“Lack of angel funding” is an issue brought up so many times while addressing entrepreneurship in India that I’ve seriously started getting nauseated at the very mention of it.
Its just become common place to cite lack of angel funding as one of the main reasons for lack of startups in India. To a certain extent, I agree – angel funding needs to be more easily accessible and there are a lot of genuine startups that could benefit from angel funding being more readily available.
However, an equal amount of blame also lies in the fact that most of the ‘so called’ startups are simply not fundable. We lack motivated, passionate entrepreneurs pursuing high quality ideas and startups. Hate me if you want, but someone had to say it and so I just did. Like it or not, but thats a fact. As someone who gets several pitches for reviews on a daily basis, I cant help but use one word to describe some of the startups – appalling. Day in – day out I witness how folks develop a new mashup or some inane idea, which at best could pass of as a hobby or a side project. Or even a college level project. But in no way, could they be called a startup.
Over time, the number of such ‘startups’ has increased. I cant help but wonder why / how people tend to get the distorted notion that their side projects could qualify as a startup ? Are we doing something fundamentally wrong from a perspective of fostering entrepreneurship that folks get the notion that their side project is a startup ? Seriously, not everything goes. Having a lousy website with 10 users does not qualify as being an entrepreneur.
If I find some of these pitches not worthy of even giving a 2nd glance at, why – how do you expect angels / VC’s to fund these ideas with real money ?
Another point that I’d like to bring up is that it seems like a lot of wannabe entreprenuers have the notion that getting funding is a prerequisite to becoming a successful entrepreneur. I have gotten a hajjar emails from folks who ‘have an idea in mind with millions in potential revenue. But need funding to get off the ground’. Good luck buddy – as if thats going to happen. If you are a first time entrepreneur and you cant bootstrap your way to the first working prototype, I would ask you to reconsider your idea, because getting funding for a first time entrepreneur in such a challenging market is going to be an insanely difficult task to accomplish.
I think fostering entrepreneurship is certainly a great thing and I think we need more of it, especially at the college level. However, at the same time we should also ensure that some basic tenets are made clear as well:
1) Entrepreneurship != Anything goes
2) Funding != Entrepreneurial Success
3) Entrepreneurhisp != Sexy / ‘in thing’
So the next time you pitch your idea – startup to someone – think about it for two minutes. Does my idea make sense ? Is this a viable business (going for the ad based monetization approach might not work well in India, given the tiny online ad market). What problem does it solve ? Would it be something that I would use myself ? Am I doing it just because its cool ? If I were to approach others for funding, would I fund such an idea myself with my own money ? Would this be something I see myself doing for the next 2-3 years ?
Answers to these basic questions should give you some fair idea of whether you should seriously pursue your idea / startup and whether it has any merit to it or not. And most importantly – whether your startup is fundable or not.