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The Musings Of An Indian Angel Investor - Learning On The Job

The Indian startup ecosystem is an exciting one, and I’ve learned a lot during my journey over the last few years as an angel investor. The space is evolving and so am I. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, and hopefully am getting smarter year on year. What I try to do in some of my posts is share some of my learnings – what’s worked and what’s not; what the other players in the ecosystem are doing; what’s going well; and what could be improved.
Part of the reason I do this is because I think if we learn to be open and transparent with each other, everyone in the ecosystem stands to benefit. My worry is that if we don’t do this, the misunderstanding between funders and founders will increase, and this creates a mess which harms everyone. We need to learn from each other and to trust each other, and that’s why it’s important to be frank and forthright, even if this means being politically incorrect sometimes.
Unfortunately, I find not many people in the Indian ecosystem are willing to share their experiences. There’s a lot of scuttlebutt, but usually, this happens after drinks at a cocktail party, and therefore this information is very hard to come by. In fact, these rumours and whispers can often be misleading, because they get distorted so easily.
I also post for selfish reasons. Writing stuff down allows me to crystallise my learning and sharpen my thought process. I am also hopeful that other people in the system will find this approach of value, and wil, therefore, be willing to share some of their experiences.
Now I’m not claiming to be an expert on the topics I write about , and I am aware that I am woefully ignorant in many areas. I’m learning , just like everyone else, and the beauty of the startup space is that there are really no “right” answers – everyone is learning, unlearning and relearning all the time, because the environment is so dynamic .
While angels are happy to tom-tom their successes, there is a studied silence when the startup fails. This is ironic, given the fact that failures are much commoner! Every successful investor has backed startups which have failed. What can we learn from that failure? How can we capture that knowledge and use it to reduce the risk of other startups failing? One way of doing that is by being frank and documenting their experiences.
Fortunately for me, I’m a bit of an outsider in the startup space. I am a full-time IVF doctor which means I am not embedded in the startup ecosystem. I can afford to be politically incorrect because it’s my personal money I’m spending, which means I’m not answerable to anyone other than my wife. This gives me the freedom to say what’s on my mind.
Most of my posts have been written as a student who hopes to learn a lot on this journey. One of the reasons I became an angel investor is to learn, and the whole point of knowledge is to share it with the rest of the world, so that it grows . I don’t believe in hoarding my knowledge , which is why I respect Saraswati more than Lakshmi. I also believe that the more I share, the more I will learn in return.
I’m disappointed that other investors aren’t willing to share their lessons, their insights, and their knowledge . There’s too much opacity and mystery in this space and that can’t be in anyone’s best interests.
Since I have skin in the game, I’m not just writing as an outsider. And even though I’m part of the ecosystem, I am not beholden to it, because this is not my full-time day job. This is why I can afford to be a dispassionate observer, and call a spade a spade.
And yes, I can be quite opinionated, and I agree I’ve been wrong many times. My posts are my personal opinions, based on my experience, and you are welcome to draw whatever lessons you want from these for yourself.
This is exactly the same approach I’ve tried to use as an IVF doctor as well. I try to share as much information as possible with my patients so that they’re empowered to make decisions for themselves, rather than leave everything up to me in the naive belief that the doctor knows best.
This is equally true in the angel investing ecosystem as well, and I believe that the more we share, the more we all will learn and this will reduce the chances of making mistakes. I’m hoping that other people will benefit from some of the lessons I have learned the hard way, and make fewer errors thanks to my posts.

[This post by Dr. Aniruddha Malpani first appeared on LinkedIn and has been reproduced with permission.]

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