Inside the mind of the start-up investor

14 Feb 2019 | by Les Roches

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Logic, simplicity and passion.

For hotel and hospitality investment expert Yateendra Sinh, these are the foundations for entrepreneurial success.

Having worked at the senior executive level in the hospitality industry for the last two decades, Yateendra has amassed a wealth of knowledge and insights. And he was delighted to share some wisdom with postgraduate students at Les Roches, when he took part in a student-organized entrepreneurship event called “Own Your Story”.

“I’ve created businesses, as well as bought and sold companies on behalf of clients. So when I was asked if I would like to come into Les Roches and be part of Own Your Story I said ‘sure’. As long as you can transfer something to the next generation, why not?” he says.

In typical Les Roches style, the event was a combination of ‘learning’ and ‘doing’. Its centrepiece was a competition for students to present a business idea in two minutes – a classic elevator pitch.

Alongside Yateendra, the judging panel also included two members of Les Roches’ faculty, Franc Avila and Ruth Puhr. Student Cédric Vinckier supplied the winning pitch.

“The first ingredient we were looking for was logic to the business idea. With some elevator pitches it can be hard to understand what is going to happen and where the value is going to be created,” Yateendra says.

“Second, I was looking for simplicity, because in a startup scenario you can only execute an idea if it is simple. Third, and perhaps most importantly, I’m looking for passion in the individual. Because if the person is not passionate about what they are going to do, they’ll never complete the task.”

People buy people

In today’s investment market, Yateendra adds, decisions are now weighted as much towards the person as the idea or concept. “In the old days you invested on the basis of ideas and concepts. But the market has shifted. Now investors want companies that have bright people who are willing to put their sweat and blood into making their idea successful.”

He also had good news for Les Roches students hoping to join the sizeable cohort of alumni now running their own businesses.

“The cost of entry into hospitality business is quite low – certainly in comparison to, say, manufacturing,” he says. “This ability to start micro businesses without needing extensive capital is a feature of hospitality, because your principal stock in trade is you as an individual.”

The added value of passion

He used a restaurant as a way of illustrating his point. “In the restaurant business, the ingredients are often simple as well as similar to those used by the business up the street. It’s the joy and passion that is communicated to the customers which keeps them coming back.

“If you are just buying potatoes then you know the cost per kilo as a commodity. But in a restaurant, you are paying far more than the straight cost per kilo, because you are paying for the passion. This comes from the individual, and it’s what we encourage students and graduates to develop.”

Now Yateendra is putting his insights to work for himself, with the launch of his new hospitality advisory practice YS & Associates Sàrl.

“Hospitality as an industry, and as a function of other industries, has never been more important,” he concludes. “Tourism has become a strategic lever of development across the world. But more than this, whenever there are customer interactions there is a requirement to listen, to understand where the customer is, what his or her needs are, then deliver those with grace and passion. That is hospitality.”

Les Roches

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