Kunwar Raj, Co-Founder, NoApp. Ex-Founder @ Invoid.Co.

Only a few people with willpower and the tenacity for success decide to bring about a change in society. Here’s one such inspiring tale, of Kunwar Raj, who was determined to ease out KYC verification by digitizing the process, through Invoid.co.

End To End Identity Verification Solutions For Banks, Financial Institutions, Online Gaming, Education, Communities & Rental Platforms.

I had a meeting with a friend and had to book an Uber taxi. Those were the times when you could book an Uber only through the Paytm app. I couldn’t book my taxi because I had not done the KYC verification. So I decided to do the KYC verification, but it took me an entire week to get it done. I had to physically map my documents, and tire my legs out for such a simple process… I decided to bring about a change!

The saying goes, 

Necessity is the mother of invention

YC - What were your childhood and early days before your entrepreneurial journey began?

Kunwar – I was born and brought up in Delhi. I haven’t had a regular childhood. My father was busy round the clock managing a business and a restaurant, and my mother was also working. My grandfather was a businessman too, who had to start from scratch twice. I grew up amidst this relentless hard work, and I believe that has influenced me a lot.

I was good at academics. I picked up tennis during my school days and played Nationals. Tennis disciplined my life and made me self-sufficient. Later in my life, I realized playing tennis was more like entrepreneurship, for I had to back myself without a team and gained confidence in myself.

I pursued a Bachelor’s degree in Management studies and finance at Shaheed Sukhdev College of Business Studies. I took up various initiatives and projects during college and was also quite actively involved in extracurricular activities. 

YC - What were your choices post-college?

Kunwar – Post college I joined KPMG India –  Providing M&A advisory services and support to private equity clients and other strategic investors through commercial due diligence, business plan assessments, financial modeling, market assessments and growth strategy. It was good initially, but I felt stagnated after a year or so. I thus decided to quit the job and go for higher studies. After spending a month or two preparing, I gave my GMAT. I travelled a bit too. 

Accidentally, I came across the MIT Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship Bootcamp – https://bootcamps.mit.edu/. It was a one year course, so I decided to join it. I met Sarthak Goel, my co-founder, there. That was the first time I interacted with someone from purely a tech domain. I had started researching technology and start-ups. I wanted to do a tech-product business. Sarthak’s interests were product and tech, and he had the required experience. Our skills were complementary, and we both had the same vision, to build a scalable tech business from India.

YC - What was the thought process behind choosing the tech domain?

Kunwar – Observing my father’s business taught me 3 things: 

  1. Advertising physical products isn’t a scalable business.
  2. Physical products demand a lot of investment.
  3. Physical products are geo-specific and customized hence less scalable.

I wanted to transcend these limitations, and technology was the answer. Although e-business is operationally heavy, the boot camp guided me on starting. It focused on four key principles:

  1. Discipline
  2. Entrepreneurship Development
  3. Identifying problem statements and
  4. Building the first version of the product.
YC - How did you find the right product-market fit? 

Kunwar – I would like to divide this into broadly three phases:

Phase 1 – Our first thoughts fell on cameras and CCTVs. We decided to look if we could build something that would enable us in analysing the data collected through these. It could be anything, including the demographic details of customers or their purchase patterns. 

But the plan had its drawbacks:

  1. The cameras were of different qualities and we were not able to collect or convert the data equally. 
  2. Scalability was again less, as we couldn’t expand it into further domains.
  3. Our vision of building a sustainable tech business was not yet fulfilled.

Phase 2 – It was during one of these days the next idea struck me. At that time, one could only pay Uber through Paytm. To book a taxi, I had to get my KYC done, and the whole process was strenuous and frustrating. We discussed the onboarding of users with many companies and how the KYC was done. We realised that the KYC verification was an issue for the customer and the company alike. It was the major dropout step during the process of registration, and I saw it as an opportunity. 

Phase 3 – We hence researched it and then started working with a background verification company. We built various computer vision tools for document detection and face recognition. We landed a few customers then. Within six or seven months, we were able to customize the products and completely pivoted to the domain.

YC - Can you talk a bit about your journey in Y Combinator?

Kunwar – We were rejected twice before getting accepted to Y Combinator. The reason for the first rejection was that we were at the initial stage. We had few customers and were shadowed by the background verification company. The second time, the revenue was slightly higher, but we got rejected again. We did not apply for the next batch, instead analysed and made two changes in our strategy:

  1. We tried to acquire our own customers.
  2. We added on APIs and products to increase the average revenue per head.

We finally got into YC in 2021. We were working during the day, and all the meetings took place at night. So we had our pockets full and many sleepless nights. We interacted with companies in the B2B space, founders who’ve built great businesses. The best thing there was being with a group of start-ups, which was motivating enough, that we weren’t alone in the journey.

YC - What were the major takeaways from YC?

Kunwar – Mainly three things:

  1. Experiment more, fail more. If you’re exploring a new feature and looking to pivot as well, you won’t get to know the actual feedback without trying it out. Even large companies struggle to iterate or shift to new products due to the procedural lag. 
  2. Invest in human resources. You need good and like minded people to build a great team. People with experience and skills matter. We started with two, Sarthak and me, and are now a team of twenty-three. My philosophy of work is always to focus on collective capability. Not delegating works was an initial mistake I committed, but focusing on it has started showing better results. So the team is important, and teamwork has always been the motto.
  3. Find the right investor. Your investor should understand your business and the space you are in. 

At present we’re focusing on going beyond KYC, adding more APIs and building an ecosystem around onboarding. This is also aimed at expanding our usage-based revenue.

YC - This question is a personal favourite, which is that one line that you find motivation in? 

Kunwar – I follow this 5/25 rule of Warren Buffet. It says if you wish to complete 25 things that you would love to, pick the five most important ones out and focus on them because that helps you concentrate. I’ve kept it in mind all along so that I don’t digress or lose focus on things that matter. 

You are more or less the sum average of the people around you. I am, therefore, deeply indebted to my father and grandfather. They were inspirational and taught me perseverance. I also keep a cool head in worse situations, because – 

“Tough times don’t last, tough people, do!”

YC - What would you like to say to the young entrepreneurs out there?

Kunwar – I think that it is very important to take that plunge. You sometimes have to be bold enough to leave something behind and bravely pursue that dream of yours. I was always tempted to continue my job, but I knew that I would only be wasting another year of my life. 

People are afraid to get out of their comfort zones, but one has to come out of the cocoons to fly high. Now is the right time, and procrastination is the first step to failure.

Secondly, consistency is the key. Most companies don’t sustain enough due to the lack of consistency. Discipline is important too. If you sustain yourself for 5-10 years, you surely are disciplined and consistent. 

YC - What are your further plans? Are you planning to raise the funding, maybe in the next two or three years?

Kunwar – I haven’t thought of funding as of now. Our customers have developed along with us and their revenue has multiplied. We are now launching a platform involving self-onboarding. That’s our major focus right now, to facilitate easy accessibility. People now wish to be self-reliant, without going through many hands, so we aim to provide them with that. 

YC – Thank you for sharing this wonderful journey with us. Best wishes for your future steps.

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