Interview with CA Gaurav VK Singhvi, Startup coach & Co-Founder of We Founder Circle

Gaurav VK Singhvi

An exclusive interview with CA Gaurav VK Singhvi, a well-known angel investor, startup coach & Co-Founder of We Founder Circle

CA Gaurav VK Singhvi has more than 25 years of experience in the world of finance and investments. He is a business strategist, angel investor, startup mentor, and community builder in addition to being a serial entrepreneur.

Together with mentoring start-ups around the nation, Gaurav has constantly provided incubation and innovation (not just in Tier 1 cities but Tier 2 and Tier 3 as well). In other words, he has been fulfilling his promise to turn India into a thriving startup nation. 

As a member of organizations that actively promote early-stage start-ups, Gaurav may help them expand more quickly by providing them with seed money, business development, and community building. Serving entrepreneurs and start-ups is his greatest love, and he has made this into his life’s work.

No matter which tier they fall under, most of the start-ups he has invested in operate at the local level and address niche concerns, making them scaleable on a large scale. In addition to this, Gaurav serves as the National Director, Executive Director, and President-Elect of a number of prestigious organizations that mentor, support, and catalyze entrepreneurship.

Can you tell us about the founding story of We Founder Circle and the inspiration behind creating India’s largest community of successful founders and strategic angels?

Gaurav VK Singhvi: We Founder Circle’s journey has been quite a ride, filled with innovation and dedication. We started in October 2020 with a unique mission. We didn’t just want to provide money to startups; we wanted to help shape their future. In 2022, we did something incredible by investing in 53 different startups through 71 investment rounds. This made us the biggest angel network in India.

Our success isn’t just about numbers; it’s about making a real impact. We work with startups at different stages of their journey, starting with promising founders while they’re still in university. We’ve built a portfolio of great startups with valuations from 20 crores to 200 crores. Our platform uses technology to make angel investing easier. And with Avinya Ventures, a SEBI-registered venture capital fund, we’ve taken a big step forward.

All of this makes We Founder Circle a unique and valuable platform for both founders and investors in the global startup world.

What unique value does We Founder Circle bring to the entrepreneurial ecosystem in India, and how has it evolved since its inception?

Gaurav VK Singhvi: We Founder Circle has implemented various strategies and initiatives to foster the growth and development of startups in Tier 2, Tier 3, and Tier 4 cities. These cities, collectively known as Bharat, hold immense potential in terms of capital and investment opportunities.

However, there was a lack of awareness and education regarding early stage investing and the startup ecosystem in these regions. We recognized the need to bridge this gap and took proactive steps to educate and empower entrepreneurs and investors in Bharat.

Over the past 30 months, we’ve been traveling to about 50 of these cities and teaching people about how to invest in startups and how startups work. We’ve been holding classes for both investors and people who want to start their own businesses. We talk about things like how to choose the right startups to invest in, how to manage your money, and how to handle the important parts of a startup.

Additionally, we organized startup mixers in universities located in Tier 2, Tier 3, and Tier 4 cities. By bringing together aspiring startup founders and investors from these regions, we facilitated networking opportunities and created an environment conducive to idea exchange, collaboration, and potential investment. This dual approach of nurturing startup founders and educating investors has had a significant impact on our community.

Because of what we’ve done, more than 50% of the investors in our community are now from these smaller cities. This shows that we’re making a positive change in these places. We’re giving people the knowledge and connections they need to make their startup ideas come to life. We’re building a strong and inclusive community for startups..

As a co-founder, what are your primary responsibilities and contributions to the We Founder Circle community? Could you share some of the key initiatives you’ve been involved in?

Gaurav VK Singhvi: At We Founder Circle, our approach as an active investor goes beyond providing financial support to the startups we invest in. We act as venture builders, working closely with founders to catalyze their growth in multiple ways.

One important thing we do is mentoring. We have a group of experienced business angels from all over India, and they share their knowledge with startup founders. This guidance helps founders deal with problems, make smart choices, and become better entrepreneurs.

