From Flunking 12th Grade To A Millionaire At 24: After India, Rishabh Lawania Is Now Aiming To Tap Into The African Startup Ecosystem




From Flunking 12th Grade To A Millionaire At 24: After India, Rishabh Lawania Is Now Aiming To Tap Into The African Startup Ecosystem

From flunking twelfth grade to dropping out of MBA to becoming a millionaire at simply 24, Rishabh Lawania’s high-quality story is certainly fit for the big display. Coming from a non-tech history, Rishabh, inspired by the greats like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, released his first startup at the smooth age of 17.

Since then, he has long past directly to launch  greater startups, certainly one of which i.E. Xeler8 were given acquired remaining 12 months through Chinese accelerator and venture fund ZDreams Ventures.

Today, Lawania is a prolific investor with connections spanning across India, China, Japan and america. For his today's venture, WeeTracker, he has set his eyes on Africa, the land of untapped possibilities. Leveraging his expansive network throughout a number of the arena’s most evolved tech economies, Rishabh Lawania is now looking to assist up-and-coming African startups to build sustainable corporations which have the capability to scale up.

During a candid interplay with Inc42, Rishabh Lawania shared exciting anecdotes from his uncommon adventure as a serial entrepreneur and investor. As part of our hour-long conversation, he additionally presented a few treasured insights into the instructions found out from the failure of his second entrepreneurial mission as well as his plans for the future.

The Formative Years: Failing 12th Grade Exams, Starting A Company At 17

While every person around him turned into dreaming approximately qualifying engineering front exams, Rishabh knew he desired to do something beyond the standard i.E. Begin a commercial enterprise. However, the primary hurdle turned into no longer having any guiding hands, due to the fact he got here from a non-commercial enterprise own family. “So, nobody anticipated that I might begin a business, plenty less a technology startup because I have no technical heritage in anyway,” he uttered.

Undeterred by using this impediment, Lawania commenced his first mission the 12 months after he flunked the 12th grade. In fact, at some stage in the gap 12 months right now after his twelfth board assessments, he launched Red Carpets Events. Conceived in 2010, the occasion management employer helped organised/co-organised 70+ promotional, corporate occasions across Delhi-NCR and Jaipur.

Although not a technology startup consistent with se, the venture taught Rishabh Lawania the strength of networking.

“The idea to release a tech startup got here to me in the course of my early years as an independent occasion organiser. During this segment of my life, I understood the energy of networking. At the time, my attention turned into on connecting with as many marketers, VCs and buyers as I may want to and understanding from them a way to begin a business,” he explained.

Unlike most marketers who are pushed by the attraction of starting and proudly owning billion dollar organizations, Rishabh Lawania has been a realist through most of his career. Instead of focussing on constructing groups of the equal scale as Apple or Microsoft, he desired to create some thing that become worthwhile, while additionally providing an easy go out to its founders.

From JusGetIT To Xeler8: A Failed Attempt To An Remarkable Exit

From this preference changed into born JusGetIT, a last mile logistics startup that specialised in doorstep delivery of groceries, in 2013. The startup, in line with Lawania, became operational for round six to seven months, at some point of which it had partnered with 30+ providers and shopkeepers. Additionally, it helped maximise the revenues of offlines kirana stores via offering its tech solutions to them.

The challenge, however, failed to take off the manner Rishabh had expected. He believes that the main purpose in the back of the startup’s untimely shutdown became the lack of right understanding of the marketplace. Although JusGetIT become one of the early movers within the area, it did not increase sufficient investment.

“That become the time whilst the entire hyperlocal aspect became simply setting out in India. Back in 2013-14, Grofers and Bigbasket had been at a pretty nascent degree. We discovered that we did no longer have a cost-powerful version,” Lawania brought.

Given that the B2C business became no longer value-effective, the group at JusGetIT needed to scale the technology into a completely asset-light model. He went on to state, “Although investment turned into available to Indian startups on the time, we were no longer able to discern out the right manner to do it. However, we found out lots. We had reached out to lots of traders and via that, eventually, discovered how to raise investment.”

