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Coming from a non-finance and non-VC background, I can only describe the whirlwind that was my 3 months at Lightbox in 3 stages (inspired by the 3 stages of a startup)- the grind, growth and gold. I’m going to describe my bumps, jolts and learnings for all the VC noobs out there, like me.
The one thing that is more laborious than actually getting into an MBA program is figuring out ‘what-after’ the MBA. It was no different for me. Curious about the world of investing as a potential career path, I wrote to every venture capital (VC) firm in Mumbai (this was clearly before the 2nd wave when I was still hoping for an in-person internship experience). Luckily, Lightbox (LB) gave me a chance in their investment team. From what I had read and heard from people’s experiences was that VC was all about portfolio work- board meetings, MISs, fund raising, collecting market intelligence and new investment work- due diligence, valuations, ownership percentages. It was absolutely thrilling to witness first-hand how each of these terms actually playout in the real world.
Stage 1: The Grind- Discomfort with the amount of catching up to do!
Joins a weekly internal team meeting
LB 1: “How’re the fundraise conversations going?”
LB 2: “Good for a bridge round. Looks like we’re getting a co-lead before the main.”
LB 1: “Oh cool, let’s review the cap tables.”
Me: *googles what a cap table is*
If there’s one thing that I have learnt at Lightbox is not being afraid to be the idiot in the room. No question is stupid and people are encouraged to ask ‘So what?’. My first week at Lightbox was about catching up on a long list of VC 101, studying portfolio company models and following portfolio brands, competition, competing funds on Twitter.
Stage 2: Growth Stage- Go, go, go!
A typical Monday at Lightbox is anything but dull. It usually starts with a thesis presentation by members on topics ranging from NFTs to advertising in IPL to Fintech products like ‘buy now pay later.’ These discussions are peppered with insightful questions and even more well researched answers. For a Monday morning, I was always left hungry to learn more about a space, read as much as I can about it and form a unique opinion. For someone like me, with specific industry experience in CPG and e-commerce, these discussions enabled me to learn about new industries and categories and study the fundamentals.
The week followed with multiple portfolio company work including weekly business updates, problem solving together, collecting market intelligence on competition, discussing the company roadmap, cash situation and fundraising. Amidst these multiple conversations, what stood out to me was the empathy and impassioned involvement of Lightbox. The Lightbox team was so well integrated with its portfolio companies, for an outsider witnessing any of these meetings for the 1st time, it would be hard to tell investor from the founder’s team.
Stage 3: Strike Gold!
One of my main objectives of interning in VC was also to learn to evaluate new businesses and spaces. So, one of the highlights for me was meeting new companies and understanding what investors look for. My key takeaways were the below:
1. All about the people: Can I put money behind the founder? Trade off between good founder, average space and average founder, attractive space- I learnt that the good founder ALWAYS wins!
2. Space < Lightbox Thesis: Does the space fall within the Lightbox thesis? Considering the variability in Lightbox’s own portfolio, exceptional businesses can form the exception to this rule. In short, the space should excite the team.
3. Product and leverage: How unique is the product? Is there an operating moat exclusive to this business?
My experience at Lightbox taught me 3 things. Firstly, to always break everything down to the smallest part. Understand the fundamentals and key drivers, and that will help you influence any business. Secondly, to try and have an opinion on everything but always be flexible when new information is made available. And lastly, it has taught me to appreciate empathy is a very different way. COVID-19 impacted many businesses. As investors, empathy with the founders, the situation and businesses was one of the key influencers in successfully riding the wave!
What does failure mean to you?
It is inevitable? Learn and never repeat the same mistake twice.
What’s your superpower?
I've not missed a workout in the last 2 years.
Which is your favourite city in the world?
Favourite books this year
Factfulness by Hans Rosling (Book of hope and positivity in these gloomy times)
50 Psychology Classics by Tom Butler Bowdon and Silence! The court is in session by Vijay Tendulkar
Born in Bombay and fashion-schooled in London, she switched to the other side to build Down to Dash, an activity based network for college students.
One of the ways you gauge how good a company is how much you miss it after you leave. Somehow everything comes together in an amazing work place – the work, the people and the vibe.
It was an experience I desperately needed to change my outlook towards life. I thought that startups and VCs are mostly about making quick money before things eventually fall apart. At Lightbox, I realized that VCs can also be agents for change that could impact the future of humanity in much more positive way and this way of thinking makes things so inspiring.
Lightbox had a tremendous impact on me. I was slated to attend a Master’s program in the US but due to the experience and frank inputs of the people I worked with and met, I was able to make a more informed and well thought out decision. Today, I am working on my own project, for which, Lightbox deserves credit.
The phenomenal team, amazing office and interesting, changing work keeps are only a few things on a very long list of why my summer at Lightbox made interns everywhere jealous!
Every bit the New Yorker she is. A Yale graduate, bulletproofed at McKinsey, now in her second year at Harvard Business School. Bedazzled by Bollywood, she spend the summer with us in Mumbai to understand what's next in content and media.
Excitement, dynamism, and meaningful interactions with some of India’s most fascinating people- this is what Lightbox offers to any intern privileged enough to entwine themselves into their world.
The energy at Lightbox is contagious. I looked forward to coming into work every day because there was never a dull moment and no two days were ever the same.
Rooms lined only by windows, open gardens, fresh light pouring in. The office itself is a Lightbox! The array of clientele that visited and worked with Lightbox was fascinating. With a portfolio that ranges from mobile apps to solar energy, there really was a story behind the monthly Income statements.
AI in Indian education technology is probably the most advanced in the world. It is challenging traditional western models particularly in integrating effectively with public and private systems in the country.
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