Today, three months ago — I made the bold decision of moving from an early-stage fintech startup to a VC fund, Together. I want to share why I embarked on this journey and give a glimpse of the past three months.
Over the past two years, I’ve spent colossal amounts of time learning about the world of fintech, participating in the 0–1 process of building and launching a product, understanding the importance of filling in the white voids of an early-stage startup, and working with operators who believed in the vision of growing India into a #ProductNation.
During this time, I found my passion in community building — it gave me immense gratification to see the collaboration between operators that catalysed into something greater than the sum of its parts. I started pondering on what the next leg of my career would be, and where I could make a larger impact. This was when my (then) manager suggested I meet with Avinash Raghava (Avi). He told me about all the initiatives Avi had worked on and assured me that he could help me navigate this space and provide me with clarity.
When I sat down to chat with Avi, I knew in that instant that Together Fund was exactly the fit I was looking for. The chance to work with a mentor — who has seen the tech space evolve over decades, that community was one of the fund’s core facets, and the chance to learn from world-class operators — were factors to consider. Setting aside the imposter that was bubbling inside of me, I promised to give my 100% and work with him over the next month on assignments and tasks. He assured me that he would create ‘magic’. Only in hindsight, did I realise the true meaning of what he said.
There are several reasons that helped shape my thinking and nudged me to arrive at this meticulous decision.
What caught my attention the most was the values that Together holds so very dearly. I see it in action every day and they are not just another wordplay on an ‘about us’ page. The dire need to make India a #ProductNation is a cause Girish, Manav, Shubham and Avinash have been working towards for over a decade now. I witness this while chatting with them, in emails exchanged and in meetings with founders. They really are the undercurrent that guide the fund.
Another value that drew me in was the idea of being founder-first. This fund was the first of its kind that was made — for founders, by founders and of founders. Girish built Freshworks from the ground up and saw it all the way to IPO. Manav relentlessly worked on Eka Software and has successfully scaled it to where it is now. I see their passion and empathy — they know what it’s like to be on the other side and are constantly blurring lines to work with our portfolio as true all-weather partners.
My years of learning about ‘Returns on Investment’ are constantly questioned and broken to apply myself to build relationships over revenue. In the first week of my joining the fund itself, I was introduced to a lot of the portfolio. Since the fund partners with startups in their earliest stages, I could see the partners and builders offer support with legal, partnerships, introductions to customers, launches, and events — and hold a high bar with the kind of help we extended. I’ve now learned that the fund is constantly paying it forward. With my focus on community building, I spend time identifying where we can truly make a difference in the larger SaaS community.
The term ‘Community’ is easy to use, but the meaning is just as complex. The uniqueness of the fund is its focus on community building. So much so that one of the partners, Avinash Raghava is in fact a ‘community partner’. This is how much importance the fund gives to the larger ecosystem! And for those of you who don’t know Avi, he really has made a huge impact in the SaaS space.
One of the results of working in this space for so long is the relationships the partners were able to build with operators and practitioners. With over 150+ global operators in our network, we researched how best we could leverage their expertise and built out a ‘Zone’ of mentors that we could connect with budding entrepreneurs. Since we primarily work with entrepreneurs who are building SaaS products, we identified cohorts we could work with and contribute to.
This is how #BrainstormTogether was born. We invite early-stage founders — to brainstorm and refine their approach with successful founders, who have been there and done that. We hosted experts like Girish Mathrubhootham, Manav Garg, Krish Subramanian and Ashwini Asokan.
Since the fund is also focused on devtools and infrastructure startups, we set up SourceCode. SourceCode is an open, one-stop-shop platform to facilitate practitioners, operators, and aspiring founders to exchange learnings, brainstorm ideas, and get feedback for startups building for technical end-users. Right now, the theme is to help them build in the open-source space. We’ve seen experts in the likes of Anoop Dawar and Rushabh Mehta.
Apart from this, we’re sharing our learnings through our blog archives — #ScaleTogether of blog posts and content. The themes mainly vary from building in the US, VC insights, culture building, founders’ personal and professional growth, sales, and marketing. We even invite experts like Anand Jain and Vinod Muthukrishnan to share their experiences and tactical hacks for executives to apply.
The content exercise bleeds into our monthly newsletter that sheds light on topics like the importance of SEO, balancing engineering vs. business, and the magic of open source. You can subscribe to it at this link.
Albeit we’re merely a year old and a team of just ten folks — culture building is something we constantly work on. The partners deliberately put together a team of smart people with no prior experience in investing but were hungry and humble.
It started with a simple foundation — no segregation between the team that handles investments, platform operations, and community. We’re all called builders because, in fact, we all handle a bit of everything, and contribute to building the firm at large. However, for the sake of this article, I shall dissect the team into categories.
The partners — Girish, Manav Garg, Shubham, and Avinash are mentors and visionaries. They take on the role of founders rather than financiers. They align their efforts to build out the culture of the team to be purpose-driven and soak in the operational know-how. They are true mentors in their sense and are always available as a sounding board, or in some cases, a strict teacher to put us back on the path.
The builders — these are folks that I work with every day. Dushyant, Shivam, Pratyush (PC), Manav Shah and Subhendu bring their own individuality to the table. They work day in and out to make sure our vision as a fund is translated into action — and constantly pay it forward to the founder ecosystem in their own ways. Be it for an investment, sharing feedback or more.
Although they have worked together for over a year, they make sure I feel part of the team and collaborate with me to bring me up to speed. We’ve all come together for the cause and vision of the fund, which is so much larger than us.
For an organisation that is just a year old, its culture is quite mature. Ground rules to govern touchpoints with externals are properly laid out. In whatever capacity we interact with them, we ensure that deep research is done to keep the conversations informed and contextual. We share feedback and maintain transparency, and make it a point to actively request feedback so we can learn and improve too.
It was obvious to me when I chanced upon Avinash and the team. In my aspirations to become a community builder, I found that Together fund has the potential to materially affect the larger startup ecosystem in India and globally.
The opportunity to help scale Together’s dream and learn from a seasoned team of partners and peers was something I just could not pass up. I could not be more excited to be a part of the fund and embark upon this journey.
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And in case you’d like to chat with me, do write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and feel free to hit me up on Twitter or LinkedIn.