The ninth annual edition of LetsIgnite held on Oct 12, 2023, kickstarted with a resounding emphasis on the fact that LetsVenture is an enabler in the ecosystem and more than just a startup that completed a decade-long journey.
“We view ourselves as a financial institution, helping investors invest into private markets. We take compliance, regulation, and governance as one of the cornerstones of how we have designed LetsVenture,” said Shanti Mohan, Co-founder and CEO of LetsVenture and trica, at LetsIgnite 2023.
True to its claim as India’s largest conclave for the startup ecosystem, LetsIgnite 2023 saw industry practitioners deliberate on the important nuances of startup investing to an audience of over 250 investors, including family offices, angel investors, venture capitalists, lead and angel investors, among others.
In the keynote fireside chat for the day, Sharad Sharma, Co-founder, iSPIRT Foundation, in conversation with V Vaidyanathan, Managing Director and CEO, IDFC FIRST Bank, shed light on the importance of good infrastructure and collaboration to foster innovation.
“India has to embrace the pivot to build a science and technology ecosystem of startups and other companies,” advised Sharad. He further highlighted that public infrastructure helps the private ecosystem thrive and said he believes Shanti and Vaidyanathan are as bringing such collaborative universe here in India.
Shanti Mohan and Ishpreet Singh Gandhi, Founder of Stride Ventures and StrideOne, also introduced ‘equidebt’ – a term coined to include both equity and debt – as a new funding instrument for founders.
“Very few people understand debt. It is not just venture debt coming on top of equity. As we are moving from a startup ecosystem to startup economy, founders should start thinking of ‘equidebt’ as a financial instrument,” Shanti said, adding that the goal is to make debt useful and simple to understand in order to propel businesses.
LetsVenture also launched the new do-it-yourself Syndicate platform for lead investors to launch deals and solicit backers as well as for founders so they can drive their own fundraising efforts on the platform.
The day-long conference brought various aspects of investing in startups to the fore, from ascertaining investor responsibilities in startup governance and understanding the depth of debt investing to studying founder-operators’ approach to angel investing and exploring the family office’s expectations from fund managers and the ecosystem at large – the list goes on.
The panel of young titans of family offices unanimously agreed on the importance of transparency from General Partners (GPs). When a mandate is brought in for co-investments, they have to be winners of their portfolio, not the laggards that may disappear in a few months.
The day-long conference also featured a panel discussion on building a company with equidebt. With funding slowdown altering the way startups operate, Ishpreet highlighted the importance of leveraging equidebt, a combination of equity and debt funding, for startups.
Stating that equity and debt are complementary funding instruments, especially in the new normal of funding in startups today, Ishpreet said that the easiest case of taking a debt is when it will lead to profitability and that not being able to raise an equity round should never be a reason to seek debt.
Punit K Goyal, Co-founder, Blusmart, shared that he sought debt to build BluSmart because it was cheaper than equity.
In view of concerns around startup governance looming large in the ecosystem today, Neha Singh, Co-founder and CEO, Tracxn, highlighted that as startup grows bigger, the touch points increase in terms of geography, team, etc. and founders need to be more aware of them. The bar for governance is always absolute while parameters keep changing.
Kanika Agarrwal, Partner, IndiaQuotient, gave a fitting summary, stating that the interest of the company should come first before the interest of the founder, investor, or the fund.
A panel discussion about building successful portfolios highlighted that while portfolio diversification is an important strategy, one can’t just invest in deals across spaces and then sit back and expect returns. Power law works if you have intelligently invested in those 100 works.
One must understand a sector in a bottom-up manner and invest in a diversified manner.
Bullish on investment opportunities in India, Soumitra Sharma, operator angel, India-US Corridor, said, “India is going to be a key supplier of entrepreneurial talent to the world in the next 20 years.”
Speaking about founder-turned-investors and their natural edge at investing, Aakrit Vaish, Co-founder and CEO, Jio Haptik, pointed out that most operator-investors start accidentally and their reactions to funding pitches are reactive.
“They are more likely to respond to a text at 1 am requesting for certain help or guidance than a weekly or monthly call founders may be scheduling with investors,” he added.
In the last session of the day, Siddharth Pai, Founding Partner, 3one4 Capital, passionately spoke about the perils of angel tax and advised startups to assess the pedigree of the investor's before taking their funds.
However, the LIVE startup pitches stole the show, as usual. Handpicked from about 800 startup applications, five startups that pitched live this year are skincare appliances brand Protouch, wireless EV charging startup Dash Dynamics, SaaS solution for India’s blue-collar worker Proxgy, healthy snacking brand BRB Popped Chips, and The ePlane Company that aims to make flying taxi a reality in Indian cities.
The startup pitches solving for a unique range of problems coupled with freewheeling discussions around startup investing surely ignited and reignited the purpose and passion in enabling the great Indian startups.
Before we draw the curtain on LetsIgnite 2023, we’d like to hear about your experience at India's largest conclave for startup investors. Kindly share your feedback here.