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In Conversation: Viiveck Verma, Investor And Mentor.

10517380_10205247107644103_1389779619569292665_o I had the opportunity of a candid conversation with Viiveck Verma, a Startup Enthusiast, Philanthropist, mentor, and Angel Investor, based out of Hyderabad. Before entering the Startup scene, Viiveck was that guy, you would find in the corner cabin of a corporate office. He’s been there and done that, in the corporate world. With close to three decades of experience behind him, Viiveck walked away from it all. Obviously, my first question was, Why? Viiveck, has a way with words and his counter question was, “Do you know what the culinary term ’mise en place’ is?” Truth be told, I am one of those people who would have caught a few episodes on different seasons of Masterchef Australia, and really enjoy watching it (cannot replicate anything on there even if my life depended on it, though). My Masterchef watching experience had failed me, I had never heard, nor had the slightest clue to what ‘mise en place’ meant! Viiveck credits this term as the deciding factor that pushed him from a corporate job to donning the many hats in the startup ecosystem. A ‘mise en place’ is the preparation of equipment and food before service in the restaurant begins. Viiveck claims he cannot cook (something I still don’t believe), but won a CEO cook-off conducted by the Smile foundation at the Hyatt in October 2014. The judging Chef told Viiveck that his ‘mise en place’ was what impressed him the most.

“I had reached the glass ceiling, where nothing new or exciting was happening around me. Increasingly, I wanted to enter the social sector – to corporatize it, break the stereotype for NGO’s. The cook-off made me realise that if my work skills can be implemented in an area so unrelated, then it can be implemented wherever I choose to.” Says Viiveck on how his current journey started.  Today, Viiveck has proven to be a valuable asset to the startup ecosystem in Hyderabad. A part of the Hyderabad Angels and Lead Angles Network, Viiveck himself is an Angel Investor in a few Hyderabad based startups.

Excerpts from the interview:

As an Investor, what are the qualities you look for before making a decision?

The single most important quality for me is the Founder or the Founding team. Over the years, I have learnt to trust my instincts when it comes to identifying the right people. The Idea on its own is not as important, for every Idea you have, 326 other people probably have the same idea. More than the Idea itself, I look for the ability to execute, and a certain nimble footedness – the ability to change and adapt. But there are certain features of the business that one needs to keep in mind as well. For me, this would be avenues of revenue generation. If the business is too focussed, then the possibility of an alternate revenue stream is low. Having one, in my opinion, is important. It ties into my earlier point of being nimble footed. If the main revenue model does not click, have you thought of a backup?

How involved are you with the startups in your portfolio?

Some founders know exactly how they want their idea executed and all they want is the money. As an angel investor, I don’t work like that. In addition to the funding, I like to be able to contribute at some level to help the founders execute their startup idea. This contribution could take any form – a sounding board to bounce ideas and strategies, a coach and a mentor, and my solid network that I’ve built over 30 years in the industry. Even If I haven’t invested or have any vested interest in a startup I enjoy playing the role of an ‘enabler’ – connecting people that are mutually beneficial to one another. I have never believed in instant gratification. If you honestly help someone, it will always be to your benefit some day.

And the deal breaker would be? 

The founders attitude. I’ve been in the mentoring and coaching business long enough to be able to evaluate the people I invest in. You have to be open to feedback and criticism, and above all always ask questions.

You mentioned Social initiatives and NGO, can you tell us a little something about this?

We are in talks to open an orphanage within an old age home. I was part of the implementation of this concept in Pune, and it worked out beautifully. On one hand you have parents and senior citizens, wanting to be needed and on the other hand you have kids, hungry for love, affection and some looking after. It was a win win situation. We’re trying to open something similar in Hyderabad. The ball is rolling on this one and you should hear about it soon enough.

You’re a member of the core team of TEDx – Hyderabad, how is that coming along?

Our aim with TEDx is not just to come up with brilliant ideas, but to implement the ideas that are most feasible through our legal entity, SAHE (Society for Advancement of Human Education). One such initiative is “First Responder”. The idea is a two-wheeler ambulance that can arrive at the scene of the emergency a lot quicker than the actual ambulance. The trained paramedics can provide first-aid and assist the patient when the ambulance arrives, saving critical minutes that could very well be a matter of life and death. We’re currently in the training phase of this initiative and expect to go live by July.

Another such initiative is the “Save 10k bores”.  The idea took birth on a dry lake bed, where we had a TEDx meeting attended by 40 members. The meeting ended with the idea, the action plan and the budget.

What do you miss about the corporate life? 
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Actually nothing much.

Nothing? Not a single thing?

Well, if I had to list one, I would have to say, the Infrastructure – having a secretary and the frills. But only because you insisted that I had to say something!

How do you rate the Startup scene in Hyderabad?

I’m very excited about all the possibilities for the startup ecosystem in Hyderabad. The city is becoming enterprising and taking on the reputation for being the hub for all things startup. Today, I meet a lot of founders with strong personalities looking to solve everyday problems with their startups. There is also a decided shift in the attitude of founders. They are starting to have a distinct voice of their own and will not be bullied by anyone – even if you have three decades of experience!

What’s the one thing you would like to see happen in Hyderabad’s startup scene?

