CXOToday participated in an exclusive interview with Learn from Mishra, Founder and CEO, Aphthonia Labs.
- How did you come up with the idea to create a startup incubator?
Prior to founding Aphthonia, I co-founded Eatelish, a culinary-focused food startup that retails across 35+ trendy outlets across India. While building and growing Eatelish, I realized the importance of having a support system that helps you grow faster. After our exit in 2018, I had to think about what’s next and then I took a deeper look at India’s startup ecosystem and realized that while India’s startup ecosystem is the 3rdrd the largest in the world, the incubator and accelerator support system is much smaller in comparison. 3 years ago USA had 2500+ incubators, China about 1500+ and India had 500+ incubators. Additionally, in more mature ecosystems such as the US, there are specialized incubators providing access to knowledge, network and capital in the field. It was this understanding and an existing gap that led me to create an incubator to give start-ups access to people, knowledge, network and capital – the four pillars of a successful business.
- Afthonia is India’s first fintech startup incubator, what are the challenges of setting up in the fintech space?
The magic of Fintech combines finance and technology together, and when you combine two powerful forces, the impact is huge. The biggest challenge is getting startups to understand why it’s important to focus on a responsible solution that puts the user first. The evolving regulatory landscape and its impact on startups can sometimes mean that an incubated startup may become irrelevant or need to change.
- Are there any challenges you face as a female founder?
I’ve always seen myself as a founder first, and gender doesn’t cross my mind. In my opinion, gender should never be a basis for judging someone’s talent and skills. Gender defines the body, not the mind. However, during my Eatelish investor days as my co-founder and I (both women), what about the kids? We told him that we do not believe in child labor
- How does Aphthonia aim to help fintech startups in the incubation process?
Our program is a customized, personalized program. During the shortlisting process, we create a plan for each startup that is shared with them at pre-incubation. Once onboarded, that plan is the focus of incubation. The goal is to help them reach the next inflection point. Each startup is assigned a mentor who helps them in every area of the business. We have a global panel of mentors that provides startups with global access. We have a pool of investors and access to the investor ecosystem that helps in raising funds and at the right stage with appropriate valuations.
- What is one piece of advice you would like to share with budding startups?
Remember why you started the business in the first place. It was to decide something, to build something. It’s not about grades.
- What is one piece of advice you would like to share with investors?
Give feedback on what startups could do better, even if you don’t invest, it will help them do better. Invest in them your time, knowledge along with money. With the right guidance and motivation, the results will benefit you too.
- What are the myths surrounding startups that you would like to dispel?
Only one thing, if you raise capital, you are successful and you will succeed. This is just the first step. In fact, capital is a liability. The amount of funding is never the amount of potential a startup has.
- How is the startup ecosystem shaping the future of entrepreneurship in India?
India is home to the third largest startup ecosystem in the world after the US and China. With the significant growth of startups from tier-II and tier-III cities, the year also saw the introduction of many new startup programs that further helped develop the new breed of startups and entrepreneurs. From policies to incentives, grants, global conversations, it’s all happening. There are specialized incubators and accelerators like Villigro and Uppekka that help startups grow.
- Being a woman, one has multiple roles to play in work and personal life, how do you balance both?
I have accepted that there is no balance, you can’t do everything, some day work life is priority and some day personal life is priority. It’s about taking one day at a time and not feeling guilty about who you aren’t a priority.
- What is one piece of advice you would like to share with other female professionals?
Put yourself out there, don’t be afraid of rejection. If you don’t ask for what you want, someone else will. It is important to value yourself and your dreams and aspirations. Never let your gender get in the way of your goals. Yes, it is a fact that times have changed and people are working for a better world for women, but still gender equality is one thing and gender equality is another. But we will have to stop calling out the problems and start working to solve them. Women need to take the first step for themselves and the world will follow.