Most people will agree that the startup scene in India is blooming – never before has there been more interest, capital or attention in startups as there is today.
One of the unfortunate side-effects of this burgeoning scene is that it attracts all kinds of fakers and gold-diggers who see it as a ripe market for picking off and ribbing gullible folks who don’t know better.
While most folks within the startup ecosystem know the facts about such worthies, this is rarely aired in public – people opt to just remain silent rather than take on these folks…until now.
This is the first of a series of posts that will highlight and expose India’s NextBigTwats so that they cannot peddle their trade and take gullible newbies for a ride as they have been doing thus far.
As this story is being penned by an anonymous handle, it is but natural that questions will be asked about our own motives? Are these posts being written with some vested agenda or personal vendetta in mind? To dispel any such doubts, we will only use facts that can be publicly available and verified that the discussion is limited to the merits of these facts rather than the motives of the author.
The first twat that we would like to throw some light on is the biggest of them all – VIJAY ANAND aka THE STARTUP GUY.
CLAIMS AND CLAIM TO FAME
Vijay is a standard fixture in many startup conferences and events – he is widely seen as and known as “The Startup Guy” – a self-adopted moniker that underlines his self-professed position of being a serial entrepreneur and startup veteran.
Specifically, Vijay claims that he is the following:
- Serial entrepreneur
- Angel investor
- Visionary software engineer
- Expert on funding
Let us examine these claims in a bit more detail:
VIJAY ANAND – THE SERIAL ENTREPRENEUR
Vijay has often claimed – and the media has faithfully parroted – that he is a serial entrepreneur: a startup veteran who has started and sold multiple startups in India and around the world starting off as a child prodigy who started and sold his company when he was still a student.
He is generally reluctant to provide specifics about any of these companies and for a long while, no one actually knew even the names of these companies, much less the details around their rumored exits.
A little bit of research throws up stories where these entities have been named (by Vijay himself as part of his profile blurb for the startup events where he holds court – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytWEmqXkdM8 ).
The names of the three companies that Vijay claims that he founded and sold are as follows:
In India: CompuWorld Software Solutions and, NullScape Softwares
In Ottawa, Canada: LeadStep Technologies
Let us try to learn more about these companies.
Firstly, let’s look at the Indian companies:
There are zero traces of this company on the Internet.
Even a Google search throws up no results other than Vijay’s claims of having founded a company with this name.
A search on the Registrar of Companies also throws up zero results.
As far as one can tell, there was never any company with this name that had any sort of formal operations.
CompuWorld Software Solutions
Wonder of wonders, a Google search actually returns results with a company with a similar name.
But it seems to be a small Coimbatore-based entity that sells computers – there is no mention of Vijay’s name in any of the pages that describes this company and is unlikely to be the same company that Vijay claims to have founded (he had claimed that his Indian company developed software for banks in an interview on “Chai with Lakshmi” available on YouTube here – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y3QCvBNdsvE ).
Similar to the other company that Vijay claims to be a founder of, there is no record of this company in the Registrar of Companies either.
Is it conceivable that Vijay founded these companies without actually incorporating them as formal entities like many others?
That might have been plausible except for one statement that Vijay makes in the same interview referenced above – he says that he incorporated his company in India because he needed to collect payments from customers which means that there has to be some formal record of a company of this name somewhere.
Let’s leave these Indian companies aside for a moment as by most accounts, Vijay actually “struck gold” (source: http://nandhu.wordpress.com/2008/02/03/interview-with-vijay-anand-organiser-protoin/ ) with LeadStep, the company he founded and sold in Canada.
What did this company allegedly do?
According to Vijay’s LinkedIn profile, “LeadStep focuses on building wireless solutions for both carriers and consumers in an attempt to revolutionize the way people live, act and think. We pride ourselves in solutions that are powerful, yet simple and in products that don’t make the end user feel inadequate, but empowers them to bring out the best. “
In the same interview referenced above, Vijay actually claims that he sold this company to Nokia in 2006 before returning to India.
Trawling through the list of Nokia acquisitions throws up no mention of this company in this time period.
Of course, it is quite possible that the acquisition value of this company was not large enough for Nokia to mention it anywhere.
But wouldn’t the acquired company issue some sort of press release if and when it was acquired? Again, there is no such statement anywhere. Curiously, this supposed company seems to have never had a presence of any kind on the web – no website, no email, no customers, no users, no employees. Apart from Vijay’s claims around this company, it is as if it never existed!
Thankfully, there is one way to dig a bit deeper – Canada’s equivalent of our Registrar of Companies.
