How 8-year-old Pearl developed the passion for entrepreneurship
Proving herself again and again
Pearl’s journey to gaining more exposure
Pearl’s desire to contribute back to India
Building a community feeling
Eximius Venture’s investment strategy
The problem statements need to be validated properly
The Feeling of Wanting to Do Something and Going Beyond
Break Free & Fly
Doing Something Beyond
Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):
Michael Waitze 0:06
Hi, this is Michael Waitze and welcome back, at least I made you laugh and welcome back to India GameChanger today we are joined by Pearl I tried the best I could, Argarwal, the founding and Managing Director of Eximius Ventures. Did I pronounce any of that? Right, by the way? With that I just make it up. 100%
Pear Agarwal 0:21
right. Everything sounds good.
Michael Waitze 0:24
You thought you were gonna freeze up? I was so stressed out just to get that out. Anyway, Pearl, thank you so much for coming on the show. How are you doing today?
Pear Agarwal 0:32
Pretty good. Thank you, Michael, for having me. It’s great to be chatting with you.
Michael Waitze 0:36
It is super to be chatting with you as well. And I am impressed that you bought a new microphone just to do this.
Pear Agarwal 0:43
You wouldn’t have it any other way. So I had to I wanted to chat with you. I was determined to make this happen.
Michael Waitze 0:50
I love it. I love the effort. Look, before we get into the central part of this conversation, let’s get some of your background for my listeners. Yeah,
Pear Agarwal 0:58
no, absolutely. You know, because you give me the Liberty, maybe I’ll go all the way back, go back. Talk about where I started from please. Um, so I was born and brought up in a small tear for town in Orissa, I sometimes joke, but it was not on the map back then. And I think even today, it’s probably not on Google Maps. And my family at a small sort of Khurana store, they came from a small entrepreneurial background. But at a very early age, we were I wouldn’t say recommended, but in a way encouraged to go to the shop set and understand how business was run. Really, that is where I sort of really developed the passion to be an entrepreneur, was the way it was, is there was a street and all the shops were on the same street and people would hang out all the time. And that community feeling of founder, I wouldn’t say founders, but in a way entrepreneurs getting together was something that was quite exciting, right. And I remember at the age of eight, is when I had decided that I wanted to be an entrepreneur, little did I know what that meant, how it would come what form and shape but that feeling of wanting to do something and go beyond that was really important to me. And think that is what really sort of shaped the rest of my life in a way because it took me to different places pushed me to try new experiences. And, you know, a part of it was also while I wanted to be an entrepreneur, and it was in that was something I was seeing around me, being a woman didn’t quite help because I did come from a very conservative patriarchal family. And I remember when I wanted to move to the US the sort of comment that came was the woman in our family don’t, don’t do this, they don’t. And my grandmother to have faith that if you know my grandfather were alive, this would not never would have happened. But to me getting out was really important. Because from that, you know, from the age of eight, that drive couldn’t have been satisfied until I really pushed myself to get out of the country or get out of that circumstance and really try to do something beyond for myself, which sort of took me to my second love. And that is investing right ended up in the US from the school at Macomb school of business where I started to sort of learn a bit more about investing and work with the university’s investment fund through that also got on to the endowment fund that was collecting on the university’s funds and deploying it across 200 Plus venture capital private equity funds.
Michael Waitze 3:30
Which university was the second
Pear Agarwal 3:33
University of Texas at Austin, some forgot about that
Michael Waitze 3:37
you went to UT Austin. So you were living in Austin, when you’re doing this you got onto the committee that was investing ut Austin’s money do you do you know the history of Austin itself? Like you know that it was really small as well, before the university actually started growing fast. Michael Dell was there like all these things happen? Are you aware that that was the case when you got there?
Pear Agarwal 3:54
Not really, to be honest, I mean, the best I knew was 26 acre campus and a little bit about Dell. Because of course, there was a huge part of the campus and the history. Sure, but in terms of how it grew, I didn’t know one thing was very obvious. Austin was not supposed to be the tech hub that it was becoming. Everything was super congested. I mean, good. You could drive anywhere within 20 minutes, but at the same time, that’s what made it super exciting. I mean, being able to really meet people from different places with fresh ideas, and just hang out as a you know, you chilling in the park and discuss some of the most exciting ideas. I think that could only happen in Texas, you wouldn’t see that happening or other Austin to be precise. I don’t think you’d see that happen everywhere.
