Info-tech

Binny Bansal: Want to help 10,000 entrepreneurs

Bloomberg Bengaluru | Updated on February 05, 2019 Published on February 05, 2019

Binny Bansal, co-founder of Flipkart. File Photo   -  Reuters

Flipkart co-founder opens up on future plans

Its been less than three months since Binny Bansal’s shock ouster from Flipkart, the e-commerce giant he founded over a decade ago. The entrepreneur once celebrated for jump-starting India’s internet retail industry is now dedicating himself to helping other founders get their start-ups off the ground.

Bansal, who departed after Flipkart’s new owner Walmart Inc. investigated alleged personal misconduct, is now focused on xto10x Technologies, a start-up he co-founded with former colleague Saikiran Krishnamurthy. It aims at helping entrepreneurs navigate the often-tricky Indian start-up scene. Bansal’s already put together an early team, set up an office at a co-working space and even snagged several leading start-up customers.

“I’m looking forward to the next chapter of my life,” the 37-year-old said in his first interview since the episode. “Person to person, I can help 10 start-ups but the ambition is to help 10,000 early and mid-stage entrepreneurs, not 10,” he said.

While Binny Bansal was his usual loquacious self, he mostly clammed up when the topic of his 2018 departure came up. That followed Walmart’s $16 billion acquisition of the company, a deal that stunned the domestic tech industry and made him and Sachin billionaires.

Barely had the ink dried on the deal when all hell broke loose. The US retail titan initiated an investigation into an allegation of serious personal misconduct. Walmart was said to have begun an inquiry into a consensual relationship Bansal had with a woman. The probe looked into claims that the woman had been paid off, possibly in return for her silence, Bloomberg reported at the time.

Bansal, who still holds 4 per cent of Flipkart and a board seat, has since kept a low profile. During the interview, he quelled attempts to discuss the woman’s identity or investigation findings, all which have been the subject of intense speculation. There’s also the matter of a reported falling-out with Sachin - to the point they are no longer on speaking terms. Bansal determinedly puts a lid on it all: Now, its all in the past. I have moved on.

But his demeanor shifts when discussing his passion project. Bansal’s new company will build technology tools to help start-ups grow, offering on-tap consulting and services from legal and finance to communications, HR and management mentoring.

Today, software is built for large enterprises and not small start-ups, he said. And while venture capitalists mentor and nurture founders, there is nothing structured out there, he argued. For example, when start-ups raise funds, they need to know where they should park the money, how to set a high bar for talent and how to build a viable company culture. Think of it as solving for start-ups what Amazon Web Services has done for computing, helping enterprises go from zero to a thousand servers overnight with no hassle.

Few entrepreneurs can boast Bansal’s track record. Armed with a computer science degree and a short Amazon stint, he went on to help create India’s largest online retailer within a decade, tackling Amazon.com Inc. head-on. But xto10x was born in part because Bansal recalls Flipkart itself made mistakes at every turn.

Instead of making a thousand mistakes, if we can help other start-ups make a hundred or even few hundred, that would be worth it, he said. It will retain a global focus as problems for entrepreneurs are the same everywhere.

Bansal will be chairman of the company but won’t take on an operating role. That’s not to say he hasn’t kept his hand in. He’s an anchor investor in a fund called 021 Capital. His family office has backed about 30 start-ups over the past five years. His most recent investment has been in Crio, a learning platform for software developers, whose seed round he co-funded with several prominent former Flipkart executives now popularly referred to as the Flipkart Mafia.

Sachin Bansal, meanwhile, is prepping his own second act, mentoring and funding start-ups and contemplating his own enterprise. His biggest move so far has been a sizeable investment into Uber rival Ola.

Published on February 05, 2019
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