Team 100X interviewed some of the top investors across the globe about their venture investing journeys, startups, and India. Here, Girish Shivani, Executive Director and Fund Manager at YourNest India VC Fundshares his responses.
Q1. What is your motivation to be in the venture investing business
I am actually an accidental VC, serendipitously reached out to Sunil, who looped in Sanjay, while they were conceptualising the first fund and they were looking for a partner with an enterprise tech background. Quit my job at 41 and ever since have been a part of the VC world.
Q2. Describe your workday and leisure day, how does it look like
I manage the deal flow at YourNest, so I don’t really have a leisure day. I work 7 days a week. I usually find time during the day itself to unwind so I typically play golf in the morning, twice a week. I also go for walks in the morning, start my day at 6:30 am and go to bed at 11:30 Pm. Fun fact, I actually got to bed with 0 unread emails!
I read a lot of pitch decks and tech-focused newsletters, one of my favourites being Medium.
I have interests in astronomy as well!
Q3. What is your view on the future of India as a market
I think considering the way China has imploded, we are the 2nd largest VC market and in no time we will become no.1 both from a size perspective and from a tech adoption perspective. As a VC I’ve gotten an inside view of how the market has evolved and we have a long way to go, I feel like we have just scratched the tip of the iceberg.
Q4. Help describe your investment thesis and ideas you would like to back
When we started we were a tech and tech enabled-focused fund. We were looking at deep-tech, shallow tech B2B, B2C, IP led etc. but as we matured into 2nd or 3rd fund we sharply defined our investment thesis. We are the only fund in the country that is a purely deep tech, IP-led firm that helps build global products out of India.
There are 2 layers to deep tech one is the entire hardware vertical around Sensor, Robotics, Wearables, IoT etc the other is software vertical around AI, machine learning, distributed ledger technologies, Enterprise SaaS etc. As long as the investments are a combination of one or more of the core technologies that we focus on, we are happy to evaluate.
Q5. What are your 5 key learnings from your experience as a venture investor
- Biggest learning is that business plans do not fail in excel sheets,but these fail when it comes to execution.
- You can never underestimate the power of a team, a single person can only take an opportunity as far, its the team that does the magic.
- The sharper you are in terms of segment definition the better you can channelize your resources and target the niche.
- Keep your friends close and your enemies closer, if you don’t have information about the competitive landscape, you can only go that far.
- Be open to new ideas and be flexible in your startup journey.
Q6. Mention top 5 consumer/industry/technology trends in India and globally
So broadly, I think the next decade or the next 15-20 years is the year for product companies in India. We’ve seen in the last 25-30 years, how the growth of tech services companies like BM, Accenture, and Infosys has generated close to USD500bn wealth, and how they’ve scaled up using Indian engineering skill sets to get the service model that is currently in use.
The same trend is coming into play on the IP Led product side in India. The Indian product-based companies in the next 15-20 years, will generate trillion dollars of wealth. Backing interesting founding teams working on deep tech and building products in India at Indian prices but selling across the globe is what I think will be the forerunner in the next few years.
Q7. Top 5 pieces of advice you would give to startup founder
- I think the first piece of advice is to find co-founders who bring complementary skills. If you are a techie go find a commercial guy and vice versa, if you’re a product guy then find a service guy, and vice versa. An individual skill set does not take you far, it’s the diversity in skill sets that take you to places.
- Don’t cringe at investing in sales at the right time because at the end of the day, cash runs the business engine, if you do sell then there is no way you can build the scalability factor for your startup.
- You have to be a storyteller as a founder because you’re selling your story to your employees, customers, and investors and you have to be a credible storyteller at that. Especially if you are a techie we’ve seen that gap exists which is important to fill.
- Build the right structure for the moving car. Build a culture of openness, and empathy and value your partners and employees, value your families, that is extremely important.
