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Veteran VC Kanwal Rekhi on Byju’s chaos, Sequoia’s split, and why easy money breeds bad habits

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Sohini Mitter

23 reads
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Sohini Mitter

23 reads

In an exclusive interview with The CapTable, veteran Silicon Valley investor Kanwal Rekhi says that Brand Sequoia’s exit from India could set a precedent for other foreign VCs. Known for his distinct candour and sharp takes, Rekhi also weighs in on Byju's, SoftBank and other key players

June 27, 2023

10 MINS READ

Key Takeaways

  • Kanwal Rekhi of Inventus Capital Partners reckons more foreign VCs will follow the Sequoia Capital route and pull out of India
  • The veteran investor is a vocal critic of hyper-valued ‘unicorns’ and believes that easy money inculcates bad habits
  • Rekhi reveals how PolicyBazaar (which Inventus backed early on) was "pushed to spend" and grow faster by SoftBank when it was on the brink of profitability
  • He adds that investor-driven valuations of startups are untenable in public markets, which will eventually force corrections

Kanwal Rekhi does not mince words. The Silicon Valley entrepreneur and investor, who made history in 1987 after becoming the first Indo-American founder to list a venture-backed company on the NASDAQ, closely follows the developments unfolding in India’s startup and VC ecosystem. Rekhi, who co-founded Inventus Capital Partners in 2007 and continues to serve as its MD, has been a staunch critic of hypervaluations and the ‘unicorn’ rat race that has gripped the ecosystem.

“High valuations are bad for entrepreneurs, and bad for investors. Unicorns with private valuations are never real,” the septuagenarian told The CapTable in an exclusive virtual interview from his Los Altos, California residence.

Over the course of an hour-long conversation, the 78-year-old weighed in on a gamut of issues, from Brand Sequoia’s recent exit and turmoil at Byju's to SoftBank’s big money “inculcating bad habits” and why cashflows are the only real profits.

Here are the edited excerpts:

The CapTable (CT): How do you look at Sequoia India’s split from its global entity and its subsequent rebranding (to Peak XV Partners)?

Kanwal Rekhi: I expect most foreign VCs to pull out of India now...

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