Building a moat around the core product tech is key for a differentiated offering: Shashank Randev Founder VC, 100X.VC1 min read . Updated: 20 Jan 2020, 11:28 PM IST
- he founders, both from IIT-Bombay, were building a conversational artificial intelligence (AI) assistant for retailers
Prior to becoming an investor, I was a founding member of VCCEdge, where I monitored and analysed early-stage startups in India. That helped me develop research skills for mapping comparable startups across sectors. While there are multiple metrics a venture fund evaluates before deciding to invest, angel investors largely go by their passion and gut. At an early stage, the angel investor’s judgement call is based on the founding team, their pedigree and hope that the market size will continue to exist in the years to come. For me, conversation in commerce was and continues to be a market to go after, where vernacular would be a huge opportunity.
Buzzo.ai was one such startup that met all these criteria for me. I first met them in 2017 and decided to lead the investment round through an angel network in August 2018. The founders, both from IIT-Bombay, were building a conversational artificial intelligence (AI) assistant for retailers. They had previously exited a successful startup named Makesense Technologies, which got acquired by Info Edge India Pvt. Ltd (Naukri.com) in 2013. They were still building out the AI assistant that would understand a customer’s need through natural conversation, offering relevant recommendations and explaining why that may be the best choice. They wanted to focus on enhancing their algorithms in specific categories. I, along with other angels, wanted them to start with initial proof of concepts (PoC). Somehow, by the end of 2018, I wasn’t convinced that they would be able to sell, and decided not to lead the round.
In September 2019, Reliance-backed Haptik acquired Buzzo.ai to leverage its platform to power multilingual experiences for the next 500 million Indians that will come online to shop. My learnings from this missed opportunity were multi-fold. While it is important for deep technology startups to sell their solution, building a moat around the core product technology—with or without PoCs—will remain critical for a differentiated offering.