In my fifteen years as an entrepreneur, I have never managed to raise venture capital for my own company. (Some of the companies I have invested in over the past three years have been very successful with their own fund-raising efforts.) Very recently, a deal that I was negotiating with for Netcore fell through as it neared its closing. And that made me think through the years since I started IndiaWorld about the ten failed efforts to raise venture capital. Most of these endeavours were from 1995-99 while I was growing IndiaWorld. In Netcore, I said No a couple years to an investment offer, and this time around, a set of cascading efforts led the prospective investors to withdraw. Given the string of fruitless efforts, I can only conclude that VCs and I are not made-for-each-other!While the reasons for these aborted attempts to raise funding are many, I can distill them into two key areas: valuation not being right, and deep disagreement on issues on which neither of us would compromise. A relationship with a VC is like a marriage – and one in which divorce is not a possibility. So, both sides have to be absolutely sure before entering into the relationship. It is better not to enter into a relationship if either party has doubts.
In my case, two things have helped me be more choosy. In IndiaWorld, we were profitable from the early days so I was never in a situation where I had to take capital for survival. In Netcore, I have the ability to invest my own capital – which I have done over the past 5+ years. Maybe, this makes us a most unlikely target for venture capital going ahead!
There have been more than a few VCs whom I would have liked to have got on board – and in all cases, it was for the person at the firm who I believed could add tremendous value (beyond money) to help build the business. At the end, this is perhaps the most important criteria. If the value is not in the person (VC), then it becomes a pure financial investment – which, depending on the situation, may or may not be the right thing to do.
In the past 15 years, I have always found discussions with VCs helpful. They bring in an objectivity as outsiders which every business needs. At times, we as entrepreneurs and managers are so closely involved in the thick of the trees that it becomes easy to lose sight of the wider forest one is navigating through.
So, back to Netcore. We are at an exciting stage in our evolution. The foundation has been laid, much of the management team is in place. It will still require great execution from here on to realise the dreams we have in the coming years. Capital is only one of the raw materials. As I look back, I can only speculate on what life would have been with a VC.