Bingo – there was indeed a company with this company that was founded in 2004 and it lists Vijay Anand as the sole Director.
So was this a real company that Vijay founded, operated and finally sold to Nokia?
Nope – it turns out this company was only on paper and never had an operations.
How can one tell?
The company never filed any returns – it never had any employees or operations and it was dissolved by a s. 210 filing in 2006.
What does this filing imply?
Under section 210 of the Canada Business Corporations Act, this was a company that has no property or liabilities or even issued any shares (source: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/c-44/page-80.html ) From all the data available, it looks like this was a shell company that never had any operations and therefore, never filed any returns.
Vijay Anand’s claims of having started and sold companies seems to be a big lie – beyond this shell company, he doesn’t seem to have founded any formal entity either.
So much for being a serial entrepreneur!
VIJAY ANAND – THE ANGEL INVESTOR
Vijay claims to have been an angel investor with a series of high-quality startups in his portfolio.
Considering that he didn’t actually exit any startup, it would be a miracle if Vijay actually had any money to invest in startups.
Let’s give him the benefit of doubt here to see if we can come up with a list of companies where he is an angel investor.
An exhaustive search revealed a grand total of one company (Eventifier) that he is an investor in – since this company was part of his Startup Center, it is entirely conceivable that he got this equity for services in kind rather than for a cash investment of any kind.
So if you are thinking of approaching Vijay for an angel investment, you might want to think again!
Beyond this, there is one more reason why you shouldn’t approach Vijay if you are looking for angel investments.
There are at least three cases where startups that we talked to told us that had approached him for funding and instead of actually putting in money, he ended up taking money from them promising investor and customer connects.
In one case, he also took equity from the company in the form of sweat for services that he promised to perform. As it turned out, the company found him out and didn’t actually give him any equity. The other companies simply wrote off the money that Vijay took from them.
We would like to name these companies here but doing so would open up the founders to retribution from the Startup Guy and so we will refrain from doing so.
Given this lack of details, you are free to take this revelation or leave it – but do proceed with a huge pinch of caution if you, nevertheless, approach Vijay for funding and never ever give him money or equity upfront.
VIJAY ANAND – THE VISIONARY SOFTWARE ENGINEER
Given that Vijay’s companies seem to exist only on paper, it is difficult to ascertain if he has actually built anything – his claims to be a software engineer by virtue of having developed software of any kind, therefore, is as hollow as his other claims.
Despite this, is Vijay qualified to call himself a software engineer?
At various times, Vijay claims to be a graduate of the University of Ottawa where claims to have completed his Bachelor of Engineering.
Except that he didn’t – it turns out that Vijay never actually graduated from there. He flunked out of college and was basically shown the door!
So Vijay is far from being a visionary software engineer – by deed or even by qualification!
VIJAY ANAND – THE FUNDING EXPERT
Vijay has often claimed that he is an expert in fund raising – he even offers to dispense tips about fundraising to folks for a fee – http://www.pracly.com/experts/vijayanands
Let’s take a look at Vijay’s record in fundraising.
Of all the companies that have gone through his Startup Center or his In50hrs event, exactly zero companies have raised Series A funding! In all these years, only one company (Eventifier) has raised even seed funding from an institutional investor.
Vijay’s own “startups” also never raised any funding (it would be a neat trick if he actually did that given that these companies existed primarily on paper, if at all!).
So none of the “wisdom” that Vijay imparts about funding is from first-hand knowledge or experience.
The Last Word
Given all these facts, it is quite amazing that a person who has never actually started up in any real sense carries the moniker of the “Startup Guy” and people lap up his illusionary achievements.
Some of the other folks that we spoke to made a litany of charges against Vijay – ranging from taking money from them promising connections to being abrasive and disrespectful to stealing ideas around events. We also heard that the only real job that Vijay held – in IITM – ended on a bitter note with him being unceremoniously shown the door when the powers-that-be learnt his true colors. Since these cannot be corroborated one way or the other, we are not delving deeper into them.
All said and done, Vijay Anand is the “Paris Hilton of Indian Startups” – he is “famous for being famous” and has through a carefully-constructed tissue of lies and half-truths positioned himself as a tour de force in the Indian startup ecosystem. It is a sad commentary on the state of things that such charlatans are not only surviving but thriving in India today…
Without further ado, we would like to bestow on Vijay Anand the title of being the first “NextBigTwat” of the Indian startup ecosystem – may his tribe prosper!
If Vijay (or any of his devotees) would like to respond to any of these points and clarify his position, we would be more than happy to update this post with his point of view and corrections…but something tells us that the probability of that happening is no greater than that of an ice-cube’s chance in hell!