A non-technical student interested in building a company

By Abhishek Sethi

Many of the successful startup stories have come from people who studied science & engineering. I think it’s not a general rule, and you could start a large company even if you study History at Delhi University.

We selected 18 teams in our first batch of gradCapital investments, and out of those 6 were non-technical teams. 1 of them raised from Rainmatter Capital, and 1 from Antler (and Kunal Shah). They are Ripen & Nudge. Both of these teams studied in Delhi University, and never knew how to code. So within gC, we definitely love meeting teams who studied liberal arts or commerce.

Kanishka & Gaurav studied at Venky College, and Ritvik & Heet studied commerce at SRCC.

I do believe that both these teams will build large businesses, mostly technology. And we’d invest in them any day of the year regardless of the traction they have.

Kanishka & Ritvik played football in 12th standard so well that they got admissions in DU as a result of that. Kanishka then got obsessed with gaming, and later started writing for an e-sports journal in the US. He started earning money through it as a college student. This is when he learnt so much about esports that he wanted to start a company around it. It was also a result of ambition - that now that he knows so much about something, he wanted to do something about it, probably bigger than taking a job. That’s when Ritvik introduced me to Kanishka.

Kanishka is quite hard to not like. And that is his super-power. Because that can cover up for not knowing coding. Now your job is to find someone, who knows how to code and also likes you. And because Kanishka was hard to not like, he would find people to help him out. 

Ritvik was one of the first interviews I took for gradCapital investments. He previously tried making another product for rent management in Bangalore - his heart was in tech despite studying economics. That also came off to me as a bit rebellious - because it's much easier to get a job at JPMC than start a tech company for someone in his college. And you kind of ignore the odds, to still build a tech company. This can only come from a high amount of belief in self.

He texted me that he had made his colleague resign at the company he was interning at. At that moment I knew he is not just likeable to me, he is likeable to many. And that’s important when you don’t know how to code. This was just about when we were about to give him an offer but hadn’t - so it wasn’t that he did this because he had an offer already. He did this because he knew he was going to build a company regardless.

These are positive signs which we pick, of believing in self. Because without a disproportionate amount of self-belief, it’s almost impossible to build a company as a very young person.

And contrary to what most people think, that doesn’t lead to arrogance.

Self-belief & ambition leads to acknowledging that you are not perfect, but you can still have the ability to win - and this can make you authentic, which can make you likeable that people help you out and want to work with you.

Let me share what you can do.

Firstly, I think to start a company, you need only 2 things:

  1. An idea that you believe in
  2. Ability to test it, by building on it

Now if you are any student who studies law or english, anything but tech - this is my advice:

  1. Do something that you really care about. When you do something that you never thought you could do, but you did achieve, it feels magical. So follow your obsessions despite roadblocks. You’ll hear many people say “you are distracted” or you need to focus on the “convention” - so it’s definitely not easy to follow the obsession, because it can make you feel like you are put on an “off track”. It can be scary, so only do it when you can.
  2. When you are getting good at things, make sure you put yourself to the test. Put yourself out in the world either in competitions or demonstrations, and make sure you win by getting validated by the world. People who say they feel validated by themselves are lying. You’d build much more self-belief when your work is appreciated by someone. This will make you believe in yourself to be effective.
  3. Many times it can come from things you care about, you just keep coming to a new place with new knowledge, and you’ll hit a point where you can create a large company. Kanishka started an esports consumer company, and then realised that he was facing challenges in growth - so he built a product to solve for consumer companies. 

Unique observations are always important at the beginning of starting a company, and one way of getting that easily is to be so involved in something that you learn something that a lot of people haven't.


If you love to paint, keep doing it. And don’t do it alone, put it out in the world somehow and gain validation. And maybe then you’ll learn something about the painting industry that others don’t - and that could become your startup idea (great ideas are those that you see out of nowhere).

Obviously this is not a standard template - just the one that we saw more frequent. 

Many times people start companies directly from an observation they have from a thing they are not an expert at. And when they discover that idea, they curiously learn a lot about it. Zepto was never an expert in groceries - but they had a high amount of self-belief that made them start that.

In both situations, high self-belief & learning a lot about a field - both are very important things for success. And something we’ll care about when we evaluate people.

If you are ambitious, can learn fast, have belief in yourself, and are honest: you’ll be likeable enough to get people to work together. At this point, gradCapital will be able to fund you.

03 June, 2023