Make It

He Founded a Multimillion-Dollar Start-Up. Here's What This Former Investor Looks for in a Winning Business Idea

Ula

From Jeff Bezos to Tencent, entrepreneur Nipun Mehra has a wealth of investors backing his Indonesian e-commerce start-up, Ula.

But as a former start-up investor himself, he had a head start when it came to pitching for funding.

Having been an early backer of Southeast Asian ride-hailing company Gojek and other regional start-ups during his time at venture capital firm Sequoia India, Mehra said there were three key questions he always asked each company.

Here are the questions.

Vision

"One, what is the vision?" Mehra told CNBC Make It.

Investors are keen to know what a founder wants their company to be, and whether their target market is big enough to support that vision, he said. So, would-be founders should be prepared to share their big idea — and the market data to back it up.

In Mehra's case, Ula was creating an e-commerce service for Indonesia's millions of neighborhood street kiosks, known as warungs, which are used daily by local residents. In a country with a population of over 270 million people — and therefore, potential consumers — that was a big addressable market.

Team

"Second, is the team that is going to drive this good enough?" said Mehra.

"Good enough" means a founder is both "hungry enough and smart enough" to achieve their vision, he explained.

But it also implies that they should be conscious of their weaknesses as well, and be able to bring in others to balance those out.

For instance, while Mehra had 15 years of experience working in e-commerce and investments, he was less familiar with the Indonesian market, and called on co-founders to supplement that knowledge.

Track record

"Third, what is the track record?" said Mehra. "If you have to [reach] there, the track record has to be able to back up the fact that the vision can someday be realized."

That involves demonstrating the company's successes so far, through a combination of customer feedback, data analysis and financial reports, he said.

With each new round of funding, Mehra had to show prospective investors that more merchants were using and enjoying Ula's service, and that the business was growing successfully.

"I think we went through a rather long exercise and luckily and happily, we ended up on the right side of that conversation," said Mehra.

Don't miss: What this ex-Amazon employee learned from Jeff Bezos about building a multimillion-dollar start-up

Like this story? Subscribe to CNBC Make It on YouTube!

Copyright CNBCs - CNBC
Contact Us