Rajesh Sawhney, Co-founder, InnerChef and founder, GSF Accelerator
Rajesh Sawhney, Co-founder, InnerChef and founder, GSF Accelerator

Anti-Portfolio | ‘Early-stage investing, in a way, is less of a science and more of an art’

  • As an early-stage investor, I go more by the quality of the founders rather than a market- or industry-led thesis approach
  • In a way, he had a valid point because India is not a big part of their business even today

Around 2011, a friend and I were thinking of launching a venture fund. We decided to do a few angel deals together for six-nine months and see how we develop an understanding of each other’s way of thinking. As a part of that process, we came across GreyOrange. In the first meeting itself, I liked the team a lot. We even went to their facility in Gurugram, saw their first automation product and process of developing the robotics technology. Even though I wanted to invest some money in the seed round, my partner did not agree with me. We had decided that we would only do deals which both of us agreed upon.

In hindsight, I realized that he had a more process- and thesis-driven approach, while I am more of a founder/culture-driven investor. I do believe he made a good point at that time that a non-software-based company doing robotics solutions for the Indian market did not have a great future. He felt that India would never be a big market for its product. In a way, he had a valid point because India is not a big part of their business even today. I recently met GreyOrange’s founder and found that much of its growth came from its global expansion, in the Americas and Europe. Even though I felt the team was superb and worth backing, we just couldn’t convince each other and definitely missed a great opportunity to back an innovative company.

As an early-stage investor, I go more by the quality of the founders rather than a market- or industry-led thesis approach that many venture capitalists follow. When one invests in very early stages of a company, there isn’t much history or evidence of a product-market fit, and one ends up backing the founder’s vision and execution capability of the team. Business is largely untested and is only a thesis. Early-stage investing, in a way, is less of a science and more of an art.

A section where investors talk about missed opportunities in startup investments.

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