CEO & Founder at Convanto
Vandana Tolani | CEO & Founder at Convanto

"Have a proper pitch deck that’s made by a professional. Have a video pitch deck that works well all over the world. Have a good product video that explains as well... Sometimes emails and written stuff don’t explain what you want to convey."

- Vandana Tolani

Vandana Tolani on the things a startup should prepare for when raising funds

Talk Takeaways

Vandana Tolani, CEO & founder of Convanto, chats about her entrepreneurial background and her experience as an investor.

Her work abroad and her exposure to different cultures have given her a broad perspective, which is a unique addition to her skill set.

From a pitch video to ways you can de-risk an investor, Vandana shared practical steps a startup can take in securing a fund. She also provided alternative options in raising funds with.

She also talked about successfully dealing with new markets, diverse cultures, and new countries.

About

Vandana is a versatile & dynamic professional with over 20 years of rich experience in International and Domestic Business Advisory & Fund Raising. An adept strategic planner with a proven history of mentoring Business start-ups, identifying new growth avenues, developing innovative strategies, and building high-performing teams
Her core area of work is Fund Raising for early-stage start-ups across sectors and industry sub-verticals.

A diversified set of experiences has enabled Vandana to develop an eagle’s eye for spotting opportunities in industries that are set for long-term growth in the Indian economic context. She is also passionate about helping businesses reach the right people and fulfill their business requirements.

A highly organized and detail-oriented professional with a large network of VC Funds, Angel Investors, and Family Offices. Her vision of driving a two-way value innovation exercise has helped her create trust with most of India’s marquee investors.

The full #OPNAskAnAngel talk

Jeffery: So we’re already there. So our introductions are gonna all happen right now in top of the hour almost. But very exciting to have you here today, Vandana and what I’m going to share or what I love you to share is if you can give us a little bit of a background on your past. I know you just shared a little bit but a little bit more on your background on your past, something whether you’re kind of working on today. And then one thing about you that nobody will know.

Vandana: Oh so yeah, firstly I’m very thankful and grateful to you for having me here. It’s a pleasure to be with you on this podcast today. And so I was born and brought up in Delhi in India. I’ll just start from the very start. I did my schooling in Delhi, get my college from Mumbai, went into investment banking for some time. Then I moved to Singapore and Jakarta. I got married there. While I was working for my own family office, I had two kids, one girl, one boy. We came back to India seven years back. And it’s really awesome to be back to our own country, to connect with our own people and journey so far, so I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I didn’t want to work under anybody. Never felt comfortable doing that. So that’s what got me into investment banking and I love to learn about different kinds of startups in different geographies, different sectors. It’s a passion you can see.

Jeffery: Amazing!

Vandana: And one thing that nobody knows about me is that deep down at heart, I’m a very soft hearted person. I believe in human values, too human at times. And I don’t know if that’s good or bad, but on the outer nobody knows that. But on the inside that’s the good.

Jeffery:Well, there’s- you’ve got a tough and a soft layer. So those are good things and they’re great qualities to have. So I would not think that’s a bad thing with all being human is amazing.

Vandana: Yeah, yeah, so on the outer I’m a tough person, like a business person. But on the inside there’s a you know, very soft person that believes in humanity.

Jeffery: I love it. No, and that’s a good thing. I wholeheartedly support that.

Vandana: Thank you.

Jeffery: Kudos for you and great that you’re showing it. So I want to kind of take a little bit step back and from all the great things that you’ve done through different talks, and all these online forums, and all the things from events and you’ve done a lot of things in the space, which is kudos to, which is amazing. But to take a little bit step back to kind of the area want to explore with you is you’re kind of travels and working abroad. You’re working in a different culture, you’re working in a different country and I think this carries a lot of value to startups to investors because you’ve kind of done something that most people don’t normally get the opportunity to do, which is pick up leave and then come back and experience something that you haven’t been maybe in 15 years, but in the banking side and all of the background that you had when you were working abroad, can you kind of share a little bit more about that experience and how that worked for you to see a different culture? And did you see from that entrepreneurial brain, were you able to define different problems that you may have been able to push back to India and say, “Hey, I’m seeing this quite a bit here and I remember this happening in India,” and you’re texting people back home saying, “Hey, we need to solve this problem”? When you were in this culture, did you start to define new problems that you wanted to solve and being part of the banking system? I find bankers are 100% really equipped and zoned into entrepreneurship. I think they get it from a financial standpoint, they understand what startups are going through, so just taking that experience that being in another country, were there things that really stood out to you in Jakarta, Indonesia inside of there that you really could put your thumb on and thought, you know what, there’s some opportunity here and what did it teach you?

Vandana: I learned my greatest lessons there because as you might understand that Jakarta is a Muslim dominated place. And you know, it was the first day I had the shock of my life because I didn’t know like you know they were speaking a different language, there were different food, and the culture was totally different, even the work style, even the timings. We start at typically 9:30-10, they started 8 o’clock. The lunch break is at 12, our lunch break would be at one 1. They end by 5 or 6 and we would keep going on, in India till 10 or 11. So it was a bit of a set back there to me. I like to be, they were advanced in technology. They were advanced in a lot many things where India needed help with. But in terms of women inclusion, they were not advanced because typically they believe in dominating the women there. So that was a different thing. But in Singapore, it is totally free place. The laws are very open minded, people are open minded. It’s a safe place for women as well. So there was a lot more to learn from Singapore. And I wanted to bring back, you know, like Singapore is very free country.

