Anu Duggal, founder of F Cubed, a VC fund for women founders, talked to TechRepublic about her strengths as an entrepreneur and what she learned from starting companies in India.
Anu Duggal has an eye for market opportunity. It's one of her greatest strengths, and what's made her a successful entrepreneur in a variety of verticals. Now, she is leveraging that skill to transition to a career in venture capital.
She saw the market opportunity in VC: companies led by women are underfunded, and they aren't fully supported. There was an opportunity for a new kind of VC fund that will invest in them.
Duggal started Female Founders Fund, dubbed F Cubed, less than two years ago. With no real VC experience, she decided to take advantage of the poor representation of women investors and startup founders by starting her own investment firm.
"A lot of people are sometimes intimidated by the fact they don't know an industry, don't know a country, but I think for me that's what's exciting is the opportunity to to start something new, bring together the network that I have that can help me from a business perspective," Duggal said.
Duggal moved quite a bit as a child, but grew up primarily in Hong Kong and Tokyo. She attended Vassar College in New York for undergrad and continued to live in New York for several years after graduation.
Duggal started her first entrepreneurial venture in 2005, inspired by her parents moving back to India. While visiting, she noticed that more people were drinking wine, but didn't understand the differences of the beverage beyond red and white.
So, she moved to Bombay to open a luxury wine bar. She knew nothing about wine herself, so she partnered with one of India's leading wine producers, to develop it with her. The Tasting Room is still open today.
With little experience in the hospitality industry besides attending cooking school and working in a restaurant, opening the bar was a huge learning opportunity for Duggal. But, that's part of the excitement for her.
"When I look across all the different ventures I've been involved in, I've never had a deep domain expertise in any of them," she said. "What's excited me is the opportunity to work with a founding team or really build a brand in a space that doesn't yet have a strong brand in that space."
India gave Duggal a better appreciation for how much simpler it is to start a company in the US than it is there. Here, we take things for granted like electricity, water, or not having to bribe people — basic things, she said.
"In a startup there are so many other things that are hard," she said. "When you layer on basic things you take for granted, it's exponentially harder."
Duggal earned her MBA from London Business School. After The Tasting Room, she founded Exclusively.In, an e-commerce site focused on fashion for South Asia, and helped fund and start several other companies.
In 2011, she returned to New York and wanted to get into angel investing, so she began networking in the venture capital community and pitching the idea for F Cubed. Though she wasn't experienced in VC, Duggal had done some fundraising for the Obama campaign and for a museum she is on the board for.
Although passionate about finding and learning new markets, she wishes she had spent more time not being an entrepreneur, so she could have a more solid skill set — whether that was working in finance, consulting, or computer engineering and design.
Even though she didn't do that, Duggal has always given these ventures a shot if she was drawn to them. And she's learned every step of the way.
"When I look at my traits, I think the one thing that I have is resilience, " she said. "For me, no is not an option and that's really what kept me going. It's just not an option to not do it."
In her own words...
What are some of your hobbies?
"I'm trying to get back to doing yoga every day, that keeps me sane. I love to cook, I'm a huge Homeland devotee. I love trying to at least visit one new country a year. This year I'm trying to schedule a trip to Oman with a good friend of mine. Last year I think it was Turkey."
What do you like to cook?
"I went to cooking school in France, so French is like my thing, but I also do Indian. [Cooking school was] six months. I had been working at Zagat, and working in a restaurant at night, so I was really passionate about food at that point. Cooking school would be a great way to get more exposed."
What tech trend interests you most?
"I read a lot of VC blogs. For me it's more high level — what are the trends in terms of consumer behavior that are interesting. [When I] invested in a digital health clinic, I didn't know much about telehealth. It's really more about what are industries looking to be disrupted."