I joined Accel in India over two years ago. In my time at the venture capital firm, I have seen employees come and go, but not for the reasons you would find in a typical workplace. While chatting recently with Jeetendra Gangele, a colleague until June this year and getting ready to kickstart his startup journey, it struck me that several others before him had decided to turn entrepreneurs.
A quick tally showed me that 90% of those who chose to step away from Accel ended up starting their own companies, emulating the founders they’d spent their time at Accel discovering and nurturing. This data is for analysts, entrepreneurs in residence, and folks in the venture development team. That, to my mind, was a stunning percentage: nine out of 10 of exits among our go-to people had put in their papers to ride into entrepreneurial pastures.
This trend, for sure, is not new (see this story) but what struck me was the sheer number of funders-to-founders at Accel India: at last estimate, more than a dozen of our people have gone on to found startups and the 14th is in the process of starting up. (One more may join their ranks — — he told me he is thinking of going solo after reading this blog!)
This discovery piqued my curiosity and pushed me to delve deeper into the culture at Accel — to understand what empowered so many of our former team members to take the startup plunge. Call my endeavour seeking the trend behind the trend.
It helps to start at the very beginning. Accel in India was birthed by our three founding partners, Subrata Mitra, Prashanth Prakash, and Mahendran Balachandran, in 2006. While Subrata and Prashanth had been entrepreneurs and had run their own companies in earlier work avatars, Mahendran had been venture investing since 2005. Together, they set off on a new entrepreneurial adventure with Erasmic which got merged with Accel in 2008 and much of the firm’s DNA today — its culture, its processes, and even the people it backs — can be drawn to the background of the founders.
Today, Accel is not only a VC firm that believes in entrepreneurs but one that constantly promotes entrepreneurship within and outside of the company. Our leadership has always encouraged new ideas and new founders to take the plunge, and we began to see that rubbing off even amongst Accel employees.
Some of the early members who become entrepreneurs include Abhishek Goyalof Tracxn, Gagan Goel of Flocare, Ryan Valles of Interview KickStart, Amiya Adwitiya of SquadCast, Venkatesh Upadhyay of Behtar, Prabhakar Reddy of FalconX and Sinchan Banerjee of Proffer network.
After several conversations with other team members, I have concluded that it is the infectious entrepreneurial culture at Accel that breeds entrepreneurs within the #AccelFamily. As I deep dove, I gained refreshing insights about this unique culture that intrinsically underlines various aspects of life at Accel.
Here a few of those insights:
All four of the above examples have started on their startup journeys and, dear reader, I am confident you will hear about them soon.
‘Empowered’ is often the word used to describe the culture at Accel. A culture imbibed within our colleagues, and one that is articulated to our portfolio companies.
This empowerment comes from four core beliefs that have been inculcated into the essence of what Accel stands for. We believe that to identify successful businesses and to be capable of truly assisting new startup founders, it is important to feel and think like an entrepreneur yourself. Without this ability, it becomes difficult to stick by your portfolio companies through the good times and (especially) the bad times.
The fundamentals that build and sustain our culture, according to our founders and partners, are:
The more I spoke to our former and current employees, all the answers follow the same thread: the environment in Accel pushes you, encourages you, and supports you to dive into the deep end of the pool and gives you the confidence to keep swimming.
‘No fear of failure’ instilled [in me] the ability to think big,” said Shruti Ghatge, a former analyst at Accel(and now founder of Zomentum which is on a mission to transform the IT channel industry), and that is precisely what we endeavour to instil in the team — daily, day after day.
(This blog was updated for the number of startups from the Accel India fold.)