India GameChanger recorded an interesting conversation with Neeraj Saxena, Managing Partner at Xscale and Univision Fund. Xscale mainly focuses on accelerating the revenues of Indian B2B SaaS Companies and help them expand in international markets. Univision Fund invest in Seed and Preseed stage B2B SaaS and Deep-Tech Companies.
Some of the topics Neeraj covered:
- How one experience help shaped Neeraj future goals and career
- Neeraj’s take on how to identify when ones product can be taken to the abroad market
- Neeraj’s key part of what pre-engagement needs and what’s the go-to market plan
- Why top tier talents in India are staying back and doing their own startup
- Neeraj’s emphasis on why it is an amazing time to start a startup now or start their entrepreneurship journey in India
Some other titles we considered for this episode:
- The Fence Has to Be Taken Out at a Certain Point of Time
- Most Founders Lose Patience Because They Don’t Understand the Journey
- There’s No 100% Product
This episode was produced by Stephanie Ng.
Read the best-effort transcript below (This technology is still not as good as they say it is…):
Michael Waitze 0:03
Hi, this is Michael Waitze and welcome back to India GameChanger today should be a great one. We are joined by Neeraj Saxena. Did I get your name? Right?
Neeraj Saxena 0:11
That’s right. Absolutely perfect.
Michael Waitze 0:13
Managing Partner at Xscale and Univision Fund. Neeraj, it’s great to have you on the show. How are you doing today?
Neeraj Saxena 0:20
I’m doing great, Michael, and thanks for having me on the show.
Michael Waitze 0:23
It could not be more of my pleasure. Before we get into kind of the meat of this conversation. Can we just figure out how you got to here? Let’s get a little bit of your background.
Neeraj Saxena 0:31
Okay. Pretty long journey. And and not not very straightforward. Well go for it. So. Absolutely. So I started my career in a technology. So I was building the VA or deep tech products way back in early 2000 2001, etc. When I was doing the coding for mp3, what we all know, you know, which is a pretty normal thing today. Those days, we were writing the encoders and decoders for mp3 and JPEG. The JPEG images. Yeah, so we have written, you know, we have done some of the layer implementations of these protocols, you know. So that was a starting point. I’ve worked in real time video streaming, you know, way back in 2002, when real time video streaming was, you know, just about basically and it was nowhere in the commercial market, we worked on some of the earliest phones, mobile phones that can support video streaming way back in 2002. So that’s, that’s a beginning of a journey on deep hardcore technocrat done, then a lot of technical work, then moved on to as a part of my job.
Michael Waitze 1:44
I’m really curious about this. In what context? Were you involved in writing the codecs for mp3, something that we completely take for granted today. But when people started using the mp3 protocols, as you mentioned, it was like a revelation. I mean, in what context? Were you working on this?
Neeraj Saxena 2:04
So I was working with a company called HCL Technologies. And they were working for their end customer. You know, I don’t know I can take the name, though. It’s 20 years back, but it was a Japanese customer. Sure. So basically, we are writing codec on behalf one of the leading consumer products companies at that point of time. So
Michael Waitze 2:25
in a sonic Okay, so I’m just kidding.
Neeraj Saxena 2:30
So for that context, only actually, then I then I travelled, you know, to the customer location, where I ended up becoming Pro project manager. I stayed in Tokyo for almost a year at that point of time, while deploying these technologies on the real network of NTT, Docomo, etc. Yeah. Through the mobile phone vendor, because you know, the project was was for a mobile phone company, and then we’re deploying it on the NTT Docomo, the labs, etc, do testing and seeing how it works. Yeah. So at that point of time, I think the next phase of my career start taking shape, unknowingly, I would say, where I start developing interest towards the sales side of things, because I was sitting with customer, I saw, Oh, they have so much of their requirements, basically, you know, why we are not fulfilling them? Right? And those kind of conversation have have started and resulted in the kind of new business opportunities. And that’s where, you know, I realised that I have player for sales, especially the technology sales, people like you. So that’s the next phase. And then I decided to come back. So to India has been spent one year in Japan one year in us for same customer deploying more or less similar technology, and both of their but then I decided to come back to India and decided to do my MBA, did my MBA, because, you know, I decided to build my career or switch my career path, what’s the sales and the strategy? Interesting, and stuff like that? So then I did my MBA and join another company, which are SAP right. So SAP I joined there, as you know, I was leading their go to market design for for in subcontinent strategy and go to market design. And then that’s where the next phase of my career shaved up where I worked on things like, you know, business development, strategy, development, stuff like that.