Michael Waitze 4:38
No. I mean, Dallas is completely different than Austin. Houston is completely different. It’s driven by oil and other things that are going on there. But Austin grew up in a completely different way. Why did you choose to go to Austin? I mean, of all the places if you’re escaping from the country in a way right? Like no, no, but I love this idea. And I don’t mean escaping but there’s an interesting aspect of a person who grows up who has like a powerful personality, right, who grows up in a small town you said fourth tier city, or tier four city or tier four town, right? It reminds me of another gentleman that I spoke to in India, I think it was the guy who was running totalement. And he said to me, I didn’t go to a tier three city, I went to a suburb of a suburb of a tier three city. And that kind of sounds like what you’re talking about. But how do you know? Right? Like when I was growing up, I lived in a suburb too. And I didn’t know that that was different than other things. Do you know what I mean? Until I got to New York City for the first time. And I looked around, and I went, Okay, I gotta be here. Yeah. How do you know when you’re eight years old?
Pear Agarwal 5:30
Yeah. I think two things. Number one, by the time I was growing up and making these decisions internet was, I remember that, you know, I was in middle school, when I got my first computer, or like I was introduced to a computer. I mean, of course, we weren’t using it all the time. But you could look up things, and you knew what was happening. And number two, I think it was also my extended family and cousins. I think I had a lot of family that were in Delhi and around and I would sort of initially see the stark difference every time they came and visited us during the holidays. And I think that was part of the reason why I also wanted to sort of move out. And I could see that I could see how, you know, educating yourself could could be to that. So yeah, otherwise, you’re in a way pigeon holed into that same area. And you could move i Very interestingly, I actually left home at the age of eight. And that’s why I remember it very distinctly. Because that was the first time I actually realised that to do something I had to get out of there. Where did you go with my aunt to Delhi, and they were visiting. And for me, it was really important that you not get out of
Unknown Speaker 6:34
bed and just like snuck into the car. Nobody wanted
Pear Agarwal 6:36
me Believe me, my parents didn’t want to send my aunt didn’t want me but I was like, um, I stayed here for six months. eight year old cannot survive. I had to go back. But I think that was the defining moment for me. Since then it has always been pushing out. Can
Michael Waitze 6:51
I can I talk about this thing that your grandmother said to you? Because I think it’s super interesting. This idea that like if grandpa had been alive, wouldn’t accept this. No. But this idea of a sort of conservative patriarchal family, it’s a thing and it’s a thing in every country, right? It’s not just in India, it’s in Japan, it’s in China. It’s in. It’s in parts of America to definitely in parts of Europe. And there’s this common through line, I think, with strong, intelligent, like kind of strong willed young women who just say, I don’t care. I feel like confined in a way. And I don’t care what it takes. I’m going to get out of here. And I’m going to do something big because I feel like that’s inside me. And I don’t want it suppressed inside me. Is that fair?
Pear Agarwal 7:27
Yes, I think definitely, I felt like I was in a different costume in a different place. Well, they’re just what my soul and my heart belong, I did want to sort of break free and fly. I think that’s why to a large extent, not moving to the US for education, but even staying there afterwards. And being able to prove myself again and again, through you know, just feeling that getting that feeling of being able to break through was super important. And it was super liberating as well,
Michael Waitze 7:56
when you got on when you got on the plane in India and then landed in Texas, so hard to explain. I remember when I when I went to Japan for the first time, right? I was studying I’ve never been out of the country. I’ve actually never been on a flight not even close to that long, right? And I remember the excitement as I kind of came in to Tokyo and saw like the different shape roofs and I was just like, oh my god, I’m gonna be like an another planet. But did you feel when you landed in Texas? Like now I feel free kind of thing. Do you know what I mean?
Pear Agarwal 8:24
I did, but not when I landed in Texas. It was you scared? Yeah. When I leave Texas, I was definitely very scared my first three days, how would I live? What would I you know, how would I sort of get by day, but I felt very liberated in the Heathrow Airport. Because that is where we were stopping. I suddenly got out. I looked around. I was like, I have all the power to do what I want. And there is nobody here. And I think that feeling is so defining that it’s been almost 1213 years, but I still remember it. I mean that that one second of just walking around Heathrow and feeling so powerful. But did you
Michael Waitze 8:58
feel in a way like this was the beginning of the next part of my life, like whatever I was doing beforehand is kind of gone. Like it was there to build the foundation of who I am. But that’s over now. And this is like a rebirth. In a way. This is the beginning. And now whatever happens here is on me Yeah, that’s kind of cool. No, yeah.
