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Oct 12, 2022
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Transformative Technology-first solutions in climate tech and inclusive social impact is the way forward

-Chetan Krishna, Transportation Sector Lead, Third Derivative (D3)

Team 100X interviewed some of the top investors across the globe about their venture investing journeys, startups, and India. Here, Chetan Krishna, Transportation Sector Lead at Third Derivative (D3)shares his responses.

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

I love working with entrepreneurs and learning about new markets, technologies and value creation opportunities. I really think of entrepreneurship and venture as a tool to create positive social and environmental impact, and it’s a privilege to be able to support that through my work. 

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

I usually start my day with some peaceful reading and a small workout / long walk. On a workday it's usually a mix of research, analysis, paperwork, and meetings and calls with entrepreneurs and peers in the ecosystem. On a leisure day, I’ll be spending time with my loved ones, catching up on news and research, and movies and music. 

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

India has tremendous latent potential to be a deep innovation-centric economy, and we’re just beginning to see sophisticated science and engineering innovators emerge, solving our own problems as well as for other geographies. I’m very bullish on the possibility that just as California created globally relevant companies in the second computing era such as Google, India can create some compelling solutions for the world at large in multiple sectors, in time.

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

I am most interested in transformative technology-first solutions in climate tech and inclusive social impact. Some examples are clean and affordable electric mobility technologies, clean cooking, next-gen biofuels, bio-production of chemicals and materials, sustainable and inclusive agriculture etc. My broader thought process is quite simple - we are in an unprecedented time with strong tailwinds behind a multi-trillion dollar global sustainability transition in the world economy. Technology and business innovation can ride these tailwinds to unlock inclusivity and positive impact, while creating strong financial returns. 

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

There’s so much to learn, but some principles I try to live by: 

  1. All entrepreneurs are smart, hard working and often have lonely journeys - respect them and be as supportive as you can.

  2. Try to be honest, timely, respectful and direct with your feedback, even if it’s a “no”. Try to be constructive. 
  3. Don’t be afraid to be contrarian (but back it with evidence). Often companies fail due to no ‘fault’ of the business itself. On the flip side, gems are found where no one is looking or expecting to find one sometimes.
  4. ALWAYS do your diligence. Good diligence can help the entrepreneur as much as the investor.
  5. Try to foster positive energy, culture and motivation - both in yourself and in those whom you work with.

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

  1. More scientists and engineers are looking to start deep science & technology companies than ever before, and a broader ecosystem is developing to support them. This is crucial for climate tech, especially.
  2. Climate will be front and centre of nearly every major economic sector - this decade is crucial to bending the global emissions curve, and there are stronger signals than ever from consumers, corporates, government and other stakeholders creating massive new markets

  3. Entrepreneurial education and norms are improving in many young venture ecosystems, helping entrepreneurs (and many VCs) focus on sound venture building fundamentals
  4. Corporate venturing and startup-corporate commercial relationships will only strengthen over time - it creates new opportunities, as well as expanding sources of more strategic, patient funding for new technologies, business models

  5. A new breed of social entrepreneurs is emerging - those who are equally sophisticated in their thinking about levers to create social change, as well as creating a profitable business. They typically tend to have a good humanities background / or relevant grounding

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

  1. Design and build for compelling solutions and strong economic fundamentals - venture capital is just a tool, and will follow, as needed.

  2. Find people, early on, who will support you while always being radically honest with you - they’re your ideal mentors. Take plenty of advice from them.
  3. Focus first on customers, and your own team.
  4. Narratives are powerful. Real ones even more so. Invest in your storytelling abilities.
  5. Take care of yourself and create a safe space of people, loved ones, mentors and environments that rejuvenate you.

Q8. How do you support your portfolio companies

Through connections and opening doors where I can, being a strategy and tech sounding board and ideation partner. Also by being a general ‘cheerleader’ :) 

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

There are quite a few - in general I’m excited by passionate teams, who are working on new, better, impactful products / services / ways of doing things 

Q10. When you started your career what were your ambitions

To be creative and contribute to positive social change, while doing something intellectually stimulating ; climate and development have been a couple of areas I’ve been interested in since I was a child. 

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

I’m inspired by a lot of people I have had the privilege to meet with (founders, peers, teachers, mentors etc.) and generally by the fact that there’s so much to learn, see and do in the climate tech venture world. 

Q12. Books or Blogs you would recommend entrepreneurs

  1. The Lean Startup (mostly for software companies and written a long while ago, but still quite relevant)
  2. Disciplined Entrepreneurship (especially if you’re a first time, early stage founder)
  3. Startup Nation: The story of Israel’s economic miracle
  4. The Innovation Blind Spot

100X.VC is doing some very important and interesting seeding work in the Indian startup ecosystem. Their network and in-house mentorship, and their signalling effect is quite valuable for early stage companies - would recommend all founders to check them out!

About Chetan : 

"Chetan serves as Transportation Sector Lead at Third Derivative (D3), a global climate technology accelerator and catalytic fund co-founded by the Rocky Mountain Institute and New Energy Nexus. 

Prior to D3, Chetan was on the founding team of 3i Partners, an early stage cross-border impact investing fund in India, and has worked with the World Bank and IFC on climate resilient infrastructure and renewables deployments in the Africa region. He has been, and continues to be, a researcher studying climate innovation, finance and policy." 

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