We can know cryptocurrencies, block chains, and a lot many things. There is, you know, many indian companies, they’re holding companies are in Singapore because of taxes issues and on. So I think that was really you know, that interested me. So, I- then when I got back to India, there was another cultural difference here because I had to like take a while to understand back into, you know, because I had come back after many years as to what has changed and what is new and what is trendy over here and how to talk to people over here, and you know, so that was different. But here multi-culture. You know, so then I gave a lot of talks that I met people from UK, USA, Silicon Valley, you know, Singapore, Dubai, Hong kong. Then I learned about more cultures while I gave talks. So I opened up more and I started to understand deeper that, “Okay, this is how it is.” Also I dealt with people in Japan, so Nigeria. So that was, you know, so I learned about almost all cultures and tried to pick up the good from there. But that was you know, the only thing about Jakarta was that it was to you know, it was not involving the women there and you know, they have these break times during the month of eid where you know, so our teammates, especially the workers would, you know, continuously use that as making an excuse for not working. So they need to pray five times a day. They need to have their break, they need to have this. So we had to really respect that because like you know, it’s their culture that we have to respect. So that was like, you know, we have to really push them to work. Look it’s work, but then every time they had to go for their breaks and all that. So there’s a lot of breaks there. In India, everybody’s workaholic like all the time working, working.

Jeffery: So it’s a bit of a mind kind of- a mind shift that you’re going from somewhere where work is secondary to culture, to where work in India is kind of inept to survival. So it’s number one and culture is there, but it’s almost secondary to somewhere in Singapore or in Jakarta where everything else becomes number one and work is kind of a subset and it’s not so much deemed as survival. Maybe that’s population density or whatever the case may be, but it’s obviously a bit of a shift because you’re going in there to work hard and you’re kind of looking at people thinking, “Okay, well you’ve already done your siesta, is there some time now for work or what’s going on here?”

Vandana: Yeah. And so the kids, my kids also, they were born there. They went into an Ivy school there from the very beginning. When we came back to India, they went to CBSC schools where they didn’t find like minded kids until we found the school that was giving IGCSE curriculum and they found the like minded kids there. So now they are very happy since the past three years, but it took us, it took them time as well to really get into the system of India.

Jeffery: Yeah. It’s interesting that you share that because from a startup perspective, when they’re selling products globally or they’re working into getting into a new culture. I think a lot of the times, they don’t realize that different areas have been built up differently. In the case of your kids, they were used to a certain structure on how they were learning and growing versus how the other mainstream maybe areas were being focused. So then when you had to kind of build out of that, you had to market differently, you had to go to market a different way just so that your kids could have access to that same form of education or the same type of people they were looking for. So just as yourself, you probably migrated to a different subset inside of Jakarta, which were people that may have been more driven by work and less driven by all of the cultural norms that were going on in Jakarta because you were built a different way. So it’s interesting that a lot of times when startups build products, they don’t always solve the problem of the right problem. They’re trying to solve this generalized problem and sometimes that generalized problem might not be the right thing to do. So have you taken that kind of learning that you’ve had when you’re working with the startup and if you try to enable them by sharing, “Hey, you’re marketing and the way you’re going to sell your product has to be different. It has to be really refined because there are subsets in a big culture and you want to go after those uniqueness so that you can win.”

Vandana: Yeah, definitely. I always tell all my startups a few basic things and what they are doing wrong, what they need to correct. I mean, if I wouldn’t just pick up a mandate, you know, if I have a disconnect in something and I want to suggest something, I would say, “Look, this is how it’s going to be done and I’m gonna do it this way. So if you want it my way then or you want me to get, you know, get your stuff done and you have to follow me.” So I would make that clear. Otherwise I would just drop it. So that many startups do, sticking to evaluation and boxing themselves in not having the right kind of pitch deck, not having a video pitch, not being able to market to the right audience as well. So a small example is that I had to actually explain the teachers in India the background of my children and I said, “Look, they don’t know rote learning, they don’t know. They only understand things and do so even if it’s maths, you have to make them understand and then they will outshine.” So when I told this to teachers and the teachers understood, then everything started matching, everything started happening and children started doing better in studies. Same way I tell my startup, this is what you’re doing wrong, this is what you need to change, this is what needs to happen and this is how it’s going to be. So if they very want away, I’m suggesting they come along with me. Otherwise, we just call it off there and there.

Jeffery: Oh, that makes sense. So, when you’re, I guess, well, if we take a little bit step back, how much of your background influenced you to get into working with startups? Did a lot of that banking background and understanding of the numbers and understanding of different spaces, you’re shifting to different cultures. How much of that influence really helped you in assessing companies in deciding if you want to work with them?

Vandana: A lot. I do my due diligence on each startup. I find out about the founders background. I’ve looked into the company in details, you know, I see what technology they are building. So I would just, I wouldn’t just pick up anything like that. I would do my due diligence as to what is coming and from where it’s coming. It’s the same way, everybody that’s due diligence on me also before they give me the mandate. So it’s a fair thing.

Jeffery: No, that makes sense. from again on your background in the technology space, what areas did you focus on in your earlier years? And is there a certain subset that you look for now today, when you’re working with companies in India and I don’t know if you still diversify and work in other Asian countries, but when you are looking at them, what types of things do you look for? From a technology standpoint?