Pear Agarwal 9:14
I don’t know if I felt it at that moment. It was too strong to feel it right then and there. But it did feel like I was moving towards something that was going to give me a lot more exposure. It was like it was going to let me explore a lot more than what I wanted to get into before.
Michael Waitze 9:30
Yeah. When you graduated from UT Austin, and then you said you stayed in the States. Did you stay in Texas? Did you go to some other state like and did you travel when you were there as well? Because America is a huge country.
Pear Agarwal 9:41
Yeah, no, I travelled a lot. I think I have a count now. I make notes of it as well, probably the 760s cities because I love travelling, being able to travel and meet people really opens up your mind I feel and among that you learn it’s not something you can learn from books. It’s just, you know, sort of all the history that culture, the food, everything just pops out and speaks to you. But I did spend some time in Austin and then moved to Houston for banking. When I was at Merrill Lynch doing mergers and acquisition and
Michael Waitze 10:14
by Merrill Lynch and in Houston. Yeah, that’s awesome.
Pear Agarwal 10:19
I started there, very quickly ran away. Because I am so an Austin or a New York person, I would say not quite a suburb person. So while I was exciting, I think for me to move out was very important. I moved to New York soon after within a year and a half or so. And then I continued in banking for some time in New York and then moved to a private equity fund.
Michael Waitze 10:42
Oh, wow. Did you live in Manhattan? Did you live in Hoboken? Do you live in Brooklyn? Like, where did you live when you’re in, in New York,
Pear Agarwal 10:49
in Manhattan, I just wanted to be in Manhattan, I needed that space. And I needed to be sort of out there and just experiencing everything that New York and Manhattan had to offer. So initially, I was in Lower East Side, in the middle of all of those bars and clubs and everything that’s happening the restaurants and then later I realised that New York has much more to offer. So went up, up north a little bit.
Michael Waitze 11:16
It really it’s funny, Manhattan’s is long thin Island, right? But it’s really far away. It can take you an hour to go from from the Lower East Side up to like Midtown, or maybe the Upper East Side of the upper with the Upper West Side. For sure. Right. Yeah,
Pear Agarwal 11:28
I think Uber started is almost 40 minutes. If you take the subway, and it’s about 4045 minutes. If you take a cab I think then also it’s like an hour or so it could be right.
Michael Waitze 11:37
So yeah, I once rode my bicycle from Fort Lee, New Jersey over the George Washington bridge down to the lower east side. Oh, wow.
Pear Agarwal 11:46
That’s incredible. That’s pretty beautiful as well. I don’t think I have done it all the way from George Washington Bridge down there. But definitely from Upper West Side down to all the way back to the park at night I in the city bikes that you can drive at 1am 2am. And the super fun because there’s no traffic and you can just go in down.
Michael Waitze 12:06
Yeah, if you can, we wrote down Fifth Avenue, I’m pretty sure. Like, because there was some festival that day. And that was just such an amazing experience. What pulled you back to India? Yeah,
Pear Agarwal 12:16
I think that experience that I’d had the reason I sort of, you know, still talk about it. And the reason I talk about this is because I think of it very often. And the first eight years, even though I was constantly trying to get out, didn’t really define eventually who I wanted to be, which is someone who works with entrepreneurs in India and helps them grow their business or leaves a mark in the way that they develop their business. And even though I moved back in 2020, after having like, sort of moved across seven cities, in the US and UK, to me, that idea was there from the very beginning, was just waiting for the right time. And in a way, the right amount of experience that I thought I required to be able to come back and do their thing. 2016 was when I had almost decided that it’s it’s time to go back, just have to start sort of gathering up things and planning in a direction that I can actually make what I want to do come through,
Michael Waitze 13:14
do you think that there’s a unique diaspora experience, right, where someone like you goes overseas, learns all of this stuff, experiences all of these things that they’d kind of dreamed about as an eight year old girl, and then says, You know what, I have all this stuff now. But I want to kind of share it with everybody else, right? Because a lot of people may not have the benefit of being able to do that, or the resources to be able to do it, or just even the knowledge that that’s available. And if you can go home and tell them that what we’re building here is amazing. But there’s a bigger world out there. And some of that stuff, we can actually take best parts of and make India better in a way through this entrepreneurship. And through the investing. Did you feel that as well? Do you know what I mean?
