Startup Saturday: Nurture of the beast; Ask the toughest question now, why?
TiE Pune raises the roof... Then, assuredly, with 24/7 commitment, mentors to ensure successUpdated: Aug 31, 2019 15:42 IST
Can a mentor ask a founder to destroy his idea?
Sounds like sacrilege, given the benevolent nature of mentors, supposedly, meant to guide and help (ensure?) a startup’s success.
Kiran Deshpande, president, TiE Pune, says this is the most fundamental questions all “mentees” must be asked.
“Questions like this force a founder to understand things better. All of them feel that their idea is the greates, but, when you are forced to think of decimating your idea, you will understand if your idea will survive after, say, five years “
Mentoring is what puts startups on the right path it would seem. In the seven years since TiE Pune started its Nurture programme, not only has it mentored over a hundred companies, but this is being replicated by TiE in Hubli, Nagpur and Surat.
Says Ravi Nigam, who heads TiE Nurture. “Nowhere, in India at least, will you find such a programme that provides guidance to startups for free. Even the Y Combinator takes about 7% equity and infuses $100,000 into a startup. At TiE Pune we have several experts who are happy to help startups in their journey towards growth.”
So what does TiE Nurture do, apart from tell you your idea is crap.
Says Nigam, “Every year we pick the companies we will mentor over seven to nine months. This year we got 200 applications and will take in 50 companies.”
The criterion for selecting such mentee companies is based on the quality of their idea, the team and where the company is presently.
Says Nigam, “We do not take companies who are just at the ideation stage, they need to have started work and achieved some goals before approaching us. Also we are very firm about not taking companies that join our programme mainly for funding. Our aim is to provide all round growth.”
Upon selection every startup is assigned two mentors. These may not necessarily be mentors with domain knowledge of the startup’s industry. “Most people believe that if you are an engineer you have the skills to set up an engineering company. A domain agnostic mentor will ask founders more than a hundred questions that will force founders to think about all the aspects needed to make a company successful.”
Mentoring includes a two-day boot camp that helps startups validate their ideas, gives a deep understanding of funding, strategy, growth and so on. Every boot camp has sessions on various aspects building a business more importantly a section on Globality and Business Ethics.
Says Deshpande, “Many companies fail because they do not realise the importance of globality. By this I mean that a business, however small, even if it is operating in a small town must be conscious of the way things are moving in the world, what are the forces that will impact the business. It is important to have processes in place that are world class. A founder must know early on how to deliver quickly, efficiently and economically, even if they operate in a village. He must know how things are done globally and adapt such processes. For without this, the chances of success are dim.”
Several other aspects like funding sensitisation, pitching, scaling up, organising sales models, gender sensitisation and business ethics are taught through deep learning programs or “Guru sessions”. Apart from such structured activities mentees have 24-hour access to their mentors.
Says Deshpande, “I can give you gyan about how to do your business, but what is most important is that whilst executing what you’ve learnt you may encounter some problems and at Nurture the two assigned mentors are always there to help you out. They are accessible all the time.”
Meet the Mentees - all TiE-ed in
Atreya, founder - Aniruddha Joshi
Building scientific ayurvedic tools. Naadi Tarangini is a digital Naadi Pariksha gadget that enables naadi reading.
I joined TiE Nurture with one specific objective that is how to pivot my business. Up until now I was working on the distributor model, on-boarding sellers for my product. I knew that there was more that could be done. I wanted to move to selling to consumers directly and that was where I need some help. What this program did for me was to bring clarity. Earlier I had several ideas in my head about what Atreya was. After months of intensive meetings they made it clear to me who we were.
Atreya is a company that is innovating the world’s most portable personal health monitor based on data driven by ayurved. This has brought clarity. It has helped us understand which aspects of our business had the most potential and were likely to succeed. If we had not gone for this mentoring program I would still be looking for clarity. I guess I would have got some answers but it would have taken a long, long time. At Nurture, on one platform you have about 25 successful entrepreneurs who can help you. Atreya is now ready to launch its Alpha model in October.
Gig India, founder - Sahil Sharma
Gig India aims to help companies access part-time workers and helps employees find part-time jobs.
Many companies big and small have the need for part time workers and to hire, train them to do a job for a month or six is a huge expense. And on the other hand you have a large number of people mostly students, homemakers who are happy to do such jobs.
I have built an app by the sae name that helps employers track the jobs that are being done and people to look for such jobs. I joined Nurture in September last year. I think the best piece of advice I got was to focus on customer retention rather than customer acquisition. Earlier I would take on all clients’ jobs. I realised the importance of getting repeat customers, of focusing on such repeat business rather than saying yes to all and not being able to retain their business. I now has customers like Swiggy, Amazon, Alibaba, and Udaan, where do vendor on-boarding for them using my “temporary” force. An entrepreneur needs to know what he should focus on. There is confusion at the start but then a mentor will hold your hand and tell you that this is the direction you should take. I am happy that I sought their advice.
Amol Sharma, founder - Maswer Auto
Maswer provides endurance and performance testing services to the auto industry.
I was new to the business and I approached TiE Nurture as I felt that with guidance I would not make the mistakes I could avoid. Also we thought we could get some out-of-the-box ideas from such a programme. What I got instead was staid advice. I was made to understand the importance of not extending yourself beyond your current capabilities. We were looking to tie up with a Bengaluru-based company that was into packaging for auto parts. It seemed a damn good idea, but we were told not to get into that as we were not yet mature enough and did not have the skill sets ourselves.
At the same time we were told to expand the services to our existing customers. Sounds contradictory but it is not. We were working with Ford India in Gujarat doing the endurance and performance testing. But they needed an additional service - a system to keep tabs on their dealer inventory. This was doable for us. So while we were to expand what we could do we were not to go into areas where we either did not have the capability or had to tie up with someone else. Because of this we started with a zero turnover and today, we are doing Rs 20 crore.