Vandana: So in my initial years when technology was not so much in you know, we had more fashion start ups or e-commerce start ups, you know, simple food startups that would come. Now, it is more Fintech, Healthtech, agri tech, deep tech, edu tech. And you take you know, food tech, AI robotics, you know, we never had Alexa before, as you might know. So there’s a lot of technology change. We didn’t have some meetings like this, we had to carry bags and go to events and well for meetings on 1 to 1 there was no technology that we could just interact with. So now I’m able to finish 20 meetings in a day. When previously, will just carry bags and have two or three meetings per day. So again a change there. So I had to continuously be progressive proactive in changing myself as for the technology.

Jeffery: Which enables you to keep changing yourself with the customers or with the startups because you’re enabling yourself to change, which means you’re enabling them to change as well. So you’re adopting and changing to their new techs that they’re bringing in and seeing how they’ll work in the country, in your country or other countries at the same fashion.

Vandana: Yeah. So for example, Bendy monetization came in India. People were skeptical to use digital payments like PTM and google pay, etc. But when they were forced to, everybody learned it. And even the vegetable vendor, the milk panel uses digital payments. Similarly when the COVID had hit us prior to that way before zoom was there, but people were not comfortable using zoom and you know, and they were forced to use these platforms zoom, MS meetings, you know, air me, stream yard, then automatically they learned it and they changed. And I had seen people struggling with zoom during COVID, especially school teachers who never knew how to teach online. So I think it’s very important to be progressive and keep changing as and when now deals clothes online, everything happens online. International events like this happen online. I do a lot of talk shows on UK TV, which happens from all over the world. People come on there and, you know, we have this one hour of talk on different topics. So I think things have drastically changed. It help us to connect to people better, help us to save a lot of time. And so I think that’s really important to keep changing and being trendy.

Jeffery: I completely agree with you. Hopefully it becomes more of a pattern, not a trend, right? We want things to stay kind of working in the same fashion because as you mentioned, you went from taking three meetings a day to 20 meetings a day. So you’ve become way more efficient, which means you’re doing a lot more. And technology has enabled you to do a lot more.

Vandana: Of course. Last year I closed four deals because I was locked at home and I could do things online. I mean, this year has been really cool for me. Prior to that, I was like getting frustrated because of the traveling, you know, managing time, kids, home, everything and, you know, not able to accomplish so much, which I can do just easily by sitting on a chair.

Jeffery: Well, no one’s going to complain about that. So in your experiences that you’ve had in the last couple of years, specifically because you’ve been working more with the startups, can you talk a little bit about: are there are a few things that you recommend for startups to look at doing, especially if they’re going into new emerging markets or different cultures or new countries? Are the things that you would advise your startups to look for or do differently that they would allow for them to be more successful? And maybe that’s, you know, if you’re going to be in Toronto, Canada and you’re going to be investing in India, you know, a startup in India, do you recommend going on site and be and moving to India if you’re going to build a company there? Like, what types of things do you recommend to your startups and to start ups in general on things that they can pay attention to and building a company?

Vandana: So, you know, my first and foremost suggestion to all startups is get your pitch take done by a professional. It’s very, very important, invest in a proper pitch tech, invest in a proper financial model and valuation that stays with you in the long run. You know, invest in having the CFO, an advisor on board, having an investment banker on board who have good relationships with investors, have a complimentary team, a marketing team and operations team. You know, technology team because of course the CEO cannot do almost everything and might not have the skills. Like I may be having the financial skills, but somebody else might be having operation skills or marketing skills and understand like each country has their own way of doing things. So firstly blend into, you know, the culture as to what is it that they are more, you know, good at or more comfortable with. Then once that is happening, then I think they would understand that what are the sector is a particular country looks into, whether it’s India or abroad. And I would said, you know, I would want investors from abroad to invest in India because they’re very good technology in India. There’s a lot of talent here. It’s just that, you know, the, sometimes the politics plays a lot of role here and the government enhance everything backfires. But if you look at it, there’s a lot of talent here. There’s a lot of scope here. There’s a lot of technology here. So they’re very good healthcare startups that have come in here. So I think, you know, the talent is there, but they need the support system. They might need a good technology from Silicon Valley, they might need good investments. They’re good accelerators, incubators that help us grow better.

Jeffery: I love that and that and you’re, I love what you’re sharing around complementary because, and, and then just will define complementary is that they don’t have to be immediately in the team. They need to be some sort of contracted version of marketing or operations, whatever that might be. But as you mentioned, bring in the key people to run and operate your business. And then complimentary people can be outside vendors or outside partners or outside contractors that you can eventually bring into your business. Is that a fair saying?

Vandana: Yeah. And you know, I mean it’s easy to do a small bit yourself. Like have a WhatsApp story about their business, have a facebook story, have a Linkedin story always. Go on Linkedin, make your page better. Make your website better. These basics, you know, connect with people like talk about business. So I recommend all startups that you know, instead of having a lot of family photos and celebrations and you know, food photos, have photos about your business, testimonials about your clients because that will bring them the earnings. I mean I’m not against anybody sharing family pictures, but it’s just that if you want to run your business better, you could do these small marketing things that will, so I get a lot of business if I just share one WhatsApp status and I get over 300 to 400 people that see my status and then start pinning me. So I think that’s really worked well for me, even a linguine story or twitter story, instagram I’m still learning because it’s too trendy and youngster type, you know, so I’m learning from my kids.

