Tuesday, July 29, 2014

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Why investors and entrepreneurs should ditch the "Term Sheet"?

"I just got a term sheet from a venture capital investor, I am so happy about the deal!", a friend gushed on phone. I said a customary congrats, and warned him, "Boss, money in the bank is equal to done deal, nothing else." Few months later, the VC went back on the investment, and the entrepreneur was back to square one, and maybe back to negative one.

I say ditch the term sheet - want to know why, read more.

YGO CAPTION THIS PIC - thanks for giving me money

Let me start with sharing what the investment process is for those who want to understand from AB initio. Entrepreneurs call/meet/pitch the VCs, who show interest in the idea/plan/project. Once the investors have enough confidence and intent to share their money with the entrepreneur for a share in their venture, they offer a term sheet - which in simple terms is a list of terms on which the deal will be further negotiated. Wait a minute, what did I tell you? More negotiations? Exactly.

After the term sheet is offered and signed by both parties, it takes nearly 2-3 months for due diligence, make final shareholder agreements and followed by amendments to MOA/AOA, few board resolutions, RoC filings before money hits the bank. In between, everything is negotiable - valuation, rights, Esops, budgets etc.

Now, ask me why term sheet is not a great idea:

1. Who makes money in term sheets
Except the lawyers who copy paste the term sheets, nobody makes money. Most VCs insist that entrepreneurs pay the lawyer who drafted it (irrespective of whether they will invest or not ultimately), while some with higher business ethics take the tab on themselves as a business expense. Further, additional money is spend on drafting shareholder agreements, and other documents. Neither the VC nor the entrepreneur makes money via term sheets.
2. Loss of time
One of the biggest frustration for startups is the time wasted in process of fund raising. Giving a term sheet buys time for the VCs, so they can lock the entrepreneur into exclusively dealing with them, without any legal or binding commitment to invest. Entrepreneur on the other hand cannot shop around (legally speaking, but most of them do ;-). Its like doing a ring ceremony 6 months before getting married.
3. 10-15 pages term sheet or 70-80 page shareholder agreement
Nobody signs a term sheet or shareholder agreement without looking at it personally and/or taking an expert opinion from their trusted/paid source. Why do it two times then? Though up front, it may seem that the deal is moving fast, with so many exchanges of documents, but ultimately deal is not done till it is done. I will love to negotiate and close a detailed document in single go rather than 2-3 stages.
4. What about due diligence?
Most VCs appoint their favorite CAs as a due diligence agency, which is supposed to find any business/auditing/technical issues in the target company. This process generally takes place between term sheet signing and shareholder agreement signing stage. Biggest issue is there no defined timeline for closing this process - most term sheets are live for 45-60 days, but imagine being an entrepreneur - after 75 days if you still have not got the money, what options you have? What would you want - initial exuberance with semi-commitment or a commitment to close the deal.

As a parallel instance, think of a train - you buy the ticket, turn up at the right time and occupy your seat after basic security checks. Now imagine taking a flight - you buy the ticket, go through 2-3 security checks, convert your ticket into a boarding pass (with a chance you will not be allowed to board). Given the recent airlines accidents, I do not want to recommend removing the security checks, but let your ticket be the boarding pass.

I dream of a day when we can have a stronger startup ecosystem with more quality and quantity of deals, but till then lets do what we are doing more efficiently, and keep building.

And at all times, be awesome!

Few thoughts and business rules for myself

I have been getting loads of requests like:

1. I want to meet u personally to discuss my ideas or product or some stuff
2. Give me feedback or advise on my plans
3. Get me a Co founder or some team member or post my job opening on ur social networks
4. Come to my college for a guest talk
5. Connect me to vc or angels
6. Take a look at my business plan
7. Give me contacts of colleges so I can sell them my products and services
8. Refer me for a job
9. Be a mentor for our company
10. Can we add ur name to our company presentation and present to investors

Mostly I have done these as a favor and sometimes for a fees in the past, while managing Nurture Talent Academy at a sustainable level.

