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How mockbank raised $400K in funding: Fundraising, optimizing resources available and having a grand vision

Looking back at when I was planning on appearing for JEE/PMT, I felt the lack of test preparation options in my city, really compromised on my own preparation. “This is something that stayed with me, and when I wanted to get into the startup world, this problem was one, that I constantly wanted to and kept trying to solve.”

Looking back at when I was planning on appearing for JEE/PMT, I felt the lack of test preparation options in my city, really compromised on my own preparation. “This is something that stayed with me, and when I wanted to get into the startup world, this problem was one, that I constantly wanted to and kept trying to solve.” Further, “The reason we went ahead with this idea, is because of a few things that happened in the market, that made the solution of this problem possible.” What were they?
 
Below, are few things I witnessed and the reasons that made me go ahead with this startup idea. I will also get into how Mockbank managed to raise $400K in angel funding through Blume Ventures, via LetsVenture. 
 
There were a few things that I saw happen in the market that made me really go ahead with my idea, the first being the ubiquity of the internet, it is everywhere now, similarly mobile, is everywhere. Even in smaller cities you can feel the ripple effects and can find a few people who are able to use and access these. The second is the whole e-commerce sector has taken off in India, hence the problem of payment has been solved to a large extent. The third and most important thing was, the fundamental change in the education space. Most competitive exams have shifted to a computer testing paradigm for a paper and pen testing paradigm. This obviously wasn’t the case 5-10 years back and now that it has changed, it won’t go back to the pen and paper based format. We knew the demand for computer based study aids will actually increase. That was the primary idea and was attracting attention now. We felt we were at the right place at the right time. 
 
PREREQUISITE:
This was our first time fundraising, we bootstrapped in the past, but never raised funds externally before. We reached out to both VCs and LetsVenture. The round was led by one such VC i.e. Blume Ventures. When fundraising, it is a good idea to approach it using both these options. 
 
Pitch-deck:
In my personal opinion, while fundraising, I think the most important thing and the first step should be, to make a very good pitch-deck . My interaction with LetsVenture helped me here, in terms of sharpening my pitch. 
When creating a pitch-deck, one needs to make sure to cover few very specific things such as, 
  • The market size that you are going after, 
  • Why is the idea that is being presented, the right thing to do?  
  • Whose problem are we solving? How big is the problem that is being solved? 
  • Why is it a problem in the first place and why should it be solved right now? 
  • Why should you be the one solving the problem? etc. 
The pitch also needs cover the team. Going back to the market size of the opportunity, we need to be able to account for changes in the market, once the company has been enabled the amount of money they asked for. There is a delicate balance one needs to get right when it comes to the pitch deck. It has to be informative whilst keeping it within the limits and not pushing it into a space of information overload. This is essential because the VCs have seen lots of pitch-decks which means your deck  needs to be really nice and standout. In fact I would go to the extent of saying, people shouldn’t hesitate to reach out for professional guidance for the pitch-deck. 
More often than not, just a more professional, beautiful pitch-deck could open doors for you that a comparatively ordinary one cannot accomplish. Bear in mind, as I mentioned earlier, people see a lot of pitch-decks and thus are likely to spend more time on one that looks professional. It also conveys the focus on quality to an investor
Our pitch-deck was definitely good, which is why people took interest in us. Say, there is a very good company with a fairly ordinary average pitch-deck, I would say it compromises or reduces their chances of getting funded faster. In terms of what made ours standout, I would say we made sure to cover all the aspects I mentioned earlier, It was fairly informative but did not overwhelm you with too many numbers or statistics. It was presented very professionally and was a combination of multiple small things. The content in the pitch-deck is very important i.e. what you include and what you plan on leaving out. We definitely got this right to quite a large extent. 
 
One thing that one needs to do is, to paint a grand picture, so you need to be both detail oriented and focused on execution. When you go to an investor you need to give him a grand view of what could potentially happen. You need to show him what your company could potentially become. Now, that may sound a bit out of back, but it is a skill one needs to cultivate. One needs to be able to make that connection clear and make it believable. If you do this, you have won half your battle already. In fact if you can do this and you have a good team you could say your fundraising is technically done. This is one of the things I learnt while fundraising, that you need to envision a vision that is much bigger than the one in front of you or the one you have in mind. 
 
The other thing that worked for us is that we knew what we wanted to achieve on LetsVenture and we used the platform in a very specific manner. When creating the connections on LV, we made sure, If someone viewed our profile, we immediately went back and emailed them and typically when someone is interested they will respond. These are the people you want to work with as well. 
 