Jeffery: Oh, that’s good! No, you’re- I like that you’re very direct in the sense that if you want to have people understand your business and see what you do, you have to feed the system and you have to get it out there so that that message will tailor to them and get them interested. And again this is when you’re building your company. You’re early on, you have refined amount of dollars and resources. So you can figure out how you tie in the right people at the beginning and bring in the right resources on that contract side and build them into the business in time and do the right things that will support the business from social marketing and the things that are going to benefit your business which are obviously all great things to share and and thank you for that. Now, when it does come up to the raising funds, do you have any recommendations on one, how they should go to the market to raise funds? And I know it’s gonna be a little bit different in India; that it will be in Jakarta; that it will be in the US; that it will be in Canada. But are there some key points that you’ll recommend that will help you increase the value of your fund? Like how much dollars you can increase? And then is there anything that can really de-risk the business enough so that investors will like yourself will have an interest to want to invest in them?

Vandana: Yeah, of course. Have a proper good pitch deck made by a professional, have a video pitch deck that works well all over the world. You have a good product video as well. That explains because sometimes emails and you know, written stuff doesn’t explain what you want to you know, convey, so if you look at schools in abroad, they make the children learn by visuals. You know, so I think visuals also helps investors to understand your idea better. Know you better because they’re talking and explaining and pitching your idea. So have a video pitch deck that really comes out as professional. Have the right kind of investment bankers in your team who have direct relationships with the investors, reaching out to the right kind of investors, checking their website knowing that pieces where beforehand. So you’re not wasting their time and your own time by, you know, if you’re a food startup, you’re reaching to somebody who’s investor was doing deep tech naturally been flash, so many startups make that mistake. They don’t look up the website, they don’t understand the thesis. They do a lot of cold calling. So relationship matters in investments a lot. And if you have the relationship with investor, you get a lot of value add. And also, not to box yourself in by giving an valuation at the first place. You know, leave it open. I would suggest let the investor speak what valuation they want to give, then we can always negotiate across the statement. What many founders do is which I’ve seen, they just, you know, very fixed headed on the valuation and they announced it way beforehand, and then they leave no room to discuss. So I think that gives them a real big fall back there. Many founders, want to burn the investor’s money. It is the investors are hard-earned money as well. It should be like, you know, they should have the confidence that you’re going to multiply and they’re going to get returns from that, not that you’re gonna burn it. So we have cases of two founders, one founder, bought a car from the investments he got, the other one treated cancer. So I think that is really unethical. There has to be some moral values there. So that shouldn’t be the practice. It’s not for burning, you know, it’s for you know, you’re getting that for multiplying it and you know, you know, increasing the worth of your company. So I think that’s really important. Basically, all over the world, these basic things should be practiced and rest up follow the country better. Like in Silicon Valley, it’s in a different fashion, how things are done in India, it’s a bit different. So I think some basics, it will be followed here.

Jeffery: Wow, I totally agree with that. And I’m shocked to hear that somebody bought a car, but then I’m not shocked, I guess. I’m not too surprised. But it does sound like that’s- it does occur and I think that goes back to that governance side. So how do you ensure that when you invest in a company that they really understand how governance works, what the dollars are used for and you know, in a past interview, one of the great things that came up was that they literally shared, you know, as soon as you start raising funds that are outside friends and family, you need to build a board, you need to build some sort of governance that will help protect and help those founders find ways to grow their business and have somebody to bounce ideas off of and really jump in there from a senior level experience side of things. And this would also layer in that governance early on, so that you aren’t having founders going out and buying cars on the funds that are coming in to grow their business. So unless the company owns the car, which I’m not too sure of too many companies that need that right away, but I think that’s a great, great point and makes a big difference.

Vandana: Yeah. So if you have a CFO, a financial officer in your company, give him the task to manage the money, then there are less chances that you will burn. Take advices of your investors from time to time. Don’t make decisions on your own. Take that advice go along with them because they bring along with them a marketing team or technology team, they open their network when you’re going to have a fall back, they will, you know, make sure that they are behind the back and won’t fall. So, I think that’s really important. You know, if you cannot manage the money yourself, have somebody else appointed at the senior level with donkey years of experience to manage your money. So, you know, you’ll be careful in that, and do not go out of control. So that’s the other thing. And, you know, youngsters do this a lot, experienced people do this less because they already have learned their lessons. So I think somebody needs to just guide them well and educate them as to what investments are. It’s also somebody else’s hard-earned money. It’s also that they see the potential in you. That is why they are investing. And no, it’s about trust and we have our agreements in order to pull them up and on. So, but then still we have cases like these..

Jeffery: They do happen. And unfortunately, I’m sure we could do some battle stories on that on sharing different wild moments that you can’t believe what you just heard. But I completely agree. And I think the governance comes from having even if it’s a part time CFO to start, but somebody that can help you govern and help you understand better financials. And I agree that that goes all the way through the business and helps you as a founder grow and do the right things. Where have you found that, you know, in this time again, is there other options for founders if they are having a tough time raising that first round?

Vandana: Yeah. Family friends, relatives, their own network, they should always try to invest their own some amount of their own fund to understand the feel of it. And, you know, then I think there are always ways and bootstrapping of course. So if you’re not getting funded, go and start bootstrapping as much as you can. And then again, look for investments. So I think that’s one.

