Andy Warhol’s $ sign paintings

Thoughts and reflections inspired by the frenzied pace of investing and deal making we are seeing in the early stage ecosystem in India, and specifically the trend of traditionally later stage investors playing early.

Two, or maybe three types of capital

All money in venture capital is not similar. We can distinguish between

“Early stage valuations aren’t really valuations. They are the exhaust fumes of a negotiation about two things — the amount raised and the amount of dilution.” — Fred Wilson; source.

“Those guys are morons,” says Palihapitiya of many value investors. The historic way of determining value by looking at balance sheets and discounted cash flow no longer works, he asserts. “Today, when money has no value, because we’ve essentially printed all the money in the world and we’ll continue to print it over and over, you have to find value in other parts of the balance sheet, so you have…

The Ratification of the Treaty of Munster, Painting by Gerard Ter Borch (1648)

The title of this piece is of course a play on The Peace of Westphalia, the name for the two treaties signed in 1648 between various delegations representing the micronations and provinces of Europe. The Peace of Westphalia brought into being the concept of the sovereign nation state. One that has a monopoly on state violence and is not subject to a supranational authority (such as the Pope). Much of what we take granted today as the rights of the nation state, and its independence from a transnational authority, comes from the Westphalian Treaties.

Nearly 375 years hence, it is…

Game Plan by Matlo, Darren Banone & James Blake (respectively from L to R) from the Noun Project. Creative Commons license.

On the evolution of the Indian startup ecosystem, or Indus Valley, and the distinct set of hacks and business models that have evolved to help Indian startups win — The Indus Valley playbook.

About this essay / TL;DR

This is a long essay; my longest ever at ~7k words. Still, I hope you will indulge me as I set out the evolution of the Indian startup ecosystem, or ‘Indus Valley’, and the emergence of the Indus Valley playbook — a distinct set of hacks and business models that help startups win in the unique Indian market.

The essay has three sections.

1. Origin and evolution…

A visualisation of a social network, via Wikimedia.

There are only two ways to make money in business: one is to bundle; the other is unbundle.” — Jim Barksdale, former CEO and President of Netscape.

There are decades where nothing happens and there are weeks where decades happen.” — Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

Time machine

A metaphor that I have found useful to view the impact of COVID on tech and business, is view it as a time machine. Take education or even ecommerce. We did expect, in early 2020, that one day our kids or their kids would all be learning online, or that we would be increasingly buying much…

Thoughts on productivity tools, and about rethinking them for better outcomes.

If you end up subscribing to the Superhuman email service, you are clearly in the subset of busy people with a lot of emails. One thing busy people have apart from emails is meetings, and to dos. Tonnes of them. So inevitably you think of, what is the superhuman equivalent for to do lists? Or calendars? And that is what the purpose of this essay is. But before that a mild digression.

Superhuman is not entirely super

Mind you, I do think Superhuman has a long way to go…

Thinking of a media category I want to call ‘Nosumer Media’ (nosumer as short for no consumer). These could be books, podcasts, apps etc. They are created not for consumption as much as for the benefits from creating, or the pleasure of creating accruing to the creator.

Nosumer media creators are aware that it their creations are unlikely to be consumed (in large numbers), and have no overwhelming desire to even see consumption grow for it.

Why would nosumer creators spend time on such media? Well, I see 3 possible benefits for nosumer media creators

1. Joining Blume Ventures.

One morning in October 2017, and I forget the exact date now, I came back from my crossfit workout to see a series of whatsapp messages from Karthik Reddy. Karthik, briefly an ex-boss of mine at The Times of India Group, had gone on to cofound Blume Ventures, a seed fund, which had evolved to emerge as a much-loved and well-regarded player in the Indian startup ecosystem. We had kept in touch through the years, exchanging notes on startups or me passing on the odd intro or two for a startup. …

I recently met the founders of a quasi-dating app enabling friend discovery via meeting strangers at events. We passed on them, primarily because while we could see that it had the potential to ‘take off’ in metros, or at least the affluent parts of our metros, we couldn’t see how it would work in India2 i.e., the non-english speaking less affluent India in Tier 2/3 cities, and thus expand to become a mass product. We asked: would an app that enabled interaction with strangers work in small town India where almost everyone seems to know everyone (at least in the…

I wrote a piece today for online tech business + culture site FACTOR DAILY, where I look at the emerging content platforms for the next 200m Indians, such as ShareChat, Bigo etc., and explore a range of topics: the vernacular audience discount, why Xiaomi invested in sharechat and how these new content platforms will monetize their audiences. The article link is below. Would love to hear your thoughts.

Sajith Pai

‘VC’ at Blume Ventures, an early-stage fund from India | Writings on startups, venture capital & other miscellany at

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