Michael Waitze 4:22
So I have to ask you this. This happens periodically, well, where I’ll meet somebody, or I’ll be speaking with somebody, and they’ll have all this experience. And it doesn’t feel like they’re old enough to have gone through. And but but here’s the thing that it here’s the thing that strikes me, because I want to talk about X scale in a second. It seems like you’ve had all these little individual experiences, and almost all of them were purposeful, right? So you have this Tech experience when you’re building these codecs for the mp3 thing, right. And back then that was really important tech, it was mobile tech. So you’re introduced here at the beginning of a wave and you can see it and feel it. Yeah. And then you said you also did sales. You’ve saw the sales thing, it sales is super powerful, you could actually have an killer product and a terrible sales team and you have no product, the product doesn’t matter. And then you go back and get your MBA and work at a big company doing business that I just feel like, you know, sometimes I talk to investors, and I feel like some of them don’t have enough experience to understand what it takes to build something from scratch because they don’t understand the sales part of it, or they don’t understand the tech part of it. Right, or they don’t understand like just the cold calling and bizdev part of it. And then it almost feels like you’ve built an entire career just to get to here. Does that sound fair? Like I don’t know if it’s on purpose, or if it’s half on purpose, but that’s what it feels like, Oh,
Neeraj Saxena 5:42
that’s right, actually. And I think I relate to something that Steve Jobs said, right? You can connect dots looking back, you know, in the past, but you can’t kind of you know, foresee them when they are coming your way. Right? You start doing the things that that you’re passionate about, you’re like doing and then in the back, you know, and then I’ll come in a minute to X scale and the idea behind it, right? So so I worked with SAP at that time, I got interested in things like I got involved in a bit of due diligence of m&a is merger and acquisitions. I had one more interest or have hobby, which was capital markets. Okay, the list of equity, like I’ve been invested in listed equities, literally from the first month I started my professional career that was 2001. I invested my first saving not in a bank account, but in a stock market. Wow. Good for you. Yeah. So and then I wanted to learn always about it. I read quite a bit. And I’ve been, I would say a proponent of the warren buffet style of investing, which is the value investing method. Right? Yep. That’s something I think, you know, I could able to relate to that. Invest in solid companies, you know, hold on your investment, let it grow, don’t invest in overpriced stocks,
Michael Waitze 7:01
stuff like that. So chase things, stuff like that.
Neeraj Saxena 7:03
Right. So that’s another part that, you know, one should know, before I intended to jump into what is today looks like our x scale, right? Coming out, from from nowhere. So not when we will say, Oh, from where the x scale came from, but x scale is nothing else. But whatever I have done for 20 years of my life. Yeah, it’s all coming together of all of those things are skills together. Right. By the way, very quickly, to wrap up on my corporate career after SAP, I joined FIS, FIS is a fidelity Group company. And I was leading initially, the Asia Pacific strategy and sales operation went on to lead the internet global lead gen sales operation for international markets. Right. So I led a billion dollar business for them before quitting and starting x here, right. Yeah. And after capital market, I also did some venturing as an angel investor into their startup investing because you know, I realised the both are very similar. The knowledge or the, the skill set required to invest in them are similar. Basically, you need a similar amount of discipline, due diligence understanding of the financial concepts, where to invest in them, right. Yeah, the stages. That’s all what has happened before x scale before. Yeah, but x
Michael Waitze 8:14
scale to me seems like the institutionalisation of your life, right? In other words, it’s like taking all the things you enjoy doing and have done already and have experienced and, and just putting them all in one box, and just going, Okay, now we can mix all these things together as well. And then give them to others so we can help them because one of the questions I always have about accelerators, right. And I’m curious about and we didn’t talk about it yet. But that’s kind of, it’s part of what you do, right? And again, tell me where I’m wrong. Because here’s the thing, right? You invest in a company, you accelerate a company and may not be you we’ll get to that in a second, right? But how do you know when they’re done needing the accelerator part of it? And would you invest in a company that doesn’t need to be accelerated themselves because they’re already super good at making the corporate connectivity connecting themselves to other flick? All the things that an accelerated teaches them how to do about speed and about planning and, you know, virtual CFO, all this other stuff? When do you know they don’t need it anymore?
