Avantika Daing, head of ventures at Plum Alley Investments, had a track record of scaling teams and businesses to billion + dollar evaluations and a successful IPO, as well as proven leadership in both start-up and Fortune 1000 companies. Yet she discovered that it was a whole different game when she turned entrepreneur.
“When I found myself on the other side of the table as a founder I was highly surprised with the severity of judgment I received because I was in my last trimester of pregnancy. So I was raising capital while I was pregnant and it was shockingly transparent in terms of judgment and commentary by pretty established venture capitalists,” she recalled.
The thinking on the part of these male capitalists seemed to be that there would be a lack of commitment on her part while raising a family. Daing, however, believes women who are on an entrepreneurial journey do the exact opposite: “They take very little downtime and it’s always go-go-go on all cylinders. I decided with my successful career track record, I really had to be on the inside to make some changes,” she says, explaining what pushed her to join the NY chapter of The Indus Entrepreneurs (TIE). She points out that TIE NY was a male-dominated group and had a male-dominated board makeup so her motivation was to create awareness of the strengths that female entrepreneurs brought to the table.
As a board member, she finds TIE NY has given her a great platform which allows her to empower other entrepreneurs and to encourage more female entrepreneurs, especially from the tech sector, to come forward. Daing is currently Co-Chair of the bi-annual Pitch Competition at Tie NY.
We’ve all heard of The Indus Entrepreneurs, the global organization which started back in 1992 in Silicon Valley. It is a network focused on a community of successful executives providing mentoring, advice, and investment funding to one another and to up-and-coming business people. Today it has 51 chapters across 14 countries and a membership of 15,000.
Since 1998 it has taken root in New York too, and it has become more diverse over the last two decades in terms of the types of industries and entrepreneurs it attracts and nurtures. “This has paralleled the growth of New York as a tech hub that increasingly rivals Silicon Valley, especially in the last decade,” says Harjiv Singh, who’s been a TIE charter member for a decade and is the founder and CEO of BrainGain, a SaaS-enabled marketplace for higher education content, programs and tools.
He says that TiE has over the years become more diverse in its membership and attracts entrepreneurs from a wider spectrum of cultures outside of its early beginnings in the Indian American / South Asian community in Silicon Valley. Over the years TiE NY has had many success stories and Singh recalls that one of the most successful companies from TiE in the Tristate area was MarketRX founded by Jaswinder Chadha, which was bought by Cognizant in 2007 for $135 million.
“TiE NY is different from other chapters in the makeup of its membership, drawing from the breadth of New York City as a place to live and work,” says Chand Sooran, Founder & CEO, EdgeworthBox, Inc. and the current president of TiE NY. “The city has a concentration of talent that leads to fusion and creation of a wide variety of commercial and cultural elements in which TiE NY is well poised to participate.”
He points out that since 2008 there has been massive growth and diversification in the startup and growth company scene in New York, and TiE NY has become a significant player. “ We have a mix of both older, established professionals and younger up-and-coming people from a wide variety of backgrounds.” There are two tiers of membership, the Charter Members who are more established in their careers and act as mentors to the younger members. Says Sooran, “I joined TiE because I was looking for an opportunity to mentor and to do some angel investing.”
TiE is about mentoring and as Sooran explains, “We have a pipeline of programming that is akin to a “pre-accelerator” in which we strive to take someone who may have something as early as just an idea and help them flesh it out so that they can be ready to apply for an accelerator, or even to obtain pre-seed funding.”
Mentoring at TiE
A Pitch competition for companies held twice a year gives the five finalists a chance to raise money. It is hosted at Google and Google Cloud for Startups is the sponsor for the event, and one of the three judges is Tejpaul Bhatia, the head of Google Cloud for Startups in NY and the audience tend to be the early stage investors.
Happy success stories result from these pitch competitions: The winner of the 2018 competition raised the bulk of his pre-seed round from TiE Charter Members and will be pitching his investment case to angel investors from the TiE Global Angels network shortly. Recalls Sooran, “Sam Bhattacharyya started by coming to an Open Mic Night and we mentored him. This was a great outcome for us. We’re very proud of his company, Vectorly.”
The winning pitch by Vectorly
Bhattacharyya says, “TiE has been extremely instrumental in getting us where we are today - not only through exposure and capital, but also through advice from members who had experience in our space) to connections. It was through the TiE pitch competition that we met the founders of
Elemental - a notable company in our space - who ended up becoming strategic advisers for us.”
Tech was long supposed to be a man’s domain but now things are changing, and the new board at TIE is very aware of gender dynamics. In 2016, while on an advisory stint for a social media app company, Dharti Desai came across TiE NY and got elected to the board last year and recently became the Vice President. “I have yet to come across a more giving community of entrepreneurs like this one,” says Desai who is an investor in Bodhi Capital Group and in companies in fashion, fin-tech, hospitality and healthcare. “It has enhanced my entrepreneurial journey in so many small, but meaningful ways, besides allowing me to be on the same platform as real rock-star businessmen and women.”
Last year, Sooran and Desai took ownership of a huge challenge - having their own Pitch Competition. “We worked hard and collaborated with Google Cloud and ‘knocked it out of the park’ as one CM put it,” says Desai. The second edition of this PC is scheduled for June 10.
Desai was also selected to be a US mentor for the second edition of a program funded by the US State Department called AIRSWEEE 2.0 (All India Road Show for Women’s Economic Empowerment through Entrepreneurship).
She says, “I cherish the beautiful memories and friendships we have created while executing Project AIRSWEEE - now being assessed to be one of US Mission’s most impactful programs
. To celebrate this and to further cement the bonds that create a community of empowered women entrepreneurs , many AIRSWEEE members are hosting an AIRSWEEE Day, when we celebrate women entrepreneurs.”
TiE NY, with its commitment to women entrepreneurs, is hosting a concurrent program called Shepreneurs Pitchfest leveraging the month of April as women’s month. Over 16 TiE chapters globally are participating, and the theme is Perfecting Pitches, Getting Heard and the purpose is to invite women entrepreneurs to a safe environment and give them non-judgmental constructive feedback.
Avantika Daing and Dharti Desai will be leading this Shepreneurs pitch in New York - women’s time in tech has indeed come!
Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who blogs at
Lassi with Lavina.