Pear Agarwal 13:52
Yeah, no, no, I completely and, you know, we sort of use this word community first and community very often, because it definitely aligns with that thought. I mean, why I was working and travelling, experiencing things, I definitely felt I was learning. But at the end of the day, there was that question that what am I contributing back? Extend, I’m doing this for myself. But eventually I have to give back and to me that giving back always seem to connect with the community back in India, maybe not the same community in Orissa, but a community back in India, that probably didn’t have the same opportunity, because I could connect, you know, connect to the fact that I didn’t have all the opportunities, I pushed myself to get it and sort of move out. So I wanted to come back and give as much as I could. And, you know, see that most people would not have to sort of push to the same extent to go out there and get
Michael Waitze 14:46
Yeah, although what you did can actually be a role model for what other people that follow you can do. You know, when we were doing our prep call, we were talking about how we wanted to talk about who you are in the context of what you do, and one of the theories that I have cuz you can’t separate that person from something if they do it really well. And as soon as you started telling this story about, you know, when I was a little girl, all the shops are on the same street, and the most important thing wasn’t necessarily the entrepreneurial field, but that community field. In other words, you know, if my neighbours store needed help, I would just go there and help them. And if the people across the street needed money to fund the buying of that thing, we’d give it to them, and they’d give it back to us, we’d figure it out. And then when I looked at the, you know, community to scale your ideas, which says on your website, it’s not shocking, right? And this is that through line that just cannot be removed, right from that eight year old girl to the person you are today. Is that fair, though? You see the way this works, right?
Pear Agarwal 15:37
Yeah, no, absolutely. And you so right, I’m actually amazed that you can picture how it works, because that is exactly how things are, like, if you have to go get lunch, you can just ask the person in front of the shop that hey, can you watch my shop for some time, and they’ll come and manage the counter as well collect money and deliver the product. I don’t think that happens in a lot of other places, right? But that is so empowering. Because you know that you’re not alone. Things might be like might not go the way you want it to, you might need some time for yourself and your family. But because you are all doing it together, you can you can sail through. And I think that is something we’re also seeing in a lot of entrepreneurs today that are coming up, right? And if you’re not, we believe that really make the whole startup ecosystem so thriving, and exciting is because people are willing to get on calls and help each other out. Yeah, I
Michael Waitze 16:27
mean, you can’t remove that feeling you have right again, this idea of I’m gonna go get lunch. First of all, I’ll get it for you too. Because yesterday, you got it for me. But can you just watch the stuff while I’m away with no worry at all about anything, right? You know, it’s gonna be fine. When you get back, it could be better, they could have made more sales, you know what I mean? Like, hey, I did 10 of these you only did for while you were here all day, that kind of thing. But you can’t get away from it. And it translates in the way you look at founders in the way you invest as well. And also, you know, nobody has a portfolio of one company. So if you’re building a portfolio, and particularly where you’re doing it, and I’m curious why as well. And maybe this is why, but at the earliest stages of investing is where the most risk is as well. And at the riskiest time is when people need the most help. Right. So in a way, it mirrors what was happening on that little street, right, where when a founder walks away metaphorically to go get lunch, there’s another founder there to help her so that she doesn’t fail. It doesn’t it doesn’t mean she’s necessarily going to succeed. But it means that there are people there to help you build your when you’re thinking about this early stage investing, is that one of the reasons why you’re there at the earliest stages, if that makes sense. Yeah,
Pear Agarwal 17:27
no, absolutely. I think he by the time a company reaches Series B plus, or sort of becomes cashflow generating, I wouldn’t say cashflow positive at that point. It’s all about growing your team scaling and growing numbers. But the real sort of entrepreneurial spirit that is required to sail through and to establish yourself is seen in the earliest stages. And I think that is what I connect with the most. And and you know that that community that I’ve experienced also comes in its most handy at that stage. And to your point, I mean, we’ve seen founders do it, we also sort of facilitated because we believe that founder to fund the Connect is just so much more important than an investor to founder connect or an investor to investor connect in their in their for the text. And
Michael Waitze 18:13
then how did you come up with this though? Or did you just kind of translate the way you felt about regular life into your investment strategy, this idea of focusing on the founder first, right? A lot of investors talk about this, but at the end of the day, there’s maybe more of an LP focus, right, like, it’s not my money, I’m investing their money. And it’s more important to me to focus on them, as opposed to focusing on the founders. But the founders are the ones the guys and gals that are out there actually, in the trenches getting this stuff done, right. And they have their own problems too, like their people, right? They have brothers, they have sisters, they have grandmothers, they have grandma, all this kind of stuff, like, how does that inform what you do? And also who you choose to be part of your portfolio?