Neeraj Saxena 9:07
Okay, none Great question. Basically, it felt about grooming someone to take them to a level but at the same time, look, it’s about this, right? When you plant a seed, you put a fence around it, right? You put a fence around it to protect it, right go to environment, but if you keep that fence for too long, that will also retard the growth of the tree because a fence have to be taken out at a certain point of time. Right? That’s a critical point that you know, we need to judge that when somebody is self sufficient. And then that comes from experience Michael I would say right, because you know, I groomed a lot of team members you know, when when they’re part of me so it’s about that call that you know, till when they need that hand holding till what time they need to be you know, let go and do their own thing. Right now they know it all they understand it now. They don’t even if they don’t know at all, but they know enough that they can try experiment. Even they fail a bit here or there, they make some errors, but they won’t be fatal. And in that sense, they can go from here. So basically, it’s a judgement call that that we have to take all the time, how long to engage with the company, right? And and what point of time we will tell them that now you are self sufficient, right? And obviously, during this process, we build their teams that rapport, we decide to do that.
Michael Waitze 10:24
You know, remember, before we started recording, I told you one of the reasons why I wanted to have you on the show was because I was really interested in X scale. And you saw this manifest itself in me not even asking you to explain what X scale was just jumping right in, because I was so curious. So maybe you can back up and just explain what it is. And then we can finish the
Neeraj Saxena 10:39
score. Excellent. Take early b2b SaaS and tech companies, right? Correlating back to my experience, because when more than 20 years I’ve worked in this domain, when I reasonably well understand the journey of building a technology, right? So that’s why second is that, you know, once we take those b2b SaaS and tech companies, we provide them with the knowledge and and mentoring around scaling of revenue. Because that’s one of the areas many of the wait, I think, early stage startups in this domain like tech domain struggles, right? They are mostly founded by the technocrats, they none of them is has a sales experience. Exactly. So they, they build great products, but they just don’t know how to sell it, especially b2b space is very different from a b2c space, where you can induce a space you can do some Facebook ads, some Google ads, right to acquire some customer, whatever is the cake, etc, but end up acting some basic right? It will work does not work like that, basically, right? b2b acquiring the first five customer is like literally a nightmare for any company. Why would a company you know, trust you with a product that nobody else has tried ever in the market? Right? Right. They always ask for who else or request for Okinawan? Thank you. I don’t want to be your first customer, right? Those are the kinds of conversations, right? So b2b sales is very different is very different and very difficult at the same time, right. And that’s what we try to help them with this journey, that how to build the entire go to market around a b2b SaaS product, right to SAS type product. So that’s what it takes what we do we infuse required amount of capital as and when required,
Michael Waitze 12:26
how do you help these companies that you’re mentoring scale? In other words, let’s say you do help them get their first two or three, right five is a really ambitious goal for any small company, whether they’re providing SAS services, or whether they’re selling hardware, it doesn’t matter getting five customers hard. Let’s say you have two or three, the first two customers, right, or one or two customers, there’s no real process in place for dealing with the customer itself, right? In other words, I have this killer product, but I’ve never given it to anybody before and even after I give it to you, that’s a metaphor, right? But even after I give you that product, I don’t know how to interact with you with that product. So I’ve never done that before. Do you understand what I mean? So then you want them to keep using that product right? Because it’s SAS obviously soon not just for the first six months but for the next six years or 60 years, whatever it is, but you still have to deal with him as you grow and as you change and as you’re like, how do you mentor them through this process of scale? Because dealing like if you have one or two customers, you can kind of fake it on the back end and just make it feel like everything has a process but on the front end it doesn’t How do you get from that to scale so that you can deal with 100 customers not just five?
