#Asia “Culture is useless. You’re building a company to make money, not a family”


Abhinandan Balasubramanian, CEO of altflo (the AngelList for large PE/VC deals) thinks unless you’re curing AIDS or cancer, there’s no reason to build culture


Raising venture funding is a cumbersome process. It is even harder and time-consuming to raise large VC or PE money. Even for global VCs, it is months of hard work and persistence before on-boarding large business groups or family businesses as their Limited Partners.

However, the world has changed for the better, and now there are many online platforms/marketplaces connecting startups to angels/individual investors, such as AngelList and Kickstarter. But large investments still happen offline and there are not many online platforms to facilitate large-scale deals.

Mumbai startup altflo aims to be an online deal maker for large deals. Incorporated in December last year, the startup already has some high-profile deals live on its platform.

altflo — an alternative asset and investment manager

“We are a private marketplace for alternative asset and investment management. By leveraging cutting-edge agile technologies, altflo streamlines processes, workflow and functions in order to accelerate deal flow, enable deal making and enhance liquidity in alternative assets,” says Founder Abhinandan Balasubramanian.

Abhinandan Balasubramanian, Founder and CEO of altflo

Abhinandan Balasubramanian, Founder and CEO of altflo

Alternative asset, by definition, means any asset that is not stock, bond or cash. Well-known alternative assets include private companies, distressed securities, investments funds like VC, PE, Hedge, secondary, etc, real estate & infrastructure, financial derivatives, art, and wine.

“altflo seeks to replace the private market and the alternative investment ecosystem that is suffering from inefficiency, lack of transparency, inaccessibility and illiquidity,” he adds.

The startup was launched by Balasubramanian (CEO), Aadit Devanand (COO), Saravanan Shanmugam (CTO), and Varun Agarwal (CMO). Balasubramanian and Saravanan earlier co-founded ChefHost, a platform connecting users with chefs for in-home dining. It was acquired by a concierge service company.

altflo caters to three types of audience:

  1. The seekers – private companies, alternative investment funds or BOT/turnkey projects that are looking to raise funding or exploring exit options.
  2. The providers – ultra high net worth individuals, institutional investors and funds or syndicates/consortiums looking to invest capital in various asset classes.
  3. The enablers – investment banks, law firms, accounting firms, financial advisors, deal intermediaries, service providers (escrow, valuation, custodial, etc.)

How does the deal flow?

altflo is currently in beta. Users — be it private company directors, deal makers, investors or advisors — sign up through an invite-only system, where they will be vetted and accredited. As of now, this process could take up to 48 hours .

The altflo team

The altflo team

“During the sign-up, we clearly understand your requirements. While a private company director might want to raise funding, there could be an institutional investor who wants to use our platform to monitor his/her portfolio. On the other end of the spectrum, there could be deal intermediaries and advisors who might want to access the platform to network and originate new business, or support their clients. Once signed up, a user is free to access the various features on the platform as per their requirement,” the CEO explains.

The altflo platform is an engine consisting of two key components –- a marketplace and a SaaS, each of which is powered by a set of functions. The marketplace is powered by two functions – dealflo & consultflo, while the SaaS is powered by controlflo & dataflo.

dealflo – this is a deal making marketplace where the buy-side and sell-side meet. It is completely anonymous and based on opt-in introductions.

consultflo – this is an on-demand advisory network which gives users access to lawyers, accountants, financial advisors, valuation services, escrow/custodial services, etc. on an as-per-need basis.

controflo – this is the asset management function where users can manage and monitor their asset (portfolio monitoring, investor relations, equity management, corporate governance, etc).

dataflo – this is a virtual data room used to store documents. It is bank-grade secure and completely streamlines your data filing.

The startup boasts of having a few big companies as its clients already. “We already have a healthcare company raising US$3 million via our platform, a production house raising US$100 million, a sports venture raising US$10 million, three VC funds raising between US$20-50 million, a Hedge Fund raising US$25 million and secondary placement opportunities in some of the biggest companies in the world (in Silicon Valley and in India),” he claims.

In his view, the alternative investment ecosystem globally is worth trillions of dollars. That is a large enough market that needs to be managed, monitored and controlled more efficiently as the world economy depends on it, he adds.

“Our initial focus is in private companies, funds and real estate, and there are tens of billions of dollars looking to find a way to these asset classes,” he says.

Balasubramanian makes it clear that altflo is not looking at early-stage deals specifically. “AngelList and Letsventure are already helping startups get funded and they are great models (crowdfunding). There are also companies like Traxcn and CBInsights which are also helping the startup space enormously by enabling them through technology and analytics. We are neither a crowdfunding platform nor do we cater to early-stage startups,” he elaborates.

Here’re a few key lessons that he learnt as a founder:

“1. Know what you are passionate about and stay true to it.

2. Always measure your opportunity cost, sometimes the effort you put and risk you take can be more decisive and profitable elsewhere.

3. Take decisions based on data, it trumps science and logic.

4. Have an active social life, it’s what keeps you sane as an entrepreneur.

5. Be obsessed with sales. Sales solves everything.

6. Culture is useless. Unless you are curing AIDS or cancer or really impacting everyday human lives, there’s no reason to build culture. You are building a company to make money, not a family. Breed success because, contrary to what the ideal world might say, that will last forever.

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