Now onwards, all this will be for a fees only - pls don't send messages like:
1. we r startups so we don't hv money so we cant give u
2. Any startup discount?
3. Let's barter
4. Take equity
5. U should value relationships more than money
6. X y z are doing it for free so why u don't do it
7. I just want to talk on phone
8. It will only take few minutes
9. Give me a sample or demo
10. Do this for free and we will give u future business or references

Soon I will be sharing links where potential customers can pay and awail of such services.

And some people will still send odd requests for free services but just that they should not feel bad or shocked when they get a no or the bill!

Also note that few things that are free will continue to be like Startupyatra, this blog and NTA blog where I share few tips and experiences, youtube channel with entrepreneurship videos etc.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Insights from BJP's digital marketing strategy and execution

BJP's 2014 Lok Sabha election win was historical in many ways, but most importantly there are few insights for entrepreneurs from their digital marketing and use of technology. My friend, Siddharth Goyal, member of BJP's IT Cell, who played a key role in this initiative has a detailed post on this.

Check out the learning experiences here:


Do share your feedback and experiences by following us here or connecting with us on our social networks given in my profile above.

How to be a personal host for professional events?

I just got a whatsapp from a startup telling me they wanted to organize a growth hacking meetup for entrepreneurs in Mumbai. I said great, nice initiative. Then the next thing he said surprised me, how can we manage this event? Well, just organize 1st and you will learn everything - just kidding.

Since we have done more than 400 workshops and over 80 StartupYatra sessions across India, I thought this to be an easy thing, but here is a checklist for step by step activation:

1. Who are you doing it for?
Just decide what is your audience and purpose going to be. Is it for the sponsors, or the attendees or a product launch or just a networking session for like-minded people? Just make sure there is something for everyone rather than everything for someone! Make sure you write down the number of people expected, preferred time, venue and seating arrangements.

2. People come for people, but agenda is what brings in people
Content or the agenda of any event is critical. The 1st experiment of online webinar I did at Nurture Talent was just that - an experiment. I had the contacts of few 100 startups, who I had trained in our  entrepreneurship workshops, and I wanted to engage them further. 20-30 people turned up and it failed miserably :-( We did not know what to do, who will talk, who will listen, what to discuss and within 15-20 minutes we realized saying bye was better and logged out. Since then we have never organized a meetup or event without an agenda, even if we are "generally" meeting people. And do share the agenda with people when you invite them.

3. Star speaker or many stars
Any event is driven by speakers, which is next most important thing after the content. Off late I have witnessed a trend of multi-starrer events (unlike movies where a Salman Khan or Shahrukh Khan is enough and you do not need anyone else, by and large). It helps to attract sponsors, and in a way pulls in a decent audience. Just make sure you give enough talk time to all speakers and also that they stay back for personal interaction with audience. Nobody wants to just exchange visiting cards or listen to an egoist who is there for self-promotion. Most speakers are cordial to accept guest invites, but give enough time for scheduling (generally a month before event). Do not be shy in inviting even people who do not know you or you think they are the big shots - just try, don't be shy!

4. Add personal touch
Events whether professional or personal are driven by people. At any StartupYatra where I am present, I make sure to introduce myself, act as official photographer and generally try to make people comfortable with handshakes (with girls) or hugs (with guys). Ensure that you reach the event venue an hour or two before and treat it like your home, and participants/attendees/delegates as your guest - imagine how would you treat them if they came to your home, THAT!

5. Manage the costs, cut the frills
Once a year we do a big event like Great Indian Marketing Weekend (www.gimw.in), where we do not care about keeping it small. But the year round we do 100s of events which are no frills, and cut down on extras like giving notepad and pens to attendees, or giving flower bouquets to speakers! We do not even print agendas - in the age of smart phones, events should be GREEN!

6. Day of event
As a majority of community events are free, people give a confirmation but do not turn up. Saying no is something we all need to learn. Well, just make sure you send a reminder sms, or whatsapp to all people who said a yes just about 1-2 hours before the event begins. Last time we had an event in Jabong office, 82 people had confirmed and we actually got 30 which was the max capacity. So overbooking should neither make you happy, nor sad. For paid events, no need for courtesy reminders.