Pear Agarwal 18:52
Yeah, that’s, that’s a fantastic question, right? Because especially the LP bar, because every time I sit down, I do know that I have two stakeholders, once the LP that actually deploying that capital, and they themselves are entrepreneurs or seasoned professionals, right, they have, they haven’t had an easy run making that money. So they’re trusting me with that money. Right. On the other hand, there is a founder who actually requires that capital to make the deep dream come true. And in a way, you’re a bridge in between. So it’s sort of like a role that I don’t take very lightly. And the way I have overcome how to manage both perspectives is to do all our homework, all our due diligence, and in all the preparation before investing. Because before we’ve put in our capital, my view is that the LP is really our client, because we want to make sure that they get the best investment that they can. Once we have invested, then the founder becomes just as important if not more for two reasons. One, you’ve given capital, you can continue to make their life harder, but you’re not going to get your capital back by doing that. Much better supporting them. And second is that Once they’ve taken capital, they’re doing it because they need it. So they also want to sort of, you know, get support, get help get emotional comfort every now and then to be able to go through. So we focus a lot more on that afterwards. And I think that so far has helped me manage both with Yeah, we are two years into our journey so far.
Michael Waitze 20:18
I was gonna ask you that. So Eximius was founded two years ago. What does existence mean? Like, is there a reason why you have that name?
Pear Agarwal 20:24
Yeah, it means excellent in Latin. And for me, the whole thought was that we want to be good at what we are doing. And we want to be backing folks who are good at what they do. And what would define it. So through a dictionary search of every single word exam, yes, stood out. It sounded cool. Sounded exciting.
Michael Waitze 20:43
sounds extreme. Yes. I was pronouncing it wrong. No, it’s
Pear Agarwal 20:47
perfect. You’re getting it? Absolutely. Right. It’s better than other words.
Michael Waitze 20:54
To share, how do you as you grow, right? You’ve been at this for two years. And I presume when you first started, you had this idea, this thesis around like how I’m going to invest? It has to change over time, right? Because as you experience anything, in a way, it’s almost like quantum right? Just by merely observing it, you have to change it. And if it’s changed a little bit, how has it changed the way you choose founders to choose companies? And when you’re done with that, I’m really curious about India is a gigantic company, a country right, with so many kinds of opportunities for investing with so many particular sectors? Like how do you choose that too, but talk about the founders first. And then I want to talk about are you sector agnostic? Or are you focusing on one thing, and just going super deep there?
Pear Agarwal 21:33
Yeah. So we take a blended approach of the two, but we’re definitely founders first. And that also means that we focus a lot more on the founders while choosing which companies to invest in each where we come in, often the companies are in idea stage of pre MVP, MVP stage, what that means, yes, super early, because we put in checks of 250 to 300k. And what that means at that stage is that even though the founders know what problem statement they’re solving for, they often don’t know if they had the right product in mind. And how is the consumer going to react to that product. So you can spend all the time and effort validating it, but we know it’s going to change probably in three months, or six months or so 50 or 60% of our time and due diligence actually goes in making sure that there’s the right problem market fit and found a market means has the founder actually focused on the consumer group that they want to solve for? And do they understand it well enough that until they found the right solution, they’re not going to budge? And do they have the right network, the right experience to actually be able to do that? I was gonna
Michael Waitze 22:38
say this, this, this idea of, you know, what is the problem they’re addressing and solving is I think a lot of founders come in with, I want to build this product, right? Like the world needs this product without trying to figure out what problem it’s solving. It’s very subtle, almost like the same side of a very sharp knife thing, right? Where it’s like, the problem is over here, and the solution is over here. But you can’t start over here. Do you find that you have some guys and gals coming? You’re gonna have this killer product? And you’re like, what problem is it solving? And they’re like, Oh, I haven’t thought about that kind of thing. You know what I mean?