- Keep a very sharp eye on cash flow. cannot move your eye from how much cash you are burning and fix it as quickly as you can if the trend is divergent
Q8. How do you support your portfolio companies
So we are tied to the hip, we win only when our portcos win so whatever is required from our side to make them succeed we do it whether it be hiring, or expansion. Starting from getting the right set of co-investors, and introducing them to the right set of people. We have a 100-day playbook that every company goes through as we help them build the right structure for their company, so everything that is required to manage the funds effectively and move forward we are happy to help with. We pride ourselves as nurture capitalists.
Q9. Which of your portfolio company you are very excited about and why
I have 25 portcos and I am excited about all of them! We’ve invested in this company called Exponent Energy from Bangalore that is building fast charging infra. They help with the last-mile delivery infrastructure. They can bring the vehicle to full charge in 30 mins. They just raised $13 million dollars.
Q10. When you started your career what were your ambitions
As I said, I’ve become a VC accidentally, there was no ambition and this was not on the roadmap at all, I quit a very cushy job at the age of 41 when I was at the top of my career then, and started my journey in the VC world. I realised that If I didn’t take the plunge at that time then I would have never been able to do so.
Q11. What inspires you in life and what keeps you awake at night
Very honestly what keeps me awake is the deal flow, that something will cross my table and I will pass it and it will become the next big thing. We get an opportunity to write a cheque and if we don’t write that cheque then whatever happens it becomes a loss of a very big opportunity.
I should be able to do justice to the deals that come to my table. As long as these decisions are conscious and we are not looking at it in a very superficial manner, I am happy. We look at every opportunity as if it were the next big thing. Our promise to the ecosystem is that – do write to us, and you will hear back from us.
And as to what inspires me, I think that any sort of achievement and path-breaking stuff that pushes the envelope excites me, whether it be somebody doing fundamental physics research or be it humans travelling to mars. Wherever boundaries of science are being pushed and frontiers of human knowledge are being tested, is what keeps me inspired.
Q12. Books or Blogs you would recommend entrepreneurs
I voraciously read fiction, 2 books a week. Nonfiction puts me to sleep, and I’ve been doing 2 fiction books per week for the last 25 years. I enjoy thrillers, sci -fi , world war 2-based stories, cold war stories, etc.
I have regularly interacted with 100X VC, right from the very first cohort. Sanjay and Shashank are good friends and we’ve looked at every company that’s come out of 100x. The way you run the cohorts is very interesting, demo day is very slick and I think the companies that come out of your portfolio are amazing. The quality of the founders is very encouraging and am excited to attend the next demo day!
About Girish :
An eight-hour drive from New Delhi, where Girish Shivani lives with his wife, daughter and son stands a hillock. At some stage in the not-too-distant future, he hopes to complete constructing the house that is designed to be his summer getaway.
However, his obsession with analysing every deal that comes his way (and there were as many as 3,447 startups that he personally assessed in 2020) is delaying this project. It is perhaps the only thing in his life that is behind schedule: not a day goes by without Girish clearing his inbox of every single mail. No proposal is agreed to or amended or turned down without his eagle eye running through every last detail.
That’s not all he does: at YourNest Venture Capital, Girish is responsible for developing the investment strategy, spotting emerging trends, identifying investment opportunities, monitoring and reviewing progress at portfolio companies and hand holding them for building robust processes leading to their success.
Girish also straddles cross-functional domains including Financial Markets, Operations of PE/VC funds, Legal Frameworks, Deal Syndication and General Management. He has been involved in multiple initiatives across Telecom and Media verticals involving new product design, conceptualization, development and launch of VAS and content services. His robust process centricity, analytical and decision support capabilities have made him a trusted advisor to his clients.
Girish has experience in Telecom, Media, IT Consulting and Financial Services, and is an alumnus of St. Stephens’ College, New Delhi, in Computer Science and MBA from IMT Ghaziabad. A passionate golfer, his other hobbies include cooking, astronomy and photography.
-Girish Shivani, Executive Director and Fund Manager, YourNest India VC Fund