Why do we root for the underdogs? Science says watching someone down and out win against the mighty gives people hope, and who doesn’t love a story that gives them hope? This feeling is pervasive, cutting across age groups and geographical boundaries. We rooted for the Indian women’s hockey team with Shah Rukh in Chak De! India, and watched in awe as Harry Potter battled highly competent wizards in the Triwizard tournament.
An entrepreneur, by design, is an underdog. Even the fastest growing startup continues to toil against the status quo. The attacks come from multiple fronts.
Most early stage startups fight prejudices of both pedigree and gender. Oftentimes, there is just no winning with investors when it comes to qualifications. It isn’t uncommon for people to turn away when they couldn’t find an IIT/IIM degree, or hold the other extreme view and say “Fancy US returned b-school kids – can’t build in India.” Many would be skeptical of women founders attracting good tech and product talent, and even doubt if they would be competent enough to build a unicorn while balancing their multitude of responsibilities that men can’t even begin to fathom.
Here’s a tiny sampling of the biases an average founder is subjected to:
“The tech is too early. Don’t know if it can become a commercial success.”
“Google and Meta will build this as a feature.”
“There are enough companies doing this in the US. How can an Indian company win there?”
“DMart and Reliance and BigBasket (Tatas) will win all of grocery. Why bother?”
“Indian tech can’t compete with the Israeli or American or German engineering in certain areas.”
Blume’s founders are no different. Battered by similar biases, they have had to dig deep to keep building against the odds. Over the years, every dig served to reaffirm the resolve of our founders, who used the barbs as stepping stones for bigger breakthroughs. We often remember only the big wins, but Blume gets a front-seat view of toil and tears that went into getting that victory.
We wrote last year about X-Unicorns – a tad different from your usual unicorns. It has no typical sexiness or predictability that comes with having perfectly timed VC rounds, predictable speed, founders with a formulaic template, and so on. More often than not, these would be companies “written-off” or “deadpooled”- but they rose from the ashes because of their perseverance and hard grit.
Our last offline Blume Day was back in February 2020, and Unacademy had just become one of the first soonicorns in our portfolio with a round that valued the company at just over $500 million. Cut to March 2022, we have three unicorns and ten more in the making.
Sometime in 2018, over chai on the byculla streets, Pankaj Mishra of FactorDaily remarked “aapke portfolio mein tho krantikaron ka jhund hain” (your portfolio is a herd of revolutionaries), referring to our founders. I’d be hard pressed to find a better way to describe them. A founder needs to be a revolutionary in a capitalist market to make a mark while resisting power imbalances. All our founders are krantikaris in their respective fields, surprising the heavyweights with every milestone.
This year’s Blume tee is an ode to the unicorn spirit of every underdog we have had the pleasure to meet and learn from. We are cheering the resilience that makes a founder defy the odds and prove the naysayers wrong.
The Power of the Underdog portfolio
Unacademy | Spinny | Slice | Purplle | Grey Orange | Turtlemint | dunzo | Carbon Clean | Classplus | Servify | smallcase | Exotel | Lambdatest | Koo | Cashify | Jai Kisan | Locus | Healthifyme | Euler Motors | Yulu | IntrCity | Zopper | LeverageEdu | IDfy | Dataweave | Procol | Instamojo | LoveLocal | Stellapps | Kaleidofin | Ultrahuman | Webengage | Tricog ….