The company was founded and is run by executives who have seen scale and understand it. The team consists of folks from Flipkart, India’s largest startup ever, and Carousell, Southeast Asia’s largest classifieds company.
Also, by not investing in companies attending its school, xto10x ensures that their incentives are not purely financial. It can guide them to attempt purposeful product-led growth rather than purchased capital-led growth.
The scaling wall
The idea for the company was born out of a breakfast meeting between Bansal and Krishnamurthy in September 2018. “We wanted to start something that could be bigger than one company and have a wider impact,” explains Krishnamurthy. The duo brought on board Neeraj Aggarwal, the former VP of supply chain operations at Flipkart, as co-founder and COO.
Earlier this month, xto10x also hired Jia Jih Chai, former senior VP for growth and strategy at Carousell and previously Airbnb’s managing director for Southeast Asia.
They believed the time for doing something like this was right as post-2015, the Indian startup ecosystem has really come of age. “Pre-2015 was all about building the ‘Amazon of India’ or the ‘Uber of India’. But companies now are looking at every corner of the economy and building solutions that don’t have any parallels and are unique,” says Krishnamurthy.
Among startups today, there is plenty of vision and funding to go around, but what startups lack is tactical expertise. While investors do offer strategic advice, startups can’t rely on their VCs to completely solve their problems. “They wouldn’t want to be completely vulnerable and share all their troubles with their VCs as it could affect their future round of funding,” says Aggarwal.
For instance, companies that have signed up for this program have significant operational challenges. Hyperlocal delivery company Dunzo is reportedly in the middle of scaling back operations in parts of Bengaluru, Mumbai and NCR to optimise its delivery fleet. While others like bike taxi company Rapido are operating in a regulatory grey zone without any clear operational rules.
After nearly 50 conversations—each lasting about two hours with different types of startup founders—the xto10x founders found that there are 10 recurring challenges that are common to those who have achieved a product-market fit. These include challenges related to strategy and business design to hyper-growth and customer experience. “These ‘10 pillars’ are our North Star,” says Krishnamurthy.
These pillars are addressed and handled in a six-month bootcamp for startups—the 10X Academy.
Payment gateway Razorpay, tax-filing platform Cleartax, meat and seafood company Licious, self-drive car rental company Zoomcar and bike-taxi company Rapido are some of the companies who are part of the current second cohort at the Academy. While companies like social commerce platform Meesho, online marketplace for gold loans Rupeek, ed-tech company Vedantu, and Dunzo are some of the companies that attended the first cohort earlier this year.
So, how exactly does this bootcamp work?
The un-Shark Tank
It begins with xto10x inviting startup founders for a “vision challenge” round. In an informal two-hour conversation, the three co-founders of xto10x challenge the startup’s ‘vision’ and identify the drivers and bottlenecks of the startups.
In each cohort, eight founders are chosen to be part of the 10X academy. After both parties agree mutually on the problems, a structured six-month program is set into play. All the eight founders meet for a weekly roundtable every Friday to discuss one of the challenges from the 10 pillars. Like culture or organisation design, and the roundtable serves as a cross-learning platform. Besides Bansal, Krishnamurthy, and Aggarwal, external experts like Rahul Chari, CTO and co-founder of PhonePe, also advise the companies on their challenges.
There are also one-on-one sessions with mentors. “This way, it is not a theoretical exercise,” says Vidit Aatrey, co-founder and CEO of Meesho.
At the end of three months, a blueprint for execution on the top challenges is designed by the startup founders. Krishnamurthy, Bansal and Aggarwal then assess how the startups are sticking to the plan and change course if needed through the next three months.
Aatrey says they also present the blueprint to the other companies in a mock boardroom discussion. This helps figure out flaws in the execution strategy. “Though we guide them, we don’t promise to be there for them always,” says Krishnamurthy.