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Hammered by AI

Knowing that you’re ready to start a business is just the first step. Navigating the idea maze to find the right problem statement to commit to is the hard part. Always a long-winded and often a very stressful journey (mine here). Of course, with GenAI, it’s easy to say we are still in very early days of this transition - we don’t yet know which part of the stack will most value accrue to, how should we think about defensibility (every week we seem to be blowing up some previously held belief on moats in this space), do we have enough right talent in India (related, how much AI experience do you really need to build companies here).


Earlier this month, I wrote about Indian technology startups finally finding their feet globally. Especially in the US. Going global is not a novelty anymore. Indian founders and companies are ambitious and want to go overseas faster and sooner. It’s hard to get the US and international move right the first time for most founders. They have a lot to contend with. Not only do they have to move their families, adjust to a new country and way of life, they also have to get the first senior US hire right and meet the right people so they can grow their business. To this heady mix of responsibilities, founders need to often recalibrate PMF and get the GTM team built out. This is a lot to do for the most experienced, grey-haired founders. For those starting up for the first time, it can be overwhelming. To solve this, these founders need a special skill set. Most often, these skills can’t be hired right away. ...


At a time when western markets are seeing all-time high inflation, Southeast Asia (SEA) is reaping benefits from the increasing digitisation post-pandemic, and the rising entrepreneurial spirit. Founders here are focussing on solving problems that matter, and confidence in the region is reflected in the venture capital fundraises in the first half of this year, surpassing many previous records. But we are in a macroeconomic cycle that is still playing out. The Russia-Ukraine war is ongoing, the US Federal Reserve’s rate hikes are affecting financial markets across the world, and the possibility of another variant of COVID-19 affecting geographies continues to be a risk. Yet, SEA is going through this uncertain time differently from the rest of the world. The pandemic was a catalyst for the region’s startups. Technology companies that have existed in the region for over a decade saw increased demand. This has given a fresh impetus for the rise of newer business models, and many governments have come up with conducive policies. SEA has also seen a record number of exits- 115 (2019) and 107 (2020), according to this report, which also expects the number of exits between 2020 and 2022 to cross 460. Venture capital deal activity has grown from around 100 investments per year in 2011 to about 900 investments per year in 2021, according to data from Preqin. The growth is even higher if you consider the capital deployed, which has grown from less than $1 billion in 2011 to around $20 billion in 2021. As a result, we are seeing founders in SEA become more confident, mature, and focused than ever before. Conversations have shifted from “how to raise” to “how to implement”....


At a time when large investors have reduced their investments in India as the funding winter persists, venture capital firm Lightspeed is betting big on the country. Lightspeed India plans to invest in emergent sectors such as climate, electric mobility, deep tech, Web3 and cross-border commerce. The firm would also continue to invest in core themes such as consumer, fintech and software-as-a-service (SaaS).


Lightspeed has raised $500 million for its newest India and Southeast Asia fund, its largest for the regions, as it looks to make deeper investments in the South Asian market that is increasingly attracting global investors.


I returned to India mid 2018. I wrote about it here for the first time — and here again — as a way to retrospect on how I arrived at my decision to move back. I was having a good time in the US — lived there happily and happening-ly for over 15 years — but who knew that that wasn’t enough. It’s hard to believe that soon almost half a decade would have passed since. 5–6 years has been my “itch” — to change jobs, to change locations. I lived in Austin for ~6yrs @ AMD as an engineer. By the end of it, I needed to change my job, my role, and even my country! I moved to the UK to pursue an MBA then returned to US to work for Google as a PM/BizDev guy in San Francisco. 5–6yrs later I wanted to move again and shifted to venture capital with A16Z but by then I was already set on moving back to India sooner than later. A year after turning VC, I returned to India with Lightspeed. This is, frankly, the very first time 5 years have passed and I’ve not felt even the slightest tinge of FOMO — I am exactly where I am supposed to be, doing what I am supposed to do. It’s a very… calming feeling. Things are never perfect, but when big, big pieces of your life settle into place, you suddenly notice that tension you never noticed before. Not because it’s there, but because it is not. Just like this quote by Gilbert. I recommend that feeling. I recommend chasing it.

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