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Apr 06, 2023
As a lifelong athlete, I understand the need for a support system that enables you to perform your best. To me, essentially that is what venture capital is

-Anoop Mohan, Investment Manager, Refex Capital

Team 100X interviewed some of the top investors across the globe about their venture investing journeys, startups, and India.Here,Anoop Mohan, Investment Manager, Refex Capitalshares his responses.

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

As a lifelong athlete, I understand the need for a support system that enables you to perform your best. To me, essentially that is what venture capital is. Not investment per se, but an enabler in the journey of an athlete fuelled by cutting-edge innovation. It’s deeply fulfilling to have access to the brightest minds in business and technology, helping them build and grow successful companies that create meaningful impact. On a personal level, I believe that investing in cleantech, healthtech and impact-driven tech, leaves the world a better place than I found it.

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

Network. Network. Network. And living out of my suitcase half the time. I am not a morning person, by any stretch of the imagination, but your purpose should give you a reason to get out of bed. Thankfully my work and my life both do. 

Work is a flurry of activity but it’s also a blast. On exciting days, we get to sign investments, plan exits and pivot entire business models. I spent most of my time at work researching tech trends and identifying promising startups that I am thrilled about. Buzzing up tech CEOs/ founders, back-to-back calls with investment bankers and industry experts is the day-to-day. Brainstorming with a portfolio company on improving cash flows, due diligence on an identified opportunity and fund legalities are part of a normal day.

I ensure that my work doesn’t live rent-free in my head during my downtime. Work-life balance is difficult in this age, but making it a point to embellish your life with activities that make you feel alive is just as important. As an adrenaline junkie, my Saturdays are usually spent surfing, swimming, in the Chennai theatre scene or catching up with friends. Sundays are usually recharge days, where I spend my downtime catching up on Netflix, reading whodunits, and failing miserably at cooking. I have recently taken a pledge to learn the basics of one new skill every weekend. And this weekend, I’m taking talents behind the bar counter, ‘coz it’s bartending. Fancy a Pina Colada or an old fashioned?

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

This is a cliché answer, but this is the best time to be investing in India. Manufacturing 4.0 is kicking off and tech-product play is gearing up for scale. The SAAS scene in the country is undergoing a paradigm shift. 

A proof of this is the surging interest from global investors. In the last few months, there have been tech layoffs across the world which means reverse immigration is imminent. This leads to mature founders starting up in India, and global business models playing out 

Additionally, Risk appetite of youth in India is also rising. They are becoming comfortable renouncing stable MNC roles, for equity and upside in startups. At some point, I hope Shark Tank viewership will beat Big Boss.

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

I come from an engineering background, so I started off as extremely bullish on technology. I believed technology was the moat that would hold the fort when the going got tough. But time and again, life has proved me wrong showing that execution is what drives revenue. Nowadays, I am all about startups that have a good mix of both the worlds - tech savvy and sales focussed. From an idea standpoint, the EV revolution happening in the country gets me super pumped. In healthtech, I believe India is waking up to mental health awareness in a major way and in ten years, it will be a mainstay of healthcare. In SAAS, I am in awe of B2B productized modules that need minimum customization to be deployed in client sites, with negligible direct costs.

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

  • Be curious

    – It’s essential to stay up-to-date on the latest news, emerging technologies, and market trends. Helps me ask the right questions too.

  • Don’t be myopic

    - Time in the market, beats timing the market. This was a mantra I learned on the trading floors I worked at. Though difficult to imbibe, Amara’s law states “we overestimate the impact of technology in the short-term and underestimate the effect in the long run”

  • Understand what you invest in

    - VCs should strive to understand what they are investing in. We don’t have to write a PhD thesis on Natural language processing before investing in a voice call analysis startup, but being able to explain to others what differentiates the startup is absolutely critical.

  • Don’t get complacent during good times

    - As your portfolio companies encounter more success, you might get complacent on the follow-ups. Always keep an eye on the metrics, so that any veering off track can be spotted from afar, and addressed before the engine runs out of fuel.

  • Stress-test your founders, but stand behind them – 

    Just like a sports coach, stress-test your founders for the worst-case scenarios but balance it out by letting them know you are standing alongside them for anything life might throw at them.

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

EV & Mobility

– The hottest trend of 2023 is the explosion of EV. It’s more of an aspirational product right now. While we are blinded by the glitz, we shouldn’t forget that there is a huge market for charging infrastructure, battery swaps and auxiliary services.

IoT based Healthcare 

– The shift towards a healthier lifestyle is clearly visible from the proliferation of smartwatches. Healthcare providers are planning to stay connected to patients through IoT based sensors which provide real time data for quick interventions.

Web 3.0 – 

Although I am still building my expertise in this domain, I am very excited to see the number of startups in the DeFi and P2P space. Data privacy and cybersecurity are still concerns to address

Cloud Kitchens –

Cloud kitchens, which need little to no infrastructure, acting as delicious dark stores are the flavour of the season. There are definitely delivery economics that need to be fine-tuned, but customer loyalty is unquestionable. 

