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Building Empires From Scratch To Scale: In Talks With Pratekk Agarwaal

Join us as we deep dive into the startup and investment ecosystem with Pratekk Agarwaal and learn from his wealth of experience

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Take a glance at Pratekk Agarwaal’s LinkedIn profile, and you’ll be amazed at the ease with which he flits through the role of an entrepreneur, speaker, advisor to startups, fintech influencer, and operator investor, to name a few. Before starting his entrepreneurial journey with Trutes Advisors and GrowthCap Ventures, Pratekk held key positions with leading fintech and NBFCs like Bajaj Finserv, Bajaj Finance, BharatPe, Fullerton, ftcash, IndoStar Capital, and Selfin.

Pratekk brings invaluable expertise to his role as an advisor, operator advisor, and business consultant to startups, NBFCs, and VCs. He helps promising products and founders scale from 4 to 10, accelerating their GTM by an impressive 4X.

Join us as we deep dive into the startup and investment ecosystem with Pratekk Agarwaal and learn from his wealth of experience.

Can you briefly describe yourself and why you started Trutes Advisors and GrowthCap Ventures?
I am a passionate entrepreneur and fintech expert with over 18 years of experience in multiple industries. My expertise lies in setting up successful businesses from scratch to scale in the Financial Services domain. 

I enjoy sharing my insights and experiences at conferences, masterclasses, and other public speaking engagements when not working on my own ventures. My favourite topics include digital lending, financial services, the fintech ecosystem, customer experience, and my entrepreneurial journey.

Trutes Advisors is a boutique advisory firm that provides comprehensive guidance and support to high-growth startups and Non-Banking Financial Companies (NBFCs) to build scalable businesses. We offer advisory services, including Go-To-Market (GTM) strategy, product development, fundraising, and mergers and acquisitions (M&A). In addition to our advisory services, we have launched GrowthCap Ventures, an early-stage fund that provides smart capital to budding founders to support their entrepreneurial journeys. 

You have had a great career track and a rare one as well. What drove you to move from a salaried individual to a successful Entrepreneur and a full-time Investor?
It has been a roller coaster of a journey so far. As a hands-on individual, I have assumed an "Entrepreneur in Residence" role in all my positions, tackling complex problems, building teams, establishing processes, managing P&Ls, and taking on additional responsibilities until the learning curve plateaued and monotony set in. Finally, I reached a point in my career when I realised I was ready to move beyond working with a single founder or company. I knew I had more to offer and wanted to share my knowledge with more people and companies. The ecosystem was calling for more from me.

As an avid traveller, I spent many years meeting and mentoring early-stage founders pro bono during dinners and weekends. During this time, I identified visible gaps and opportunities in the market. Soon after, I began leveraging my two decades of experience to help multiple businesses build growth startups and push beyond GTM, product, and fundraising limitations. At this point, I realised my potential as an operator advisor and began investing my capital in founders I believed had the potential to succeed. 

They say it is funding winter, your views? And status of investments as of now.
The current funding winter is not a new phenomenon; it is a natural part of the investment cycle, and a slowdown was inevitable. A few quarters ago, startups had access to abundant capital, resulting in unsustainable, sky-high valuations needing a correction. In this funding winter, we have become more mindful and ask ourselves and others more practical questions. Although we have started conserving capital, we are still actively seeking the right investment opportunities. For me, the funding winter doesn't mean a lack of capital; it implies capital is available for the right founders and products.

Despite the funding winter, deals are being made, and the quality of deal flow has significantly improved in recent quarters. As a result, valuations have become more realistic, and conversations around profitability and valuations are more meaningful. As a result, we are discussing the journey from 0 to 5 and building from 5 to 50. 

How do you pick your investments, which sectors do you focus on and at what stage do you make these investments?
I operate with a lean team, and my deal flows come through references from my extensive ecosystem and individuals I work closely within the startup industry. Although fintech deals make up a chunk of the referrals I take up actively, I am open to meeting founders from any sector, provided they prioritise technology and have a visible path to profitability despite being capital-intensive.

Before making an investment decision, I consider several critical evaluation parameters, including the sector, market size, founder experience and fit, and product differentiation. I also take into account the value system and pedigree of the individuals involved. 

Which are your key investments till date and how have they been performing
It has been almost three years since I started my formal investing journey, and I am constantly learning and refining my investment thesis and approach. According to peer reviews, my overall portfolio has outperformed expectations. So far, several investments have piqued my interest, especially FidyPay,, Klub, Karmalife, Fundly, Transbnk, Pumpumpum, and Decentro.

What is the vision for GrowthCap Ventures?
GrowthCap Ventures' vision is to emerge as the premier early-stage fund for tech-driven startups, offering financial support and a robust ecosystem to assist founders in achieving rapid growth. We aim to become the go-to resource for entrepreneurs seeking to create the next wave of innovative enterprises. We are also committed to delivering strong returns for our investors and promoting interest in private market investment opportunities. By pursuing these two objectives, we aspire to establish ourselves as dependable and efficient partners for founders and investors.

How do you contribute to invested companies?
I usually catch up with founders over the weekends, but we also have pre-planned check-ins every two weeks for the latest investments and early-stage startups. Over the past two decades, I have established a network that founders can tap into for various requirements such as business, legal, compliance, PR, content agencies, and capital from Banks & NBFCs. As for portfolio companies, they gain access to other portfolio founders and their networks. 

What are your key learnings?
Learning never stops, and everyone we meet has something to teach. Through the years, I have gained invaluable insights, and a few stand out in particular:

  • Understand what motivates and drives those around us.
  • Take adequate time to review and consider an investment proposal before deciding.
  • Ask for help and acknowledge that you are not always the most knowledgeable person in the room.
  • Recognise the pros and cons of investing in founders who are young vs. experienced.
  • Assess the founder's relationship with money, trust, vision, and credibility. 

These lessons have played a pivotal role in shaping my investment philosophy and decision-making.

What are your plans for 2023?
The year began with some good endorsements and portfolio performance. Moreover, towards the end of 2022, some profitable exits set the tone for a great start to the new year. I am optimistic about my portfolio's potential to raise funds from marquee VCs this year and look forward to co-invest with them, with the goal of several companies becoming profitable and achieving significant exits.

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Pratekk Agarwaal