Why a prize idiot like Rahul Yadav is precisely the kind of startup hero India deserves

…and exactly the opposite of the one it needs.

rahulyadav

Earlier this week there was a startup event where the founders of Flipkart, Inmobi and Paytm—arguably India’s most-lauded startups —were panelists but they were largely ignored.

The loudest applause and the highest media attention was centered squarely around their fellow co-panelist—a man by the name of Rahul Yadav.

Rahul Yadav—enfant terrible of the Indian startup ecosystem, erstwhile CEO of the soon-to-be-erstwhile startup Housing.com, numero uno startup hero, premier role model for all young and wannabe entrepreneurs in India…and all-season buffoon.

I watched in morbid fascination as the media studiously held on to every trivial thing that Rahul said—like beggars gratefully accepting the leftover scraps from a rich man’s five star buffet lunch—breathlessly reporting them in blaring headlines as non-obvious insights that the rest of the startup ecosystem ought to heed.

The most tone-deaf article from this lot was the one that reported on Rahul Yadav’s skewering of the media—calling them out as “poor talent” who lacked basic courtesy. The complete lack of self-awareness was starkingly ironic.

Here was a kid whose only achievements were firstly around running a company that has raised over a hundred million dollars of funding into the ground and secondly being abusive and generally disrespectful to all around him…

Yet he was being deified and apotheosized by the media.

“Mera naam hai Ibu Hatela, khayega kela?
“Mera naam hai Ibu Hatela, khayega kela?

That’s when it struck me—a prize idiot like Rahul Yadav is exactly the kind of startup hero that we in the Indian startup ecosystem deserve…

Why so

For two reasons…

Our laser-focused obsession with funding

As a startup nation, we have always been somewhat enamoured by funding—but earlier, this was like the stolen glances that a smitten lover would snatch off his object of affection. But today, this obsession with funding is more akin to a full-on, shameless public orgy…

We no longer care about what a startup has achieved or aims to do, the problems it solves, the benefits it provides or the impact it has had.

We only care about one thing—how much funding has a startup raised. And that amount determines where you are slotted in the startup caste system…

And in this buffet of buffoonery, Rahul Yadav is the veritable pièce de résistance—the roast suckling pig with a rotting apple stuffed in its mealy mouth.

The fact that Rahul has raised a boatload of funding for his startup implies that he has earned his place at the top of the totem pole and needs to be celebrated and venerated.

Our Arnab-ized media

99% of the credit to painting this narrative shaping Rahul Yadav as a startup role-model goes to our clueless media.

Except for a few notable exceptions, the media folks covering the Indian startup ecosystem are invertebrate hacks who are more interested in chasing page views than in providing any kind of meaningful commentary or insights.

But who can blame them when we live in a country where the number-one media person is the insufferable and cacophonous Arnab Goswami.

One can almost sense Rahul Yadav playing to the galleries in front of these media monkeys—assuming a persona that paints him as a startup savant doling out sensational headlines to help these journalists sell their newspapers, websites and events. So what if this persona is doltish as long as it drives page views?

So against this backdrop of an obsession with funding and an emasculated gutless media hungry for sensationalism, it is no wonder that Rahul Yadav is a startup hero. Precisely the kind of hero we deserve.

The tragic part here is that positing a cretinous neophyte like Rahul Yadav as a startup hero shows how starved we are for real role models to look up to.

Despite all the buzz around India having arrived as a hot startup destination, there have been precious few aspirational startup exemplars since the halcyon days of Sabeer Bhatia and Narayan Murthy. A false dawn if ever there was one…

Equally tragic is the fact that folks who could potentially be startup heroes—a Sachin Bansal or a Vijay Shekhar Sharma—seem to be idols with feet of clay…either backing the likes of Rahul Yadav with angel investment to continue this cringe-worthy charade of faux startup-ism or needing him to fill seats at their own events. The signal is loud and clear—it doesn’t matter if you are a lout or have demonstrated zero meaningful startup skills as long as you can string the media along in this charade…and if you can do that, we are all happily complicit.

This is not to say that there are no startup heroes or role-models in India.

How I wish the media highlighted the story of a Santosh Panda who has diligently persevered to build Explara over several years with almost zero funding…or of a Nikhil Pahwa who selflessly fights for a public good like net neutrality at a great personal cost…or a Girish Mathrubootam who is pioneering a seminal “value arbitrage” competitive differentiator that other Indian SaaS startups would do well to emulate.