Neeraj Saxena 13:36
Absolutely that’s again a great question. So basically you’re you’re right first two customers or three customers are always like that because you will learn or you build or you refine your product with them right the product may not be fully ready it again it actually refined become market ready with first three customers right the journey with the first three customers is very very different from or even first five customers is very different from it is even beyond right and that’s also first few are always acquired through differences basically it can be our friends because we have you know certain kind of industry connections right and when we tell someone that like the first few customers are normally acquired through very difficult to acquire a cold customer I would say almost impossible as your first customer almost impossible. It cannot be a cordless man it has to come from somewhere almost impossible. Yeah. So that’s that’s the first part right? Now once you have you know so once you define the product with the first three or five customers right now the product is more of a market ready product before that it was not a market ready product. Founders assumed its market ready but trust me at least it’s not 20 30% or more it’s changes go through AI it’s not at all so a lot of changes happen. You know in in first six to nine months of that journey, when they worked with was you rightly said as was three customers right? But now this is the once they reach that stage, that those three customers was are now tried it, and then they renewed it because it’s most sense, right? Once the newness, your subscription, etc, then you know you have a product, you know, that can be taken to a broader market right before that there’s no point even taking it to a broader market without actually right because you’re just not ready you will miserably fail basically, right? There’s so much of customer complaints and request that your operations weren’t able to scale up to handle that right? No point in God is that this is this is the time when the real sales engine design comes into picture, right? How to systematically acquire customers, right? Let’s say how are Microsoft acquire customers, right? They don’t acquire customers literally like one by one by one by one, they then that that’s working all the time, all the time, you know, you know, on one hand, you’re generating leads, on the other hand, you’re creating awareness. On one hand, you’re making customers, you know, consider your products, we are entering into consideration set right here of your prospects. At the same time, those who are prospects you are you are maturing them through the cycles, right? Taking them to a journey of, you know, where they are talking the contract to you and closing the contract and then servicing them. So it’s a continuous running engine, right? You just can’t do it in in a piecemeal basis. Otherwise, you know, it, it just won’t work. Right. That’s the beauty of b2b sales. Sales engine, right? It has to be done, like an engine. Right. You know, it’s not like, again, a b2c kind of a thing. Again, I repeat that or contrast, it’s super human run, it’s super important, because in b2c, what can happen is, let’s say you’re running Facebook or Google ads, you just put you know, we, it’s more money, and the result will start coming, because you will appear on that many places, you know, that many clicks will happen. And that, you know, automatically convert, it didn’t happen. So there is a push Nate, you know, very closely within a week, you can track that I have put this money, and this is the conversion rate. So if it’s a small value product, you will see the conversion, the input and output are very closely related, right? versus in a b2b, where the input and output can be as far as nine months, six months or even a year. That’s a b2b sales cycle, right? So the prospect that you have acquired, you know, nine months back will sign the order, you know, nine months later, so you can’t just drop the ball, you have to, you know, have run the full journey. And most of the founders lose patience, you know, because they don’t understand this journey. And they don’t know how to keep a customer it is so okay, there is a prospect he is not I have gone and met him. He has not given order. Now, I don’t know what to do. I stopped talking to him. But he’s, he said, No, you know, this is too early for me. Let’s say customer said, it is too early for me. Now what what does it mean? Right? Okay, now, let me ping him after six months, you know, this is not how b2b sales is done, you have to keep him engaged throughout the journey. After six months, he will be at a same stage that he will not be ready, right. So you have to make him ready from here to next six months. That’s your job. Right? So basically, what if you go back to him after six months thing that you said, you are not ready? Now? Are you ready? Today? He will say no, no, I’m still not ready. Right. So again, you come back,
Michael Waitze 18:15
can I make my favourite analogy for you? Because this is the way I think about it. Yeah. If I go out on a date with somebody, and then on the first date, I say, will you marry me? They’ll just think I’m insane. And if they say no, my job then is over the next six months to 12 months to keep dating them keep talking to them keep like, you know, just engage with them somehow. And then a year and a half later, just say will you marry me and have them go? Yes. Because otherwise if I just come back a year later, six months later and do the same thing? It’s just gonna be like, No, it’s the same thing in b2b sales. No.
