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Business News/ Companies / Start-ups/  Why Ola is in ITI Growth Opportunities’ anti-portfolio

Why Ola is in ITI Growth Opportunities’ anti-portfolio

That Ola's valuation trebled in a matter of two weeks didn't make sound investment logic for ITI Growth Opportunities, says Mohit Gulati

Mohit Gulati, managing general partner at ITI Growth Opportunities Venture Fund.Premium
Mohit Gulati, managing general partner at ITI Growth Opportunities Venture Fund.

It was 2013, and I remember meeting Bhavish Aggarwal quite a few times at startup events. Back then, Ola wasn’t an app-based taxi aggregator, but a more old-school “phone-a-cab" service, operational only in Mumbai.

In mid-2013 as Ola gained traction, we got the opportunity to buy a small 4.5 crore secondary chunk in the company at a valuation of 288 crore. For a company that was losing money hand over fist on each ride, it sure was an expensive deal. Nonetheless, as part of our standard investment procedure, we immediately headed to Bengaluru to meet Bhavish at Ola’s first Koramangala office.

In all my venture investing years till date, I haven’t met a laser-focussed founder like Bhavish. His untiring obsession for Ola clubbed with the determination, sold me over. After an hour with him, a full 4.5 crore was committed. What followed was a full two weeks of lull. The banker handling the secondary called back saying the tranche is available, but was now at a revised 900 crore valuation, owing to a large marquee investor coming in with a $20 million primary.

That was a 3 times jump in 2 weeks! This defied investment logic and, unfortunately, at that moment in time, the sane mind overpowered the heart in rejecting the transaction.

Lesson Learnt: Never have hindsight remorse. Learn to adapt/modify your investment style on a case to case basis. Not all deals are logical. Sometimes, as investors, we have a tiny gut that speaks to us while sitting right across a great founder. Follow your instincts more often than not.

Last year, when I sold my Mercedes, I messaged Bhavish a photo of it getting sold. I am a believer in Ola; an ardent ‘Select’ customer since inception. Not being invested doesn’t mean I can’t be their No.1 Customer! Also, till date, I have not used Uber at all!!

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Published: 24 Sep 2018, 11:40 PM IST
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