Entrepreneurs / Media / Startups / Technology

Don’t optimize your business to raise capital: Apu Gupta

If you're moving your business to be close to investors rather than customers, you're doing it wrong.

Conversations in Tech' is a video interview series from Philly in partnership with Callowhill creative agency Brolik. The series will be featured on Philly in Focus, a community multimedia site from Comcast NBCUniversal that allows local organizations to upload, manage and re-publish their content on multiple platforms.

If you’re moving your business to be close to investors rather than customers, you’re doing it wrong. That’s what Apu Gupta says, the CEO of Curalate, the Center City visual analytics company that has fast become a model for what Philadelphia hopes to retain.

“Is it better to be closer to your investors or your customers?” he said in an interview for our Conversations in Tech series done in partnership with Philly in Focus and Brolik. “If you can create a viable business near your customers, the capital will follow.”

Creating the business is the hard part, he said. Gupta, cofounder Nick Shiftan and his team started as Storably, a platform to rent unused space. Backed by investors, they were failing to gain any traction, so they pivoted drastically, becoming Curalate.

Once they found a business that served a real need, the Curalate team, with some 30 employees, has been able to attract the investment they needed to build quickly. Something other startups preach.

Doing so in markets outside of Silicon Valley had its challenges: less competition for investment deals means lower company valuations, Gupta said, but talent acquisition is cheaper.

When deciding where you should be to build your business, you have to decide what is best for you. Choose where you can you build a profitable business and attract the talent you need to do that where you are. The rise of the rest has meant this can nearly in any of the country’s denser markets.

“Capital is not the first thing you want to be optimizing for,” Gupta said. The ability to do this nearly anywhere is helping fuel a new focus on entrepreneurship.  It’s a new era of “gambling on yourself.” Capital is mobile and there is more money than there are truly special, profitable ideas, particularly as crowdfunding grows, Gupta said.

Then only fear might be that with reduced friction the wrong people will chase the entrepreneurship dream.

“It scares me that people find this fashionable,” he said. “This is a slog.”

There are challenges: less competition for deals means lower valuations, but talent acquisition is cheaper.

Companies: Curalate / Storably

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