MoneyBall: Lightspeed India’s Hemant Mohapatra Is Not Shy Of Chasing Down ‘Compelling’ Deals




MoneyBall: Lightspeed India’s Hemant Mohapatra Is Not Shy Of Chasing Down ‘Compelling’ Deals

After spending 15 years in excessive-profile roles at Google’s venture capital arm and VC corporations which include Andreessen Horowitz, Hemant Mohapatra decided to move back to India. He has now joined VC company Lightspeed India Partners as a accomplice and could be scouting for startups for investments in India.

The choice to move again wasn’t smooth, says Mohapatra, however he got his solution when he questioned himself where he wanted to be on the time of his death. A slightly morbid question, however it gave him the answer he was seeking out — India. In a Medium submit, Hemant shared how he arrived at his decision to move returned to his family and u . S . A . And be part of another business enterprise.

Global VC firm Lightspeed Venture Partners through Lightspeed India has been investing in India due to the fact 2004, with a focal point on direct and cross-border corporations. The Silicon-Valley-based totally company commonly invests $1 to $25 Mn in increase or early-degree startups searching for to disrupt or rework big markets in the domestic economy. It raised a $115 Mn India-precise fund in 2015 to make investments closely in India’s burgeoning landscape.

With its persisted emphasis on investing in Indian startups, the organisation has now onboarded Mohapatra as a brand new accomplice. Mohapatra is the sixth making an investment accomplice at Lightspeed India, all of whom attention on investing in the agency and consumer classes.

Before Hemant officially movements returned to India for his new position at Lightspeed India, he has already commenced his work from San Francisco.

Mohapatra has a technological historical past — he become an engineer for greater than six years, did his MBA, and then joined Google Cloud in a strategic enterprise development role. A few years into the role, he started doing due diligence for deals at GV and CapitalG (VC arm of Google) and additionally participated in and led some investments for Google. After this, he joined well-known VC firm Andreessen Horowitz as a associate.

MoneyBall: Lightspeed India’s Hemant Mohapatra Is Not Shy Of Chasing Down ‘Compelling’ Deals

In communication with cft, Hemant pointed out his reports in Silicon Valley, Google, and Andreessen Horowitz, his plans for Lightspeed India, and greater.

cft: After being within the US for one of these long a time, what made you head to India? What excites you about the Indian startup atmosphere?

Hemant Mohapatra: For me, India was in no way a question of why, it became a question of while. My complete own family nevertheless lives in India; I studied at IIT Bombay and now have a massive circle of buddies back domestic. Many others I know well from my life in Silicon Valley and my profession at Google have moved again to India as properly, so I turned into running toward the precise possibility, which I found with Lightspeed India.

Moreover, I felt that a person like me, who has revel in constructing and launching products, has an empirical knowledge of tech, empathises with the founder’s hard adventure, and has sturdy ties both with the US and India, is a profile which can add strong, differentiated price in India.

One of the important thing reasons Silicon Valley is so successful in commencing is not get entry to to capital, but get admission to to capital together with get entry to to mid- and senior-level expertise who know how to scale businesses. Where could Google be with out Eric Schmidt? Or Facebook without Sheryl Sandberg? This skills pool takes multiple hype-cycles to floor and it brings with it an extraordinary camaraderie of optimism in the face of failure and objectivism inside the face of hyperboles. India has long gone thru this cycle of reflection and rebuilding some times now, and that to me is the most exciting issue approximately returning: Mature, passionate and self-conscious founders seeking out clever capital.

cft: What might be your actual function and obligations at Lightspeed India?

Hemant Mohapatra: The shape of the fund may be very flat, that is what attracted me to Lightspeed India. There is a lot of autonomy and ownership available to every body, every deal is checked out thoroughly, and we aren't afraid to ask the difficult questions — both to founders and internally to every different.

