- Alchemist Accelerator | B2B Early Stage Venture
- Twitter – @rbelani | 4000 followers
- Fenwick & West Lecturer of Entrepreneurship | Standford University
- Believes that dragons are small
- See other DFJ alumni interviews – Tim Draper, Heidi Roizen, Bill Bryant, Ravi Belani
I knew I was going to have a great conversation with Ravi Belani from Alchemist Accelerator way before we even did the interview. I remember reading about their success back years ago when news articles were popping up about them being a successful B2B accelerator… little did I know that years later I’d be able to interview the man behind it all. Wow, have they been putting in the work!
After diving into the first question of how Ravi got into venture capital and accelerators, he exposed a fun conceit: he really is a product of Silicon Valley, growing up there and graduating from Stanford. Joining his first startup was a whirlwind of an adventure, going from $100M raised for his startup and epically failing:
“The idea was a good one (it’s like google docs), but the big lesson was that, you can raise a lot of money on a big vision. There was a big vision on changing the way collaboration worked, and because of that we raised a ton of cash. At the same time, we couldn’t get product-market-fit. So, before you build your product, validate that the need exists and validate how you need to design it to exist. Ultimately we had a big vision, but no killer app.”Ravi Belani – VC Hunting S2E1
Fascinating that his second startup doing building out expense reports was actually his first big win! He attributes that win to timing.
“Most ideas are great. The issue is that you have a certain timeframe to take off. If you look for a platform that has become ubiquitous, and if you can create a commercialized opportunity on top of that, that can de-risk timing. The killer-insight there is if you’re concerned about timing, find a platform that’s already been built, that can help you solve a big pain point. That’s worth solving.”Ravi Belani – VC Hunting S2E1
Spending some time sharpening his skills over at DFJ (we also interviewed Bill Bryant who is an ex-DFJ alumni), he had a lightbulb moment when doing a speaker series around 2010 called Alchemist Series and found that tons of enterprise startups showed up like Salesforce and Cisco! They didn’t need to raise venture capital and all of the other accelerators at the time were focused on consumer apps. Ravi knew that he could take this opportunity and make it into something big. Really big.
Now, with DFJ backing, Ravi is able to have 18 LPs and funding 70 enterprise startups per year!
Sticking with our conversation on the value of timing, I wanted to ask Ravi whether he felt venture capital is shifting in a big way today (I certainly believe it is, which is why I’m here to take part (or push along) the new reality):
“Yes, I do believe that venture is shifting. Software eats everything and is non-discriminate. There is the entrepreneur and the investor, missionary and mercenary. Those lines are blurring completely. There is no more distinction between money and expertise. Nobody really cares about the money (at Alchemist Accelerator), they care about our expertise. It really is the best time to be an entrepreneur.”Ravi Belani – VC Hunting S2E1
One of my gut-questions that I wrote down before my interview was how Ravi stays grounded with all of the success around him. Having helped over 300 startups through his accelerator, it would seem easy to lose sight of the things that made him successful in the early days:
“There is a whole team behind me that really run Alchemist. The reality is that half of our companies get funded and half of them don’t. My heart bleeds for those that get to the end of their runway and can’t take off. I will tell you that every class we have it is such a rich experience being in the seat that I am, not because of the money or the successes. It’s because of the drama that you see with all these entrepreneurs and your heart can’t help but want to see them succeed.”Ravi Belani – VC Hunting S2E1
Being in the B2B space. I wanted to know if there were any killer ideas out there that Ravi really feels needs to be built. His answer was great. The big players like Amazon, Google and Facebook are building these big systems that end up just devouring other new services that enter into the space. I found this to be an interesting centralization problem, to which Ravi responded:
“There is a big centralization problem happening right now. There are these economies of scale for centralization and they are using that massive distribution to kill innovation. So we need someone to kill Amazon. That’s the killer app in B2B.”Ravi Belani – VC Hunting S2E1
Finally, I love that Ravi is a big supporter of decentralization and decentralized-technology. We both agree that there are massive opportunities for disruption amongst the incumbent players of today. They better watch out!
I just had to ask Ravi about Facebooks new (centralized) cryptocurrency called Libra. He wasn’t a fan, but he definitely agrees that it can help move the cryptocurrency world forward and more ‘insurgents’ will help unseat the big tech companies today.
I cannot wait to speak more with Ravi Belani again on another Season of VC Hunting. There is even more that I want to unpack regarding, India, IoT, and Smart Cities.
I wish Ravi and Danielle all the best in 2020. I’m 100% sure they’re going to crush it! Enjoy my retrospective here:
RAVI BELANI SOCIAL MEDIA KIT!
I don’t have time for your nonsense!