Neeraj Saxena 18:50
100% say we I think you build amazing and was a mica. So it 100% Right. So you know, but most of the founders do this. And a lot of the guys do the same thing by the way, right? The girl said no way, you know, my job is over. Let me find another girl. You don’t have to find a girl. You should know that. You know, nobody says yes in the first meeting. Right? So how to engage or how to make it more interesting that the person is not liking or loving you data girl or be accompany exactly right. So that’s our job. Right? So
Michael Waitze 19:25
how do you coach them through this right? Because again, you’re right. A lot of founders are really great in one domain and they build something in that domain. But the skill set around even some soft skills are really lacking because they’ve just never had to develop with them. That’s a generalisation. But it is true for some founders. How do you coach them through this idea of you know, this is going to take like nine to 12 months even if they love what you do just the mere process of getting sign off internally could take two months. Even if the first meeting they love you. Like how do you walk them through this process? Like I had a corporate career for 20 something years is. So I know what that’s like. So do you? How do you coach them through? So they haven’t experienced it?
Neeraj Saxena 20:06
Yeah. So look, anyone who comes to us, number one, obviously, a lot of meetings etc. And we try to tell them that we don’t come with a magic wand biting, it’s not like we will come today and tomorrow, the you know, the dollars will start coming through the roof. So that’s not going to happen, right? So basically, so one is to orient them that sales is a process. And many of them by the way, if you look at our portfolio companies, right, go ahead. Most of these guys are very mature guys, I give you small trivia sort of tell me our average founder ages 40 plus years, our average founder experience is more than 18 years, you know, for portfolio company, most of them are very mature guys, but mostly mature in the technology side. Most of them are technical architects and stuff like that, right. So by the way, they have never done sales, but they have seen sales, at least from outside perspective. So they know, it’s not easy for them to appreciate or so they understand or appreciate the fact at least, that the sales is not easy, or at least they acknowledge that, you know, we don’t know what to do, how to do a sales look, this require a set of a bit of maturity to acknowledge what you don’t know. Right. And then that’s where I think we found a great fit. And that’s where our you know, as I said, our founder experience, or other age is slightly on the higher side. It’s not intentional, it’s by the way, we were not biassed that we will not take the young founders, etc. Right?
Michael Waitze 21:31
Right. So anti young thing just happens that way. Can I ask you this, though, if these are all tech experienced guys and gals, right? There’s another thing that you have to understand when you’re building a company from scratch, right? Because you’re not the only one building your idea. Sorry, if this offends anybody, but I’m just gonna keep saying it. One’s idea that’s operating in stealth is just to me silly, because you lose a whole bunch of advantages of people actually coming around and supporting you. I’ll leave that alone. But you’re never building something that nobody else is trying to build at the same time. Right? Is that fair of it? So what the tech founders should know if they’re in their 40s Is that even in their day jobs when they were like writing code for this, and somebody else was writing a similar code for something else? Sometimes the worst code one for a bunch of different other reasons, right? So they can know that too. And they probably have a much better understanding of the Pareto principle as well, right? If I do 20% of my work is going to do 80% of my output. So you know what I mean, they should understand all of these things, which means maybe they’re not trying to build 100%, the best, only technology, but just the best technology for this thing, then they can move on to sales and iterate faster. Is that fair as well to presume?