But what fun would that be?

There would be no sensational headlines.

No avalanche of page views.

No bums in seats at your startup events.

So I am not holding my breath hoping that we will get the kind of startup heroes we need…

Instead I will get my popcorn and join the mob as we watch yet another episode of “Rahul Rants”—another episode chronicling the monomyth of the startup hero we deserve…

[Guest article by Sumanth Raghavendra. Opinions expressed are his own!]

Rahul Yadav Raises Funding From Bansals; Pisses Off Married People

Rahul Yadav has raised funding from Flipkart’s Sachin & Binny Bansal for Intelligent Interfaces that focuses on providing tech solutions to government.

Rahul-Yadav Raises Funding From Flipkart Founders
Rahul-Yadav Raises Funding From Flipkart Founders

While Rahul wants to avoid institutional funds (for now?), he definitely pissed off a lot of married people by saying (implied) that he generally wants to avoid married people as employees as they want to go home as early as can – while single techies want to even work on Sundays!

Rahul – any thoughts on work-life balance?


» Read :On Building Team Culture : This Entrepreneur Doesn’t Let The Team Work on Fridays and Weekends


Well, Rahul remains controversial as ever!

Watch NextBigWhat’s conversation with Rahul, when he was the CEO of Housing.com (his first and last public talk as Housing CEO).

Rahul Yadav On Bigg Boss 9 ? Hell Yeah !

Update : Bigg Boss 9 contestant list is out and Rahul Yadav is IN.

Earlier

There are *speculations* that Rahul Yadav, the ex-CEO of Housing is going to be a part of the upcoming Bigg Boss 9 , one of the most controversial tv series in India.

While the list of Bigg Boss 9 participants aren’t yet out, it’s quite clear from Rahul’s FB updates that he is ON with Bigg Boss.

Rahul Yadav : The Bigg Boss !
Rahul Yadav : The Bigg Boss !

Random Idea : How about commonfloor sponsoring Bigg Boss now?  🙂

Aside, how cool is it for a founder of newly launched (?) startup to spend 45 days away from the team? What’s your take?

Meanwhile, watch Rahul’s first ever public talk at UnPluggd, India’s biggest startup conference.

How To Read Rahul Yadav Saga In The Right Context

RahulYadav

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?

Rahul Yadav : Totally UnPluggd.

Rahul Yadav is not with Housing anymore. When we met him @UnPluggd, he shared the grand plans and candidly answered a whole lot of questions around funding, team and ofcourse, the menu scanner!

Here it is : Rahul Yadav, UnPluggd

 

Rahul Yadav Fired From Housing [Updated]

In today’s board meeting at Housing, the board has decided to bring a new CEO @Housing. The board, from what we are told has also asked Rahul Yadav to leave the company.

Rahul Yadav Post Board Meeting
Rahul Yadav Post Board Meeting

Official statement from Housing

Mumbai based online realty platform, Housing.com,(Housing) has released its CEO Rahul Yadav, with immediate effect, after a regular board meeting, held earlier today. Yadav who is also the co-founder of the company, will no longer be an employee of Housing and be associated with the company in any manner, going forward.

The Housing Board, unanimously agreed to bring Yadav’s tenure to a close, with reference to his behaviour towards investors, ecosystem and the media.  The Board believed that his behavior is not befitting of a CEO and is detrimental to  the company, known for its innovative approach to product development, market expansion and brand building.

While the search for an interim CEO is underway, a transition plan has been put in place, The current senior executives of Housing will continue to run the operations on a daily basis, and ensure its continued smooth functioning.   The Board and the Operating Committee will remain closely involved with all key decisions.

The Housing Board, investors, management team and employees are keen to see Housing maximize its huge potential in India and beyond, as well as run in professional and world class manner.   This is part of their larger commitment to India and the start-up ecosystem, which together remains unaffected and as strong as ever.


Rahul Yadav has been involved in several controversies – right from the Sequoia controversy to sending scathing email to investors.

Read : Go Die Motherf****r : The changing equation between investors and startups

Also : Rahul Yadav’s AMA

Introducing UnPluggd Speaker : Rahul Yadav, Housing Founder

Some say he is arrogant.

Some say he is the dude who changed the startup-investor equation in the country forever.

Like him. Or Hate him. You can’t ignore him.

Meet Rahul Yadav, Housing cofounder and CEO at UnPluggd, India’s biggest startup conference.

