Why Joining Prodigal Was the Right next Step for Me

The Background

Come June this year, I was all set to leave my job as a VC at Chiratae (formerly, IDG Ventures) and head out for my MBA at the Chicago Booth School of Business. Little did we know that this summer will bring about one of the most profound humanitarian crises the world has ever seen.

The crisis led to a domino effect of multiple things falling apart in my personal life. Early June, I decided to request the school for a deferral of my admit. Understandably, for Booth to arrive at a decision on deferral, it would take at least 3-4 weeks.

Thus, began a week-long deep introspection, trying to answer the question – What Next?

What Next?

Chiratae was more than kind to offer me to stay back another year. However, I was fairly sure that I wanted to do something a bit more experimental in the run-up to my MBA (could be 2-month or a 12-month stint, depending on the deferral outcome).

In addition, since most of my job-hunting efforts would be restricted to my personal network, I was triply wary of reaching out to a lot of people at one go (I am really bad at turning down people if accepted!).

A series of questions began lining up in my mind. The questions were layered, almost like a bunch of nested-ifs. As I organized the convoluted thought-process, I chanced on some of the answers.  

Photo by Bram Naus on Unsplash

Deciding the Right Startup to Work For is Tougher Than Making a VC Investment

The Right People

The quality of the founding team was the most important criterion behind my choice. Having spent the last 2 years evaluating entrepreneurs, my bar for the team was extremely high.

Not only was I looking for a team with exemplary intellect and ingrained hustle, I also needed mentors, who went out of their ways to focus on the personal growth of employees. This was the only way to ensure a mutual value-addition in a relatively shorter period of time. All this, while the team had to be humble and grounded.

The founding team at Prodigal beat my expectations by a vast margin. I had already received overwhelmingly positive feedback from folks in my network who knew the team first-hand. The feedback got confirmed during my hiring process, as both founders came off as some of the most impressive entrepreneurs I had ever met. And, this was a temp employee’s interview, not even an investment pitch!

“I had to get their mentorship”

The Right Stage for Me – Corporate, Growth, Early or Unfunded

  • Corporate/Growth-Stage: Now, this would hardly be something experimental. With structured, seasoned teams in place, unless the organization strove to go out of the way for employee learning, it would be immensely difficult for me to carve out any life-changing learning experiences in a short span of time.
  • Unfunded/Angel-funded: More often than not, in this stage, the entrepreneurs are still discovering the right direction to head into. Without that directional guidance, while my learning would be immense, it would be spread too thin in multiple directions to gain deep expertise.

“Early Stage it was – Seed or Series A”

The Right Sector and Geography for Me

  • Product-led, Ops light: Given my strongly-held belief in the emergence and growth of pure-product companies out of India in the decade to come, I had been leaning towards operations-light companies, where the product directly drove the top-line instead of enabling and optimizing the operations.
  • The Silicon Valley Exposure: As an aspiring product manager and an individual in love with the tech ecosystem, building a product that differentiates itself in the Bay Area, is nothing short of a dream come true. The Valley offers a global minima of the lag between the most cutting-edge research and making a productized business case out of it. Exposure to this ecosystem had to go a long way in my growth.
  • Enterprise SaaS: As opposed to Consumer companies, where the user-behavior could be gauged by intuition, to an extent, Enterprise product journeys remained a big black-box to me. I was curious to learn more.
  • FinTech: Having spent a considerable amount of time in lending and payments over the last 4 years at American Express and then at Chiratae, where I focussed extensively on the fintech landscape, I was inclined to deepen my domain expertise. Prodigal catered to one of the largest white-spaces in the global fintech ecosystem, Credit Collections.

“Prodigal, it is…”

As I close in on almost a month here, I must say, this job has been constantly challenging me to push my limits. The experience so far has been very different from anything I have ever done in the past, but immensely satisfying and enriching so far.

Looking forward to a great time ahead with Prodigal!

This blog was originally written by Nayrhit Bhattacharya who recently joined Prodigal as a product manager.

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