Jeffery: There’s a, when you fund it yourself, you appreciate money more and you’re also de-risking it for the next investors to come in, because they’ll see that you’ve put a lot of your own capital into supporting the growth and opportunity that you’ve created.

Vandana: Yeah. And you understand that what it feels like to do some investment and you understand the integrity is of it, then there are less chances that things will fail. You know, I feel that it’s important. So many youngsters come to me and I tell them that look complete your education, do a job and the money, make your savings, then put it in your own startup. Then you will know that what it is like.

Jeffery: Well, you don’t want to lose your own money, right? So you’ll probably be more cautious along the way.

Vandana: Yeah.

Jeffery: That’s good, very good advice. Maybe just some technical side of things. But when they are raising their rounds, do you have a requirement of how much they should look to raise in the 1st, 2nd rounds or just specifically in there to get their feet wet? Should they go in and try and raise a lot of money and spend six months doing it or should they raise a little bit of money, work with it, build the product, get it to market and just keep raising what they need instead and kind of time it along the way?

Vandana: So for each startup it’s different. There is no fixed figure as to it has to be this much or that much. Every- each and every startup, the planning is different, the audience is different, the technology is different. So it depends on startup to start up. We- it’s better that they have you know, the first set of money, either self funded or from a relative or from a family member or from somebody from their own network, a senior person, an angel investor. And then once they have good strap they have, you know, shown that they have multiplied that money, then they can get it from a very good VCPE and not many more people in the industry. So I think there’s no fixed figure as to, again, it depends on what stage the startup is, how much, you know, what is their planning? We have to look deep inside.

Jeffery: I like that. And is there any success factors that you look for when you’re making an investment into a company? Do you set them up on KPIs that they need to deliver these things in order to get your- all your money? Or do you have criteria that you’re looking for when making an investment that says that, “I will invest if you have done 1000 rupees of sale and I will come into your company.”? Do you have any minimal requirements that you look for when making an investment?

Vandana: Yeah, we do look at the founders background, we do our ref checks on that. We do look up the technology. We do see if that is you know what revenue the company has made and where it stands and what spoke they have. Only then we move forward. Even if we pick up the mandate as an investment banker, we do look into these things that we’re investing. Also, we look into these things. We do look into women founders as well, but again, it all depends on who has a greater talent.

Jeffery: So, talent is sounds like it’s very important.

Vandana: Very, very important.

Jeffery: I agree with that talent does matter. Is there any, I guess, pitfalls that you would bring up that you would say, “As a founder, look out for these three things and you will have a better chance of success?”

Vandana: Yeah. The founder should be very, very humble and down to earth. When I say humble, I don’t mean that the founder has to be submissive, humble means down to earth but firm as to what they are principles are to that. I think, that and the drive to run your company, how much drive you have, what is it that is driving you from inside? And, you know, you an achiever and what is it that you’re gonna, you know, how much you have achieved so far? I think these are a few things investor also looks at. You have a vision, you have a goal as to where you want to reach five years down the line. All these things investors do look at and only then they invest into a startup. And of course, like I mentioned before the background, the technology, if it’s a destructive technology that can duel blunders, and solve a lot of problems globally. Why not have it?

Jeffery: I like that. Have your drive, show your achievements, and make sure you have some sort of plan that builds in goals so that you can accomplish them and show that you can make more accomplishments.

Vandana: Yeah. And you know, I, typically, this agree with founders who used the word ‘hope’ and ‘need’, and you know, so I like to hear more confident and say, “I can do it.”

Jeffery: I love that. I do the same thing. They’ll say, “I hope I’m going to do this.” I’m like, “What do you mean ‘you hope’? You’re going to do this. I didn’t invest in you to hope you’re going to make something happen. That’s the hope that’s gone. It’s do you’re going to do this?”

Vandana: Yeah, so I like, you know, those kind of founders.

Jeffery: Direct mindset, I call these founders psychotic. I like to invest in psychotic founders, it’s the wrong term, but it just puts the emphasis on the fact that they are so passionate, so driven, get the market, they pivot on an instance because they are so in tune with what they’re doing, that they refuse to screw up and fail, that they will just keep pivoting and doing the right things to get where they need to be: psychotic.

Vandana: Not only that they have the right set of team, it’s important, you know, founders, if they don’t have, if the founder might be really great person, but if he doesn’t have he or she, the right kind of team that is complemented, then of course, you know, complementing team is really important. It could be from all parts of the globe, good CFO, for a good operations team, a good marketing team, a good technology team, somebody good in HR you know. So I think that combines the entire thing because one person might not have all the skins, you know, and I’m sure that we are all not born like perfect, you know. We like some skills so we need to have other people who have those skills and okay, you know, get into the system and all of them must have it right then. I think it really works wonders.

Jeffery: I like that and I do agree that we all lack certain skills, certain abilities, certain execution, and if you can bring the right people in to fill those gaps, you will bring those right people in that you can build out a great team and a great ecosystem to build and grow in that space. So I think that is all very valuable information and thank you for sharing that. I would like to kind of pivot a little bit into 1 kind of story that you may have and it just shows what an entrepreneur will be like, what they’ll go through. It’s kind of one of those heartfelt stories, so something that just pops in your mind from all of the years that you’ve been working with startups, is there a story that you can share that really defines what it takes to be a startup or what it takes to be an entrepreneur? Is there something that just pops in your mind of how this female founder you’re working with and just overcame all the obstacles and is crushing it in the market or something like that? Just looking for a story that really will get our community excited about wanting to become an entrepreneur.