Entertainment Tech - 

Although the sector is at a very nascent stage, media and entertainment tech startups like Roblox, Patreon and Quibi have created significant impact on a global scale. Gamification business models from this space have inspired startups in healthcare, fintech and cleantech

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


  • Hire people who share the vision – 

    It’s not the best and brightest, but the ones that stick through thick and thin that make all the difference. The vision should be inspiring enough to keep the team motivated and pay extra attention in first few hires as they define the culture of the organization

  • Be Equanimous - 

    Success shouldn’t blind you, nor should failures cripple you. Great founders have managed to cultivate a sense of inner peace and stability irrespective of external circumstances.

  • Focus on profitability - 

    Running a startup can be a stressful and demanding job, and the fundraising cycle is an equally tenacious adventure. Post 2022, capital is scarce. VCs have started to focus a lot more on unit economics and profitability.

  • Communicate – 

    Poorcommunication can cause unnecessary friction between investors, founders and the team. Create a culture of open communication within your company and the outside world.

  • Be true to yourself – 

    Don’t compromise on integrity, culture and ethics. Stay true to the vision of what you want to build. Haven’t you heard, that the whole universe is conspiring to help you achieve it?


Q8. How do VCs support portfolio companies?


  • Capital

    – The not-so-obvious answer is that mature VCs should persuade founders to refrain from raising capital unnecessarily and not give-in to peer pressure. Raising capital should be in line with vision and milestones, and not on fixed time intervals. When it is time to raise capital, VCs should ensure founders are introduced to the key players in the startup ecosystem which makes the entire process smoother.

  • Business Modelling

    – Most few founders are great innovators but few are adept in creating business models that reflect real life scenarios. VCs should extend their expertise to support founders in this regard

  • Connects / expert advise

    – VCs who have run and exited startups in their past, should derive expert insights from their startup days. Industry veterans are roped in to advise founders on possible pitfalls. Prioritize engaging with venture firms that have stellar advisory panels.

  • Hiring

    – At an early stage, hiring may be the most crucial decision founders have to take. VCs can leverage their cross functional expertise and exposure to recruit suitable candidates 

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

Sophie’s choice. I am an enthusiastic participant in all my portfolio companies. Nevertheless, I do have a soft corner for avant-garde technology, and we at Refex Capital have consciously taken some bets on certain early stage ones. Fledgling disruptors waiting to forge a new world with a Big Bang. In a past life, I was grappling with cold chain delivery in the Kwality Walls team at Unilever. Therefore, I am delighted to have Intuigine in the Refex portfolio which uses proprietary hardware and software solutions to create end-to-end visibility for multi-modal shipment tracking. An essential solution in a dynamic and evolving logistics space

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

I am thankful for having a career spanning many functions ranging from launching rockets for ISRO to trading derivatives to being the CFO of a startup. Even had a blast selling ice-cream. These diverse work experiences prepared me for the VC world, where I get to work with portfolio companies spread across the entire breadth of tech, facing myriad business challenges everyday.

Ambitions are a function of time, age and maturity. In my current life stage, I am all about being part of startups that want to “set the trends and not follow them”. I want to leave a legacy in the Indian VC space for being a part of the growth story of innumerous startups that are trendsetters in the Indian landscape. 

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

Inspiration comes in all forms. I am inspired by the theatre thespian who has spent 30 years on stage without tasting commercial success but dedicated to the craft. I am inspired by the surfer who has been washed ashore a 100 times, but carries the board back into the sea with a glorious smile. I am inspired by Pravin Tambe, who made his IPL debut at 41 (do read his story if you haven’t). Always in awe of people, who are so rooted in their purpose, that setbacks do not deter their will. 

The lack of basic amenities for a large percentage of the world keeps me awake at night. Sustainable business models that can provide a better life for everyone, while creating value for shareholders is the venture capital dream. Investing responsibly is a cause I hope all VCs champion.

Q12. Books or Blogs you would like to recommend to entrepreneurs.

  • “Crossing the Chasm” by Geoffrey Moore, focuses on successfully market and sell disruptive technology. The chasm refers to the gap between early adopters and the early majority. Crossing this chasm is critical for the success of a disruptive startup.
  • “Everybody lies” is a fascinating read that explores what our online behavior can reveal about ourselves and our society. It takes away a million insecurities that founders might have about their station in life and channels the power of data to introspect
  • “The Hard thing about Hard things” provides practical advice for startup founders on how to navigate difficult decisions that come with building a company
  • Finally, the “Magpie Murders”, because who doesn’t want to relax on a Sunday with a murder mystery?

About Anoop Mohan:

Anoop Mohan is an Investment Manager at Refex Capital. An Investment professional with 8+ years of experience in financial consulting, FX trading and portfolio management .He is passionate about leveraging big data to discover insights that have real business impact, discovering and supporting innovative startups that have the potential to disrupt their particular markets and using his expertise in GTM strategies to help tech companies scale up and reach 10x growth in rapid timelines. 

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