First things first : A lot of things in this world needs to be read / discussed in a certain context. There is no hero or a villain. It’s all relative!
“Is Rahul Yadav a great guy?
Is he a bad role model for new entrepreneurs?
Is he too arrogant?
Is he a genius?”
Well, it depends on how you read and judge.
Before we get into some (uncut) perspective, let me share a summary of conversations that has happened between me and several founders (over beer).
First peg : “Yaar – what a random guy Rahul Yadav is! ”
After Third/Fourth peg : “But boss bande mein dum hai. He has set the investor community in one shot ! saale ne bahot sahi li hai”
Going back in time, a typical mailer/communication from a startup 2 years back would read like this:
“It’s been an hour and he hasn’t turned up.
During the entire meeting, he was yawning / sleepy..checking his phone”
This is how some of the investors used to be few years back.
But things have changed now. Apart from increased competition, there is also an underlying ‘Rahul Yadav’ phenomena that investors are in the know of. Given the power of social media and ballsy founders, they don’t want to be in the dock with such claims.
They don’t know who the next Rahul Yadav is (i.e. founder who can possibly rip them apart); and that’s precisely you will find A LOT of investors now suddenly being active on twitter (to create a better brand and connect with the community).
What’s Good About The Entire Saga
Well, Rahul Yadav is an innovator – a very quality conscious founder who also believes in bold decisions. All-in or all out. Learn that.
He has taken ‘bold’ decisions – right from buying a domain + a fancy number for half-a-million dollars to spending so much on Lookup branding. These aren’t the kind that a logical founder can even approve of. But results are clear – apart from massive traffic, even LinkedIn recognized Housing as the top 10 influential brands in India.
All this within 3 years of starting up. Very companies have lived this kind of maddening growth.
It’s almost like a cult. As one of the employees wrote
He is the Captain of our ship. We work like a family, We fight like friends and We care like Brothers! He is the philanthropist and thought leader of Housing, he is the care taker of the vision of Housing!
What Housing today is, is not because of our product, not because of our marketing budgets, its because of the People! The very people who laid the foundation of the company. The people who spent sleepless nights and put their hard work from last 3 years in the company. Its because we refused to follow the rules that everyone wanted us to. Its because we never wanted to be the part of a change, we wanted to Be That Change! And we have borrowed this vision from our Founding Team and most importantly from Rahul Yadav.
Build this sort of inspiring culture. It’s just maddening sexy to build a team that believes in your idea like hell ! Very few companies / leaders have managed to build a culture like that.
You can continue to find flaw in the above logic, but when’er you have time – think about this : The Most Inspiring Leadership Test : Your Last Day As CEO
On Not Giving A Fuck
There is a perception that a lot of new founders will get inspired by Rahul Yadav’s ‘I don’t give a fuck’ style.
It works for Rahul (read my earlier piece on this issue : Before you judge a founder) but not for you.
You are building an organization which will bring in several stakeholders and perceptions.
Successful founders manage that. Else they are replaced. Not because they aren’t good enough, but just that they aren’t great enough to work with.
Like it or not, keeping people happy is also a part of CEO’s role. Steve Jobs was known to be arrogant (by outsiders), but people were willing to die for him. He earned respect by launching great products and proving critics wrong – again and again and ofcourse, by not giving a fuck.
If you are a founder reading ‘How not to give a fuck to the world’ -first go back and earn some respect. Do things that prove your capability. And if you aren’t the kind who is ‘great enough to work with’, don’t bring external money in the business. You won’t have to give a fuck to anybody.
On Managing Investors
[By Sumanth Raghavendra, Deck Founder]
Post Rahul’s exit, there have been a ton of posts and articles from “experts” and “insiders” opining on how the board and specifically the investors should have managed him better and why their failure in doing this effectively is the primary reason why matters came to such a head.
As an entrepreneur running a VC-backed startup myself, I couldn’t help but feel that these opinions were looking at this from exactly the opposite direction from where it ought to be viewed. Fact of the matter is that, as a founder, it is your responsibility to manage your investors rather than that of your investors to manage you!
In my opinion, the simplest, yet toughest, way to do this is to first make sure that you assimilate the fact that your investors and you are on the same side of the table – partners not adversaries.
This entire narrative of VCs having a different set of goals and objectives for the company relative to your own is a flawed one – your investor’s imperatives are considerations that you should have considered before you chose to take their money rather than ex post facto, after accepting it. Therefore, if you are a lone wolf or have radically unique perspectives on how to build a company, you are better off not taking any VC money in the first place.
Once you have allowed an investor to join your board, it is essential that you treat her as your partner and ally. Being pro-actively transparent with your board and operating within the covenants that you signed off in your shareholder’s agreement are table stakes – beyond this, you need to manage expectations and attempt to build a “shared vision”.
Unfortunately, as Rahul Yadav probably figured out a bit too late, there is no playbook that you can readily refer to that teaches you how to do this. It is something that comes with experience – making mistakes et al – your challenge is to ensure that your board has your back when you make these mistakes and learn on the job. Else, the only person you can blame if you are shown the way out is you yourself.
Questions to Investors
[By Ashish Sinha, NextBigWhat]
Now that there is a lot of dumb money, where is the smartness? Apart from money, what else are you bringing to the table? Network? Connects? A set of helpful EIRs?
Let’s ask the other way round : If not for money, why would a smart founder spent more than 30 minutes with you? What else do you bring to the table?
I believe, investors need to think through this – very few of them have ever built a business and the lack of ‘hands on’ approach shows up more often than not.
How many of you are even using the new new apps that are being launched? Clearly, there are no more than 10 investor who are active on Twitter or Quora or Dubsmash. The way forward is full of brilliant tech by Indian founders and you don’t wanna be somebody who rejects companies for your lack of vision and understanding of the space.
In short, reskill yourself !
It’s not about managing money – it’s about building great businesses and playing a pivotal role doing that. The new age founders aren’t the sober ones – it’s a bloody different breed. Much more aggressive and bold than what you have been exposed to!
Being Audacious Vs. Creating Value
[By Sameer Sisodia, Linger Founder]
I think the bits about the audacious decision making and big vision is just awesome. But it needed a dose of understanding what a business is – from the perspective of the food chain one enters/works with/improves, and from the perspective of all stakeholders involved.
The founder/CEO must indeed take risks and think different from what any investor, any mentor might – after all they likely never dreamt a dream this big – but as the idea and business grows, they need to have the ability to think beyond what they feel or want, and put themselves in the shoes of other stakeholders.
In Housing’s case, it was after all investor money that afforded the scale creation – and whatever the differences with the investor’s pov, it needed managing. There were similar reports of real estate agents, on the back of whose data Housing seeded its inventory, getting pissed off with their conduct and lack of real value.
The team may be bursting with ideas, and will likely innovate the hell out of this industry, but should remember that finally, all these games are about people – and a large, diverse set of them. And they’ve still got a long, long way towards proving real innovation, real impact and real value beyond what easy money affords.
Last but not the least, many a times founder is not always the best CEO.
What are your thoughts?