Vandana: Yeah, so an entrepreneur, you know, being an entrepreneur requires perseverance, patience, and you know, your mind should be totally calm and center. That’s why I recommend all founders to read the book Power of the subconscious mind. It helps you to remain centered, it helps you to deeply connect with your subconscious mind. And then you hit you know the right areas and achieve the right stuff because you get that inner guidance. So we had a startup which we did investments for 1.5 years. We got him three investors, he worked really hard, it was a fintech startup, nobody believed in him and I believed, and I said, “Look I’m gonna do this thing.” You know, we got him three term sheets. We gave him a dd List way beforehand. You know, we told him you need to have these documents in order and you know, he didn’t have to documents in order, his dd failed and we told him you need to correct the dd, you know, we’re gonna help you out to correct it. But he still didn’t listen to all the fun guys back down. So that all hard work of 1.5 years got wasted. But that founder didn’t give up and I started looking for funds again. So I like that, you know, like, though he messed it up with a lot many places, but then he said, “No, we’re gonna do it again.” You know, I mean like somebody who has gone through all those meetings, you know, heard so much about with the investors. Investors were fighting which one would be the lead investor. And then again, having that, “You know, we’re gonna do it again.” So that was like, I’m like, “Okay, I get it.”

Jeffery: And it worked?

Vandana: It worked. And I just would like to share my own story. I think because that is the one that I can relate to. The fact that I reached here is because I never gave up. I had a lot of obstacles being a woman being a matter of two kids. You know, I had to manage a lot of things. The fact that I didn’t give up and I believed in myself, I think that got me here and I really didn’t care who thinks what. So I wouldn’t give a damn about it. And, you know, I was like, okay. You know, like, I think so. I was able to manage almost everything. It was not an easy journey. There were, you know, times when I would just, you know, sit and think ‘now what’, but then, like I said, you know, because I remained centered, calm, and I connected, keep connecting myself with my subconscious mind and like each time I could do things better and better, I did my yoga’s on time, I did my morning exercises. So I think it’s very important to have a healthy mind and protect your mental energy. If you protect your mental energy, nothing affects you, then it’s only you and your productivity. So I think it’s very important. Well, everybody, whether it’s a woman, whether it’s a male, to have that thing to how to protect your mental energy. That’s really important, and one should really value that because money, you know, work, life goes on. But if your mental energy is not in order, then that’s it. You know, you’ve lost the battle right there and it’s not that people try to put me down. You know, there was a point in time when, you know, your own family members are not with you, it’s just you, yourself. So I think I just, had those moments, but I remained calm and everybody came back, friends, family and once you become successful, I guess things change.

Jeffery: Amazing. That’s a great story. Well, both of them are great stories, but I appreciate that because you showed both sides of your heart exterior and your soft interior. So very well done. And I appreciate you sharing that. Thank you. That was great. And I wholeheartedly agree. You’re going to go through ups and downs as an individual, as a business, as an investor, as a founder and some people will be with you. Some people you’ll lose along the way and other people will come back. But if you have a well balanced self being that you’re going to persevere and you believe in yourself, that’s what’s going to help you keep moving forward. And I think that comes from that inner belief and there will be a time where everybody will support you and hopefully it’s the whole time. But if it happens to be at the end, when you are more successful, well then just make sure you do know who your friends and family are. But again, keep your head up and always believe in yourself.

Vandana: Yeah. And, you know, there were times when people told me, “You can’t do it and you’re a woman, you can’t do it. And what are you doing? You know, I mean, this industry is for men.” And I said, “No, I’m gonna do it.”

Jeffery: I love it.

Vandana: So I did it. And you know, it’s quite amazing the talks that I give on UK TV many times, I’m the only female and I find it really funny, but it’s just there. So, you know, so I’ve got used to it. And because I didn’t give up, because I stayed strong, you know, you have your own moments and so I could nail it each time. And, you know, when you’re alone and when you’re protecting your mental energy, your mind works really fast. And you do things much better, I feel. So I think my children also became independent. During COVID, my daughter started working for a big company. She was in 10th grade, and that cake company had zero revenue. My daughter did their website designing. My daughter did the Instagram page, Facebook page, all the pages. Got them banners made and their revenue increased three times more. So you know, she utilized energy in that manner. Then I told her, “Look, you do my website,” and she did my website also. So it’s come out really well. So I think we have to, once even the children see us, they start learning how to be more productive though they were on the other side. I was hearing stories of children, you know, just doing unproductive things on instagram and other stuff when these kids were doing something different. So I think that education, if we in part to the children from a young age is they do well.

Jeffery: I agree with that. Well, very well said. And very exciting that your daughter is also picking up your skills and becoming a self-internalized, but also pushing outwards and growing and learning. Which is very exciting. So kudos, because she’s learning from a great person and you’ve done a lot of great things and I’m glad that you stuck to your guns and push forward and kick those people in your life that told you you couldn’t do something because I can’t stand those people. But at the same time, as much as we may not stand them, they’re the fuel that drive you forward because they’re the ones that help you. So the more I- you can’t do this the better, but they don’t need to be in your life. But they needed to come in to say that because that’s what drove you to where you are. So, I’m glad that they were there to say it, because that’s who made you are today. So, that’s a good thing.