7. Post event follow ups
In the era of selfies and digital marketing, do not forget to say thank yous to the attendees for coming and to sponsors for making it possible. And do share pics of Facebook photo albums or meetup groups online. Send pics to few guests individually with a personal note, so they remember with you kindly.

At Nurture Talent, we use few online tools for event management, and here is a short list:
1. www.meetup.com/startup-yatra
2. www.meraevents.com/nurturetalent
3. gimw.moozup.com (great for agenda sharing)
4. Facebook events

And those who want to meet me, join us for a get-together in Noida on 24th evening at Nysha Bar and Restaurant. Do RSVP yes before coming - www.meetup.com/startup-yatra

Till then, be awesome!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Launching Digital Marketing Workshop Series by Nurture Talent Academy

Digital Marketing is like unfulfilled sex, every one does it but no one seems to have reached the orgasm stage. To add to these complex dimensions, there are so many positions too! Ok, lets ditch the sex talk and get to the point.

Nurture Talent Academy is launching a series of workshops, 16 in total covering A 2 Z of digital marketing covering advance areas. The series begins in August and will be conducted all across the month on weekends till October 1st week.

The participants get a chance to learn from the best trainers, led by Siddharth Goyal, (member of BJP's IT Cell, and was a key part of team behind the success of its online initiatives including campaigns like India272, chaipecharcha, ModiforPM, IITians for Modi and many more). Moreover, guest speakers from ventures like Jabong, Myntra, PolicyBazaar, Reliance Jio and many more will join for sharing their strategic and practical insights. Participants, which may include startups as well as working professionals, will need to get their laptops and will be doing live exercises on their own websites, digital campaigns, developing content and gaining valuable feedback.

Additionally, we have lined up an impressive set of hiring partners who are looking for talented and skilled team members to join them, and to top it we are giving out freebies and benefits, which is an icing on the digital cake for you :-)

Here is a detailed content break up of the workshops: To check out the schedule, topics covered, venue, registration process etc. visit dma.nurturetalent.com.

Wish you success in your digital future!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Calendar of activities for building an entrepreneurial campus for students

I travel to over 100 colleges every year for conducing entrepreneurship workshops and we get a request of what more can be done to continue the spirit we kindle in our 2 day programs. Myself and Nurture Talent has limited resources to do all of these so I am making a calendar of activities open source, which you can execute as per your college schedule.

1. July 2014 - This is the time most colleges open, seniors come back for classes and also freshers join the campuses across India. Building a core team at this time is critical - make sure it has representation across all years, all branches, all hostels (as well as maintain healthy sex ratio ;-). The bigger the entrepreneurship cell, better it is. Also add 1-2 supportive faculty as head or consultant to the club (you will need them at all stages no matter if you are a govt or private institute). For example, IIT Bombay ecell has 25 members and few others have 150 members. You can make a FB group for smoother interaction and updates. Organize a team introduction cum team building exercise to build rapport and relationship among members. Give fancy designations to members like Vice President, Community Manager, Chief Marketing Officer etc. (like AIESEC does).

2. August 2014 - Organize a business plan cum idea generation workshop or introduction to entrepreneurship session. The aim is to create the right kind of culture and knowledge about entrepreneurship over and above what is being talked about on Wikipedia, Youtube or Techcrunch. The organizers of workshop behave like CEOs for a month and take care of their roles and responsibilities while learning key operations, and that brings about an additional maturity to their thought process.

3. September 2014 - Do some outbound activity - like everyone is given a task to reach out to local entrepreneurs, visit their offices, take their interview, click pictures and write a blog article for them. Feature the blog on your college website and run a contest on social media to reward the popular entries. Imagine if 50 out of 1000 students in your college do this seriously, you could have at least 50 job or internship opportunities easily from several entrepreneurs!

