Srin Madipalli is the Former CEO / Co-founder of Accomable, an accessible travel startup that helped disabled people find and book adapted holiday accommodation worldwide online, which was acquired by Airbnb in 2017. With a background in genetics and corporate law, he did an MBA, taught himself to code and began building prototype web apps. Today he’s an active angel investor and startup mentor at several accelerators and incubators.
You can listen to the full conversation, which goes into more detail about Srin’s background, his journey as a founder and the creation and sale of Accomable, on the link below.
We highly recommend listening to the full conversation below:
But if you’re looking for some immediate insights, here are the three main takeaways.
1. Look for evidence of creativity, but don’t fixate on a rigid plan.
Srin: "I'm not very particular about seeing business plans, or five year projections, or big picture stuff. I care more about the people, the team: can they get things up and running? What are some of the early hypotheses they're testing? Do I think this team can work well together? Am I getting the right signals that they're going to be able to work through hard times and deal with all the bumps into the rollercoaster that building a business is? You're looking for lots of fuzzy signals as to what the founders are doing. Now, I'm curious about what the bigger picture is. But I see it more as a test of creativity and imagination, rather than something that you would hold somebody to.
No one, as much as they say they can, can predict the future. It's why I say you're looking for evidence of creativity to come up with the vision, rather than the vision being something that someone is definitely going to do, and you and you will hold them to it. I’m very much open to the fact that when you invest in something now, given the stage that I write my cheques, there is a very good chance that there'll be a major pivot or something will change. And actually, the vision may evolve into something quite different."
2. Founders: Look for investors who share your values.
Srin: "I tell a lot of the founders: when you are raising money, especially in those super early days with those initial investors, you've got to look beyond the cheque. You're looking for people to be your business partners. Not in the sense that they’re going to be in the business, but it's important that your earliest investors are people that share the wider vision of what you want to do, they're aligned on what you're trying to build, and that they care about the problem you're trying to solve.
Even if your product vision might change, certain things about what you want to do and your ways of working and the impact you want to have generally are immutable, usually, in the course of building a business. It's really important that those early stage investors share your values. Later on, that becomes harder just through sheer numbers and the need to raise a certain amount of money. But in the earliest days you have more control, and you are dealing with individual people in relatively small numbers. I cannot overstate the importance of making sure that you bring people on that share those aims and values."
3. Sector knowledge helps, but don’t be afraid to go beyond it. At the end of the day it’s about people..
Srin: "At the beginning, I felt like I should just stick to what I knew. These are the professions I've been a part of, so therefore I will only do them. But I found myself very quickly not wanting to do that: consumer travel marketplaces or something legal or tech and so on. When you come to the conclusion that you are in the business of backing great people, you become less concerned about what someone's industry is. So I'd say I'm agnostic as to the industry I invest in, compared to how I was at the very beginning.
Yes, there are some domains I just have a more natural understanding of, and if someone pitches something to me in an area, I understand I can probably make a decision faster, and I can evaluate it quicker. Whereas with others I’d have to do a little bit of homework to get my head around it. The approach I take, particularly for the last year or so, is that it is very much about people, teams, and seeing them being able to validate early stage hypotheses. And what industry that’s in, I am less biased. So that's probably been the biggest evolution of my investment process."
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