Vandana: Yeah, it’s absolutely positive and thanks to them. (Laughs)

Jeffery: I love it. All right. Well, those are some great stories and wholeheartedly appreciate that. I think that you bring a lot of great emotion to the conversation, which is amazing. Thank you. That’s a very good share. Okay, we’re gonna transition just into the rapid fire questions. Is that good? You’re ready for those? All right. Perfect.

Vandana: Ready.

Jeffery: What is your favorite part of investing?

Vandana: Favorite part of investing? I love pitch deck meetings. So I think, you know, I get so involved in it. I want to look into it, each slide. I think that’s my favorite part and of course fun hitting the counts and I’m getting my fees and everybody being happy. I think these two parts are really a favorite.

Jeffery: Perfect. What got you started in investing in startups? What was the story that made you decide to invest in a startup?

Vandana: I wanted to do, you know, women typically there were very few investors in those days. Now there are many more and it was believed that women cannot manage money. And you know, and I would feel very uncomfortable about this because they can actually do a lot more better and manage money better. So I just wanted to prove that, look, we can do it. So I think that kicked me inside each day. And each time I got a negative comment, it picked me more. So just, you know, I said, “Okay”. So, if somebody said a negative comment, I would say okay, and one year after that, I would just prove myself, look, I proved you wrong. So that would like really shake them up. But it was like, I would just take it as a game, you know.

Jeffery: I like it. I think that it must have been males that were going around and telling people that women couldn’t do finance because majority of the world is run by women in finance. Like literally the percentage is something like 73% of finances run by women. So I think it was just guys feeling insecure, sharing stupid dreams that they thought that they weren’t good at money. I think women are way better at money and more trustworthy than men are. So I’m just sharing that hopefully that supports the drive that you had because I think it’s a good drive.

Vandana: No it was not only men. There were females also you know, so they were both. Both of them because so you know, I wouldn’t say I didn’t want to do the typical woman thing, you know cooking or you know like even my daughter played soccer. I didn’t want that difference between pink and blue. You know, I found it really odd. So I think I just wanted everybody to be equal and you know, being able to get-

Jeffery: I agree.

Vandana: -that chance whether it’s a male or a female. So I think that was the drive that was more inside that look, you know, we can all, it’s not that women are meant for kitchen or you know for mothering or it’s like everybody should be able to do everything.

Jeffery: Agreed.

Vandana: I mean I have to change the wheel of a car, I should be able to do. I mean I should not think, oh it’s a man’s job, you know, so similarly for male can, should be able to cook or you know, take care of the kids as well. So I think that is really important. Though we stay, you know, really modern world, whether it’s abroad or in India, there is certain kind of- at the back of the mind that’s always that different, you know that different thinking that this work is for them and this world is for us. It’s all over the world. It’s even in America I’ve seen, “Oh you have three kids, can you do this?” So you know, they would ask these ladies and you know, so I think it’s everywhere. It’s not just so that breaks the confidence. And that is when many women, they just, you know back off and they leave their corporate jobs. They do funny things. I mean they leave their talents. But I think if they stick to their talents and prove it while they’re managing the family, I think that’s when they have actually won the battle.

Jeffery: Well, we all own the right to coexist. It doesn’t matter who you are, what your culture is, what your color is. We all belong and we all deserve an opportunity. And I think we need to understand what each other’s strengths are and what our weaknesses are and we should be able to work on our strengths and allow other people to support us on our weaknesses. But we’re all in this together. And I think a lot of people forget that there’s a fear of somebody doing more than you are having more than your bigger house or a bigger car or whatever it might be. And I think it’s the wrong mentality. And I think we should all figure out how we can just all coexist and help support each other on the things that we’re not good at and support the things that we are good at. And I think that allow us all to find the right spot to be in and if you wanna cook or you want to run a billion dollar company or a trillion dollar fund and if you’re a female or you’re a woman of color, I think all of these things work and you can do whatever you want and your mind should drive because the best person will drive forward and support you. And we should just allow for all these great things to happen. Because that’s what’s gonna allow innovation to take over the world versus putting ourselves in boxes like you said. And then we don’t expand and we don’t grow.

Vandana: Yeah, and we do compare ourselves. So I think once we stop comparing and we start to get more productive as well. So I think that comparison in our heads have to stop. Look at now we had in the second wave of the pandemic. Globally, we need to unite with each other, eradicate this monster, you know, monstrous virus that is eating up people from all globally, from all the places globally and join hands and come together and you know, so I think that would, you know, once we unite and do things together, I think we can do things faster that way.

Jeffery: I like it, it sounds like you and I are on a path for creating a better United Nations to do something that’s more impactful for the world than what we’re looking at right today, because a lot of things aren’t working and they need to change their mindset, which I think goes back to your book, The Power of the subconscious mind. I think we all need to change that and I’m going to read that book. So a million. Amazing. I love it.

Vandana: I also do, well, I watch a lot of videos on the law of attraction. So everything. So, it’s my Robert Zink that I watch the law of attraction. It’s everything is inside us and we can attract with things we all deserve to attract with things. It’s just that we need to open our subconscious mind and be authentic, and once that happens and we align ourselves with that, I think things start connecting better.

