Startup Sunday Season 2 Episode 27 (Lead Angels- Mr. Sushanto Mitra)

Lead Angels is India’s first privately owned angel network founded by a team of three originally from IIT Bombay in 2014 with the aim of improving early stage investment outcomes. The team accomplishes this by providing professional assistance to investor-members in company evaluation and the portfolio companies in their operations.

Mr. Sushanto Mitra serves as a Director at Lead Angels. Prior to this Mr. Mitra was involved in assignments which included Chief Executive Officer of Society for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, IIT Bombay. Previously he was Director at Hyderabad Angels until June 2013. Mr. Mitra has been involved in earlier stints with companies like PricewaterhouseCoopers, HCL and Softtek. Mr. Sushanto Mitra has also been working in the early stage ecosystem in India for the last 15 years.

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ECell: What does the term ‘Entrepreneurship’ mean to you?

Sushanto: According to me, the term ‘Entrepreneurship’ defines a journey to reach my potential as an individual who wishes to solve a problem that requires a solution.

ECell: What are your views regarding the startup culture in India?

Sushanto: There are mixed thoughts. On one hand, many entrepreneurs are solving problems which governments and large corporates have not solved in areas such as health, education, financial inclusion among others. They are also making an impact in terms of generating employment and helping individuals to reach their full potential as part of their organizations.

At the same time, many start-ups are being formed on ideas without validation and often with the objective of just making a quick buck rather than solving a real problem. This is somewhat inevitable considering the hype surrounding the start-up world. Yet it is a dangerous trend that could have an equally large impact on the negative side to the individual, the ecosystem and the society at large.

ECell: What inclined you towards pioneering LEAD ANGELS and how is it benefitting young   entrepreneurs?

Sushanto: Entrepreneurs solve problems perhaps more efficiently than many governments and corporations do and given the myriad problems in our country, their cause needs to be supported.  The start-up world also needs to be made more efficient in identifying the right opportunities so that that both investors and entrepreneurs gain from the system and precious capital is conserved.

Therefore, in Lead Angels, we want to build a process that is able to improve the startup investing outcomes so that angels and other investors are able to make higher returns from such investments and thereby more and more capital can be invested into this sector in future.


ECell: What is it that an angel investor like yourself, see or look into a startup before making an investment decision?

Sushanto: There are multiple things that are looked at. Firstly, the idea itself, if it is solving a big problem and is it doing it better and faster than the existing solution. Can it continue to do so in the near future? Equally important is to evaluate if the founding team has the skill sets required to kick off the startup and take it through its journey.


ECell: What should be the most important objective of a budding entrepreneur- maximum profit/maximum customer traction or anything else?

Sushanto: At different points of time, the objectives could be different. In the short run, companies try to increase market penetration so that in the longer run they can maximise profits. This goes on iteratively as the company progresses from one stage to another. Eventually, companies have to maximise shareholder wealth.


ECell: What are your future plans for Lead Angels, any new chapters coming up?

Sushanto: At Lead Angels we are adding advisory services to our portfolio of services so that early stage companies can learn from the experiences of our team and other startups and fruitfully engage with other ecosystem players such as investors and corporates.


 ECell: Do you think it’s important for someone who wants to start a venture to have a prior work experience? If yes, then why?

Sushanto: In most cases the answer is yes. Unless the business is in an entirely new area or is very disruptive where prior experience is either absent or could even be counter-productive. Lack of domain knowledge has been a cause of many failures among Indian start-ups and has caused a lot of damage to the founders and investors apart from negatively impacting the ecosystem.

ECell: Do you think it is important to maintain a work-life balance?

Sushanto: It is certainly difficult to maintain a work-life balance for start-up founders. At the same time its important, as there is a strong possibility of burnouts. I think each individual has to find a way of relaxing or taking time out in their own way.

ECell: Nowadays, flat structure is very popular in startups, what are your views regarding this?

Sushanto: I think it has worked well for many start-ups and increasingly even large organizations are emulating this in their structures.

ECell: Any advice you would like to give to young students who wants to start their own startup in the coming years?

Sushanto: My advice is to get some experience of start-ups during their student days as early as possible, preferably in the domain they wish to start up on their own. It may also do no harm if they take up a job for a short time to get more business exposure before they start off.


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