Remarkably, the failure of JusGetIT didn’t prevent Rishabh Lawania and this time, he focussed on developing a sustainable B2B tech platform that become at the same time scalable. In 2015, when he turned into in the US, Rishabh teamed up with techie Keshu Dubey to launch Xeler8, his most a success undertaking to date.

A deal-sourcing and research platform, Xeler8 supplied a modernised method to prospecting, tracking and analysing startups with an preliminary consciousness on Indian startups. As stated by Rishabh Lawania, the concept at the back of Xeler8 came to him while, as an entrepreneur, he attempted to learn greater approximately his competitors. He stated,

“Back then, there has been Bloomberg and similar systems, which had databases of huge company companies. However, there have been now not many systems that focussed on startups. Even the ones that existed back then did no longer have excellent insurance while it got here to startups. This was pretty a great deal a terrific product-marketplace fit.”

Essentially, Xeler8 provided a database of Indian startups, overlaying about forty seven industries. The records had been singularly curated information of the startup’s commercial enterprise model, investment, founder information and greater. The startup tracker additionally acted as a lead technology platform for corporates and a market research device.

Convinced of the product’s marketability, the Xeler8 team within the US started out constructing a beta product and launched it completely for certain invite-only angel traders, startups and VCs. Within 4 months, the enterprise turned into prepared with its first product, following which it became launched officially in India.

In addition to fundamental information including the call of the startup, founders and traders, the platform had metrics to expect how in all likelihood it become for a specific investor to returned the startup. Rishabh Lawania added, “And we also furnished an anticipated valuation of the agency. This changed into a totally intricate component because you don’t in reality recognise how the startup could be valued within the destiny. Although this became sort of tricky, we sponsored the whole lot with records.”

The manner changed into in large part dependent on machine gaining knowledge of crawlers that had been constructed in-residence. Additionally, Xeler8 hired a separate crew of analysts. According to Rishabh, the whole procedure of assessment become based totally on round sixteen to 17 parameters.

At the time of Xeler8’s acquisition

Just over a year after it began operations, Xeler8 become obtained via ZDream Ventures for an undisclosed amount, even as the product became nevertheless at the improvement degree. ZDream Ventures is a Chinese accelerator and challenge fund with a startup incubator in Gurugram.

As claimed via Rishabh Lawania, Xeler8 have been in talks with some of Chinese agencies for a capacity acquisition. In the quit, the platform was incorporated into ZDream and is presently used internally to evaluate the valuation of Indian startups.

At the time of acquisition, the tech startup had round 35 to 38 paying clients, inclusive of corporates, VCs and angel investors. Additionally, it had a number of top rate clients which include micro-VC firms and big startups that desired to have get admission to to the Xeler8 database. Overall, the corporation’s patron base stood at somewhere among 65 and 70.

On the decision to sell the business and exit the venture, Rishabh averred, “With Xeler8, I changed into a third-time entrepreneur. It need to be cited that the startup turned into bootstrapped considering the fact that its launch. From the very beginning, we knew that we needed to face the reality that Xeler8 changed into in no way going to be a $a hundred Mn company. We knew the top cap that we may want to visit. But, I turned into aware that I needed to go out from it on the right time.”

“Building a B2B product is mainly difficult because you need to preserve pivoting. There turned into not a number of human beings in my team. At the time of acquisition, we had around 13 to fourteen people in our team. More tough than constructing the tech product turned into to honestly promote it,” he delivered.

From Entrepreneur To Investor At ZDream Ventures

Following the acquisition of Xeler8, founder Rishabh Lawania joined ZDream Ventures because the Chief Operating Officer and Head of Investments. This marked the start of his journey as an investor.

During his one-year stint at ZDream, he led some of Indian investments at Seed and Pre-Series A levels, geared towards propelling the increase of the firm’s portfolio in addition to portfolio groups.

As a part of his duties, Lawania additionally helped incubate POC (Proof of Concept) and pre-revenue level media, enjoyment and client-focused groups. It changed into during his role as the COO of ZDream Ventures that Rishabh received a robust knowledge of startup ecosystems throughout India, China, Japan and the USA, which includes their particular challenges and possibilities.

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This, in turn, enabled him to widen his community of connections; some thing that has on account that are available accessible for his modern day African assignment, WeeTracker.