Pear Agarwal 23:06
Yeah. In fact, a lot of times, you might think that, you know, these are fresh first time founders, let’s be honest, they’re second time, third time founders as well, who sometimes get so caught up in wanting to build the next thing. And I did think on the solution that they forget that there is a problem that needs to be validated. And hence, and the problem just doesn’t need to be validated by speaking to 10 of your closest friends or 20 of your neighbours, but actually a much wider audience to be able to test it. So we focus on that like very strictly for us, it’s super important to check on it.
Michael Waitze 23:37
Do you do you ever invest in companies? Or do you plan on investing in companies that come in? Maybe they’ve been working on something for six months to a year, they figured out how to get a client and how to get somebody to pay them as well? Would you invest in a company like that? Or is it really just all super early stage? I just have an idea. I think I know what I’m what problem I’m trying to address. And I’m in the process of building that product. Do you know what I mean? Let me let me tell you why I’m asking. I sat in a room one day with a guy who just asked a bunch of founders, okay, how come you don’t have any clients? And it wasn’t meant to be like an aggressive? Like, how come you don’t have any clients? It was more like? Have you asked yourself why to try to understand why to make it easier for yourself to get clients? Does that make sense?
Pear Agarwal 24:19
Yes, and even a bit, I mean, at the idea stage, or the MVP stage, there might not be clients, but it’s important for them to actually know what the users and the clients think of them. And today, you don’t require a tech product to be able to do that. Or neither do you require a completely, you know, built out a product, logo, no code tools can help you sort of ship out a quick version of it in two days, and actually test it. So a lot of the founders were were actually building seriously come with that the interior design partners that they work with four or five design partners, or they have, you know, 100 200 beta users that they are sort of collecting if you’re not doing that and that’s a GDL sort of question that, how can you build a rocket? If you don’t know if there is anybody to use that rocket? After two years, you’ve come out and you realise that oh, man, I bet something that nobody wants.
Michael Waitze 25:10
In reverse, though, do you have ideas where you’re like, because look, when I teach a taught a course. So I should restate this. But I taught a course on innovation and how to figure out like, how to innovate. And one of the questions I used to ask the students was, you know, when you’re going through your day to day life, you must come up against problems and think I wish somebody would solve that, or how come nobody’s fixed that. And that’s a way to like, try to figure out if you can build a product around it. And also, if it’s big enough, if enough people have the same problem, then you can potentially scale it. But do you ever have this idea of like, oh, no, I think I’ve had this problem a bunch of times somebody should build it. And then you go look for that thing. Do you know what I mean?
Pear Agarwal 25:48
Yeah, I think my personal problems, maybe not as much, but we definitely sort of come across certain things. And we are thinking, why hasn’t anybody tried building in this direction? Right? Ever, right? And then the minute you get someone who’s actually building in this direction, it’s almost like serendipity. Yeah, I would say, I will not name this. But we’ve recently backed a founder, where for the longest time in the SME space, and we were thinking, why hasn’t this been tried, it’s such a complicated thing. It takes days. And he was a cold email that landed on my, in my inbox, the minute I saw and some founder that nobody had ever heard of cold email, half done pitch deck. But that problem statement just landed home, and we jumped on it, and it’s turning out to be a great portfolio. At this point, I think our personal problems definitely end up being super exciting. Now I’m gonna
Michael Waitze 26:39
have to go try to look at your portfolio and figure out which one it was.
Pear Agarwal 26:46
You can try, you’ll have to come to our office,
Michael Waitze 26:48
I’ll definitely do that as well. We already talked about that, too. I’ve got to build a studio in your office. When do you take the time to back up, you know, or to go up like 35,000 feet? And just try to figure out because the more you do this, the more you can see things right? Do you must feel like the world is a lot clearer today than it was when you were 25? Right? Because you just have all this experience. Now. Now, when you look out into the world, you can see those gaps more clearly. And you can understand what types of solutions need to get filled to get built to fill those gaps. Right? When do you take the time to look at big secular movements in the market and think we need to be there as well. And this gets back to this idea of like, are you sector agnostic? And how do you figure that stuff out? You know what I mean? Yeah, again, that’s
Pear Agarwal 27:30
a great question. And the in fact, do that regularly. And if you’re not doing it on a monthly basis, we tell ourselves that we need to be doing it. And that happens through having deep thesis in certain sectors. So we decided early on that we didn’t want to be sector agnostic, because that makes it very difficult to really know the problem and the product that you’re investing in. But at the same time, I believe that the Indian markets are not deep enough right now to focus on one sector. So we have three or four different sectors that we focus on. Cross FinTech, HealthTech, gaming media and entertainment.
