Suraj Rajwani is one of the leaders of DoubleRock, an early-stage venture capital firm that was established in 2012. Over the past eight years, the company has invested in big data, SaaS (Software as a Service), mobile technologies, and IoT (Internet of Things) firms. The company has a high success rate thanks to its intensive research and the expert advice that it gives to the companies in its portfolio.
Rajwani grew up and attended university in Singapore, where he majored in business at the National University. His natural curiosity about how businesses work and how companies can leverage their assets to succeed has always interested him.
Rajwani has a special level of interest in branding and positioning companies for success online. He believes that branding is one of the aspects that sets companies apart from one another and that even highly technical firms should not skip this step in business development.
Suraj Rajwani uses his experience as an early-stage VC investor to discover new companies and make sure that they have the tools they need to succeed. He believes that venture capital firms should be willing to take risks and support companies that have great ideas, no matter how experienced their principals may be.
DoubleRock assists the companies in its portfolio by providing expert management guidance and business development help. Rajwani uses his talents to help companies in the early stages of development to maximize their chance of success in a crowded market.
How did you get started in this business?
I started my venture capital firm in 2012. My colleagues and I saw an opening in the market where companies were not being supported by the venture capital industry. We decided that we would focus on tech companies with a data-driven approach.
How do you make money?
Venture capital firms make money when their investments succeed. The goal of a venture capital firm is for their portfolio companies to arrive at the point of liquidation when the money is available. Of course, sometimes companies fail. When they do succeed, we end up with large payouts. The level of risk can scare some people away from becoming venture capitalists, but I find it exciting.
How long did it take for you to become profitable?
Our first few portfolio companies succeeded, so we were able to make a profit only a few years into our company’s lifespan. When you are in venture capital, you have to learn to be patient because the payouts aren’t immediate.
When you were starting out, was there ever a time you doubted it would work? If so, how did you handle that?
Everyone has doubts from time to time. Some of my friends and family tried to warn me off going into venture capital and told me that our firm wouldn’t last.
When we were first getting started, I had little experience in the field. I made it up with enthusiasm, but I can see why some of my friends and family were doubtful. When you’re taking a major risk for the first time, it is natural to be nervous.
I am proud to say that DoubleRock is growing every year and that we are attracting premier portfolio companies in a variety of tech fields. Our successes have gotten us a lot of attention as members of the venture capital community.
How did you get your first customer?
We attracted our first portfolio company through careful attention to detail. Our partner wanted to make sure that they were dealing with a reliable VC firm with understandable terms and conditions. We wanted to know whether their business plan was solid and whether they had any experience in the area. We were able to satisfy each other with our answers, and we entered into a partnership.
What is one marketing strategy (other than referrals) that you’re using that works really well to generate new business?
Venture capital firms don’t really advertise our services. We are more likely to find your company than you are to find us. That said, we do attract a certain number of companies that bring us pitch decks and try to make a case for themselves in receiving our funding. We don’t always say no to these firms, but it is harder for them to get their message across.
What is the toughest decision you’ve had to make in the last few months?
We had to turn a certain company down for funding. They made us a great pitch, but their financials and documentation weren’t what they should have been. I value research very highly, and I feel like my extensive research on this company may have saved us from making an expensive mistake.
I don’t like to turn companies down, but we have to protect our investors’ interests. Having the best venture capital firm means that sometimes you have to say no.
What do you think it is that makes you successful?
I always put a lot of research and legwork into a decision. I think that venture capital funding can’t be given on a hunch that a company will do well. That is a huge way to set yourself up for failure. It’s better to be thorough and circumspect when it comes to research. I have trained my staff to look for certain criteria when considering a company in which to invest, and I often help with the research myself.
What has been your most satisfying moment in business?
So far, my most satisfying moments in business were related to seeing companies we fostered turn into money-makers. We put a lot of time and thought into the companies we support, and we offer more guidance than other venture capital firms of our size. We feel accomplished when our investments pay out.
What does the future hold for your business? What are you most excited about?
We are always looking for more opportunities to invest. I would like to move into more electric vehicle companies. I feel like these are the wave of the future and that they will reduce our dependence on fossil fuels as a society. They will help to reduce pollution as well as assisting with global warming. I am really excited about the possibilities that the future holds. I get up in the morning with the expectation that something good will happen. Sometimes I’m disappointed, but I feel like a positive attitude is everything when it comes to attracting success.
What business books have inspired you?
Mastering the VC Game by Jeffrey Bussgang is a fantastic book for companies that are starting the process of getting venture capital funding. It can be confusing to understand all of the terms and the way the process works.
My other favorite business book is The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. I often recommend this book to younger members of our community.
What advice would you give to your younger self?
Don’t doubt the value of your business education. I caught some blowback from friends who were involved in liberal arts and science programs, saying that business education was somehow second-best. I’m glad that I went to school for business, it has been a huge stepping stone toward my success.
Are you willing to be a mentor? If so, how should someone contact you?
Unfortunately, I can’t do it at this time. I wish your readers the best, however, and I hope that they can find the kind of mentorship they need to expand their business ideas.