Inside Rishabh’s Latest Venture In Africa

As a serial entrepreneur who's constantly chasing the excessive of starting his own enterprise, Lawania stepped down from his coveted task as a VC within 365 days to dive into every other project with lengthy-time companion Keshu Dubey and Nayantara Jha; this time within the rising tech panorama of Africa.

Launched in advance this year, WeeTracker is a international tech media devoted to the African tech ecosystem. It aims to nurture startups within the continent in a 3-way holistic fashion: tell, educate and make investments. To obtain this feat, the organization will awareness on imparting statistics-sponsored digital media and statistics, skill development in addition to investments in promising African startups.

In line with this imaginative and prescient, the startup will serve as a platform that strives to bridge the gap that currently exists between emerging markets like Africa and advanced ecosystems internationally.

According to Lawania, WeeTracker is actually his first step to having a virtual presence in Africa and growing a well-related community of indigenous startups, entrepreneurs and traders. Ultimately, the intention is to attach startups in fledgling ecosystems like Africa with key players and enablers within the same vertical in advanced economies.

As part of the skill improvement programme, Lawania and his partners are planning to take a collection of African marketers to China and some other batch to India in June of this yr. Most of those startups function within the fintech, agritech, cleantech and water tech segments.

Shedding light on WeeTrack’s plans for the close to future, Rishabh brought, “At gift, I even have a listing of 25 to 30 Pre-Series A andSeries A African marketers who're interested by coming to India to examine from installed entrepreneurs here. We are trying to build a community of mentors, marketers and product managers across India, China, the USA and Japan. So if a person in Africa is attempting to build a B2B platform, we can just join them to the applicable product managers throughout these economies.”

So a ways, the platform has already onboarded as much as 75 entrepreneurs, mentors and product managers across diverse sectors including hyperlocal, fintech and ecommerce. As an introduced improve, Lawania said that WeeTracker could be investing in a number of African investments at Seed and boost up ranges.

Essentially, the trio is seeking to again startups which are post-evidence of concept and are seeking to clear up a nearby hassle with immediate social effect. With the average price tag size starting from $50,000 to $100K, the company is trying to disburse capital in approximately 60 to 70 startups via a zone-agnostic fund over the following two years. WeeTracker is currently said to be within the manner of raising a $20 Mn fund.

At the time of Startup Safari acquisition

At the time of its release, WeeTracker also published an in depth investment report on the African entrepreneurial ecosystem. Additionally, inside the third week of January, it introduced the purchase of Cape Town-based Startup Safari, an environment immersion programme supposed for entrepreneurs in rising economies.

Commenting on the improvement, Rishabh Lawania stated in an reputable announcement, “This represents a strategic cost addition to our undertaking of bridging the World Emerging Economies, giving us an opportunity to bodily join the marketers to the ecosystems, aside from doing so surely. It additionally facilitates us kickstart our plans to scale to multiple economies very soon.”

As in step with the official launch, Startup Safari is a platform that enables cross-border funding, generation switch and joint ventures, with the purpose of using economic increase and strengthening fledgling startup ecosystems.

Speaking of the acquisition, Startup Safari founder and Curator Apoorv Bamba stated,

“The acquisition journey with WeeTracker simply felt just like the automatic subsequent step to transport towards our bigger imaginative and prescient and convey in addition scale to the African ecosystem thru media, research, and insights. With WeeTracker and Startup Safari, we intention to emerge as the African window to the sector and enabling rising market possibilities and growth for both facets of the table.”

In addition to investing in African startups and connecting them with enablers in different greater evolved ecosystems, the Rishabh Lawania based the organization is also seeking to help launch a few Indian startups in Africa via the Startup Safari programme.

Why Africa, You Must Be Wondering

As a cool and calculated investor, Lawania’s current shift in attention to Africa is subsidized as tons with the aid of facts as it is by means of the preference to herald a social trade in a location in which a big segment of the population still struggles with poverty, malnourishment, drought and insufficient get right of entry to to clean water.

He informed me, “Having worked very carefully with Indian, American and Chinese startup ecosystems, I wanted to do some thing that would genuinely create a few fee. So, my group and I did an extensive comparative analysis of the fundamental tech economies: India, China, US, Japan and South Korea.”