Additionally, we foster collaborative opportunities between the startups and our network of business angels. Our investors are eager to engage with founders and provide support beyond capital. This collaboration can take various forms, such as facilitating partnerships, assisting with third-party manufacturing, warehousing, distribution, or establishing valuable business relationships.

Furthermore, we provide corporate innovation assistance. If a startup’s product or solution aligns with the needs of a corporate partner, we facilitate connections and help startups address the challenges faced by these corporates. This collaborative approach creates win- win situations, benefiting both startups and established companies.

At We Founder Circle, we’re not just investors; we’re partners. We get involved, offer guidance, and create opportunities for startups to succeed. Our goal is to be true partners and help startups overcome the challenges of starting a business and increase their chances of success.

How do you see the role of strategic angels in supporting startups and early-stage entrepreneurs, and how do We Founder Circle facilitate this connection?

Gaurav VK Singhvi: We Founder Circle’s startup support system is crucial for our community and the overall startup world. We do this by finding promising founders early on and helping them all the way. Here’s how we do it:

  • Finding and Helping Founders: We don’t wait for founders to come to us; we look for them. We support them even when they’re in university. We give them the money they need and promise to keep supporting them as long as they make progress. This keeps them motivated and builds trust in our community.
  • Supporting at Every Stage: We’re with startups from their very beginning on campus. We have special programs to find and nurture promising founders while they’re still in college. As they grow, we help them transition into more advanced programs to get the right amount of funding and opportunities. We have different ways to fund them, like Invstt Trust Fund, GIFT City Fund, so we can support them from the start to when they become successful.
  • Building a Strong Community: We focus on building a strong network and community. We do this both online and in person, connecting people in India and around the world. This helps the entire startup ecosystem grow and succeed.
  • Using Technology: We’re good at using technology to make things work better. It helps us be more efficient and gives our community more opportunities.

In a nutshell, We Founder Circle helps startups from the very beginning, provides support at every stage, builds a strong community, and uses technology to make it all work smoothly. We’re here to help founders thrive and succeed in building their startups.

We Founder Circle appears to play a crucial role in nurturing and mentoring early- stage startups. Can you share some notable success stories or moments where the community’s support made a significant difference?

Gaurav VK Singhvi: When we started We Founder Circle, the biggest problem we faced was that not many people knew about this kind of investment. Only a small group of investors, less than 2000, were involved in it just a few years ago.

Now, that number has grown to 11,000+, but compared to India’s huge population of 1.4 billion, it’s still not enough. We’ve been working hard to change this. We’ve visited more than 50 cities to teach people about this kind of investment.

We’ve debunked myths and provided insights on the dos and don’ts. Particularly, startups in tier 2 or 3 cities lacked confidence in securing investments. To address this, we’ve introduced Startup Mixers and Investor Mixers across India. Our support extends beyond just funding; we offer comprehensive mentorship.

Over the past 30 to 35 months, we’ve accomplished significant strides in this field. The government’s support has been crucial in our journey. Together, we are reshaping perceptions and empowering individuals.

The startup landscape is dynamic and ever-changing. How do We Founder Circle stay abreast of the latest trends and insights in the entrepreneurial world to better serve its members?

Gaurav VK Singhvi: At We Founder Circle, we understand that the startup landscape is a fast-moving and ever- changing world. To best serve our members, we’ve developed a proactive strategy to stay ahead of the curve, ensuring we provide the latest trends and insights in the entrepreneurial space.

First and foremost, our secret sauce is our network of people. We’ve built strong connections with leaders in various industries who keep us in the loop on what’s hot and happening. This network not only provides us with valuable insights but also helps us access credible deals that our members can benefit from.

We’re constantly on the lookout for trending factors that can impact startups. By keeping a keen eye on market dynamics, emerging technologies, and consumer behaviors, we ensure that our members are well-prepared for what’s coming next.

But we don’t stop there. We actively participate and organise startup events and forums across more than 20 sectors. These events are a goldmine of information and innovation, and we make sure to bring those insights directly to our members.