Michael Waitze 28:06
Go down, slow down. Say it again.
Pear Agarwal 28:09
FinTech, FinTech, health, tech, health tech got
Michael Waitze 28:13
it makes sense gaming, though gaming. Yeah. What does that mean by gaming? You mean like online games? Or you’re not about gambling, right? You’re talking about games,
Pear Agarwal 28:21
games, not gambling? Nothing that is illegal.
Michael Waitze 28:25
Yeah, no, I don’t mean that. But I mean, I have this conversation with a buddy of mine. He’s like, Oh, I love gaming. And I’m like, you gotta be careful, right? Because in Nevada, the gaming thing is like gambling. That’s just called gaming. So I just want to make sure that I understand what you’re talking about gaming and media, what kind of media interests you need.
Pear Agarwal 28:40
Yeah. And content would be things around, like social commerce in a way commerce that is led through content, whether it is audio content, video content, so that media and content I think one area that’s super exciting is social commerce got that I mean, like any commerce that is led by audio content, video content infographic content, and that appeals a lot to the Indian audience beyond tier one. So your search base content is not as popular as video and audio based content. Similarly, another company, which is super exciting that we’ve invested in is zero, that is a pseudo anonymous social media plan. And what’s even more exciting is that today, the ratio of people who read versus write on any other platform is 90 to 10 90% of the people read and 10% of the people actually write their 40% of the people are writing that’s because it really brings out the innate need to sort of express yourself when you are synonymous in people on a platform like that.
Michael Waitze 29:40
How do you how do you stop the trolling and stuff like that? That normally happens because this is like medium without putting your name on it, but then medium that has commerce associated with it’s kind of interesting. Yeah. Can you just dig a little bit deeper on this for me because it’s kind of interesting.
Pear Agarwal 29:52
Yeah. I would say that you know, synonymous media cannot have commerce immediately. That is more of so these are two different companies. One which is, which is a pseudo anonymous social media primarily to discuss issues that they want to that they’re not able to sort of address with the name or trolling could be a part. But that is when it’s completely anonymous, when it is anonymous using just a face or a name with nothing behind it in pseudonymous, there is a little bit of your persona or profile, which says that okay, you’re not Paul, but you are a VC in in Delhi NCR, who’s a female, and I think that really narrows down the pool and sort of defines it, and limits what you could say till you don’t have to put your name to it. So in a way, I would say that it’s empowering, without having all the other aspects that come with it. So I spoke
Michael Waitze 30:40
to sorry, I was gonna say, I spoke to a really interesting company yesterday. Let’s back up to the gaming thing, right? Because you must understand gaming. So you’ve heard of unity, you’ve heard of Unreal Engine, right? They build kind of the operating systems for game building, right? These are big, complex software platforms that allow you to build, you know, super realistic games, I think there are other uses for that stuff, which we can talk about later, as well. But if you think about it, in that context, I spoke to a company yesterday, actually in India, that is trying to build the engine for E commerce in the same way. So to build an engine that is immersive. And it sounds a little bit like something that you’re talking about, right? Build something social, build some kind of communication around it so that the brand can communicate with their fans in a way. But if you build that thing that’s much more interactive, then you should, by definition, be able to sell more, but somewhere in a good way, not in a bad way. Right? It just sounded super interesting. But that combination of gaming commerce, and the social part of it is super cool. Yeah.
Pear Agarwal 31:36
Yeah. That sounds a super exciting idea engine for E commerce. Well, I’ll have to go back and check on what you’re talking about.
Michael Waitze 31:45
It’s not on my website. Yeah. i Oh, do that. By the way.
Pear Agarwal 31:49
Maybe when it comes out in the podcast, you’ll notice. But it’s also the audience, right? Like, what 1.4 billion people, you really have to come up with different ways to be able to reach them and be able to engage with them. Because there are so many mini personas within this large country. And that is what like different form of media is actually allowing companies to do
Michael Waitze 32:09
Do you have role models that you look to inside of India, but also outside of India, when you think about the style in which you want to invest? You know, I mean, like you said, you spent all this time in Texas, in New York and travelling the United States, but also building this idea of I want to run a VC company, I want to be an investor in India, do you lean on other people’s experience, at least at the beginning of this, when you decide like how you want to invest strategically, if that makes sense?
