Alum Ventures: YNOS – Thillai Rajan A, FPM 2000

Thillai Rajan is currently a Professor in the Department of Management Studies at IIT Madras. He has co-founded YNOS Venture Engine recently, to enhance the efficiency of early-stage venturing and innovation ecosystem in India. The YNOS technology platform helps early-stage entrepreneurs identify potential investors, estimate the valuation, and among other things, also help to understand the start-up landscape.

Prof Rajan is very passionate about the subject of entrepreneurship and has deep knowledge of the subject. He realizes that India is a hub of immense potential and emerging talent which only needs the right fuel of knowledge and guidance to achieve greatness.

Q. Can you please tell us something about yourself and your work.

I am currently a Professor in the Department of Management Studies at IIT Madras. After graduating from IIMB in 2000 from the Fellow Program, I worked in the Venture Capital industry and Infosys before joining academia. At IIT Madras, I continued to research the Venture Capital industry, where I had professional experience and also because of the intellectual opportunity that existed in the field. I had produced and edited for 10 years the Annual India Venture Capital and Private Equity Report published by IIT Madras. Recently, I have been involved in setting up the iVEIN Network, a consortium of institutes comprising IIT Madras, IIT Bombay, IIM Bangalore, IIM Calcutta, and IIM Kozhikode to provide research leadership in innovation and venturing in India. I have been regularly publishing my opinion in top business and general news dailies. I have been a Chevening Gurukul Fellow at the London School of Economics, Endeavour Executive Fellow at the Macquarie Graduate School of Management, Sydney; and Fulbright Nehru Senior Fellow at the Harvard University. 

Q. YNOS is a unique offering in the space of start-ups, how and when did you get the idea?

I have had the unique opportunity to observe how the policy, practice, and social landscape of start-ups, venturing, and entrepreneurship in the country has evolved over the years. Our analysis as a part of my academic work, helped us to identify the key trends in the industry. The availability of capital is one of the biggest requirements for starting-up. We realized that though there has been significant growth in the number of start-ups, financial intermediation between start-up founders and investors has been very limited, particularly for early-stage entrepreneurs. Even where it existed, it was more driven to meet the needs of the investors. The idea of YNOS is to be an “Entrepreneur First” platform and create new frontiers of efficiency in the early stage ecosystem. 

Q. What are the offerings/ services of YNOS?

The YNOS technology platform focuses on providing solutions for the major pain points faced by early-stage entrepreneurs.  The current solution portfolio of YNOS comprises:

  • Insight: Customized dashboard of the start-up landscape
  • Discover: Helps to identify appropriate investors for the start-up
  • Verve: Estimates the valuation of a start-up
  • Consult: Access to experts to get investment ready
  • Delphi: Top-notch experts in science and technology for strengthening the science behind the innovation
  • Clarity: Helps to understand the nuances of fundraising
  • IP-Engine: Technology Driven Market place for intellectual property

Q. How does YNOS work? Is it subscription-based service or one can opt for services required?

Yes, YNOS is accessible by subscription. A subscription gives access to all the online offerings of YNOS. There are two types of subscriptions: Individual and Institutional. Individual subscriptions are for the entrepreneurs and founders, who would like to access YNOS for their own needs and purpose. An institutional subscription is largely for incubators, universities, and other such institutions that provide YNOS as a tool and one form of support to members of their network. 

Q. What is the objective of YNOS?

While the start-up ecosystem has been extremely conducive, it has also become complex. YNOS Venture Engine has been founded with the objective of transforming and creating inefficiencies in the start-up and innovation ecosystem in India. The YNOS platform leverages technology, data sciences and marker analytics to provide customized insights and recommendations to start-up founders, venture investors, innovators and other stakeholders of the start-up and innovation ecosystem. More specifically, our mission is to:

  • To be an intellect driven organization engaged in creating efficiencies in the start-up and innovation ecosystem in a trustworthy manner for all stakeholders
  • To deliver value and impact in new ways that have not been thought possible through the creative use of technology, domain expertise, and information
  • To attract top-quality talent and be a supremely people-focused organization, become a workplace of choice for employees
  • To be the most preferred go-to partner for all stakeholders in the entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem with utmost importance to quality across all dimensions

Q. Any specific Aha moments in your journey?

There are several Aha moments that we experience on a daily basis. When a founder uses our discover product to identify potential investors and to see his eyes widen with excitement when the list of customized investors appears on the screen at the click of a mouse is the best aha moment for us. On a specific note, when we got our first institutional subscription through IIM Kozhikode, when we signed our first alliance partnership with ICICI Bank, and subscription from Kerala Start-up Mission, the nodal agency of the Government of Kerala to promote entrepreneurship in the state of Kerala have been the aha moments that we will cherish for a long time. 

Q. Your advice to budding entrepreneurs.

I would like to say two things that I believe in – Patience and Preparing for Survival. The entrepreneurship ecosystem in India is not friction-free. Though the environment has been less hostile in the last two decades, it is far from being friendly. Growing a business, therefore, takes more time and it is important that founders are more patient. In most cases, creating a successful business is an effort of a lifetime. Expecting to get rich quickly and realizing that it is becoming difficult to achieve that objective can be frustrating. Most start-ups are based on a new business idea or innovation. It takes time for a new idea to be accepted before mass adoption. During this phase of idea acceptance, cash has to be managed prudently. Businesses die because of a lack of cash. The actions of founders should be such that it increases the runway for businesses. One important aspect that can help is prudent cash management.