Venture advisor Karan Wallia shares the challenges and rewards of advising impact entrepreneurs some 8,000 miles away
Having been trained in business management, the most effective way I can make a difference is by offering my knowledge, skills and expertise to impact entrepreneurs. In my first job after business school, I quickly realized how easy it is to get sucked in to “everyday corporate life” and how slowly that can become your way of life. I believe I am an entrepreneur at heart, and through working as a Venture Advisor, I really enjoyed being part of a start-up once again.
My first engagement was working hands-on with Caravan, a niche handicrafts retailer in India, in developing their Series-A pitch. My background in finance from my prior investment banking days and my current role in business development at Microsoft Retail made this a natural match. My next engagement is working on building a scalable B2B model for a grocery retailer.
Engaging with a team 8,000 miles away on a daily basis via Skype for over four weeks has its challenges, but it was much smoother than I expected. One thing that worked surprising well was the time difference (~12 hours). I would be free after work in the evenings and that was the best time for the Caravan team.
I prefer to work very closely with the entrepreneurs rather than in a consulting capacity hence our rhythms were shorter and meetings ran a little longer. In this particular engagement, we were working against a deadline and needed to develop a Series-A pitch from scratch. I spent a fair bit of time learning about the business and then worked closely with the leadership team on how best to tell their story. Our working sessions would last a couple of hours over Skype with discussions and debates around every aspect of the business. We had a check-in call every day and each team member including myself had slides to create or research to do.
The sheer dedication our team shared fueled my enthusiasm to make this a successful pitch. I genuinely enjoyed the mutual respect and trust we shared as a team, and look forward to building similar relationships with impact entrepreneurs in the future.