Neeraj Saxena 22:36
No, absolutely. Yes. So look, what happens is sometimes when they come to us, and this is one of the things we do, I won’t take the name of this portfolio company. But I’ll tell you what, what has happened. Real incidents right now. So they were building a tech and amazing tech, by the way, right. And they are building it for now close to on, when they came to us for close to three years. They were building the stack, right? Yeah, that’s a long time. And it’s, by the way, it’s a fairly complicated stuff that they were working on. Right. So it’s not like anyone will take I think, similar amount of time to reach there. So I think it’s not like they were they were slower than anybody else. So when they came to us, we asked, okay, so that that’s great. And so what’s the plan means, you know, from your side, you know, so they said, and then they have shown me 18 months of roadmap, the technology roadmap that we want to build this feature, this feature that feature that feature this feature, right? So I said, Okay, three years here, and one and a half years there, so four and a half years, but by the way, when do you plan to sell, you may get retire, you know, there’s no end to building the features, right? So when do you want to sell they said, we have not thought about it. And that’s why we are here. So that was a amazing conversation. But the whole point is, once they came to our fold, we work with them, tell them look, what you have built is there’s nothing like 100%, right? There’s nothing 100% product basically, right? There are key con you can keep in adding features, etc. It’s a software, it’s a technology, right? So we said look a bulk of the thing you have made the baseline, if you just read 10% of days, then you’re ready for X market or automatically already, right? Then you start selling there keep building other things in parallel. And so what we did is we developed an 18 months roadmap covering both side, the sales side and the technology side, right. And when we did it the sales side roadmap with them, we said obviously, what features they have to build in first three months, and then you know, so now there’s that development is aligned with the sales plan. So they were not two different things, right. And once they start doing that, you know, they start going to customers after building certain features because they are ready for a certain market at least right if not the entire possible market out there. And then that’s where the traction start coming. I think that that’s how it happens. Right?
Michael Waitze 24:57
Can you give a little bit of to shine a little bit of lay down, right give a little bit of insight into, because you said something really interesting. But you said it in passing. Right? You said, you know, then we developed this 18 month roadmap, it just doesn’t get done. It’s not a gift given from the heaven, right? So there’s a lot of work that goes into building that. But can you shine some light on what that process is like, and I’ll tell you the part that interests me the most. As a founder, you have a vision in your head for what you want to build and how you want that to serve your potential clients and partners, but also the thing that excites you to build, right? In other words, in five years, I want to look out my window and have that thing. And then when you go into an accelerator programme and take an investment, and then that person is meant to help you as they bring you in for the meeting, oh, look, let’s story do you month plan and they say that things great, but actually, what we want you to do is this thing of God mean? Because we know that that’s better, and it’s close enough to this thing you should iterate and all sorts of know, like, what is it like when they just say, I don’t want to do that I want to build this, you know what I mean?
Neeraj Saxena 25:57
As I said, even it’s even before we take our portfolio company, right? We do I think enough number of meetings with them, right? It’s not only about me liking them, or we were letting them sure they should know, what our process looks like, as I said, right. So that’s one key part of our you know, pre engagement, you can call it right, where we work and we try to orient them see this is aligned to you know, that the journey is almost like a one year journey with us, yeah, right. And these are the things we will try to help you with stuff like that, right. So, normally, I think you know, when you do the things and we do obviously things more, I will say quantitatively where we say that you know, that if we are developing go to market plan, then what are the things required? So, let me take a step back rather and then let me tell you what, what is the go to market plan etc, we built with them, right, right, and how we briefly how we built it, right? And then that will give you and then I’ll answer this question that that you know, how they get convinced because of because of that, yeah. So, first thing is you know, when we take the full journey, the first step of that journey is to build a go to market plan right. I will talk about the other things we do just after this since then, now they are all are correlated with each other, but first step whenever a company comes to our portfolio is to build a strong go to market plan, right. And we spent close to about 266 weeks you know, doing that part. Now, what go to market plan contains of all right, what is the outcome of a go to market plan go to market plan outcome is number one, they should have a very clear idea that which geographies they are going to target because you know, SAS product and tech products can go across the geographies on which geographies they are trying they will