Nagaraja Prakasam has been with NSRCEL for more than 5 years. The Forbes mentioned software engineer-turned-angel investor started mentoring with us in 2012 and the incident is backed by an interesting story.
In 2012, Naga left his job where he was the President of South and South East Asia, managed sales and India Engineering Centre of Excellence. During the 16 years tenure, he grew from Systems Engineer to President. He had a crucial role to play in growing the company from $50M to $400M. After his company was sold, he became a full-time Angel Investor. At an event for start-ups at NSRCEL, he spoke about Angel investing and how he was doing it. Prof. Sabari, the-then chairperson had an elaborate discussion with Naga. Later he had a meeting with the start-ups and he enjoyed it.
He would often stop by and have a head-to-head with them. He connected one of the start-ups with the company he previously used to work for to run a Pilot. That’s when Prof. Sabari said, “You are already helping the start-ups, you should formally be with us” That’s when he joined NSRCEL as a Mentor.
Naga says, “When the start-ups first meet me their basic questions were, ‘How do I get customers? or Am I on the right track? Apart from these questions, they start seeing complications.” So, It is my main aim to make sure that they don’t deviate from the vision. I strongly push them not to leave the DNA.”
He further adds, “If the problem still exists after trying every permutation and combination then I ask them to pivot. They can change the segment from B2C to B2B, it’s okay. But, If the Idea is original then I encourage them that to stay on course. Challenges are a part of entrepreneurship, that’s why the problems exists. The simpler the problem, the easier it is to copy the solution and Vice Versa”
He asks burdensome questions to the start-ups. He says, “After a session with me, you should not be able to sleep. If you sleep then I am not asking hard questions.”
That’s what makes him a fantastic Mentor.
The questions are indeed burdensome like, “Why are you doing it?” and “Why don’t you shut it down?” Asking them tough questions will make them reflect and ask themselves ” Am I really doing that bad?” and ‘Do I need to shut down?” Or “Should I Pivot?” Most of the entrepreneurs get fatigued. They start with a lot of fire but then get burned off. These questions help them come back and understand the right thing.
He says, “Business is Business. That’s why we are called mentors, not coaches. I only help them from a strategic point of view & nothing else. At the end of the day, a business is all about solving problems and having paying customers. The solution should make sense. The business should be viable as well.”
Naga further says, “Finding a co-founder is also tough. You can’t make a toss and select a co-founder.”
“One of the biggest problems is taking money from the wrong people. In the zeal to invest in a company, a lot of people approach you and invest in your company. They don’t have a clue what equity investing is. If you take money from wrong people then you are in trouble. I often joke about it, “Divorcing your wife is easy but divorcing your investor is tough“, Naga said.
At NSRCEL we have mentoring, launchpad and then incubation. The launchpad was created to figure out the idea of the company for 3 months. You want to be an entrepreneur or not. What we have seen is that 30% of the people go back to their jobs after launchpad.
He is ready to meet anyone whether they have an idea or not. People just need reassurance to implement the idea. Naga says, “My advice for them is to take a leap. Without giving it your all, you won’t know if the idea will work or not. They just need reassurance and that’s why I encourage them to work on the idea. and when it comes from a person who has a successful business of their own, they get encouraged”
Naga is a very humble person and he always describes himself as a farmer who is growing start-ups. His personal mantra is “Start-ups should focus on India’s strength – People, Problems & Tech (PPT).