How long have you been a Founder for?
Are you a first-time or serial Founder?
Second time (serial is a bit generous).
What's your backstory. How did you come to be a Founder?
I was an executive at Janrain (I joined after their series-C), they had been the category creator of Customer Identity (and inventors of Social Login). After the acquisition by Akamai back in 2019, a battle-field promotion resulted in me leading the identity business inside the acquirer. During this time, it really bothered me how hard it was for mature companies to become more privacy-centric, so when my earnout with Akamai ended I recruited my co-founders and advisors and formed Contxt.
What has been the highlight of your Founder career so far?
I love the pace, we are racing to launch our first product. Currently doing one week sprints. It is hectic, intense and wide-ranging: I’ve not enjoyed myself this much in years!
Another high. Moments after we closed our pre-seed, we got notice of our Innovate UK grant win. The external validation (and roadmap acceleration) reinforced how important the work we are doing is.
What has been the lowlight?
The hustle required to raise pre-product honestly made me miss enterprise sales. Before founding, my sales number was close to $30m, that was easy compared to the frog-kissing required last year. Ultimately we raised what we needed and kept the valuation where we wanted, but it was a brutal 6 months. Thankfully, it is starting to feel like a distant memory now.
How did you come across Landscape?
While researching pre-seed VC’s I discovered the VC ratings, which were really helpful, especially the ones that had thesis data.
What is your biggest challenge right now?
We just soft launched (waiting list for early access) our first product line: www.darkspark.io. Darkspark is Personal Data (PII) monitoring and incident detection for security operations. We’d love to connect with any teams looking to ingest additional telemetry into their SIEM or SOC.
What's the biggest mistake you’ve made so far and what did you learn from it?
Sending decks out with uncapped SAFE. I don’t know why we did that, we knew we would have to price for SEIS/EIS… There just wasn’t enough upside to be first money in, thankfully feedback from a couple of passes allowed us to course correct.
What piece of advice would you give to other people in similar position as to you?
Our pitch wasn’t resonating, so we reached out to Janrain’s later stage investors in Menlo Park for pitch feedback (friendlies that did well on the exit). “Mayur, if we were not friends I would have closed your deck at slide 2”.
Our investor deck was pitching a Product/Solution not an investment, we had to pivot to value creation.
What is the most frustrating thing you find about the startup fundraising ecosystem?
Outside of former colleagues coming in as angels, I raised cold. This was very time consuming, and I was very grateful to the funds that had either democratised their inbound deal flow and the ones that gave quick feedback. Grrr to the ones that don’t.
What you would like to see change in the startup fundraising ecosystem within the next 5 years?
In the UK we are very lucky with SEIS and EIS, however I do think the 6 month longstop prevents UK founders from doing a ratchet/traction based raise. I felt forced into filling out the round and a big bang. With a 12 month long stop I could have gotten back to building the business faster.