Rahul Yadav, Housing CEO
Rahul Yadav, Housing CEO

At UnPluggd, Rahul will talk about the lessons learned building Housing and of course, the recent controversies that he has involved in.

For sure, you can’t miss this session!

About Rahul Yadav

Rahul Yadav, Co-Founder and CEO Housing.com, is a maverick visionary who along with a few of his friends from IIT-B are credited with building one of India’s largest and most innovative real estate search platform Housing.com. The difficulty in searching for accommodations in a city like Mumbai spurred them on to build this unique platform that lists properties submitted by users, either brokers or owners, on an interactive map.

Rahul spotted and then exploited a huge opportunity in the real estate search portal, which has made Housing.com one of the largest in that bracket. Rahul largely spends time and energy to ensure that his business stays ahead of the trends.

His primary focus is towards the development and execution of the overall strategy that will foster the growth of the company.

He complete attention to detail  has helped make their venture a huge success. Rahul’s job responsibility involves close interaction with investors of the company towards fulfilling the company’s vision.

Not many know that Rahul, who hails from Alwar in Rajasthan topped the state in physics-chemistry-math in his 12th standard board exams, based on which he got a 75 percent scholarship for preparing for IIT-JEE.

While he was selected to be the class representative in his second year at IIT Bombay, he later, went on to become the secretary of its student association.

The reason that gave birth to this massive business makes for an interesting read. At IIT, as part of his election manifesto, he had to create a question bank from old exam paper; this is what ignited the technopreneurial bug and helped him build the popular Exambaba.com – a website that would carry scans of exam papers of previous years.

That was just the beginning of his genius entrepreneurial journey, Rahul then, went ahead for a brief internship in Israel and he returned to build apps for Google Chrome before he founded Housing.com.

“If something doesn’t exist, build it yourself, and if it doesn’t work, move on,” an adage Rahul firmly lives by.

Who are the other speakers @UnPluggd?
Kunal Shah (Freecharge), Aprameya (TaxiForSure), Abhay Singhal (InMobi), Amiya Pathak (Zipdial) and several others.

UnPluggd DETAILS

Date : June 19th And 20th.
Venue: MLR Convention Center (J P Nagar), Bangalore.
URL: http://nextbigwhat.com/unpluggd
Agenda: http://nextbigwhat.com/unpluggd/agenda
Is there a discount code? Well yes, 10% (code: UNICORN). Tickets are selling fast and the discount code lasts for not more than 2 days.

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An Open Letter To Rahul Yadav Of Housing

[Editorial notes : Over the last 2 months, a lot has been talked/debated about Housing and its CEO, Rahul Yadav. Below is an open letter by an entrepreneur who now handles product function in a similar space. But to avoid personal attacks, the author has prefered to stay anonymous.

Like with all things opinions at NextBigWhat, we recommend you to stick to the context.]


Dear Rahul,

Congrats for hijacking the news for last 2 months. You have been able to distract many people (including some from your own company) into reading about your gimmicks and tantrums.

Rahul Yadav
Rahul Yadav

I, like you, am an entrepreneur, who really believes in making difference in peoples’ lives through technology and not-so-much in making millions of $$$. But unlike you, I could not scale my startup after failing to raise money, so I chose to get acquired by one of your competitors.

I am writing this letter because I am fed up with all sorts of questions, people have been asking me about Housing and Rahul Yadav. People, who are not looking for a house or land or PG and are not even connected to start-up ecosystem in any way whatsoever. That’s one kind of brand to LOOK UP to!

On a serious note, why are you doing this? Initially, it seemed like things went out of hand and the news was just blown out of proportion by media. But you seem to be really enjoying the limelight and are now making sure that everyday, you feed something to media to write about. And all this while distracting yourself and hundreds of housing employees and of course, yor investors. BTW, when was the last time Housing came up with a new product? Burn!

Housing is a great company; I give you that. Kudos to what you guys have achieved in a short span. But to think that Housing is the most innovative company in India and have even out-smarted Trulia and Zillow (which happen to be pioneers in this space) is bullshit. Zomato, which according to you is no better than a scanner of food menus, has grown in 22+ countries and had balls to put entire fund-raise at stake to acquire a company. I don’t know how you define innovation.