Approaching and Discussions with VCs and Angels: 
In my opinion both of these entities are important and people should do both. The thing about LetsVenture is that it helps you do two things that are essential to your fundraise; When you have to create a profile on LetsVenture, they ask you for a lot of information, which in turn makes sure you have all this information. All this information sets the base in order to enable creating your pitch-deck.  Another thing LetsVenture does really well is, it equips an entrepreneur to be ready  to go and meet investors. As you get listed on LetsVenture, you start getting some kind of commitment in, from some angles. Very often, this can get VCs interested in your Venture. When angels start talking about you, the VCs also take notice. These people are fairly well known and very well respected people. When they show interest it is obvious that you will receive some visibility. For example we had Amit Ranjan, on board with us. When he agreed to invest in us other angels took notice and were also interested. You need to have well known angels on board to make an impact. 
It works both ways, if you have VCs interested, the angels seem to coexist much more. 
If you are raising 2.5Cr and you raise 60-70 Lakhs commitment from VCs, then the law of angels will quickly jump in. These are complementary processes that feed into each other and if you use it well, you can quickly get into a very value created group. 
Venture Capital funds are easy to reach out to as, most of them have their email-ids on their websites. Of course Initially it wasn’t easy, we did have a number of Venture Capital funds say ‘No’ to us. I would say the tide really turned when we listed ourselves on LetsVenture. Although my first preference was to go to a VC, I knew of LetsVenture for 3-4months prior to signing up on the platform, because I was really hoping to close the round with the VC. But then when our initial attempts did not quite yield a lot of results, we knew that we needed to go the angel way and LetsVenture seemed to be the right platform. Of course we also approached Indian angels and Mumbai Angels and a bunch of other networks but LetsVenture worked best for us. 
 
Our discussions with investors were focused around our vision, i.e. How big can this idea become and what does the potential end game scenario looking like? What were are grand ‘end goals’ we are looking at accomplishing etc. These are questions one needs to have a very good answer for. Typically entrepreneurs don’t prepare for these questions. Our focus as entrepreneurs is on our team and our product or technology. We know about our problem at hand, what we are solving and we know about our customers. You need to understand that your knowledge about your customer is much more than the VCs because of how closely you work with them and in all likelihood that conversation will go well since you are prepared for it. 
But when they talk about your vision, end-game etc a lot of us get stunned, and with good reason, as we are so focused on our execution we haven’t had time to step back, and think about the larger picture. To be fair it can sometimes feel out of back but, one needs to understand investors aren’t investing in you so you can be a small 20-30 Cr company. They are hoping you are the next Flipkart. Even though you may or may not become the  next Flipkart, you at the very least, need to show them and convince them that you can. 
A few things I think that triggered investors to invest in Mockbank were, that we were building for a different market. We were focusing on a lot of Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities. A lot of the ideas out there focus on the metros and target the young urban population. Ours, in a way had undertones of a more social angle i.e. the fact that what we did, made an impact on people’s lives. The other thing was obviously the background of the founders. Where, Mahesh who is ex IBM and a solid operations person handled large content and delivery operations, under his supervision they would work exactly the way they are supposed to. Ramesh, a technology entrepreneur chasing the holy grail of making technology ubiquitous in all walks of life; And I brought my keen sense of how to balance the short term requirements and long term imperatives, and how to approach fund-raising. 
 
Key Learnings from this fundraise: 
I would summarise my key learnings and advice by saying, Make the idea at hand a big one with immense potential to grow, be well prepared for your fundraise and create a very good professional pitch-deck. Reach out to both VCs and angels and be proactive on LetsVenture. For example we had a founder video that we had uploaded on our profile and that definitely helped us gain more interest. The thing with your LetsVenture profile is that you should include everything that is being asked, because all of it is relevant. If you don’t have some elements make the effort to get it because it will help a lot during the fundraise. Also keep in touch with your relationship manager at LV, the exchange between the LetVenture person and you provides essential learning for your journey.
 
About Mockbank: 
MockBank is a startup in the space of public sector jobs. MockBank is trying to disrupt how people discover, apply for and prepare for public sector jobs. Their current focus is PSU BFSI (Banks, Financial Services and Insurance). Founded in July 2013, MockBank has grown to be one of the most well-known brands in the space with ~100K users. The company targets a market with total user base of 20-40 million job aspirants annually. The company is co-founded by Konark Singhal, Manesh Jain and Ramesh Narayanan. 
 
For more information, please visit www.mockbank.com
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