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Oct 17, 2022
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Given current macros and demographic dividend, India is destined for greatness

-Vinod Shankar, Partner & Co-founder, Java Capital

Team 100X interviewed some of the top investors across the globe about their venture investing journeys, startups, and India. Here, Vinod Shankar, Partner & Co-founder at Java Capital shares his responses.

Q1. What is your motivation to be in the venture investing business

I have been in the venture business for nearly a decade now, graduating from being an Angel investor to working at a large venture capital firm (kalaari) to starting my own fund Java Capital.  All along this journey when I heard an entrepreneur  with an idea to change the world with technology, that gave me the drive.  Ability to bring change,  intellectual curiosity and satiation of that curiosity  drives me everyday to do the venture business.

Q2.   Describe your workday and leisure day, how does it look like

Typical workday involves turning up on time at the office, I value discipline and consistency over talent.  Given the lean team, talking to new founders, existing portfolio founders to help them,  talking to LP's for fund raise and meetings with fellow VC's is a typical day for me. 

Leisure days I largely end up spending time with family, playing with kids, dinner at new fancy places for sure and taking small vacations as often as possible. I'm an ardent fan of cricket, so I end up watching when India plays.

Q3. What is your view on the future of India as a market

Bright! Extremely Bright! Land of incredible possibilities, the Land of dreams is here not in the west anymore. 

I'm an optimistic person, as a VC you have to, having seen through the analog to digital transition as a 90's kid, the transformation over the last 2 decades has been incredible to say the least.   Given the current macros and demographic dividend, the energy and enthusiasm in the tech world,  India is destined for greatness.    The next 2 decades will see kitchenless homes, flying taxis, robotics kitchen,  ONDC become all prevalent, our physical infrastructure will match our digital infrastructure fitness.  I'm more bullish on India now than ever before, we may have a few glitches but that's par for the course. 

Q4. Help describe your investment thesis and ideas you would like to back

Java Capital has a twin pronged thesis, one we invest in young first time founders with large market opportunities, like Bharatx, yellow Metal.  Two, we invest in second time founders and domain experts. 

Our preferred areas of investments are frontier tech, SAAS, climate and sustainability, we will make few opportunistic bets in other areas like consumer internet and brands.

Q5. What are your 5 key learnings from your experience as a venture investor

  • Play long term games with long term people, have patience with a strategy
  • Relationships and trust matter, but everyone looks out for themselves
  • After all rationalisation and objective data analysis, investment decisions boil down to who you are, not what you know.
  • Be open to meet new people, serendipity leads to more outcomes than anything

Q6. Mention top 5 consumer/industry/technology trends in India and globally

  • Frontier/Deep tech
  • Climate and sustainability 
  • SAAS - India to the world

  • Agritech
  • Blockchain 

Q7. Top 5 advice you would give to startup founder

  • Think long term, work with long term people
  • Delegate as much as possible, build teams
  • Build a culture from day 1, founder culture is company culture
  • Look at macros and switch between your telescopic and microscopic vision regularly

Q8. How do you support your portfolio companies

I take pride and make a concerted effort to add value to our companies.  Making connections with potential next round investors, helping and sharing resumes for recruiting.  Organize expert sessions and mixers for founders to help learning and exchange of knowledge of ideas within the portfolio companies. 

Q9. Which of your portfolio company you are very excited about and why

Would unfair to take a few names, I'm equally excited for all.   Personally, I love Agnikul - Uber for rockets and second Customfit.ai -  a top class conversion optimization product for the world from India. 

I'm excited about Yellow metal - digital first at home gold loan lending platform play for Bharat ( tier 3/4 towns), gold as a store of wealth is almost near universal in this country.  

Q10. When you started your career what were your ambitions

At the start I was an engineer with a business mind, curious about stock markets, balance sheets and invested my first pay into stock markets.  Over the years, the ambition has gotten refined - broadly I want to make a positive impact on people and the planet.  The planet question has been added dimension in the recent past.  Money has always been a consequence, but I have lived frugally all my life and the mind is frugal.   Aspirations exist, but this mind is more frugal.

Q11. What inspires you in life and what keeps you awake at night

I'm not awake at night, I sleep peacefully, dreams wake me up early in the morning:-). 

Nature inspires me - water, forests, the beach, food does that to me more than anything else.   The lack of wealth distribution inspires me and makes me sad at times.  Insults, rejections inspire me. 

Q12. Books or Blogs you would recommend entrepreneurs

Ayn Rand books, Navals philosophy,  The man who knew infinity, Chandra by Kameshwar C wali, Books on/by Richard Feynmann, Ogilvy on Advertising, One straw revolution.

I have briefly interacted with 100X.VC,  you folks are doing a good job encouraging young entrepreneurs and shedding light on them.  As I believe, discovering new and next generation entrepreneurs is akin to finding a rough diamond in a truck of sand, you folks are doing the hard job. Happy to work together.

About Vinod :

Vinod Shankar – Partner and Co-founder Java Capital.

Prior to this was an AVP @ Kalaari Capital and brings over 15 plus years of experience as a engineer, builder and investor in the Indian start-up ecosystem. At Kalaari, Vinod was involved in sourcing, investments and portfolio management largely for seed stage companies and mentoring the fellows.

He comes with rich and diverse experience as an entrepreneur and angel investor, with a strong understanding of marketing, business development, and technology. He is also a consultant & an advisor for startups on growth and strategy. Prior to this, he worked with JustBooks as Head of Marketing & web channel operations. During his stint at JustBooks, the company grew 12x in 5 years. Before JustBooks, he worked at Emuzed (acquired by KKR, Sequoia now called Aricent) for 5 years in the mobile video/image codecs space. He is passionate about startups and use of technology to solve problems at scale and has made early-stage investments in start-ups. He is an ardent admirer of Sam Altman of YCombinator, and his ideas on startups.

Having spent the last 7 years as an active investor, Vinod is deeply interested in the areas of deeptech, logistics, fintech, consumer internet and consumer brands. He loves reading books and travelling for leisure.

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