So I think I would recommend that also because these two things, the power of the subconscious mind and doing a lot of law of attraction. You know, really, really helped me. It’s kind of a content computing, you can say. But it really helped me to like really switch 360 degrees. I completely change in every way. So I think that’s the thing.

Jeffery: Well said and I’ve documented this. Very good. All right. We’re gonna have a couple of quick questions and then we’re going to the personal side. But we’ll jump through this. Do you have any preferred terms that you like to invest on? Prep shares? Common shares, anything that you prefer or do you just keep it open ended?

Vandana: Equity investments we do quite a lot and sectors that I prefer: health tech, food tech, agri tech, f intech detect, deep tech. These are some of the sectors. AI, I love the AI. Robotics, IOT, anything related to AI, anything that is destructive, robotics. I just love it. So I think I would love to invest in that.

Jeffery: Okay, awesome. And do you, how many companies do you invest in per year?

Vandana: Right now, we have stopped investing. We are more than to advisory. It’s been two years plus, but initially, we used to invest in about five companies.

Jeffery: Okay. Perfect. Well, we hope that starts back up again, but advising is just as valuable and do you take board seats?

Vandana: Yeah, we do.

Jeffery: Okay. Perfect. Okay. We’re gonna jump just because of timing and I want to make sure we keep that in line. I’m going to- we’re gonna jump into the personal side. So the first question, what is your favorite sports team?

Vandana: My favorite sports team? I’m not a sports person, but I like cricket a lot. I like to go.

Jeffery: That’s good. I’m just curious. We always got to find a way to connect to people. So cricket is a good sport. All right. Favorite movie, and what character would you play in the movie?

Vandana: I like Minions.

Jeffery: Okay.

Vandana: Because they keep things light and you know, the messages passed across and I think I would play, the in despicable Me. One of the characters in that. The main characters in that.

Jeffery: One of the minion characters-

Vandana: The main one.

Jeffery: Or the kids or the, what’s his name? Groot, Grout, grout, group.

Vandana: Yeah Grout.

Jeffery: Yeah. He’s good. The innovator. He’s a good dude. I like him. Yeah, very cool. Okay. The last question, what is your superpower?

Vandana: My superpower is remaining calm at all times. That’s my superpower.

Jeffery: I like it. I’ve actually heard this one a few times from a few investors that are- that they are very calm. I like that. It’s a good skill.

Vandana: And I add humor to everything. So even if I, you know, I’m having a bad day, I just add humor to it and it just ends there.

Jeffery: Brilliant. That’s brilliant. I like that. That’s good. You have to, well, I’m not very good at humor. So I will choose to not add humor because then no one will get my jokes so I just choose not to. And I hope someone else can throw in humor. But I do appreciate someone that can break the room with a good joke. So that’s awesome.

Vandana: Yeah. Thank you.

Jeffery: Smiles help to and you, I think you use that. Your spiritual side is very open. So that’s good.

Vandana: Yeah, I do read a bhagavad-gita with details. so I forgot to tell you that I’m a strong follower of Krishna. I follow the iscon a lot and I think a lot of attraction matches with the bhagavad-gita a lot. So when I read that and I, and I do that and I’m like, it’s matching so I get more excited to do it. So there is a lot of spiritual side to me. Yeah.

Jeffery: I like it. You’re, I guess so for all you are a very balanced investor. So that is very good.

Vandana: Yeah, very balanced, risk taker. But a balanced risk taker.

Jeffery: That is good. I’m not sure there’s many out there, but it’s a good, you’re cornering the market and a balanced risk taker. That’s good. I like it. Well, Vandana, I want to say, thank you very much for all your time today. I had a really awesome pleasure of speaking with you. I always say I won’t take notes and I probably in the same line, but I did, it took lots of notes or you can’t see them. There you go. I took lots of notes even though I can watch the video and listen to the podcast many times. I take notes. I’m a big fan. Thank you very much. Again for all your time. I’ve learned a lot and I, and I hope the audience will learn just as much. But the way we like to end the show is I like to leave it with you with the last word. So anything you want to share to entrepreneurs or to investors, I turn it over to you. But again, thank you very much for your time today.

Vandana: Thank you so much for having me here and deeply honored. My last message is just be humble, keep smiling, stay safe, healthy, happy and strong and don’t ever give up and life is really short and you know, in this pandemic stage that we are, do good stuff and you know, just keep everyone around you happy because you never know what’s going to happen next. So I think that’s my message. I hope it helps anybody who’s watching and let’s do a lot more investments this year. And you know, make pandemic show the other side of the pandemic.

Jeffery: I agree. I like it. Thank you very much again for your time today, Vandana and I’m going to pause it there. But thank you.

Vandana: Thank you. Bye.

Jeffery: Oh that was great. I think Vandana brings a lot of one travel across the globe working in different spaces, being able to offer a whole different gambit of skill sets. But I do like the fact that she gave some really good feedback on things to prepare for when you are going to raise funds, other options to raise funds with. And you know, just make sure that you’ve got goals, achievements in a drive, that’s what people are looking for and that’s what’s gonna make that investment a lot easier. She provided some great books: power of the subconscious mind, laws of attraction. So very cool. And of course, very well, well based and well rounded, great conversation. So thank you again for your time today, like us, share us, add us on all the social platforms. But we look forward to chatting with you more and have a fantastic day and week. Thank you.

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