You claim Housing’s data science which you claim is the coolest thing in real estate industry today. Let me not spill the beans about how a bunch of people who smoked up all night and came up with a bunch of city heat maps by morning, mostly using Google data. Since you guys are pretty good at doing PR, DSL is perceived to be a product gospel.

Why don’t we get some context here?

1. Trulia’s Heat Maps [link]

2. Housing’s Heat Maps [link]

3. Even a lesser-known Indian startup in this space, Realizing.in has pretty decent heat maps [link]

Here is something more. We participated in a housing hackathon some time back. There, I witnessed housing’s obsession with Virtual Reality. And let me not remind you which company developed first virtual reality based product in global real estate industry. Since, our team built that product, one of Housing’s co-founder asked us to join the company. But we didn’t. You know why Rahul, because not everybody wants to join Housing.com.

I am, in no way, trying to undermine Housing’s achievements. I am just saying that, no company is perfect, and Housing is no different. You guys are no rocket scientists. You hire people from the same colleges as many other startups do. So please stop behaving as if Housing is an impeccable piece of work, which no one in the world has ever matched. And you would know better than me about the transient nature of tech industry. Do you remember the last time you used a Nokia phone or Just Dial service or Google Groups.

Deepinder Goyal rightly compared you with ArvindKejriwal. Well, Mr. Kejwal realized his mistakes in time and came back as a much mature leader who then got all the love from people.

You know Rahul, one of the biggest qualities of a true entrepreneur (one you claim to be), is humility. It’s high time that you let go off this arrogant and I-don’t-give-a-f*** attitude towards the world and take a chill pill.

Lastly, ‘Bhai chill mar.Bak**odi band kar aur kaam karle!’

I don’t want to disclose my identity because I don’t like unwanted controversies and would rather focus my energy on building awesome products. I won’t be surprised if you shrug this letter as an attempt by competitor to malign Housing.

Hope this letter puts some sense in you. You can thank me later 🙂

Views are completely personal.

“Mentally dropped out of IIT in 2nd year” : Housing’s Rahul Yadav On Sequoia, IIT And Porsche Cayenne

Housing’s Rahul Yadav did an AMA on Reddit and here are some of the interesting questions (and answers). For sure, he is on a roll !
What was the deal with Sequoia Capital? For science, Can you tell us what ‘other bad things’ were you referring to in your email to the VC?

We decided a slided deal between 10-15% (depending on performance)for 1mn$. After 2 months of due diligence, when they realised we were running out money, they said they want to do a flat equity deal. I said ‘Okay. Let’s do it at 12.5%. They said 14.75%. When I requested more, they said “Let’s not waste each others’ time.” We were left with no option.

Rahul Yadav
Rahul Yadav

I came to know they have done it with lots of other ventures (TFS, Ola, Dexetra, LetsBuy..)

So to cut it short, I think they’re culturally a very cutthroat VC and sometimes I think that’s why they’re more successful than others. But I still condemn their practises because I feel they’re inhuman and for me, people are the ‘why’ for everything I do.

So Do you watch chota bheem ?

Bhai pichle 11 saal se TV nahi dekha hai.

I have never read any book in my life

Our entire tech team (~100%) consists of freshers

I ‘want’ to buy and media made it ‘bought’. I use a rented car.

What made you ask Bhavish of Ola and Deepinder of Zomato to ask them to allot half of their shares to employees

Success of a venture is a team work. Although all startups give ESOPs to their employees but the problem is it’s not PROPORTIONAL to the value creation. Value is being created at x rate and is being given to the employees at y rate. x not being equal/proportional to y is the real issue. So these two names came up in my mind and I just nominated them.

What you would be doing, if you have left Housing.com ?

Never thought about it. But I love animation and visual effects and wanted to pursue it from Vancouver Film School but couldn’t afford their high fees at the time.

Would you ever be a VC? 😉

I don’t like money at rest. Putting money to work is very important. And I’ll keep doing so in whatever roles/formats are right at the moment.

If you are here to solve problem then why you wanted to quit before solving it.

It was just a well calculated tactical move.

I think I mentally dropped out of IIT in 2nd year. Physically in my 4th year. And on papers, I think I’m still an IITB student. 🙂

What is your opinion about Deepinder Goyal and Zomato?

A company scanning menus from last 7 years and doing no innovation. And the CEO says ‘Aww. So cute.’

Do you think investors your back your next startup after all the controversies?

I think they will but it really doesn’t matter.

– Link to AMA

Also see: Deepinder’s AMA