“I had a few startup ideas that I tried to work on with friends during my university days, but none of them really materialised. When people are in different countries or not available full-time, it isn’t easy to build a startup together. Often, there is a lack of single focus,” recounts Pramod Ghadge, co-founder of Unbox Robotics. A Pune-based logistics automation startup, Unbox Robotics enables players to automate and improve their operations on-demand using a limited footprint and capital.
Pramod and Shahid Memon, the co-founders of Unbox Robotics, were introduced to each other at Entrepreneur First (EF), a global talent investor firm, in January 2019. In three months, the duo applied for a patent for their startup idea. “One of the biggest challenges is to find a business partner who is ready to take the plunge right now. And this is where EF comes into the picture; you meet people with complete focus on building solutions,” says Pramod.
Compatibility and commitment
Since its launch in India in 2019, EF has supported more than 250 ambitious aspirants and invested in 34 tech startups across the country. “Building a tech startup is a high impact way to maximise your potential, but it can be a challenging and arduous journey. Early-stage founders need a diverse range of skill sets to navigate challenges, and having the right co-founder by your side can mean the difference between success and failure,” notes Esha Tiwary, General Manager at EF, India.
“The better the co-founders match, the faster the pace at which you grow,” agrees Pramod. Currently, Unbox Robotics works with companies across sectors like e-commerce, retail and logistics in India, Southeast Asia and the US to deploy its robots through pilots and long-term contracts. The company has raised funds to the tune of 2.1 million dollars, including pre-seed funding from EF.
Shahid and Pramod’s complementary skill sets provided them with a business advantage. Shahid’s focused approach on robotics, swarm intelligence, and technical development was well balanced by Pramod’s astute understanding of the commercial and business aspects, given his professional background in warehouses and logistics.
“Whether it’s the ability to understand the tech, quickly build up the product and team, or the right attitude when it comes to pricing, the go-to-market approach, or industry knowledge, finding a compatible co-founder is a key component for success, especially in a tech startup,” says Esha.
The right co-founding team aids quicker and better innovation and makes entrepreneurship a richer and more fulfilling experience. “The founders need to have the right chemistry, compatibility, and alignment on long-term vision. It’s prudent to find someone who is just as passionate about entrepreneurship as you are and willing to commit 100% to the venture,” she adds.
The EF model
EF runs six-month cohorts in six locations, including Bengaluru, wherein 50 aspiring founders are shortlisted and encouraged to find co-founders among themselves. “We ensure that there is a balance of technical and business backgrounds in every cohort. Typically, each cohort has participants with diverse areas of technical and industry expertise, from computer vision and machine learning to cryptocurrencies, healthcare, and AR/VR,” says Esha.
While most people who join the cohort may not have a viable business idea, EF helps them focus on their strengths and find a compatible co-founder to maximise their chance of success. The rationale is simple: when two individuals with diverse skill sets (business and technical) come together, you essentially multiply the skill sets, and there is a higher chance of success. Not to forget the mentorship and access to capital that EF provides and you have the perfect recipe for aspiring founders.
“As a global talent investor firm that has built over 250 tech companies with a worldwide community of over 3000 entrepreneurs, and a portfolio valued at over 4 billion dollars, EF’s experience demonstrates that this model works,” maintains Esha. She goes on to add that EF encourages the founders to break up as soon as it’s not working, with none of the awkwardness or hard feelings that commonly hinder progress.”
Pramod appreciates that there were options to break up, but the co-founders of Unbox Robotics didn’t have a reason to. “We were one of the best performing teams at EF, and it’s been over two years since we have been building our product,” says the entrepreneur, who is excited about expanding their footprint across India and global markets this year.
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