Interview of V C Karthic – Founder at Buzzworks Business Services Pvt. Ltd.

He was born in Kashmir, the son of an army man. Traveling through the country taught him to be flexible and appreciate the fact that we are all human beings, irrespective of our religion, caste, creed and sexual orientation. These liberal and cosmopolitan values stay with him till date.

At 18 years old, he was clear about what he didn’t want. The converse wasn’t true, however. After dropping out of 05 colleges in quick succession, he and his family came to the quick conclusion that higher education wasn’t for him. This was a tough call to take in the early ‘90s when career options were limited at best.

His first job was a floor salesman in a low-end garment showroom. The salary was INR 500/month with free lunch and a train pass. Stuck around for 06 months but realized that this wasn’t his calling. Since he had a decent command over the English language, he found a job as a copywriter in an ad agency. He moved on to be a radio jockey on FM and a DJ in a night club.

Worked 03 jobs simultaneously for 04 years, clocking on average 16 hours of work a day without a break or holidays. Learning that started then, hasn’t stopped yet.

What is your investing philosophy?

My investment philosophy is largely influenced by my personal experience and my ability to start from scratch. I like backing founders that are using technology to solve hard and growing problems at scale.

I invest to learn and add value, so founders that are open to feedback and can teach me something in return are the best use of my time and energy. I have a defined thesis I like to stick to and invest in that direction.

What has been the most important investing lesson you have learned so far?

Premature optimization is the root of all evil – Startups often scale the wrong axes (marketing, branding, customer acquisition) before figuring out what to scale (problem-solution and product-market fit).

Which has been your best investment to date?

My own self and company in that order. These are investments that have the best ROIs.

Can you share any investing mistakes that you made and the lessons we can learn from it?

Investors need to build a reputation before they can build a portfolio. Investing with a herd might give you returns but not a good reputation.

Is there any particular investor or author who has had a significant influence on your investment thinking? 

There are too many to name, and naming a few wouldn’t be fair to the rest of the people that have influenced me.

What would be your advice to Entrepreneurs seeking funds?

Focus on building value for your stakeholders – valuations will follow. Fund-raising is a full-time activity – when you hit the streets, make sure your business has sufficient traction so that when you update investors midway or a quarter down the line, numbers are not suffering.

Investors are just service providers of capital. Don’t attach too much importance to them. If you are building something valuable, it’s our job to hunt you down, not the other way round.

Do you invest in specific sectors? If yes, then which are the sectors?

I’m sector agnostic.

What is your outlook for the present start-up ecosystem in India?

We need to build better angels and more of them. The average start-up quality is still poor, which is why we see such a low rate of funding. Copying an idea from abroad is perfectly fine, but you need to demonstrate why you have the right to win that space and how you have topicalized the business model for India.

India and China are the future of markets and businesses for the next 2 odd decades. I think the wealth creation opportunities over the next decade for entrepreneurs and investors are 10x of what we have seen in the past decade.

According to you what is more important (Team, Idea, Traction, etc.)?

I think it’s the blend of all, You can’t have a great team and poor idea or great idea and poor team. You need to have a balance of all these aspects of a successful startup.

According to you what is the perfect time for a startup to raise funds?

From an angel investing perspective, if you have a good team running after a hard problem, with the outlines of the right solution, you should raise money immediately.

Always have cash for 12-18 months of runway. If you run out of money, your start-up will die immediately. 

What is the value add that a founder gets, along with your investment?

An angel investor who gets the fact that angel investing is a contact sport and is happy to fight for you on the front lines and in the trenches.

Would you like to share any of your recent investments and why did you select them?

For me, passionate founders who can do 7 AM breakfast meetings with me and have a clear answer to why they are chasing something and how they will win will mostly get my money.

Answer in one line:

Share your  original quote: How you do anything is how you do everything.

First 3 slides that you look in a Pitch Deck (in serial order): Team, problem, solution.

How would you define Startup: A construct that is trying to figure out what to scale.

What are the attributes of an Entrepreneur: Competence, commitment, clarity.

What are your views about StartupLanes?

Every effort towards making the start-ups in India win is welcome.