target which industry they will target which customer segment they will target, which is a large mid market or a small right then it comes to what should be the positioning relative to the other competitors in the market, what should be their pricing strategy, right at least these five things and finally, what should be the channel of sales basically, they will do a direct sales in which market and direct sales in which market that has to be sorted out and the go to market plan. Right. So this is the first step that we take with any company. Right? This is all I think data driven. So when you say that, let’s say you know, we we are finalising all the geographies, right? We say after you know you are India based company, the second market, let’s say we want to go we evaluated that first is there North America is one potential market. Another potential market is Southeast Asia and other one is Europe right? Now, who are the competitors? How big is the market and then we source data if we either we need to have the data in house, if we don’t we acquire that data because there are marketing agencies doing good work in each of the fields right, we acquire the data. So we work with a lot of data by the way, right? To show them see this is the market size, this is the number of players this is the positioning and the pricing already. So you know, so now there is no white space left, which we should target is very done very, very scientifically. Right. So when you do it like that, I think all the questions are answered by data itself means you know, even founder like, oh, we were trying to, you know, crack, let’s say, x industry, but that industry has lots of entry barriers, because you know, the bigger players are already there. It is not, it may not be the right thing, because now the data shows that players get into it, right? Revolution is there. So once you do it very systematically, all the questions get answered during the process. So it’s not that we impose any vision to them. It is not in our interest as well, right. We have to jointly come to a conclusion and we always jointly come to a conclusion, I think without any friction, at least we have not seen in our entire journey because it’s All data driven, right? Yeah, that automatically it’s become evident to everyone that that what is what is required? What should be done?
Michael Waitze 30:08
I like it. Are you a principal fund? Or are you an LP GP fund?
Neeraj Saxena 30:13
Okay, so we are initially started with our deploying our proprietary capital. That means, you know, we deployed mostly our own capital. But lately, what we did is we formed IAF, and now we are raising capital there and then deploying capital from that area. So, AF and by the way, the Indian term, it’s a alternate Investment Fund, which is, you know, a name for VC funds. Yeah, so VC funds come under AIA funds in in India, so, so it’s a now it’s a venture capital fund with the LP GP kind of structure.
Michael Waitze 30:46
Got it? Okay. And is there? Again, I just like to get investor’s point of views, I have my own view on this, which is pretty public, but you’ve picked a stage of investment as well, right? So you’re just you’re very focused, you said on b2b SaaS and b2b Tech, the b2b space as the space you and your team knows the best, I’m presuming. And that’s why you operate there, as well. But are you focused only for today? Because of the size of the fund on the earliest stages of investment? Or would you then later, if you could raise a bigger fund 100 million, whatever it is, 20 million bucks invest in later stages as well? Or would you like investing in the earliest stages? As a policy,
Neeraj Saxena 31:22
I would say, look, what will happen in days to come? Is that initially, we are focusing on early stage once, even if it is a bigger font, right? We will use it mostly to double down on our earlier bats. Mostly right and not 100%. But mostly got it right. Because we are. And the reason for this is like this, right? We are working very, very closely with these companies, right? Sometimes we know, even before the founder knows, right? Technically, because we are in that journey, you know, I understand him many, many, many times. So we see it coming sometimes faster than any external fund will ever able to know, right? Even sometimes before the founder, right, that will go in basically, right?
Michael Waitze 32:07
Because they’re too busy doing it and you’re watching it and you’re like, oh, that’s gonna speed up. Yeah,
Neeraj Saxena 32:13
go Yes, exactly. So you know, it has reached that inflection point, it has reached that tipping point from where now it will, you know, go pretty fast. So we see it and you know, see it growing taller than most of others in outside are rare in the market, right? So initially, the idea is to work with early stage companies help them grow, that will multiply our capital very fast, because initially, you know, to grow the revenue from 1x to 10x, at early stage is much, much faster, right? In that sense, the journey can be pretty fast in that sense, right? So once the revenue grows, the capital automatically grows, as you can say that the you know, the revenue multiplier effect will start kicking in, right. So that gives a significant boost to our capital. That’s number one. And number two, since now, we are working very well with these companies. We know everything now doubling down our bets is the call the conviction would be way way higher than if we just going through the PPTs and making their decisions. Right. All right. So right now, that’s that’s a policy that we continue to work with, at least as companies double down on these companies, you know, with a follow on investments.
