At what stage of your start-up should you seek investors or funding?
Answering an audience’s question from an investor’s perspectives, Sandeep says VCs or investors are looking to see how strongly start-ups believe in their solution and how their solution is different from others. They want to see a solution’s differentiation helping them break into an existing market. However, he maintains that every investor has a unique stage focus. Some like early-stage companies, others like growth stage companies.
Akshay, from a founder’s perspective, says there’s no specific answer to it. While he acknowledges that venture capital or angel investing has grown like crazy over the last couple of years and many people have made money from start-ups in the last 5 to 7 years, he thinks a more relevant question is ‘Do I (as a founder) want to take capital to dilute myself?’. As a means of advice, the Leverage Edu CEO asks fellow start-up founders – especially emerging ones – to take it slow and continue to build. He asks them to focus on the consumers and to build the best product in the market.
Answering a community question on the best channel to acquire schools as customers – virtual or on-ground sales – Beas says he sees online channels to be the most significant in the B2B business. He opines that if anybody should start a company today, it should be online first, and with time include offline operations to increase conversion.
Panelists’ views on scaling first vs monetizing first
Sam says that one of the things he has directly and intimately seen in the last 6 to 9 months are the pitfalls of choosing scale over monetization. However, he cautions that while scaling, as a result of massive one-time demand from a customer, may sound appealing to founders, it is a great risk without a monetization model. From an investors’ point of view, he says, different investors focus on different wide-proposition businesses.
While admitting scaling vs. monetizing as an age-old debate, Sandeep opined that the stakes have changed with time. He thinks it is entirely dependent on the perception and the belief of the founder. However, Sandeep says that if you firmly believe that you are out to change the world and create a network that will change the dialogue, you can make your customers pay for your efforts five years down the line. He says that one has to believe in saying ‘I’m solving a problem by creating a whole new level of thinking in networking; I’m changing the game.’ When you are game-changing, he says, you don’t have to worry about getting paid for it. You have to worry about making sure everybody believes in that new game. Then you can worry about the business model.
However, Sandeep advises that if you are entering a competitive & already occupied domain with a significant opportunity to grab the market share – provided you are playing the market share game – then you have to monetize quickly and show that you have the most efficient business model. Only then can you grab attention and grow.
Community Opinion (Poll Data)
When asked what changes he thinks are required to cater to different markets in India, Akshay voiced the incomparable value of the insights gotten by directly speaking to the on-ground users. He says that there have to be enough proof points created in the immediate surroundings for users to choose from. Lastly, he says that one needs to build credibility in one’s local surrounding as well.
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