From Startups to VC firm: How this 28-year old reverse engineered his way through the VC space.

Vineet Agarwal  career of a 28-year old VC at Antler India.

Vineet Agarwal is an investor at Antler, an early-stage Venture Capital firm. 

Getting into VC was not his initial plan though, as he was more curious to build something of his own. 

Fast forward, he completed his MBA in 2017 and started as an Investment Banking Analyst at Goldman Sachs. 

Vineet worked in the Corporate Development team at Ola before joining Antler.

Here are the excerpts from the interview:

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You started your career with Goldman Sachs. How did you end up there? 

I have an entrepreneurial family background. Almost all of my cousins run their own businesses.

Funnily enough, I am the only exception in the family who opted for a corporate career. 

The risk-taking ability and the desire to do a lot more were already there.

So yes, I too wanted to start something of my own, and I did. I was 19 years old at that time, doing my undergraduation. But soon I realized that the business would not go far, at least at that point in time. 

Upon turning 22, I took my chances once again and started another venture, a digital platform for better, transparent, and more convenient vehicle maintenance. We scaled fast again but decided to pull back, given some fundamental things did not seem to work. 

That's when I felt the need to learn about scaling and running a company.

I like wearing multiple hats and do not prefer to be restricted to any particular sector hence felt investment banking would be a good career path. That’s how Goldman Sachs became relevant for me. 

Initially, I did my summer internship at their Investment Banking Division. It was something that I worked really hard for.

Why move from a global Investment Banking role to startups in India? 

I spent a significant amount of time, working and gathering diverse experiences across London, New York, and Sweden. The projects mostly revolved around advising clients on a variety of M&A transactions, more specifically large enterprises. I was having a great experience at Goldman Sachs.

Toward 2019, I started to closely observe the Indian Startup Ecosystem.  A lot of innovation had already happened in the international markets, and most of them trickled down to India. I believed that India is going to be the next big market.

Coincidently I happened to bump into Bhavish Aggarwal, co-founder of Ola. Over a chat, he shared how he was building Ola’s other business verticals, some of which matched my areas of interest. One thing led to another other and I joined Ola in their Corporate Development team.

My learnings at Ola were terrific. I worked on fundraising, investments, mergers & acquisition, and strategy. I have been actively involved in multiple fundraises across Ola, Ola Electric, and Ola Financial Services.

Also worked on Ola Electric's acquisition of Etergo, a Netherlands-based electric scooter company which you now know as Ola Scooter. This is beyond all the work I did on potential JVs, strategic partnerships and new business launches. 

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How did Antler happen? What does Antler look for when hiring for the investment team? 

Two years later at Ola, I realized “I have worked with large enterprises during my stint at Goldman Sachs, growth stage startups through Ola, now the only thing remaining is working in the early stage. The stage at which people take the first step from idea to reality.”      

I happened to see a LinkedIn post from Rajiv Srivatsa, Partner at Antler, a global venture capital firm.

Antler was building the core team in India and it was an opportunity to not just lead India investments, but also be at the core of building something new and unique from the ground up.

Antler is the world's fastest-growing venture capital firm, inspiring hundreds of startups and thousands of entrepreneurs across six continents.

With Rajiv Srivatsa and Nitin Sharma at the helm, I was convinced that Antler is the next big thing in Indian VC. It was a no-brainer to be a part of it.

When it comes to hiring for the investment team at any VC firm, what are the skill sets one must have? 

Business acumen across one or more sectors, a strong understanding of numbers, founder empathy and speed of decision-making and execution. 

Business Acumen: If you don’t understand how the business works, how would you know whether what is being told to you is accurate or not? 

Strong understanding of numbers: If you don't understand key metrics, how will you judge the health of the business or the market?

Founder empathy: Having been a founder myself, I understand how difficult that journey is. Especially in the early stage, founder empathy matters a lot.

Speed: Every fund is looking to find the best founders and companies. If you are not fast enough, someone else will make the offer.

What does Antler look for when investing in early-stage startups?  

At Antler, we want to back and work with the best founders operating in very large markets. Some of the key things that go into our decision-making are - Team, TAM and Timing, Product and Business.

What are some skill sets that you have observed in successful founders?

Scale mindset, I think is the number one skill set. If you want to raise venture capital, you have to think scale; there is no other choice. 

The second important skill is storytelling. You have to convince your employees, investors and customers to work with you. In the early stage, you may not have a large team or a great product to get people interested hence story-telling becomes important. 

Third I would say, is the bias for action. Yes, strategy is important, but at the end of the day, if you don’t combine it with execution, it’s just strategy. 

Be ready to get your hands dirty as a founder, and do whatever it takes. When I built Motorhood, there was a time when I was doing car pickups myself, car deliveries myself, and at some point, fixing cars by myself. 

But in the end, it’s not necessary for one founder to have all these skill sets, the founding team combined can have these.

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