Lady boys in Thailand and seed funding

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“Sir, can you really tell the difference between a boy and a lady?” my colleague Amanjyoti asked a few weeks ago, curiosity wide on her face with no hint of mischief in her big eyes. I had just returned from Thailand and in this context, I sincerely felt that it was a question of authentic search for knowledge; not just test mine.

My response was rather brief and instantaneous, but thankfully to Aman’s complete satisfaction. I will of course share my answer, but only after having you read a few paragraphs of it. And you sure don’t want to miss his epic reaction to my response.

But more importantly, Aman’s question had triggered a completely different line of thinking in my mind, as it usually does with me these days. I suddenly remembered many instances of students asking, “But sir, will I really be able to fundraise?”

I distinctly remember David Rose, the author of “Angel Investing” and founder of New York Angels sharing some very interesting numbers from the United States a few years ago. There were approximately 20,000 funded start-ups versus 28,000,000 new corporate tax filings that year, which translates to a miniscule 0.7% funding rate.

At Bennett University’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), we focused on nurturing an entrepreneurial spirit among students in the hope that some of them would actually launch startups. -ups. Although the results were more than satisfactory, the one issue that keeps coming up and hampering the process is funding.

The obsession with start-up funding is pretty staggering. I use the word “amazing” for a reason. Of these start-ups, nine out of ten apparently have no need for funding, either immediately or in the near/foreseeable future. But more ironically, the issue simply prevents many from doing at least what they can immediately.

“Okay, so how much money do you need?” I remember answering my student Aditya (name changed) with a counter question a few months ago. “Hmmm…., I’m not sure, sir,” came a mild response as expected. “No problem; let’s do some quick math and find out,” I offered helpfully. Unsurprisingly, we weren’t able to come up with a reasonable number that could possibly be asked of anyone other than the parents.

“Why do I need? was my answer to Aman’s question about my ability to identify lady boys in Thailand. And ‘Why do you need it?’ is generally my response to my students’ apprehensions about their ability to raise funds for their start-ups.

I can only recall here how beautifully Dr. Saras Sarasvathy presented a powerful lesson in entrepreneurship in the simplest possible words. “Do what is doable” is his simple mantra. There is absolutely no need to think about irrelevant things like “funding” when working on a startup. Just keep doing what is doable.

And now, Aman’s epic reaction to my “Why do I need it?” answer. She gave me a visibly sympathetic look from head to toe and nodded in agreement with an audible sigh. But believe me, there are a lot of sensible things to do in beautiful Thailand, as much as there is enough to do in a start-up, aside from raising funds.



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The opinions expressed above are those of the author.



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