Posts Tagged ‘Snapdeal’
It is perhaps the greatest honor of my professional career to be embarking on my current trip. Less than 2 weeks ago, I was invited by the White House to attend a series of events in Cuba. It is the first trip by a sitting US President since Calvin Coolidge in 1928.
I will be leading a roundtable Monday with Cuban entrepreneurs, all of whom are hungry to access investments from a country that has blocked them off since the embargo signed by JFK. They have asked me to speak on accessing capital and the importance of entrepreneurship for Cuba, but I’m pretty sure they already know that the companies they create will have an impact not just on the future of their families, but on the future of their country.
With every passing day as a venture capitalist, my awe, respect, and appreciation for entrepreneurs grows. Often everything is against them: incumbents, families, capital, employees and, in some cases, governments. In fact, Snapdeal, the first investment of my VC career, was founded by entrepreneurs who wanted to stay in America but we denied them a visa. Those who proceed, perspire, and ultimately prevail should be celebrated. What they create can, in some cases, touch more lives than any government.
Thanks to my partners at New Enterprise Associates who come to work every day trying to fight the status quo to make the world just a little bit better. And most importantly, thanks to all the entrepreneurs I get the privilege of working with for teaching me far more about failure, courage, and tenacity than they will ever know.
I’ll try and impart some of their collective teachings in Havana, but what will likely happen is what always happens: I will learn far more from the Cubans than they will from me.
Last week, I spoke in New Delhi at The Growth Net. My panel on “frugal innovation: technology for those living on less than $2/day” had Sanjay Kapoor and Nandan Nilekani, both of whom have had remarkable careers building technologies that have touched billions (literally). Here is an interview I gave with Boom Live after the panel which talks about the future of Indian e-commerce (e.g. Snapdeal at $5 billion valuation could be cheap) as well as the way I think about frugal innovation (e.g. using tree stumps as cricket wickets in India is just the beginning of frugal innovation – and companies like Uber could touch those in the middle class and lower class more than we think).
The past four months have been a whirlwind. Yet from the maelstrom of experiences, three themes have emerged: tombstones, billions, and dreams. Each one of these could encompass multiple posts on their own, but I’ll do my best to highlight the key points briefly here.
Perhaps the greatest insight from the past few months came from a simple statement: I was having lunch with one of my closest friends, Ben Rattray, whose company Change.org is one of the best examples of a purpose-driven, for-profit organization. Change.org is the platform that spurred the Boy Scouts to end its anti-gay policy, that empowered Trayvon Martin’s family to unveil their side of the story, that has equipped citizens from almost every country on the globe to campaign for change. And they also happen to be a tremendous business, doing tens of millions in revenue.
Like usual, we were talking about all sorts of stuff, from capitalism and impact investing to that perennial best city debate: New York, Boston or San Francisco. But the question that most changed my thinking was this:
“What do you want your tombstone to say?”
That question has fundamentally changed my outlook on careers and money…which is for a future post.
- The Portuguese Dream: In March, I was invited to speak at the GoYouth Conference in Lisbon, Portugal alongside the founders of HotelTonight, Cloudflare, and Siri. Portugal is plagued by a 35%+ youth unemployment , yet GoYouth’s organizer, 19-year-old Tiago, expressed zero interest in hearing it and thus created a forum for entrepreneurship to lead Portugal out of a deep recession. At both the conference and Startup Lisboa, which we later visited, I was blown away by the hospitality, hope, and capabilities of the Portuguese.
- The Immigrant & Refugee’s Dream: At the end of 2013, I joined the board of Business Center for New Americans, a burgeoning nonprofit that provides microloans to women, immigrants, and refugees building companies in New York City. These are individuals like Sonnie Selma, a Liberian refugee who founded an African specialty foods business that imports products like African Palm Oil and sells them locally. For immigrant heritage week in New York, we brought together 100+ of our entrepreneurs just like Sonnie into one room to recognize the transformative role of entrepreneurship– from the mom-and-pop laundromat in Queens to the taxi cab company in Brooklyn– in changing their and their families’ lives. I have never seen a better representation of the American Dream than on that day.
- A lover’s dream: India is a country whose Supreme Court recently ruled that homosexuality is a crime. That made this 1st place dance by Northwestern Anubhav at Bollywood America that much more powerful.
- Pinterest – The company, which Bessemer invested in when I was employed there, recently raised at a $5 billion valuation despite just starting to monetize. In due course, this will prove to be a steal of a deal.
- Snapdeal – My first venture deal was Snapdeal, a company I have written about before as a study in America’s broken immigration system(summary: the founder of Snapdeal wanted to start a company in the USA but couldn’t get a visa). They just raised at a $1 billion valuation, taking yet another step closer to becoming India’s Alibaba/TaoBao.
- Berkshire Hathaway – I was at the Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting in Omaha thanks to an invitation from Tracy Britt. It was a great dose of investing reality (who would think that businesses could be valued off of free cash flow or EBITDA instead of users and eyeballs?). And on Sunday night, I had dinner at a steakhouse that apparently is good enough for these two.
And so much more. In general, I’m not a fan of these diary-like posts as opposed to more substantive ones, but as I resume my blogging cadence, I hope to revert to the latter.
I’m thrilled to announce Bessemer’s investment in Snapdeal. We led the Series C in this innovative, rapidly growing company that is not merely a Groupon clone, but a company that is trying to change e-commerce in India through the best deals available. I was most impressed by the entrepreneurs behind the company – Kunal Bahl and Rohit Bansal – who are wildly creative, very ambitious, but also highly analytical. They have an ability to both be highly detail oriented yet able to see the larger picture. And equally as important, they are adamant about changing the business culture in India to be more philanthropic.
I, and the rest of the BVP India internet team (Rob Chandra & Abhijeet Muzumdar), can’t wait to help Kunal, Rohit, and the Snapdeal team build a business that we hope can revolutionize commerce online in India.