More of Series funding. Hyderabad has a lot of angel and seed funding going on, but we are yet to see a big round of series funding raised. Should happen soon enough though.

How do you see yourself making a difference to the Startup Ecosystem of Hyderabad?

In addition to being an Angel investor, I’m always ready to be a sounding board for ideas and solutions. But I’m particularly working towards taking entrepreneurship to micro levels. This could be in reference to Age – I’ve seen school students being brilliantly enterprising and we should encourage that right from the start. This could also be in reference to socio-economic levels – get them to realise their ideas, some of them have the most brilliant ones, simply because they stem from a real need.

If you have any questions for Viiveck, drop us a note by commenting here and we’ll get Viiveck to answer them for you.

Crowdfunding. A neat solution to your startup idea.

Popular pictorial reference of an Idea, is a light bulb. Do you know why? No? Neither do I. But if you do know, pray tell. For the sake of this article let us assume there …

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Microsoft To Acquire LinkedIn.

The Internet has been abuzz since Microsoft dropped the big announcement: They are set to acquire LinkedIn, for $26.2 billion. This is Microsoft’s biggest acquisition till date and perhaps the most exciting one in recent …

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Zizelle – One stop shop for Statement Bags.

Zizelle Logo in Jpeg

“Luxury bags make your life more pleasant, make you dream, give you confidence, and show your neighbors you are doing well.” – Karl Lagerfeld.

While Karl Lagerfeld (Creative Director for Chanel and Fendi) has a lot of quotes to his credit, this one perhaps struck a chord with Swati Panchadhar, Founder of ‘Zizelle.’ What is Zizelle, you ask? In their own words, “Zizelle is the Dernier-cri in the world of bag fashion!” Simply put, Zizelle offers a collection of statement bags, that provide the much needed ‘ZiZ’ in your life. 

“I honestly believe that a bag, completes the look for any woman – it could be the work look, a dinner look, or an airport look. Accessorizing with the right handbag adds all the ZiZ.” says Swati. Being a fashion enthusiast herself, she saw the opportunity in this space and started Zizelle in April 2015.

swati zizelle  Zizelle is a marketplace for statement handbags from across the world. Swati and her team scouts for unique      designers and niche manufacturers, thus ensuring her customers have a one-of-a-kind selection to choose from.  The business is three tiered:

  • eCommerce. The simple transaction of buying handbags from the Zizelle catalogue..
  • Services: Zizelle offers Wedding services by pairing all of your wedding outfits with matching handbags. This is exciting stuff, because they’ll also match the outfits of everybody in your trousseau. Taking this service one step back, Zizelle does customised bags for your bridal shower!
  • The third aspect is the B2B, where niche designers can sell their products directly on Zizelle’s website.

At the moment, Zizelle is bootstrapped and being funded by Swati. She will however reach out for investment when the business shows the right traction and sales. You can look at their catalog on their Facebook page, Amazon India and Flipkart. Their very own website will be live in a couple of weeks.

When she’s not donning her ‘ZiZ’ cape and saving women in Hyderabad from hand bag disasters, Swati is a Sales Director for IT BFSI & Professional Services at HCL Technologies. There is however one other role that trumps all of the above. Being a super mom to a toddler! Swati juggles it all. Her secret? Working that ZiZ with the bag on her arm!

Startup Hyderabad wishes Swati and her team at Zizelle good luck. Women entrepreneurs for the win.

wedding1

UberPOOL, a carpooling service by Uber, now in Hyderabad.

At least once in our cab taking life, if not more, all of us have wondered if we could share the costs will fellow commuters. Well, now Uber lets you do just that. With their …

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Namernewborn, the birth of a crowdsourcing platform for baby names.

                                             “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose       …

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Twitter confirms what we’ve all been waiting for!

Twitter-character-limit-for-direct-message-increased

A couple of days ago, Twitter formally announced what rumour mills had been anticipating for a little while now: An extension to their 140 Character limit! Woot! Woot!

But before you get very excited, there are certain provisos to this grand announcement. The 140 character limit still stays, but the following are no longer part of that limit:  Twitter Handles while replying.  This is a big one, when you reply to a tweet, the handle of the original poster will not be counted toward the 140 character count. For me, this makes my tweet life a lot simpler. I dislike cutting words short, like using ‘b4 for before’ – I’m just old school that way.  Attachments: Basically, photos, videos, and quote tweets will also be exempt from the 140-Character count. Twitter will also allow you to re-tweet yourself by enabling the retweet button for your own tweets.

This update will roll out in the next few weeks, making your tweeting experience a lot more rewarding. There have been countless times, I’ve had to edit and re-edit my tweets in order for them to fit!

Interestingly, I had read a article a little while ago analysing the existing services being offered by Twitter and the author had made a few very interesting recommendations. Among other things, the author suggested Twitter do away with the @handles counting towards the character limit! Well, the writer got what they wished for! You can read the article here.

How does this change your twitter experience, comment below and let us know!

Events/MeetUp’s you would want to check out this weekend.

1) StartUp Catalyst When: Saturday, May 28, 2016, 4:00 PM Where: Events Room, CIE, IIITH Gachibowli, Hyderabad Join the interactive panel discussion with key players in the startup ecosystem this Saturday at IIIT Hyderabad. Hosted …

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