At We Founder Circle, we’re always looking for new opportunities. We believe that innovation and growth come from being at the forefront of change. So, whether it’s through our extensive network, market analysis, or event participation, we’re committed to delivering the latest and greatest to our members.

In this dynamic startup world, our mission is to equip our members with the knowledge and connections they need to thrive. We’re here to ensure that they’re not just keeping up with the trends but leading the way in the entrepreneurial space. So, rest assured, We Founder Circle is your gateway to the future of startups.

What advice would you offer to aspiring entrepreneurs seeking to connect with strategic angels and experienced founders for guidance and investment?

Gaurav VK Singhvi: At We Founder Circle, our investment criteria and evaluation process revolve around the concept of founder-market fit. We believe that the founder’s ability to execute their ideas is paramount, especially in the early stages of a company where traditional metrics may be limited.

When evaluating startups, we focus on four key aspects that contribute to a founder’s ability to execute effectively. These aspects are knowledge, experience, passion, and attitude. A founder who possesses a combination of these qualities is more likely to be qualified as a capable and driven entrepreneur.

Furthermore, we consider the market size and potential for growth. A large market is essential for any investment decision, as it provides the opportunity for substantial returns.

As an active angel network, we work closely with founders, supporting and guiding them to enhance their abilities. While our evaluation process emphasizes founder-market fit, we understand that each startup is unique, and we take a comprehensive approach to evaluate their potential.

India has seen a surge in startup activities. How do you see the future of entrepreneurship in India, and what role do you envision We Founder Circle playing in this future landscape?

Gaurav VK Singhvi: After witnessing the growth of 109 Unicorns in India, it’s awe-inspiring to think about the impact this has had on our ecosystem. When you consider that, on average, each Unicorn has 2 to 3 founders, it translates to around 300 individuals who have steered companies to the billion-dollar mark.

But there’s more to it. In each Unicorn, there are about 10 really important employees, which adds up to 1000 professionals who helped these companies go from being worth a million dollars to a billion. That’s a total of 1500 people in India who were part of this amazing journey.

This kind of growth is incredible. The first Unicorn took nearly 10 years to appear, but in just 5 to 7 years, we’ve seen over 100 of them. It’s really exciting. Looking ahead, we’re hopeful about having another 100 Unicorns in the next 3 to 4 years. Our ecosystem is full of energy and potential, and we can’t wait to see what’s next.

What personal and professional experiences have shaped your journey as the co- founder of We Founder Circle, and what are your long-term goals for the organization?

Gaurav VK Singhvi: Democratizing Small Town Investing: We Founder Circle is leading the Way! In a world spotlighting big cities for startups, We Founder Circle is rewriting the script. With 10,000+ investors, we are is redefining early-stage investing from tier 2, 3, and 4 towns.

We journeyed through 43 cities this year alone which has sparked a startup passion among small-town HNIs.

Our angel fund has raised $25M+ since April 2023, sealing 53 deals already.

With 100-110 deals expected this year and 200 in 2024, our team is pushing boundaries. The $30M GIFT City Fund bridges borders, linking global investors and startups.

Educating, connecting, and nurturing, We Founder Circle thrives. 35% of our portfolio startups are from tier 2-3 cities, proving dreams know no bounds.

What is your success tips for young and aspiring entrepreneurs?

Gaurav VK Singhvi: In the world of startups, there are two skills that are two peas in a pod: attracting capital and attracting talent.

  • Capital is the fuel that powers a startup. Without it, you can’t hire the best people, build the best product, or scale your business.

But how do you attract capital?

You have to be a great storyteller. Investors want to believe in your vision, so you need to be able to tell them a story that will capture their imagination. Your story, your vision, and your confidence should make them believe that you are creating something big from it.

  • Talent is the engine that drives a startup. Without it, you will not be able to execute on your vision.

When you communicate this vision to your internal customers i.e your team members they’ll feel like they’re part of something extraordinary, something that’s destined for greatness!

And remember, united by this shared purpose, your team will conquer any challenge! When you’ve got the power to attract capital and talent, you’re on the path to unstoppable success.

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