Have a dead or dying startup? You want to be on this list

Pankaj Mishra August 9, 2016 3 min

A secret list of startups that are dead or are about to die is being quietly circulated in Bengaluru among investors, potential acquirers and angel investors.

The list, called “The Deadpool List”, includes around 400 names of startups, their founders and other details. Perhaps the most comprehensive list of its kind, it has been prepared by Tracxn, a startup data analytics firm backed by marquee angel investors including Ratan Tata, Nandan Nilekani, Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, and WhatsApp vice president Neeraj Arora.

So why would venture capitalists and large companies’ founders want to know more about startups that are failing?

First of all, entrepreneurial talent is tough to find through traditional means of recruitment. The Deadpool List offers the opportunity to spot that talent. At least two founders on the list confirmed being approached by Flipkart.

And, secondly, for whatever it’s worth, potential investors want to be sure to steer clear of ideas that could never take off.

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] “The list also helps figure out patterns of me-too ideas that appear great, but have no future,” said an executive at a venture capital firm, who’s seen the list. [/pullquote]

Investors such as Rutvik Doshi of Inventus believe hiring founders of failed startups helps build a robust ecosystem.

“If there is a culture of ‘failed’ startups being ‘acqui-hired’ then it acts like a safety net for founders as well as investors. It encourages them to take more risks without fearing failure, which in turn creates a virtuous cycle of large number of ideas being executed,” said Doshi.

Despite their ‘growth pangs’, some of India’s biggest startups including Flipkart, Paytm, and Practo are hungry for experienced talent.

“In India we are getting to the phase where we have enough scaled companies that can acqui-hire and kickstart this virtuous cycle. Hopefully, we will see a Google/Facebook come out of India,” said Doshi.

Now, the big question; which companies are on the dying or dead startup list?

To be honest, the list doesn’t throw up any big failures. It has some familiar names such as personal health startup GetFitGo (shut down in March 2016), online jewellery startup JewelsKart (struggling and wanting to sell, apparently), and even Phone Warrior, which had raised $550,000 from Light Speed in December 2013. And then there are dozens of me-too and obscure startup ideas. These include Surgerica.com (online healthcare services that shut down in March 2016), Bakbak.io (online customer analytics platform), Styll.in (a yet-to-be-launched smartphone app for discovering fashion products), Medic4me.com (a Practo clone), Pebb.in (WhatsApp-based concierge services), AutoRaja (on-demand auto rickshaw service), and so on.

The list also includes founding teams of failed ventures from within larger startups, such as Ola Store and Ola Cafe.

Globally, such lists are curated regularly by not just individual venture capital firms, but also the likes of CB Insights, which sells a list of dying startups for around $6,895. 

In some ways, curation of the startup Deadpool List underscores the growing up of the Indian startup ecosystem, where entrepreneurial failures have been considered stigma. As other successful ecosystems such as Silicon Valley have realised, entrepreneurial failures don’t mean the end of the world.

We will update this post after hearing from Tracxn or any other startup we’ve mentioned from the Deadpool list above.