Blume Day 2023: Form is Temporary, Class is Permanent

A straight batted drive by Gavaskar, a hook in vintage Kapil style, and an on-drive-by Tendulkar. In the 80s and 90s, cricket commentators would often remark how these occasions are evidence that “form is temporary; class is permanent.” Some naysayers would call it an excuse to gloss over poor form. But one thing is certain – it is a mark of greatness that transcends the temporary blips.

In sports, the superstars and their teams age and fade. But when you build an enterprise, the foundation, culture, and customer love ensure you build a lasting institution. In these cases, form is forgotten, a mere footnote in corporate history. Quite a few of our Fund I founders were written off because of poor form. Companies built in early 2011-2015 lost ground to newer startups flush with funds. It was a period of bad form for many of these, but they came out of it with class. Some of these companies, such as Purplle, Exotel, Carbon Clean, Zopper, and Cashify, inspired last year’s theme of “The Power of the Underdog.”

Every journey should be celebrated. Some of them, such as an early M&A, are often a means to an end. It returns some capital and trains both founders and their teams for the next leg. You see exemplary form in such journeys. In comparison, class is built over time. We see this when we look at some of our second-time founders within the portfolio. Koo, Ultrahuman, SmartStaff, Uolo, Zolve, Atomic Work, Bureau, and more - their first innings showed good form, but their second innings show great class.  

We think venture capital is best exemplified by this phrase, especially in the post-pandemic era. The purpose of venture capital is to fuel innovation and enterprise in ways that the world has not witnessed before. There are companies that try valiantly but don’t achieve sustainable greatness, but if you see what came out of those journeys, you’d be incredibly surprised. They leave a trace of class, carried over to the next generation of startups and startup leadership.

A good form is desirable but often useless in the long run. Entrepreneurship is not a sprint, but a gruelling marathon you complete only by maintaining a consistent pace and carefully expending your energy. Class outlasts any short-term form. Legends are built by the long duration of steady form, not temporary flashes of brilliance. You can apply this analogy to any sporting career, business, long-term career, or lasting endeavor. It doesn’t fail. Messi, Jordan, the tennis greats, long stints of sports domination by generational teams and franchises. And similarly, companies that outlast their founders, at least for a generation of change - Apple, HP, Google, Netflix, Cisco, and many others. These are the stories that make for great books. Every VC wants these on their resume. 

It’s like good wine. Growing it needs patience. Ask Rajeev Samant of Sula, who went IPO this past year. Everything about that business is long-term. The decades of grape vines, the ageing of the wines, the built blocks of an industry from scratch, enabling wine tourism to be a thing, experiential marketing like no other, and eventually, what distils itself through casks of oak is a business that smells like a good IPO, and a perpetual business, for generations to cherish.     

The Jordan quote is a perennial favourite when it comes to lasting class over temporary form.

"I've missed more than 9,000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. Twenty-six times, I've been trusted to take the game-winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."

On that note, continuing with our annual tradition, here's our Blume Day 2023 tee!