I am a full-time early stage investor and a hands on father to my son. Being a parent to an only child, most parents, become controlling to the point of interfering. Obviously, I, too, had that urge while my son was growing up. But my investor skills have taught me that whether it is startups or your child, you can’t do good for them if you become a control freak. Now, my investment and parenting mantra run parallel.

I have learnt the art of playing the role of a guidance counsellor and let my startup founders and my son decide the best course of action as per their choice and capabilities.

When the startups come to our fund, we are usually the first institutional investor. At that stage, the business model is sometimes in prototype stage or in post validation stage, where getting early customer traction is crucial for the survival of the business.

Investing at early stage is a different ball game. It is like raising an infant—teaching him how to scale up the business, opening up doors of opportunities, even calling in favours for them to land crucial business. An early stage venture capitalist (VC) is often looked upon by the entrepreneur not only as an investors but as a mentor whose job is to act as a friend, guide and sometimes as a shoulder to cry on. On the face of it, no one outside knows what real strength it takes on the part of a founder to pull through the early days to guarantee the survival of the business and livelihood of the people working for the company. No one, except an early stage investor, who has a ring side view of the entire journey of that company.

I related my job as an early stage VC with being a father to a boy who is also now getting ready to venture out in the world on his own. He will soon be going to a college, which is two continents away. When this finally sank in, I realized my emotions are somewhat similar to nurturing and growing a company from early stage to Series A.

In my role as an investor, adviser and mentor to our portfolio companies, I have treated entrepreneurs with a combination of kid gloves, toughness and often harsh feedback. I wanted them to have better business models and get ready for the real world of VCs.

It is natural for the entrepreneurs to work twice as hard to realise the ambition of the new investors, who have poured millions of dollars and are already talking of a follow on round. As an early stage VC, it makes me happy to see that overall all our portfolio companies are doing well, yet I can’t hide my withdrawal symptoms.

Early stage investors remain deeply involved with the most promising portfolio companies and in time these businesses become ready for a bigger fund raise and over time, they stop seeing much value in you as an investor or a mentor. They believe that they have spent your money well and have given you a healthy return and in sometime, you will be exiting the business.

On one hand, I want them to fly, on the other, I want to be integrally involved in every decision of theirs. I now know that the feeling is somewhat similar to when your child gets ready to leave home for the first time. My son has left as a freshman. As a parent, I want to give him the same support I used to when he was at home—the daily wake up calls, watching over his activities and rushing to make things easier for him.

But now, I am able to see how I may be curbing his growth with this constant helicopter parenting. In fact, this is akin to an early stage VC who doesn’t want to let go and let the entrepreneur under his guidance flourish just because he, as the VC, signed the first cheque. When I look at my son I realize, as he flies higher, he needs less advice from me because he has now surrounded himself with new advisors. And that is what startup founders you may have nurtured, do too.

Only when you have this maturity as a VC, will you be able to see yourself through this friction and let the entrepreneur under your care grow without becoming an impediment. When the final exit happens, you will learn to feel happy proud and take the credit for nurturing the fledgling business even though those who came in later probably will do a better job at making the business scale up and become profitable.

Learning to draw the fine line between nurturing and being overtly involved at first, and then letting go, is in essence what makes a successful early stage VC and a parent.

Bhaskar Majumdar is managing partner, Unicorn India Ventures and a seasoned early stage VC

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