At the start of 2000, it seemed like every tech pioneer had built their empires on a shoestring budget out of their garage or dorm rooms. Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, Jeff Bezos, and Michael S. Dell all had to struggle with a lack of funding in the early days. With this narrative having shifted a long time ago, founders looking to bootstrap their startups are having an especially difficult time getting them off the ground. Now, investor Ankush Gera is looking to change this narrative once again.
Most venture capitalists and founders today seem to believe that big dreams of changing the world require big budgets from the get-go. This has led to startups promising incredibly ambitious but unviable products to receive millions of dollars in investments pretty early, only to fail when it comes to getting off the ground. In the meantime, founders with a more realistic vision and immense potential to have an impact have to go by with their personal savings.
“We live in a world in which startups deemed ‘most fundable or likely to get acquired’ have a seat on the table, and the rest have to wait until they make it. While this narrative has shifted in the last couple of years, and there is more focus on unit economics, companies still seem to celebrate valuations more than product market fit and profitability,” says Gera, a seasoned entrepreneur who originally made a name for himself as a 3-time founder with a 100% success rate. ”I believe that there are many bootstrapped startups that deserve to join the conversation as they have immense potential to change the world.”
While Gera only became an investor relatively recently when compared to his entrepreneurial experience, he has been extremely successful at it. With over 150 investment deals, Gera is mostly known for supporting bootstrapped startups in the journey to success. This has seen him rise to the status of a thought leader in the founder-turned-investor cohort, where he pushes for a change of paradigm.
As an investor, Gera believes that both the founder and their team should be the prime consideration. This is because not only are many founders’ visions based on already-existing ideas, but they also tend to solve problems that don’t exist to begin with. A great team and founder make these concerns obsolete as they will often have a unique vision either in terms of the product or its impact.
“For me, it’s not just about ‘what is the problem they are trying to solve?’ or the ‘is the idea so deeply unique that this will take this business to the moon?’” said Gera when talking about his process on Grit Daily’s Startup Show. “I love backing outstanding founders and teams. People with high integrity and resilience. They’re able to take ordinary ideas, and many times a product that has competition, and succeed on pure resilience and execution.”
The startups or funds Gera backs may not be flashy or the most well-known, but they all hold great purpose and potential to make their vision a reality. Having hired and fired over 2000 people during his time as a founder, Gera has become quite proficient at evaluating other people’s personalities, integrity, competency, and principles, a skill he always relies on when deciding which startups to support.
“There were many times when I passed on an opportunity because I just felt the people who were running it were doing so for the wrong reasons or, even if they didn’t, their values just didn’t align with me personally,” Gera adds. “Some of them have ended up being reasonably high-return investments and I continue to maintain that stand. The founders’ mind, heart, soul, and what they’re able to do, is way too important. Most startups will fail. I don’t mind the write-offs knowing that I backed some solid human beings.”
The days when entrepreneurs were able to build world-changing startups and get them to billions of dollars in value from their garages may or may not come back. However, Gera’s efforts are not only giving many of them a fighting chance but also reshaping a narrative that has led to massive entrepreneurial disasters. Maybe that is good enough.