Akash Bhat: Understanding and Educating Others on the Desi Venture Capital Ecosystem
Hi! It’s me, Spiffy the interplanetary journalist reporting from Planet Earth with the latest scoop on entrepreneurs making a difference in the world of work. Today’s rockstar has his hands in a lot of different endeavors. Please welcome Akash Bhat, host of The Desi VC podcast.
Spiffy: Hi Akash, I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to hang out with you today! Can you talk about what challenge you’re addressing through The Desi VC?
Akash: Thanks so much for interviewing me, Spiffy! The Desi VC is an initiative to educate and bring together the people who are interested in learning about, and getting involved with, the Indian venture capital ecosystem.
Spiffy: It sounds interesting already! How did you get started in this?
Akash: Well, Spiffy, as you can probably relate, the further you get from home, the more your roots matter. I moved to the United States in 2015 but I wanted to stay connected to the Indian ecosystem. I am bullish on the evolution of India’s startup ecosystem and what role the country will play in the larger context of tech and venture capital globally. As I embarked on a career within VC in New York, I began getting two types of requests. One was from fellow colleagues, asking if I could help them better understand the Indian startups and markets. And the other has been from aspiring VCs in the Indian ecosystem who want to emulate best practices from the United States with respect to thesis development, investing styles, and supporting portfolio companies. This led me to believe that there was an opportunity to bridge the learning gap both within India and outside of it. In 2019, I launched The Desi VC podcast with the intention of helping people understand the nuances of investing in a diverse and vibrant market like India, by speaking with those actively investing in the country. After 40+ episodes, I learned that there are people who are looking for a platform to connect and learn about how VC works across the “desi” communities. To take that to the next level, later this month, we’re hosting The Desi VC Summit, an invite-only virtual conference featuring the best-in-class investors, operators, and creators from around the world. In the next few years, we hope to launch several initiatives to help support the Desi tech community and help India make a bigger dent in the global tech scene.
Desi VC Podcast album art. (Image courtesy of Akash Bhat)
Spiffy: This is quite comprehensive. How do you see yourself and The Desi VC contribute to making the world more equitable?
Akash: The world of Venture Capital can be difficult to break into, yet there are more startups seeking funding today than ever before. Investors and founders (as well as outsiders) are often wondering about processes, challenges, and the best ways to support other stakeholders. We’re democratizing access to investing knowledge through podcasts and the summit, and offering a platform for investors globally, beginning with India, Southeast Asia, and the US to share expertise on commonalities and differences in the geographies.
Spiffy: Knowledge is power! What about a recent milestone, do you have anything you can share with us?
Akash: The summit is a huge milestone for Desi VC –– a step up from the podcast, which was a starting point. The summit is a place to learn about trends and engage with our speakers through live Q&A and networking. We’re also breaking people out into smaller communities where they can get to know one another and work together. We want to enable discovery, collaboration, distribution, and engagement. We’ve had over hundreds of attendee applications and have been able to pull some thought leaders –– from Indian and American VC –– to headline our event, including Kris Gopalakrishnan (ex-founder and CEO of Infosys), Avnish Bajaj (founder & managing partner of Matrix India), Sanjay Nath (co-founder and managing partner of Blume Ventures), Prashanth Prakash (partner at Accel).
Spiffy: I’m curious, Akash, have you ever faced failure? What did you do and what did you learn?
Akash: Well, Spiffy, as a young school student, I participated in many public speaking competitions and hosted events. However, in my final year of high school, I participated in a talent show where I went up on stage to sing. I was booed off the stage for the entire duration of the song and that had a lasting effect on me. I was unable to muster the confidence I once had, to go up on stage or host events. I avoided participating in any public speaking events all through my college years. I delayed launching the podcast for the same reason because I was scared to lend my voice to anything. But the desire to create great content and to build a platform for Indian VC pushed me to give podcasting a chance. The podcast is going strong, with 50 odd episodes recorded and great traction and feedback from the industry. Most importantly, it has helped me develop some wonderful partnerships and has now opened doors for further opportunities like the summit.
Spiffy: Thank you for sharing this story, Akash. I bet there are some others out there who can relate, and be inspired to give it another go. What is something you've unexpectedly learned recently?
Akash: Listen with intent –– it’s one of my favorite quotes from the book, “The Mindful Athlete” by George Mumford. I didn’t understand what it meant at first, but when you put it to practice, it’s a game-changer.
Spiffy: I’ll give it a try! Before we sign off, is there anything else you would love to tell our audience?
Akash: Yes, Spiffy. If you’re struggling to start something –– a program, an initiative, a startup, a side gig, whatever it may be, please reach out to me. I may not always have the answers but I’m on a mission to enable people to realize their dreams no matter how big or small they may be, and I promise to — at the very least — point you in the right direction.
Spiffy: I’ve sent your offer out into the universe! Let’s see what comes of it. I’m excited to see how you can help launch and inspire others, Akash. Thanks so much for speaking with me, it’s been an honor.
Akash Bhat is an investor at Scrum Ventures and the host of The Desi VC Podcast and Summit. He has worked with startups his entire career and brings strong relationships and experience working in three of the largest tech ecosystems in the world – Bangalore, New York, and the San Francisco Bay Area. He holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science engineering from PES University and a master's degree from Columbia University. (Nominated by Pathway Ventures)