Venture is a long time enterprise, so, I will, in the beginning in particular however additionally beyond that, spend a variety of time listening and getting to know, connecting to smart, passionate founders, and supporting out anywhere I am wanted by using the wider startup surroundings. Meanwhile, if there is an opportunity I come upon that appears simply compelling, I will now not be shy of chasing it down and making an investment.

cft: What are your thoughts on the growth and the past due-level startup funding state of affairs in India?

Hemant Mohapatra: I don’t think there may be lack of investment in India at any stage for the right startup. The bigger query is a way to create the proper situations to make certain that startups can grow into healthy, profitable, and sustainable corporations, ready for past due-degree investment and eventually for public markets. That need to be the goal, irrespective of the outcome.

From a regulatory perspective, India have to make it simpler for both founders and traders to take dangers via higher tax policies and employer registration tactics. Investors and founders additionally waste quite a few time negotiating unenforceable term-sheets, so we need to simplify that so founders can focus on what absolutely subjects: constructing businesses, no longer spending months negotiating time period-sheets.

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Investors need to think of themselves as partners in the entrepreneur’s adventure and there I am a robust believer in a “assignment services” model to help portfolio companies. We, at Lightspeed India, have targeted a whole lot of electricity on this direction with the hiring of Sunil Rao from Google in 2016. All of this need to set the ecosystem on a direction where we will see an increasing number of startups surviving the product/marketplace chasm and getting into increase tiers with developing repeatable revenues, stable organic increase, and pinnacle-notch hiring at all ranges.

cft: India is witnessing a variety of consolidations and exits. For example, Flipkart become acquired by means of Walmart, eBay received a stake in Flipkart remaining yr and then ended its ‘strategic partnership’ after the Walmart-Flipkart deal, itzcash became acquired by way of Ebix etc. Do you think it’s precise for the atmosphere?

Hemant Mohapatra: Absolutely! We need to have fun any and all flavours of success for the entrepreneur. I examine someplace that the Flipkart “mafia” has based over 250 different startups! Can you imagine how many greater now have the economic freedom to depart and comply with their very own startup goals? How many turns into savvy angel buyers and advisors? Or join growing startups as “person supervision” like Erik Schmidt did for Google?

These events are just like the whistle from the pressure cooker. They relieve the anxiety inside the environment for all players, every person can enjoy a good meal for some time, and then many will go prepare dinner for the clients some thing awesome some place else.

cft: A lot of startups in India are actually looking at SME Emerge to list themselves. What do you think is its destiny in India?

Hemant Mohapatra: It seems like this is a capacity exit mechanism for corporations within the $10-30 Mn (INR 50-2 hundred Cr) corporation cost range. While there are a number of organizations that might benefit from getting liquidity at those organization values, this isn't always a possible course for huge exits that institutional challenge price range look for in which agency values will variety from $one hundred million to $1 billion and above. The BSE/NSE and global stock markets just like the NASDAQ and the NYSE aid corporations with these large company values.

cft: You were associated with Andreessen Horowitz, that's among the pinnacle VC companies. How turned into the overall experience and what are the things Indian VC companies can learn from it?

Hemant Mohapatra: I discovered plenty from Andreessen Horowitz. As a company, they've redefined what it way to be an investor with the aid of going beyond presenting what had thus far been the same old for VCs: coins and recommend. Andreessen Horowitz is a well-oiled device of talent scouts, deal operations, outreach and activities, cross-to-marketplace groups, PR, or even an engineering group! All these paintings for the advantage of portcos in important areas which includes assisting them rent, or setting up product demos between portcos and ability buyers.

The project industry is pretty crowded — every week a brand new fund is raised — and VC budget like Lightspeed and Andreessen Horowitz that price the employer-constructing enjoy of their traders, treat founders pretty and with recognize, and usually try and add cost to an entrepreneur’s adventure even if they cannot be part of it without delay, are those on the way to differentiate and dominate over the years. The extra special exits that Lightspeed has had currently (Mulesoft, Snap, AppDynamics, Nutanix, India Energy Exchange, and so on) is a testomony to this method.

cft: You have written which you agree with greater in AR and no longer VR. Can you provide an explanation for why?