Africa, consistent with Rishabh, is present process a tech revolution, much like the type that came about inside the US inside the overdue Nineteen Nineties or in India inside the early 2000s. Because the environment continues to be very nascent, it also holds a number of untapped possibilities. Despite the shortage of proper authorities help, digital penetration in a few African international locations – together with South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, and Ghana – has reached a record excessive nowadays.

In the closing two to three years, there was a discernible growth of startups that are leveraging superior technology to solve a number of the neighborhood problems. For example, Cape Town is presently going via the worst drought in records. Combating this problem is a group of rising startups that are working to make easy water more to be had to the loads.

Other sectors that are booming in Africa include fintech, agritech, and cleantech, among others. Within fintech, Lawania claimed that cellular wallets, remittance startups, and B2B groups are rapidly gaining traction.

To support those startups, a network of angel buyers, VCs, and environment enablers have additionally cropped up lately. According to a document through WeeTracker, in 2017 by myself, African startups raised greater than $167.7 Mn in investment across 201 deals, which was a sizable 28% soar from the year before that.

Echoing this multiplied hobby in Africa-based totally startups, Lawania stated, “During my earlier journeys to China, Japan and the United States, I noticed that there has been a variety of interest in the African atmosphere. However, the general public are nonetheless hesitant about making an investment in African startups.”

Through WeeTracker, Rishabh Lawania and his partners are aiming to convey a trade within the continent’s nevertheless-nascent startup way of life. By providing investment support in addition to get admission to to mentors, the corporation is hoping to help create sustainable corporations that may, in flip, drive Africa’s economic boom.

Road Ahead As An Angel Investor

In his eventful profession, Rishabh Lawania has donned many hats, from entrepreneur, enabler, VC, mentor to an angel investor. During his seven month stint at Xeler8, he claims to have invested in a small portfolio of Indian corporations.

Despite shifting out of the Indian startup scene, Lawania has remained lively as an angel investor within the united states of america. He said, “I actually have invested in six startups inside the last 5 months. I am now seeking to returned five to 6 startups by means of the give up of this yr.”

As some distance because the degree of investment is involved, he can be investing in startups at bridge and seed tiers. Lawania is basically looking at startups that now not only need capital but also are seeking to get right of entry to his network to launch their operations outdoor India.

Among the startups that he has subsidized in his personal capacity are marketing automation platform Wigzo Technologies, Cha-Chi, to name some.

According to Rishabh Lawania, the Indian startup environment has developed highly within the last few years, due to which it now has a strong network of angel traders which might be aggressively seeking to again promising tech startups.

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While a few years returned, maximum Indian traders have been searching at Chinese and American opposite numbers to determine which startups to invest in, Rishabh believes that a majority of them are now making sound funding selections, which simplest comes as the environment matures.

On the an awful lot-debated subject matter of angel tax, the WeeTracker and Xeler8 founder introduced,

“The authorities should truly do something positive about the angel tax fiasco due to the fact the market has most effective simply started to growth. In current times, more and more angel buyers are coming from non-tech backgrounds and are investing in tech startups. The authorities ought to attempt to sell this, while also turning into extra vigilant with regards to curtailing black money.”

Editor’s Note

Constituted by fifty four international locations, Africa is the sector’s second-largest and 2nd most populous continent, domestic to more than 1.2 Bn humans. Rich in range, sources and records, this land mass is nearly synonymous with resilience amidst extreme adversities.

Colonised for the maximum a part of its modern history, many countries in Africa nonetheless struggles with poverty, malnourishment, sicknesses, drought and insufficient to proper assets. As stated by means of Rishabh, in a way, there are a variety of similarities among the economies of India and Africa.

Despite the dearth of right government guide, nations like South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana are leading Africa’s ongoing tech revolutions. Consequently, virtual penetration has stepped forward remarkably within the ultimate  to three years.

Riding this wave is a crop of new startups which are leveraging era to create a advantageous social impact, be it in fintech, agritech, healthtech, cleantech and water tech. With the Indian startup environment, currently, the 1/3 largest within the global, reaching a factor of saturation, entrepreneur and investor Rishabh Lawania’s latest project WeeTracker ambitions to tap into the largely untouched African market.



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