Those magnificent men in their flying machines.
To all of us observing them from terra firma below, the high-flying founders of startups that have achieved escape velocity might seem like demi-gods. Infallible beings who have it all figured out. How to raise hundreds of millions of dollars of funding. How to scale your company to stratospheric heights. How to win friends and influence people.
But this omnipotence is a chimaera.
Ask any marquee founder and she will tell you that even as the startup grows and flourishes, your challenges and questions don’t disappear, they only change in nature.
Ask Sahil Barua.
He is the CEO and co-founder of Delhivery. Founded in 2011 by five co-founders, in Gurgaon (now Gurugram), Delhivery is one of India’s largest third-party logistics services provider companies. Most major e-commerce companies including the likes of Flipkart and Amazon rely on Delhivery for warehousing, distribution and fulfilment. The company has raised hundreds of millions of dollars from marquee investors such as Tiger Global Management, Carlyle, Fosun and Nexus Venture Partners and currently has a pan-India presence covering more than 1,200 cities.
Fuelled by stellar growth and even larger ambitions, it appeared that a public listing was just a matter of time for Delhivery. In mid-2018, there were whispers that Delhivery’s draft red herring prospectus (a precursor to an IPO) would hit the market anytime and the company would become one of the rare Indian startups to have listed on the Indian stock exchange.
Except, it never did.
Because Barua got a call.
From the multinational conglomerate SoftBank.
Barua found himself having to contend with the question that many marquee startup founders have grappled with over the past two years.
A question that delights and scares in equal measure.
The SoftBank Question
With a treasure chest of nearly $100 billion, SoftBank’s Vision Fund is by far the largest venture capital fund in history. At a time when a fund of one billion dollars was likely to raise eyebrows, back in May 2017, SoftBank came calling with a fund that is a hundred times bigger. (Read about SoftBank’s Vision Fund here.)
So what happens when SoftBank comes calling? What goes through a founder’s mind? Should one celebrate or worry?
As The Ken spoke to Barua, we realised that the SoftBank question is not a single binary question. It is a meta-question that nests several other questions, each of which bears careful consideration and thought.
Let’s consider each of these in turn.
The IPO Question
What is another lament in a long list of laments about the Indian startup ecosystem.