Pear Agarwal 32:31
If I got your question, right? You mean like do I sort of look at my counterparts in the US and Europe to see how they are investing or
Michael Waitze 32:40
in India? In other words, like you’ve only been at it for two years, right? So and to be fair, the VC world is going it’s constantly changing, right? It’s constantly evolving, but you have to have some kind of base level of like, who is doing something similar somewhere else that I can kind of look at and say, I like this, I like that you look at other models, and think we definitely need to employ this as well.
Pear Agarwal 33:00
Yeah, absolutely. All the time. And I think across all all different segments, right? Like one is, of course, how are people looking at different segments that we are looking at? Are they also finding it exciting, because for us, that is important that the companies that we are finding exciting, at some point, larger VCs do look at it and have like a follow on round down. Second is also how they are building their VC funds. I mean, you know, with some of the larger VCs, they have 4045 years of experience and have been around, it has taken them some time to really sort of establish their brand. And what has that journey been? And in this new age media, how can we learn some from them and innovate what we can bring to the table to really because they can learn something
Michael Waitze 33:44
from you too, right? In other words, I find that like, like, I’m 57 years old, right? I love talking to you. Because there are definitely things you can learn from me. But you look at the world in a completely different way than I do. And also because you grew up in a small you know, what did you call it a tier four town in India, I didn’t do know, but it’s really important, right? For I think most people my age close their mind, like I know everything I need to know, I’m just gonna go forward with the stuff that I have. I love talking to people half my age, because I can learn so much from them. And I think it is a balance you can learn from existing VCs that have been around for 45 years. But they can also turn look at you and say, I think she has a point there, right? Because you’re looking at it differently. But you also mentioned a word that I want to focus on for a second to you said follow on, is there a temptation as an early stage investor to look at some of the companies in which you’ve invested in think, Wait a second, this one’s gonna be a rocket ship. And I can just tell and I don’t want to get diluted. Can I follow on so that I maintain my ownership position in this or are you just indifferent because you’ve taken the risk so early that you feel like the return is going to be good enough?
Pear Agarwal 34:39
You don’t? I mean, yeah, no, we definitely want to follow on and that’s a decision that’s that’s a difficult one to take us. With the $10 million fund. You can’t follow on in each and every company. Sure, you do have to pick a few that you want to follow on. But both from like funds perspective, if you look at the math without following on with you know 200 300 Again, each company, we will not be able to generate the returns that we want, we have to take bigger bets in a select few. So I would say that, you know, we take a little bit of pragmatic view there, to really understand that every follow on round that is happening, how much more how much more juice is remaining, from our perspective, even post dilution. And we see that from our current portfolio, there could be somebody else that could bring in more, and I don’t think there’s a straight answer to it. But this is a constant exercise to be able to sort of take those decisions. Yeah,
Michael Waitze 35:31
I mean, I think that’s the result of an active mind on your part. The idea is that there is no fixed answer to this question. I was just curious the way you looked at it. I want to ask you one more thing before I let you go. You know, you said when you were eight, you kind of snuck into your aunt’s car and tried to get to Delhi you actually got there for six. And I love this, because I can picture you doing it. I really can’t. I
Pear Agarwal 35:50
got I just like followed I wasn’t ready to come back. But you
Michael Waitze 35:54
know what I mean that right? Oh, come on. I’m joking around a little bit. But I can just see this little girl with like her own little suitcase, like just kind of jumping in the car with a big smile on her face, like I’m going to Delhi. But there was also this resistance from the family a little bit about like, you know, she’s not supposed to do this. But now that they see kind of what you’re becoming and how you’ve grown to they look at you now and just think Yeah, I think she actually did the right thing. It was hard for us at the time to understand why and how but I think she’s gonna be okay. Do you know what I mean? Yeah,
Pear Agarwal 36:19
well, you’re asking really nice questions,
Michael Waitze 36:21
but it’s gonna be different.
Pear Agarwal 36:24
Yes, it’s one day at a time. Definitely. It gets easier every single day. And I think there is no that one time when I would say they turn around and say she’s done it. We have a long way to go miles before we sleep. And I think each day it gets easier.
Michael Waitze 36:40
Okay, I’m gonna let you go on that Pearl Agarwal, Founder and Managing Director Eximius. I think I got it right. This time Ventures thank you so much for doing this today.
Pear Agarwal 36:48
Absolutely. Thank you, Michael. My pleasure.
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