Start-up samaritans: Morpheus helps rookie entrepreneurs survive Valley of Death

New breed of VC firms focusing on bottom rung of start-ups

Here are couple of Startup articles from the Economic times, which carry views from morpheus and myself.

Here is the article on morpheus that appeared in the Economic times – Chandigarh edition – Fri, Aug 1, 2008.

Madhouse founders chart new path, to mentor startups

Following questions were answered by myself and Nandini for Cerius Shah @ ContentSutra. Reproducing the Q&A here:

CS: Are you going to relegate Morpheus to start-ups or build it into a more generic web consultancy?
SG: Morpheus will be be focused only on early stage startups, our goal is to work with teams who are 0-12 months old or may be even at the idea stage. Teams who can build scalable and fundable businesses

CS: Why the YCombinator model as opposed to an Angel or Seedfund?
SG: Because thats where we believe the gap is most wide. Today there is enough supply of capable entrepreneurs, folks who are taking the plunge – quiting their jobs, putting together a team, building prototypes and dreaming to build a big business. At the same time the supply of money to be invested in startups is also quite enough. Many VC funds, seed stage funds and plenty of angels. These guys are happy to investment in companies who are at the right stage, with the right team and the right model. So we add value to both the parties i.e. the entrepreneur and the startup investors using the morpheus/Ycombinator model. For about 4-6 months we work closely with the founders to build the right product, getting the right team, getting initial customer traction and have something impressive ready which will allow them to raise professional funding. To investors our value add is that we are helping in building high quality fundable startups, we will also be conducting demo events where all morpheus companies will demo the products and the investors can interact with bunch of high quality startups.

CS: What value does Morpheus Venture bring to a start-up?
SG: For about 4-6 months we work closely with the founders to build the right product, getting the right team, getting initial customer traction and have something impressive ready which will allow them to raise professional funding. We make introduction to potential investors, partners, lawyers, accountants, domain experts. These only few main things, the real collaboration will include many more things, needs of each startup are unique and we will adapt to them.

CS: What is the average equity you look at obtaining?
SG: Morpheus will be looking at taking 4-8% equity, there is absolutely no monitory fee that we charge. We are in for the long haul and willing to wait for 4-7 years, which a startup may need to reach the exit point.

CS: What is the average exit period Morpheus is looking at?
SG: I would say average would be 5 years, assuming the M&A market continues to develop.

CS: Can you share some start-ups and their products with whom you have been working off late?
SG: We currently have three portfolio companies, two of which have already raised venture funding ( www.Instablogs.com, www.commonfloor.com) and third one is profitable (www.foodathome.in)

Following questions were answered by myself and Nandini for Ashish Sinha @ pluggd.in. Reproducing the Q&A here:

a. What kind of startups are you targeting? College grads? Boostrapped?

Morpheus is open to work with all kinds of start-ups. However, the following would be our focus area:

1. Early stage start-up teams who have not received any professional funding so far. (Professional funding comes with good amount of advise, mentorship and contacts)

2. Teams which are still in idea stage and have not started of as yet.

3. We’d prefer start-ups with more than one founder (will help single founders find co-founders) and founders who just refuse to fail

4. A team that can bootstrap or has bootstrapped, as that is an essential ingredient of an entrepreneur and a start-up.

5. An idea/product/solution that is solving a real problem and targets a large market. Team should have an open mind to morph their idea, as market realities are often very different than the assumptions made while designing the product/solution.

b. Avg. Investment size that you are interested in?

Our primary value add to the startup teams is the advise, mentorship, guidance, access to the right network, creating opportunity to meeting relevant people, team strategy, product strategy, launch strategy, fund raising strategy (intros and more), getting the right advisers onboard with the right kind of terms, etc.

The most important thing we do is work with startups on their ideas. We’re entrepreneurs ourselves, and we’ve spent a lot of time figuring out how to make things people want.

The first 12 months are the most critical period in the life of a start-up, they are also know as the “valley of death”. Most people save money for a year, quit their jobs and take a plunge into entrepreneurship and if things don’t go well in the first they will have no choice but to go back to jobs. It is during this period that they require non-monitory investment in terms of guidance in doing it right and doing it well. Morpheus will provide them with the required support to help them validate their idea and roll the venture out.

However, we are evaluating an option of raising a small fund and making very small seed investments into the companies. But even with that, money will remain a very small portion of what we bring to the table. Our goal is to get the team through the first phase. This usually means: get it to the point where the team has built something impressive enough to raise money on a larger scale.

c. As a mentor to several startups, what are the industries you are most bullish about?

Morpheus is bullish about team which can solve real problems and which refuses to fail, come what may. We would like to work with start-ups on all verticals and not just limit ourselves to a technology or a web-based initiative.


d. suggestions/tips to young entrepreneurs?
  • Look for problems around you, and think about solutions that are much better than the existing ones
  • Remember that the power lies with you, the entrepreneur.
  • Think big, dream large.
  • Listen to your customer, as he’s the one that matters and make every penny work for your customer. Rest will follow!
  • (Our favorite advice): Be fair to every one, people who you work with, people who you meet at conferences, on the blogs and otherwise. Startups need a lot of help (and all kind of help) from people around to build their dream product/service and if you are fair to people, they will come forward and help you.

morpheus coverage on leading Indian startup blogs