When Kanwal Rekhi speaks, entrepreneurs and investors listen.
He was the first Indian-American founder & CEO in Silicon Valley to take a venture-backed company public on the Nasdaq. He then became a high profile super-angel while co-founding and leading TiE (The Indus Entrepreneurs) into the largest global mentoring network for Indian entrepreneurs. Kanwal co-founded Inventus in 2007 to institutionalize his high-conviction early stage approach to help Founders build category defining companies.
So, when Rekhi, 75, says he cannot find even one profitable unicorn — high value startup — in India, it is bound to raise eyebrows.
That is exactly what happened at TiEcon 2021, this year’s edition of TiE Silicon Valley’s signature event, where he was a grand keynote speaker in conversation with iconic Indian entrepreneur Ratan Tata.
Asked what excites him as an investor during Covid time, Rekhi replied that at this stage companies don’t have any momentum and large companies are slow, but an entrepreneur can still jump in. “Look at Zoom,” he said. “I spent half my day on zoom and I manage people in India from here.”
It was then that he was asked about his views on the viability and sustainability of consumer-facing startups in India.
Rekhi replied that he likes profitable unicorn companies.
“Somehow it has become fashionable not to become profitable and these are not sustainable entities,” he said. “How long you can depend on outside capital? And I can’t find one profitable unicorn in India!”
You could almost hear the collective “ouch!”