How Domain Alphas master success?

Rajinder Balaraman
MANAGING DIRECTOR
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Founder Archetypes: Domain Alphas & Why They Succeed

As VCs who are invested deeply in the India story, we are privileged to have a ring- side view of how the best founders think about building businesses and creating value. As VCs who like frameworks and pattern matching, we end up identifying traits of founders who are most likely to succeed. And as VCs who love coining new terms for complex things, we end up with interesting phrases to describe the kind of founders we love to see succeed.

Over the years, we’ve created a few of these at Matrix. Experienced Founders, Digital Industrialists, Infinity Founders. For us these aren’t just jargon words; they’re carefully thought-out terminology that allows us to focus our strategy and approach to helping founders build great companies.

One of our first founder archetypes was Experienced Founders (EFs), when Matrix Founder Avnish Bajaj spoke at length to One Card CEO & Co-Founder Anurag Sinha about the traits that EFs bring to the table when starting up.

There are the twin episodes from 2023 with where Avnish & Rajinder Balaraman laid out the archetypes of The Digital Industrialists and of The Infinity Founders.

Experienced Founders

Digital Industrialist

Infinity Entrepreneur

For those wondering: here’s a shorthand definition.

Digital Industrialists: most storied business people of the world, these are the founders who build conglomerates that change the way a category functions. Entrepreneurs who build early, scale and then proceed to expand in adjacencies. They could be a market leader employing advanced digital technologies to revolutionize traditional industries, improving efficiency, innovation, and business models, or they could be digital first business builders, who expand vertically or horizontally once they begin to dominate their space.

Infinity Founders are visionary tech entrepreneurs who build scalable, impactful businesses through creativity and technology, take their businesses to an infinite growth path, then ask what next? These are founders with unlimited ambition, backed by the ability and vision to scale their businesses infinitely. They usually end up taking companies to a level of immense public value creation.

The next and newest Founder Archetype we’re coining is Domain Alphas. Domain Alphas are founders whose edge lies in their domain knowledge, and their market-tested experience of solving problems for customers. To make it official with an episode of Matrix Moments, Rajinder is joined by Vikram Vaidyanathan and they share their views on Domain Alpha founders, trading great examples of how Domain Alphas build great businesses.

> Domain Alphas Getting to PMF Faster: How the experience of building the ICICI cards business helped the founders of OneCard launch slow, but get it right faster

> Domain Alphas are able to Choose the Right Problems: Knowing the domain allows these founders to spend time on the right problems at the right stage in their building journey. The episode covers how the founders of Country Delight didn’t rush, and spent a significant amount of time understanding the market problems before scaling.

> Domain Alphas Know the Consumer Deeply: This often serves as the key edge that Domain Alphas hold over others – they know the customer’s pain points. Vikram & Avnish discuss this with learnings from how Ola Electric chose to build in two-wheeler EVs when everyone was betting on cars.

> Domain Alphas Know the Right People to Hire: Building in domain gives these founders the unfair advantage of network – especially valuable when you need to work with the best problem solvers, at speed.

> Domain Alphas Navigate Crises Better: Pivots? Regulatory issues? Growth troubles? Domain Alphas invariably find a way to navigate issues and come out with a plan that gets them through.

So is everyone with domain knowledge a Domain Alpha? Vikram & Rajinder’s conversation helps uncover a key difference: Domain Alphas are able to turn their unfair advantage into real success.

The unique thing about domain expertise is that as a founder, either you have it, or you have to acquire it. What do you do if you don’t have domain expertise? Tune in to this episode of Matrix Moments for that part of the playbook.

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