In conversation with Ms. Abhilasha Dafria, CEO and Founder, The Venturator.
Tell us more about your personal journey. How and when did you feel the need to start The Venturator? Was it based on a personal experience or did you simply see it as an existing gap in the market?
I did my Masters in Marketing and then my Masters in Foreign Languages- so I went about to learn French, Spanish and German. While I was still learning German, I started freelancing for an online media portal that featured startups & entrepreneurs, until I joined them full-time in 2011. In my tryst with startup journalism, I interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs, each of whom, had their own inspiring journey of starting up. The energy of these newbie entrepreneurs was kind of infectious , and I knew I had to be on the other side of the table when the opportunity arose.
Another trend that I noticed during my journalism days was that a lot of these entrepreneurs I interviewed would ask me to connect them to either a legal guy or a tech partner or a CA, mentor, investor, etc. I made these connections out of my personal capacity as I had built a very robust network in the ecosystem by then, but it occurred to me that there already exists a set of ecosystem enablers to whom young entrepreneurs need to reach out, in order to save the time & energy spent in starting up. That’s when I quit my job and launched The Venturator.
The Venturator essentially means Venture + Accelerator, and our primary objective is to help startups accelerate from point A to point B in the shortest time span. While our core focus is on helping startups raise funds through our network of global investors, we also help them connect with all the necessary ecosystem enablers who can assist them in their journey.
Can you please describe what a typical day at Office is like?
We kick start our day by 10 am and it begins with the usual email hygiene- reverting to emails, forwarding startup-emails to the Venture Relations team and investor emails to the Investor Relations team. Networking is the foundation of our business, so we ensure that we maintain an updated database of whoever we meet online or offline regularly.
(A clip from The Velocity Series)
Our work environment is quite similar to that of investment banking, where it could get extremely hectic for weeks, when a deal is on. So on days such as these we try to aggressively pursue the right set of investors for a startup that we are fund-raising for: which means a lot of proactive cold-mailing, following up, phone calls, pursuing, convincing and negotiating on a final middle-ground that makes a win-win scenario for both the entrepreneur and the investors. On other days we are on the look-out for attractive deals to pursue and simultaneously looking for new-age investors and on-boarding them onto the platform.
What has been your most significant achievement till date and key learning in your career so far?
Academically speaking “achievement” would correlate to awards and laurels of sorts. But when you’re a startup founder, “achievement” gets redefined to that every moment you did something that shadowed the vision of the company, which you had predefined when you set out to do what you’re doing.
Every time a startup raises money from us or benefits from us in any shape or form, it gives us a special high. We’re building this company on goodwill and gratitude and the team as a whole loves that vibe. Having said that, we also have our moments of a small “pat on the back”. When we tied up with Starbucks for our Velocity Series- a talk show we hold with established entrepreneurs, we were very glad. Even gladder when Starbucks won the Fortune Ecosystem Enabler award for it.
When we closed a bridge round for a startup from traders in Netherlands in 24 hours flat, we were very excited. Fund raising, as a process, could sometimes be as long as forever. The real game is about how you shorten that time span. Closing a deal in a day was crazy. When we started up our co-working space and started building a community in the offline world, we were quite enthralled then as well.
My key learning is that passion is good. Passion is great, even. It takes unadulterated passion to be able to start your own venture. But if there was one, just one thing that would be just as important as passion, it’d be perseverance. Perseverance is the only thing that can keep you going. Passion will give you some of your best days at office, but only perseverance will help you glide through some of your worst. I think we can be truly satisfied with our lives if only we find a way to build enough perseverance that can help keep our passion alive. Stand alone, they’re both setting you up for dejection.
What are the values that you look for, or wish to instill in your employees? (Keeping in mind the fact that The Venturator works by bridging the gap between investors and startups).
Networking is based on one basic principle – Goodwill. The key factor that we look for while hiring is the ability to connect with people, understand what is that they’re seeking from us and align our resources and infrastructure to help match their needs. The other, very important ideology we stand by is that “Money is the only truth”. So while we enjoy our marketing stints with our offline events, etc. our focus and core is very sales driven. So we’d like to gauge one’s ability to take a deal end-to-end and close it. We want people to stand up and say we bought revenue worth this much in the company. Marketing is fun, but Sales? Sales is pure ecstasy. I love the quote from Mad-Men “ The business you bring is key to your salary, status and self-worth”.