Book Review: VCs are from Venus, Entrepreneurs are from Mars

Estimated Reading Time:
Rating: 4 (Venus Williams) out of 5 (Mars bars)

It may be a long-ish title for a book in an era when book titles have 1-3 words or have a Hinglish pun to grab your attention. But, so were Karan Johar's blockbuster movie titles at the time with K3G, K2H2, KANK, Ko2H2,...wait, what?


‘VCs are from Venus, Entrepreneurs are from Mars’ or VafVEafM (as we call it, twisting our tongues) or if you take ‘af’ common, VVEM (untwisting our tongues) is the debut book of Shubhankar Bhattacharya who is a Venture Partner at Kae Capital which is an early-stage Indian Venture Capital fund founded by Sasha Mirchandani.

Formerly though, Shubhhankar was the co-founder of Yaqsh.com, an online jewelry store.
VafVEafM seems to want all kinds of readers and keep them informed and entertained. It made me wonder, ‘how did it do that?’
Shubhankar starts by talking about his own startup experience with VCs that is peppered in throughout the book and what he went through as a founder of a startup that eventually failed. It adds a personal and emotional angle to this professed one-stop guide to how Indian entrepreneurs pursue investors and what motivates VCs to invest in companies.

VVEM is a short book, paging it in at 137 pages, and a surprisingly easy read. The narrative flows smoothly and doesn’t force you to keep track of what happened in the previous chapters with each case study.

We dive into it head-first. In just the first ten pages, you get acquainted with present-day homegrown startup successes like Paper Boat, Patanjali, Ather Energy, Flipkart, OlaCabs, Redbus, etc. And just as quickly, he brings us down to Earth with how nine out of ten startups fail. Did you know that? Well, we didn’t. But it definitely got our attention to keep reading this book 'til the end.

 The VC side of things in this book also manages to shock and awe us, with an almost blasé statement that a typical Venture Partner goes through at least 4000 pitches a year! Did you know that? Well, we were speechless enough to get our heads back into the book.
Though the book may have been somewhat inspired from John Gray’s famous book, it manages to define its own identity in a very real business setting.

Though Shubhankar is currently a VC and used to be on the other side of the table as a founder of a startup, what’s refreshing is that he manages to encapsulate the typical behavior in both the roles alike - sometimes chastising and sometimes encouraging a certain trait, while constantly citing examples to highlight why.

I found myself chuckling frequently while reading hilarious email conversations and anecdotes from fellow VCs and businessman; it’ll surely make you think back to all the times when you might have done the same and wondered at the reaction. When you read it all together in the book however, you end up looking at it holistically, and not just in the context of business. And that I think is the reason how this book differentiates itself from other titles in the same category.

Let’s be honest. When you pick up a book written by an author who’s in the industry that he’s writing for, you strap yourself in for an overload of industry-specific jargon, contextual references, and inside jokes that only someone in a similar profession could appreciate. This book was having none of that.

Since I’ve never been associated with the world of investing or been part of a startup, I was ready to read this book as one would read a school textbook.

I was duly surprised VafVEafM seems to want all kinds of readers and keep them informed and entertained. It made me wonder, ‘how did it do that?’ I realize now that it’s because throughout the book, the author has remained unafraid to get emotional, constantly sharing personal failures and forcing the reader to confront their own. Connecting with the reader at such an elemental level makes this book universally charming.

So, though the book may have been somewhat inspired from John Gray’s famous book, it manages to define its own identity in a very real business setting.

Though the target audience may have been entrepreneurs and VCs alike, we found this to be a great introduction to anyone curious about the art of business communication. Especially in those parts of the book where Shubhankar goes into details about how Indian entrepreneurs tend to approach potential investors, or the communication style of VCs being directly related to their interest levels in that particular company.

Unlike other business-related books, we found the chapter titles quite endearing. If you read the book in one sitting as I did, you might come away thinking that you wished that the examples went a little deeper. I have now realized however, 24 hours since, that it just needed some time to percolate.

Each case study has been well-researched and covered thoroughly in the book. But, it’s been sprinkled generously in different chapters. It’s just the right amount of information, properly-portioned. Just give it some time to sink in and you’ll be replaying some parts in your head soon enough.

A criticism that I might be in the minority to point out is that the book does feel short. Though the author ties all the underlying themes into neat bows by the end, a longer book would probably help with the re-readability factor.

 Though the book has several case studies that talk about overseas companies, even how Indian investors sometimes get sucked into looking for companies that have a US/Chinese equivalent business model, it makes one wonder if this book can serve only as a guide for Indian VC/entrepreneurs or could it transcend the boundaries of nationality and become universal in its application. Maybe something for the author to consider?

This book has changed my previously unglamorous view of the investing world to that of a glitzy, intellectual, action movie with a romantic subplot of the investor-startup pairing to be something of a “match made in a boardroom”.

Or, if we were to believe the life as the author paints it, “match made in a coffee shop / airport / gym etc.”

We loved that this book has been edited to an inch of its word count, making it dense with examples of startups like Patanjali, FreeCharge, Uber, and Infosys to VC groups like Bessemer Venture Partners, Tiger Global, and GrowthStory.

In this Malcolm Gladwell-esque book, each paragraph has brilliant quotable texts that could be turned into tweets of their own! (err...140 characters anyone?) With such nuggets like,
“It turns out that VCs love the hunt of chasing entrepreneurs and wooing them into a deal”

and

“entrepreneurship is about taking action and not being discouraged by the risks”.

However, we are informed quite stoically on the Kae Capital’s website that “he does not tweet”. LOL!

- Ray

Image credit goes to Juggernaut Books and Shubhankar Bhattacharya

...oo0oo...


Catch us talking to  interrogating Shubhankar Bhattacharya on his personal style and his new book (the one we just reviewed, to be precise)




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