Michael Waitze 33:20
Can I before I let you go, this has been such a great conversation, we’ll have to do more of this. But before I let you go, can you talk to me about India itself? As an investment opportunity? I feel like we could do an entire show on what’s changed since you started your corporate career went to Japan working United States and came back in the in the investment space, but like, let’s just go forward from here. And maybe the next time we talk, we can go backwards? Because I think it’s a fascinating conversation. What is the opportunity in India look like to you today and maybe contrast a little bit even with what it was like just like five or 10 years ago,
Neeraj Saxena 33:59
the contrast here is that I think 10 years back there was not adequate capital, right in India versus now but that’s the one big contrast. Right? Okay, I’m thinking in the startup space. They were hard, they’re very, very few VC funds, etc right. So, now, number one, the capital is there. The second thing is since we have given like 100 unicorns right, what has happened the lot of talent is now staying back in India, what is happening 10 years back a lot of his talent was going out to find the lucrative jobs in an Googles and the Microsoft’s of the world to become the CEO. Correct. So, all of these guys have you know, at one point of time thought that India does not have enough opportunity and right and they moved out right actually, if I look at my career, you know, I decided to came back from us, but most of my colleagues did not came back right. They came there and then they settled there, bigger carrier carrier there. So I I think it was more like emotional call to come back rather than an original call at that point of time, you know, way back 15 years back, but I’m saying that was happening quite a lot, I think 10 years back that we were going and finding jobs outside, right, yeah. Versus now where the top tier talent is staying back then doing their own startups, right? Because they have seen the success of 100 other unicorns, right. So talent is there. Capital is also there, right? Because now the domestic capital as well as international capital is flowing, you know, quite quite a bit in India. Right. So capital is there. So I think this amazing time for anyone, anyone who’s looking to startup, or looking to start a journey of entrepreneurship, it’s a great time to do that, in my opinion. I agree. Yeah, so
Michael Waitze 35:49
the overstate just because you’ve kind of hit on something and I want to ask you about it, you know, 20 years ago, and or even 15 years ago, and you came back, I think, and again, I’m I’m was not born and raised in India. So I don’t know this. But I’m curious, was there kind of like a cool factor as well, you know what I mean, like, I’ve graduated from this great university in India. Now, I’m gonna go to Palo Alto and get a job at Apple or go work at Google. But there must have been a little bit of a cool factor. And I feel like yeah, in the last, like, seven years or so that the cool thing to do now is just be like, Yeah, do it. I’m moving back to Delhi or moving back to Mumbai, or moving back to Bangalore, and I’m going to build something there, you’re still going to work there kind of thing is that that’s changed too. No,
Neeraj Saxena 36:26
absolutely. As that’s what I’m saying. So when I was moving back to India, Google said, What are you doing means, you know, who do that kind of stuff, right? This is basically,
Michael Waitze 36:37
what are you thinking?
Neeraj Saxena 36:40
So you’re absolutely right, working with Microsoft. And Google was like, you know, as you have achieved everything in our life, the job at Microsoft, right? Versus now you rightly said, Now, you know, someone says that I’m moving back or I’m not joined taking that offer from Google, and I’m starting my own is now the cool thing. You’re right. It really is. It is absolutely, yes. Okay,
Michael Waitze 37:04
let’s end on that India is now the cool thing. Neeraj Saxena, a Managing Partner at Xscale and Univision Fund. Thank you so much for doing this today. That was awesome.
Neeraj Saxena 37:12
Thanks, Michael, for inviting me on the show. And, you know, it’s been great talking to you and sharing sharing my experience. Thanks.
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