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Nov 18, 2022
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India is a beacon even in these times is testimony that it is a resilient and a fundamentally strong market

-Shailesh Ghorpade, Co-founder and Managing partner, Exfinity Ventures

Team 100X interviewed some of the top investors across the globe about their venture investing journeys, startups, and India. Here, Shailesh Ghorpade, Co-founder and Managing partner, Exfinity Ventures shares his responses.

 

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

We entered the Venture space in late 2013 – early 2014. Personally, I am delighted to meet a wide variety of audacious and imaginative founders, listen to their ideas, learn from them and try and work with them to give them some shape – whether it is capital or other interventions. I have a selfish motive that founders keep me young and open minded and their energy is infectious. In the process, I will not deny that there is motivation to generate outsized returns to the fund and its investors. However, the larger calling is that India has transformed after the start up ecosystem has taken roots and it is just the beginning. The excitement of what tomorrow beckons is palpable and I can’t wait to experience it. Brand India is on a high and will even go higher and to be a part of the same is a fascinating journey.

 

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

Workday is a 9-10 hour over meetings with start ups, investors and team. As a fund we have always worked together and there is no WFH. We like to attend office, discuss, collaborate and execute. I and my other partners are very clear about working from office. However even on a work day, I alternate between Yoga and Running and I spend close to 75-80 minutes on fitness. There is some reading to catch up on a workday but mainly current affairs. I follow sports keenly and on a leisure day you will invariably find me on a golf course playing with some like minded golfers and it is fun. There is no better way to unwind yourself than playing a sport.

 

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

That India is a beacon even in these times is testimony that it is a resilient and a fundamentally strong market. Given the geo-political situation and while there is rhetoric of moving supply chains from China, it is not too easy. That being said, if India works on its labour reforms, we have the potential to be a manufacturing powerhouse. Having said that, there are several self imposed shackles which stifle our growth and while there is some change, doing business in India is still not very smooth given the arbitrariness of our tax laws and the myriad processes that one has to follow for compliance – it takes away your energy and attention from doing business. Hence India has huge potential given all the obvious factors but it is for us to lose from here

 

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

We have always been an Enterprise tech fund. We have never come to terms with understanding the consumer tech model so we have stuck to our knitting. We are sector agnostic and primarily our investment can be bucketed into three themes – Deep Tech where we have done companies in Robotics, Mobility, Chip Design and Healthtech to Enterprise SaaS to Products and Platform companies. We are an early stage fund (pre Series A / A) and our cheque sizes are between 1-3M although we do take some early stage bets as an exception where cheque sizes could be around 500K USD.

 

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

  1. Stay away from businesses where tech adoption risks are high

  1. Stay away from capital-intensive businesses

  1. Spaces that are humongous and whose time has come are the most productive

  1. Stay away from single founders no matter how brilliant they are – either the founder does not believe in building a top team or he has not been able to excite anyone to join him – either which way it is a terrible thing.

  1. Do not extend more funding support to a start-up (already funded by your fund) if either you lose faith in the team or you lose faith in the business.

 

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

  1. Mobility primarily in areas of alternate battery chemistry, battery recycling, intelligence around the BMS which will create models for funding and underwriting etc

  1. Robotics given its impact on Industry 4.0

  1. Vertical SaaS

  1. Video AI

  1. Fintech

 

Q7. Top 5 advice you would give to a startup founder.

  1. Target large spaces

  1. Respect Capital and ensure that you pay attention to doing the right things from a governance standpoint

  1. Constantly take customer and market feedback – continuously listen to what customers and markets are saying and accordingly build your product hypothesis

  1. Track meaningful and relevant metrics – visit the first principles of finance for the same. Vanity metrics do you no good except lull you into complacency

  1. Be restless and paranoid – evolve constantly. Track competition closely and not just on how much capital they have raised but look at their proposition, team strengths, customers, pricing, and product very closely.

 

Q8. How do you support your portfolio companies?

Since we are an early-stage fund, we do partner with our portfolio companies in many ways to add value – getting them customers, providing them support on finance and governance, work with them on building a team, refer them to the broader ecosystem to raise capital by leveraging our relationships etc.

 

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

We are excited about a lot of companies in our portfolio but if you have to look at some stand out names they will be Pixis, Log 9 Materials, Hippo Video, Skit.ai, Ati Motors, Credilio, Locus and a few others. My excitement from all these companies comes from the fact that all these founders are exceptionally brilliant, but they have always looked to make their start up into a business and they have made that transition quite well. One of our other companies, MoEngage always makes us proud but sadly we have exited the same. However, one thing I am big about is Execution. And all these companies are good at it. You may have a first class product and a strategy but a third class execution – I would rather back a company with a first class execution but may be a second class product.

 

Q10. When you started your career what were your ambitions?

As a B School graduate, when I started it was always the corner office but over the time you realise the futility of such self fulfilling ambitions. My kick in life is to make a difference, however small, to all the stakeholders.

 

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

I like to read biographies / autobiographies of a cross section of people from Business to Economics to Sport to Musicians to Artists etc and learn from their journey, their perspectives. A lot of people inspire me from all walks of life. Many times I look for excellence in people who are not even known and get inspired. You do not need to only look upwards for inspiration. If you look sideways or even below, you will find it in plenty if you are perceptive. I find all those people fascinating.

 

Q12. Books or Blogs you would recommend entrepreneurs?

There are quite a few books but I will go by some recent books that I read. One is Outsiders by William Thorndike Jr. This is a must read for all start up founders and I would urge them to read. The Platform Delusion by Jonathan Knee is another seminal work.

 

Q13. If you have interacted with

100X.VC, please share a few good words about us. 

100x.Vc is a fantastic platform that really strikes at the roots of the start-up ecosystem. The team is well rounded and they provide a phenomenal multiplier effect to not only financially give the start-ups an impetus but several start-ups who eventually come to us have given a great account of 100x.VC and their engagement model. They have pioneered some innovative financial instruments which is extremely light and less onerous so start-ups do not spend much time doing arduous documentation. In my view, and to use the start up lingo, 100x.Vc provides all the funds a very curated and well diversified TOFU (top of the funnel). I wish the entire 100x.vcteam all success and look forward to strengthening our partnership.

 

About Shaliesh :

Shailesh Ghorpade is the Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Exfinity Venture Partners, a VC fund focused on funding early-stage start-ups in Enterprise Tech space. Exfinity presently manages assets of approx. USD 70M and has launched its third fund targeting USD 100M which is planned for closure by Sept 2022. Exfinity’s investment thesis is to back early-stage disruptive ideas where technology is a strong moat. During its inception, Exfinity was the only true-blue fund to focus exclusively on Enterprise Tech deals and still remains one of the rare funds in India to occupy this space. Exfinity has an eclectic portfolio of companies in Deep Tech, Enterprise SaaS, Products and Platform space and some of them are now global leaders in their category. Shailesh has almost 30 years of post-qualification experience in diverse areas like Consulting, Financial Services, Renewables, and Real Estate. Shailesh is an alumnus of UDCT and Jamnalal Bajaj Institute of Management Studies, Mumbai. An avid golfer, Shailesh also likes to read, write, run and listen to music.



 

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