‘5 qualities investors look for in startup founders’

Jignesh Kenia, Senior VP and Head—Corporate Strategy, Business Development, and Digital, Times Network, and Hot 100 2017 jury member, on the traits that define great entrepreneurs. By Satyaki Sarkar

Currently, heading corporate planning and strategy for the Times Network, Jignesh Kenia and his team have been instrumental in helping the company expand its portfolio from five channels to twelve within a span of three years. Prior to this he was with UTV Disney and KPMG. Over the year’s he has honed his expertise in accounting, auditing, and financial management, while also working with startup and fast growing organisations. In his spare time, Jignesh is a mentor and guide to startups that catch his eye and has been a keen angel investor for the last few years. He tells us about the qualities he believes every entrepreneur absolutely must have to be successful

1. Aggression
“Once you have an idea that you think is unique and game changing, you need to be aggressive enough to pursue it and start working on it as soon as possible to have the first mover advantage. The market is captured by those who’ve come up with an idea of something that hasn’t been done before. So it’s extremely important for the entrepreneur to go all out and follow through on the idea. We’re in an ‘early bird’ market, which requires entrepreneurs to be aggressive and quick in all aspects of their venture, be it customer acquisition, implementation, funding, etc. He/she needs to move quickly, and capture his goals from the get-go.”

2. Adaptability and agility
“Today’s business models are evolving fast. For example, take Paytm. Initially it was only a wallet, but when it saw the opportunity to expand and become profitable, it expanded into an e-commerce also. Same thing with BookMyShow. So it’s extremely necessary for a founder to be able to adapt and restructure, depending on the opportunities available and gain returns. One of the startups I was mentoring started out as a retail rewards program, however, when they realised it wasn’t working, they kept changing their approach until they found one that was bearing results. In the end, they turned it into a tax-saving scheme for corporate employees, and successfully captured the city’s corporate world. Similarly, if things don’t work out, a founder needs to be agile and be able to correct his course immediately.”

3. Transparency, sincerity, and honesty
“Every organisation is in some way operating using investors’ money, and as such ethical integrity is one of the most important qualities that a founder needs to possess. Transparency and respect is a must for investors, as not only are they putting their own money into the organisation, but others’ money as well, be it an angel network or a private equity. It’s not that entrepreneur needs to be frugal or stingy with the money. The resources are there to be used for developing and advancing the company. But it should not be used for any purpose or in any way that might be immoral or unethical. Entrepreneurs need to be mature enough to know where to spend the money and how to spend it, while maintaining sincerity and honesty.”

4. Awareness of the domain
“A founder is the one who leads the entire team with his/her vision. As such a founder needs to be aware of everything that is going on in and around his domain. He/she needs to know exactly what is happening in the market, whether there’s another venture with a similar idea, whether there are any changes in laws/regulations that could end up being detrimental, etc. It is the founder who always needs to keep an eye out for potential investors, business avenues, and any opportunities that might provide ways for advancement. Equally importance is an awareness of what is going wrong within the organisation, what’s working, what is not and how to correct the mistakes.”

5. Confidence
“A startup is essentially built on the founder’s dream. As such it is imperative that he/she has a solid and unshakeable faith in his/her abilities, ideas, and the venture itself. The founder needs to believe in the organisation, be able to visualise its future, and the role it will play in the market. Unless he/she is confident about the course of action, it is impossible to convince investors to pour their own money into the venture. If the confidence is not 100 per cent, then its better the entrepreneur not move forward at all, because he/she won’t be able to build on it and make it something bigger and better.” 

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