry that has experience and many years behind them win them over get them on your side work with them treat them like gold and just try to learn from them I think that every startup wants to change the world but they also know that there was people that were there before them and they can provide a lot of guidance and help and help them steer their way through a lot of the tough spots um you know at the other side of that there there’s other opportunities where you can find coaches mentors people that might want to invest in you in the future and just write it all down and keep track of the people that you connect with on a really strong level and then you know if they pitch them on day one you have a chance to pitch them again in eight months you got to pitch them again in three years and you never know when that person may come back and invest in you again but if anything they’re just going to invest in their time and they’re going to share feedback and I think that’s all very valuable I can tell you I’ve pitched people years ago and went back and pitched again and they were amazed is that how far you got and the things that you accomplished and and that actually de-risks it again so then they have more interest to come back and and support you in different ways so you know it doesn’t always have to come around at the time you’re looking there’s a future and things like that can help turn things around um and then just be um just be uh yourself be excitable jump into things participate be an Executor get things done um you know be happy be supportive you you’ll see that uh you’ll build a community around you that also supports you and likes what you do but Community is is a pretty big thing and it was tough to learn what community meant uh when you’re building a business especially as a more introverted person you tend to not really understand the community side but I can tell you after years of building a platform on community it really does make a big difference when people feel that they can reach out to you and anybody on your team and they feel like they’re getting the same exposure to no matter who they’re talking to and they get the same uh feeling of learning and um being part of something and that makes a big difference so I think those are a couple things I would share and then of course to get a hold of us we do operate along on LinkedIn we’re there every day as well we post we share we’ve got programs that we run we have one main program called ete which is entrepreneur entrepreneur and we have companies all over the world we see over 300 companies a month one of our biggest markets is India we do get a lot of companies from India that come in and we’re excited about that we’ve run events in India we’ve had a lot of great things that have come out of this startup community so we’re pretty excited at the continuing growth and opportunities that are in India and the Mena region so from that you can email us we’re at supporters fund or sorry at and if you send it to marketing at someone will get back and forward that to you you can sign up on our website for upcoming events and or follow us in uh at any of the podcast spaces or um uh online at YouTube Etc we’re everywhere we try to make sure that we’re accessible to everybody.

Chirag: That’s amazing and I love your advice Jeffrey about making sure you keep pitching it’s a very valuable evaluated valuable advice and uh I’m sure I’m gonna go to their website open and uh take a look I may not drop an email because next time I’m gonna just reach out to you directly but uh definitely definitely uh if I find someone interesting I’m gonna make sure that they talk to you and thank you for giving me your time really appreciate this uh like almost an hour conversation.

Jeffery: You’re a good match your egg uh it’s been uh it’s been a pleasure and I’m glad to have mutually shared on the podcast um well maybe we’ll edit this part and add it into something different too because uh it’s not every day that we’re adding a lot about what we do but uh it’s been appreciated um and I’m glad that we got the time to dive into uh everything that you guys are doing and it’s pretty exciting what you are doing and I want to again thank you for all the advice you’ve shared it’s absolutely awesome and I can’t wait to do my outtake because my head’s running 100 miles an hour on what little things I could share the to follow back up to on what you guys are up to and what you’ve done but again thank you for your time and look forward to staying in touch.

Chirag: Thank thank you thank you Jeffrey have a good day.

Jeffery: Well there’s a lot of stuff that was shared from that and again on the Deep Tech side of things um cheer egg really did focus on that you know they have a lot of um things that they want to learn about especially on the tech Focus uh problem solving structure governance Frameworks all of that fits together under that governance side when you’re building out a tech platform as he said you know it can take three years just to get into a real deep dive of a business and knowing how that’s going to operate and where it’s going to go next um a lot of it focuses around um you know asking a lot of questions being open to to Solutions and and letting the founders drive themselves to a great solution um definition uh people ready scalable deploying technology and how it transitions all these great things that have to happen in order for a company to be able to Envision themselves where they’re going to be in 10 years crawl walk run all that beautiful stuff that’s going to help any founder understand where their business is going and where they want to be and as it was mentioned figure yourself out where you want to be in 10 years work your way back and decide if that technology can support that and if that’s sustainable and that can just keep growing without having to Discount the um the product or the business that’s a business and you’ve got something to keep growing on so very exciting glad to hear all of those valuable points got to learn a lot and I want to thank everybody for joining us today so if you’ve enjoyed this conversation please feel free to share with your friends or subscribe to our YouTube channel follow us on Spotify Apple podcast and or Stitcher feel free to share an audio or video clip around the show we may include it in one of our future podcasts find us at marketing your support and comments are truly appreciated you can also check us out at or for startup events visit thank you and have a fantastic day.

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