Today more than ever, it is important for enterprises to make intelligent investments. Investment at its core is the process of allocating capital for value creation. We live in times of rapid change and technological innovation, and the empirical evidence clearly shows that the incumbents are being disrupted out of business faster than at any point in history. In this context, intelligent investments both for organic and inorganic growth are essential for the continued success of any organization.
Speciale Invest is a venture capital firm aiming to back the entrepreneurs in the seed stage through investments. Vishesh Rajaram(Managing Partner) and Arjun Rao (Partner) say that their strategy is to invest in companies that are disrupting sectors on the back of innovative technologies. Vishesh further added, “We founded Speciale Invest to back bold entrepreneurs using technology, science, and innovation to disrupt the world and make an impact—we were clear that we would back both software and hardware ideas and there is a handful of us who are trying to do hardware today.”
Struggles and Up-Downs of an Entrepreneur
Over the years, Vishesh has been through the same struggles and ups and downs as any of the entrepreneurs he’s invested in. This experience gave him an insight into the struggles of an entrepreneur, which led to the foundation of Speciale Invest. The company raises money from its investors and invests the same in start-ups that the team believes have the potential to breakout. Vishesh believes that this job is difficult and has no instant gratification. Other than taking care of the operations, he has the major responsibility of carrying a venture capital firm, Vishesh adds, “The biggest responsibility I carry is that of building a venture capital firm that stands as an institution and stands the test of time i.e. we have a team that can sustain and continue to build breakout companies.”
A Pioneer Venture Capitalist
Vishesh Rajaram used to be a principal at Ventureast, one of India’s oldest VC funds – managing its sixth fund of US$100 million. He quit this role to start a new fund with his batchmate and friend from ISB, Arjun Rao, who worked with Yahoo! and Ibibo before co-founding Travelyaari. Vishesh has been actively involved across the life-cycle of venture capital investing from deal sourcing, building networks, investing, monitoring and creating value and exit engineering.
Vishesh believes that he has been lucky to start his career in venture capital business by the age of 23, and learned a lot throughout his journey of 13 years. He always wanted the freedom to invest in companies that are breakout in both risk and reward. “I wanted to build a team of like-minded people however, the idea was not everyone’s favorite drink and hence it made sense to start this small and afresh with my co-founder Arjun,” said Vishesh.
According to Vishesh, the title of the leader appears to be more glory from the outside than the inside. Business is a tough job, hence keeps people humble and on their feet. He has personally spent over 1/3rd of his life as a venture capitalist and he believes that it needs a lot of nerve and patience to keep at it. He explains it further, in theory, saying that the journey broadly has three components,
Firstly, a 1/3rd of life with your internal team to build an institution that can spot innovation early
Secondly, a 1/3rd of life with your portfolio entrepreneurs
Finally, 1/3rd with the ecosystem, but in practice, it’s a lot of grit and ability to multi-task chaos
Pre-empt the Trends for Success
Every five years, there are large thematic shifts in the investment industry. Speciale invests very early in a company’s life-cycle, and by definition, has to anticipate these trends to be successful. Vishesh explains that the key risk in VC is the prediction of technology and business trends, besides the time horizon over which this thesis will play out. “There are often hype cycles where certain investment themes are strongly in favor and capital floods to these sectors, we focus to look beyond this hype to invest in start-ups that we believe can successfully execute upon tech-driven innovation,” asserts Vishesh.
Aiming To Learn and Grow In 2020
In terms of new investments made and the continued progress of the existing portfolio, Vishesh believes that 2019 has been a great year for Speciale. The Speciale team is pleased to see the progress of the portfolio companies and is deeply optimistic about their prospects. Further Vishesh adds, “In terms of milestones for 2020, it’s really just more of the same—the internal message is to stay hungry, to learn and grow while keeping an eye out for exciting new opportunities for us to invest in.”
Every Fund has its Own Set of Challenges
Vishesh believes that every fund will have its own set of challenges. The same is for his company. He terms the fund as a young fund who is hungry for success. The Speciale team constantly strives to keep learning and growing and to make a name for themselves in the venture ecosystem. Vishesh says, “As with most things in life, this journey will also be a constant work in progress.”
There are often hype cycles where certain investment themes are strongly in favor and capital floods to these sectors. Our focus is to try to look beyond the seasonal hype, and to invest in start-ups that can successfully execute upon tech-driven innovation.
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