Hemant Mohapatra: For the maximum element, the VR wave has come and long gone. It is extraordinarily hard to time the market for brand spanking new technology, so it’s everybody wager if VR goes to make a go back. In my opinion, VR technology was socially isolationary — you wear a headset which isolates you from the environment — so the use cases narrowed down to gaming and a few others. The devices have been highly-priced and it changed into an additional tool the consumer wished to shop for, which delivered friction.

Finally, developers had a tough time developing apps for them due to distinctive platform architectures. Compare that to AR: your gadgets are essentially cellular telephones so the distribution trouble is solved. Next, you simplest have two systems to develop for: iOS and Android, both with a big pre-educated developer base. And in the end, AR nonetheless continues you included to the surroundings, so the use cases sincerely open up: from getting to know more approximately an artifact even as travelling, to gaming apps like Pokemon Go, to just the usage of AR to report fun films out of your mobile phones with animated characters exploring around your physical area.

cft: What are your thoughts on rising technologies like blockchain?

Hemant Mohapatra: As with most emerging tech, a lot depends on what's the utility to be able to help show, scale and socialize the technology. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have carried out a great activity proving the underlying blockchain era to a point but there's a protracted road beforehand with many difficult engineering challenges round scalability, safety, and pace that need to be solved before mass adoption, now not to mention regulatory readability on many components of the blockchain stack. As the majority who have been tracking this space, I am excited about the opportunities and am keeping a close eye on how it is developing and where the biggest possibilities are.

cft: Globally, the AI quarter is poised to develop to $sixteen.06 Bn by using 2022. You previously said that AI would be gaining a foothold but humans are complicated it with gadget gaining knowledge of etc. What do you suspect is the hassle?

Hemant Mohapatra: AI is an overarching concept of creating intelligence that possesses the characteristics of a human. Machine mastering and deep studying are the tools to gain AI.

While AI isn't a brand new tech — it’s been round since the 50s — it has all at once emerge as a part of the tech zeitgeist because we have the perfect hurricane of countless compute power available to examine countless facts saved on infinitely scalable and cheap garage.

Like with anything that gains reputation so quick, there are certain to be buzzwords and terminologies that conflate and obfuscate. Rest assured, the clever crowd knows precisely the way to separate the wheat from the chaff and this is wherein the smart cash is going.

cft: What’s next in shop for AI?

Hemant Mohapatra: That question ought to take an entire e book to answer, so allow me recognition on some of the interesting troubles that the following-gen AI-prenreneur will must resolve.

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First, biased statistics results in biased effects — as an instance, an AI programme utilized by judges to determine if a convicted criminal turned into going to commit extra crimes was discovered to be biased against minorities. Unbiasing records that is going to power the AI choice-engine goes to be a place of severe scrutiny and possibility.

Second, the authenticity of content. The University of Washington these days posted research that shows Barack Obama giving a speech and the awesome component about the video is that it's miles entirely made up. An AI listened to and watched quite a few Obama’s publicly to be had videos, de-built his facial capabilities and speech patterns, after which created a video of him pronouncing something entirely special. As this technology turns into mature, it’d be tough to agree with almost any content material online and new ways to certify what’s actual could need to be designed.

Finally, until we attain what's known as “generalized AI” — AI this is indistinguishable from a human in doing any undertaking simply as a human would, just like C-3PO or Terminator — we can need to depend upon lots of people to make our AI models powerful for the specialized obligations they're designed for. Things like correctly labeling raw facts that is fed into the AI model or ensuring an AI model behaves as predicted nonetheless need a whole lot of human enter. There is a brand new technology of startups coming up to build what's being referred to as “AI Ops” which might be tackling those difficult challenges.

Mohapatra has a deep information of technology together with a few years of experience in investing for some of the top VC firms like Andreessen Horowitz in the US. This, combined together with his empathy for startup founders and information of the Indian and US ecosystems, will sure assist him sniff out some of the pleasant deals in this new market and play an lively component in making entrepreneurial desires come real.



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