4. October 2014 - While most of the colleges are busy with covering syllabus, getting ready for Dussehra/Diwali holidays or for the exams, you could keep this time for participating in outside events and competitions. MBA, Engineering and Undergraduate colleges follow separate schedules - so you can check few upcoming fests on websites like Knowafest etc. Make sure you have at least 5-6 teams working on their ideas continuously, improving their bplans and applying to as many fests as possible. There are over 200 such contests taking place every year - if you apply in 20 of them, get shortlisted in 10 of them and win 5 of them - you could make a cool Rs 5 Lakhs!

5. November 2014 - Keep this month for some light activities like arranging an advertising slogan/logo making contest (pick any 10-20 known or unknown brands). Or you may also have a Fundoo Friday session - where 1 person from the students community becomes a teacher and takes a 1 hour session on a new technology like android app development, digital marketing, responsive web design, machine learning, virtual reality, design thinking etc. When I was in Infosys 13 years back, we had a TIPU (Technology in Practice Unit - named after the famous king Tipu Sultan who reigned near Mysore area where Infosys office was located), where 1 person was assigned the task of making everyone aware of a new technology every Friday. Just make sure you do not indulge in criticism.

6. December 2014 - This is when most of you will be having holidays so make it a movie month - watch inspiring entrepreneurship movies together this month - the list may include Band Baaja Baraat, Guru, Rocket Singh Salesman of the Year, Businessman (with the adorable Mahesh Babu). This could be screened in the college with projector (do not ask me how to download movies from LAN ;-) or a movie theater or a friends' home.

There are lot of other fun activities planned but I will keep it brief and share the Jan-June 2015 calendar in my next article. Till then, au revoir!

And if you have any suggestions or activities for the next post on this subject, please email me on amit.grover@nurturetalent.com.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

10 reasons people give not to buy what we sell

This post is a result of many frustrating yet learning experiences - it has been 4.5 years since I started my entrepreneurship journey, with the sole aim to enable more startups out of India.

I have seen many ups and downs (rather more downs, no's, rejections), and here I wish to share what are the reasons and excuses people give for not buying what we sell (training workshops and events for college students, professionals and startups):

1. "I do not have time for all this stuff, you know, I am busy with my job. If this was happening on weekend or weekdays or during breakfast, lunch or dinner...I could have tried. And we did all this in MBA. And just give me an hour of your personal time so I can ask you things without letting other people know what I do not know."

2. "I cannot travel so far, see I have to take a metro and it is so hot these days and it so cold other days, and it is raining some other time."

3. "I cannot pay you now or tomorrow or ever in future, I have "cash crunch", I have to spend money on other things, not my self-development."

4."Our college has already charged the students 600000 a year fees, so we cannot tell students to pay 1100 Rs for your training program."

5. "We have exams or holidays scheduled in our college, so we cannot have any other training or activity these days. We have to complete our course as per university guidelines, otherwise our college will fire us. We will do in next semester."

6. "You are running Nurture Talent, so you should not be money-minded. We will give you publicity by inviting you to our college for a guest lecture, then take your pictures then put your name in our placement and admission brochures to show that we have guest faculty from IIT-IIM."

7. "Our students are from rural background, this entrepreneurship and all is for the big shots in big cities."

8. "Can you do a free lecture? Our students will just sit and listen, they will not take part in your workshop. Just give them a SMALL certificate at the end!"

9. "Do something long term, like a 2 year MBA in entrepreneurship, and keep it free by getting sponsors and add an incubator cum accelerator cum venture fund cum office space cum accounting cum legal cum HR cum consulting cum mentoring to your offering."

10. "I will call you back"

And then there are people who will turn up any time, any day, any where, at any cost and for any thing - those are the ones who keep me going.

As a reader, you must be wondering if such people convert to paying customers after you have handled sales objections, reduced price or offered new and different alternatives - NO. There is a difference between people who want to buy with few changes and other people who will not take even if you sell gold for free.

Just move on, find new customers and spend time with your loved ones.

StartupYatra session at Jabong with Praveen Sinha and team