Interview: TiE SoCal president Gaurav Kumar says org will be run like a corporate outfit

Ritu Jha–

On January 1, Gaurav Kumar took over as the president of the Southern California chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE SoCal), and he has got down to business immediately. “We are going to run TiE SoCal like a corporate organization,” he told indica in an interview. “Each member will report to our board members with their monthly work. For me, TiE’s ‘T’ stands for team and transparency, ‘i’ represents integrity and inclusiveness, ‘E’ means equality of opportunities, gender, and everything that we will do. E also represents positive energy in our endeavor.”

The new president will have a formal inauguration on January 16, an event that will feature a workshop by leadership coach and author Kevin Lawrence.

READ: indica’s coverage of TiE chapters

Kumar, founder & CEO of Beyond Codes Inc., is associated with TiE for 25 years; he started as a volunteer, and went onto become an associate member, a charter member, and also a sponsor.

“I have been a member of seven TiE chapters,” he said, including TiE Silicon Valley until last year. In addition, he’s been a member in the Mumbai, Bengaluru, London, Denver, New York, and New Jersey chapters.

Kumar is also an angel investor, and is actively involved in TiE SoCal’s angel investment networks, an activity that encouraged him to mentor and coach startups. “TiE has given me a lot,” he said. “When I started out 16 years ago, I was mentored and coached on how to raise funds, and with networking connections from different TiE chapters.”

Kumar said he has invested in over 20 companies with TiE SoCal last year. “TiE created a $3 million angel fund and I’m one of its investors. I also learned syndicate investing, rather than individual investing. When I became a board member, I learned how a board is run, what are the top priorities, and got exposure in a lot of areas.”

Thanks to his investments, Kumar he sits on the board of advisors of several of these corporate entities. “Across 17 countries, and 52 chapters of TiE, TiE SoCal won the award for the best angel program of TiE in an award ceremony held in Italy last year.”

TiE SoCal, Kumar said, is diversified in its investment sectors, and even though technology is a focus area, life sciences, biotech, healthcare, and media entertainment are also sectors that the organization’s members invest in.

“We invest in various sectors that have a tech spin. For instance, AI and life science, and media and AI are sweet spots. TiE plans to merge angel investments of TiE Global, TiE Silicon Valley, TiE SoCal and other chapters into a big, centralized unit.

“When all of them come together, every deal that comes to Silicon Valley also comes to SoCal, etc, and vice versa. We have a monthly call and screenings for different chapters like Delhi, London, Frankfurt, Tokyo, Silicon Valley, New York, Boston, Atlanta, and LA. We all can invest in the same company at the same valuation, at the same time.”

To connect startups with angel investors TiE SoCal organizes an investor summit every year between March and May.

“We have a screening and scoring process, after which selected startups present their ideas to a group of VCs, angel investors, and high net-worth individuals from healthcare, media, IT, entertainment, life sciences, or biotech retail.”

Kumar said his mission for the next two years is to add value to charter members. “I’m a sales guy and a serial entrepreneur. I plan to organize workshops, training programs, and master classes for charter members to help them scale up sales, and use different styles of leadership. For this, I will bring world-class trainers, and master-class experts frequently,” Kumar said.

His next focus area is the next generation. “We have to reinvent TiE, or it will lose its relevance for the next generation. An ecosystem will need to be built for young entrepreneurs. We hold picnics, entrepreneurship camps, special business plan projects, and organize internships, We also sponsor events where the next generation connects.”

Kumar said the third and most critical priority for TiE SoCal is to build on continuous funding and growth equity. “We are supported by a very strong board. The new board has attorneys who will help startups look at contracts, deal sourcing, fundraising, legal agreements, etc. The board includes VCs from various industries. Pooling in their knowledge we aim to help take these startup companies to the next level,” he said.

Inducting “good” charter members into TiE SoCal is another priority for Kumar and his team. “Before the pandemic brought all activities to a standstill, we had 187 members. This came down to around 130. Now we are close to 150. Instead of 500, I’d rather focus on having 200 good charter members and add 500 associate members in the next two years. Associate members are students and new entrepreneurs.”

Kumar feels that the biggest challenge is to hold the members’ interest through events that will add value to their professional ventures. “If you attend a Kevin Lawrence workshop that may costs $700-800, we are doing it free of cost for charter members. If you pick every workshop we do, charter members get their money back in just three events.”

Kumar also plans to take them to a Lakers game. “We need to create value worth $10,000 for each member. When the former or potential charter members see what is happening, they will come back.”

At least one-third of the events will be women-centric workshops. “For the first time in TiE SoCal’s history, we have a committee for women. We also need women in leadership positions. There will be women-only workshops for charter members. The chapter has a lot to learn from them.”

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