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20 Questions for 400 Crore Mahesh Murthy (Part 1)

He is brutally honest, and constantly has Quora wondering why he hates Flipkart. Here we ask the investor some straight up questions and he gives us some straight up answers, even about the startups he wasn't very happy with.

Photo Credit : from,

Mahesh Murthy is a founding partner of Seedfund, a fund that focuses on early stage startups. He is also the founder of digital ad firm Pinstorm (Mumbai, Singapore to Zurich and Santa Clara).

1. How many years has Mahesh Murthy been an active investor?

17 years. Since 1999. Yes, that long :-)

2. Areas/sectors of interest to invest in?

I'm sector agnostic. Actually I believe if there's an established sector one should avoid it and instead create a new one. That apart, I have a slight bias for things that have the potential to become great consumer brands.

3. Size of fund?

Currently managing investments (personal and Seedfund) of more than Rs. 400 crores.

4. Notable startups invested in and/or mentored?

There have been more than 50. Here are 10 of the somewhat more notable ones:
Pinstorm, Doolally, RedBus, CarWale, MyDentist, WebDunia, Chumbak, Heckyl, Voonik, Edusports.

5. What are 3 startups you have been pleasantly surprised by?

RedBus - with how Phani and team grew it with constant optimisation.
Doolally - with how Suketu and team have created a near-cult experience.
Chumbak - with how Vivek and team have created perhaps the first modern Indian design-centric brand.

6. What are 3 startups not so pleasantly surprised by?

Innoz - by the then rampant corruption in the telco VAS sector.
Done By None - by the disappointment of creating a cult brand and not having the tenacity to hold on, survive and follow through.
Fetise - by promoters' short-term mentality and greed across the board in the e-com business.

[Publisher Note – All three received funding from Seedfund]

7. What’s the next big trend you think will hit the Indian startup ecosystem?

Originality in startup plans and in VC funding. For too long have we tried and failed at copy-paste.

8. What one big thing must Indian startups do to become sustainable?

Aim to earn money.
From customers, not VCs.

9. The best way to exit a startup is:
a. Through acquisition
b. Via IPO
c. Prefer to maintain shares in startup if it becomes successful enough to reach IPO status

If you run a great company why exit? We have celebrated short-term hump-and-dump serial entrepreneurs way too much. The real impact comes from lifelong entrepreneurs, like Bill Gates or Branson or Premji or Narayanamurthy, who each spent 20 or more years building great businesses, without the word "exit" coming to mind.

I don't think you should ever exit a great company if you can help it.

10. Seedfund prefers a single founder or a cofounder team?

Most funds seem to parrot some American verbiage about "team". We haven't found any statistical evidence to indicate that one needs a great founding team to succeed. Most Indian successes so far have been driven by one person, whether it is Phani of RedBus or Mohit of CarWale or Premji of Wipro or Dhirubhai of Reliance.

That said, we have no bias against a team presenting a plan. We just don't think a cofounder team is essential.

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