Just before joining Blume, I was working with startup accelerator TLabs for about two years. At TLabs, I got to work hands-on with startups which were in a nascent stage of their life. Even though I had been working with startups as a volunteer at Headstart for about eight years, the engagement at TLabs was necessarily deeper and I learnt a thing or two about helping startups.
When I joined Blume a little more than two months ago, I expected a world of difference. But to my surprise, I found that the problems our companies face essentially remain the same for a bulk of our portfolio. Some of these point to the fact that Indian society is deficient in certain aspects, others relate to the vagaries of entrepreneurship itself:
- Hiring: Hiring clearly remains the #1 problem for all startups in India. There is no scalable way to hire startup-ready candidates even if you are willing to pay for the best pedigree. While challenges are replete among startups, startups often can't promise stability or brand that a Google can. At TLabs, teams are smaller, so are their needs. While personal relationships work well for some of them, it is never enough. In Blume portfolio, we constantly see the CEOs donning the role of the recruitment head, spending 60-70% of his time in hiring and still missing the mark.
- Sales: Even if you have hired the best people, most startups continue to struggle to reach their own targets in terms of sales. Hiring a sales guy is challenging enough, supporting him with training, contacts and collateral such that he starts delivering quickly is a bigger problem. If the founders have not had a sales role in a past life, they even find it difficult to provide the necessary aggression to their sales team. At TLabs, more often than not, founders believed that if they have built a great product, it will sell for itself. The sad part is that some companies even in our portfolio continue to believe that, often underestimating the effort it takes to sell!
- Ability to seek feedback: One thing we learnt very early in TLabs was that the founders who seek the most amount of help (or those who try to follow advise by mentors), tend to go the farthest. While instincts are an essential aspect of being an entrepreneur, his ability to seek feedback underscores the fact that he understands his own limitations. Of course, not all advice can be followed, but the act of seeking solutions beyond one's own capability allows an entrepreneur to be more creative. Otherwise, he may just be reinventing the wheel each time.
While there are many more similar problems, Blume remains committed to building a platform that can help our companies plug and play into the most common problems faced by the startups we fund. For example, we are actively creating a system which will assist the founders in seeking the best recruitment consultants, sales experts and even setup calls with personal mentors. We love it when they ask for even more!