The war between online real estate portal Housing.com and American venture capital firm Sequoia Capital, which started on question-and-answer website Quora last week, has taken a new turn. Several in the Indian online consumer business turned to micro-blogging website Twitter to share their views. Sequoia has invested in internet firms in India, including Zomato, Ola, Groupon India, TinyOwl, Car Dekho, and Freecharge. It is not an investor in Housing.com.
Several entrepreneurs, investors and sector veterans have been vocal in siding with either the young entrepreneur, Rahul Yadav (chief executive of Housing.com), or Sequoia.
Sachin Bansal, the co-founder and chief executive of Flipkart, took on Sequoia. He posted on Twitter, “Sequoia isn’t an investor with us. I would just say I’m glad to have it that way.” Avlesh Singh, the co-founder and chief executive of WebEngage, said, “Buy billboards, buy print ads…got more money? Badmouth someone and hire a public relations agency to ‘get the word’ out.”
“Regardless of what may have happened or what differences were brewing, the tone and tenor of Yadav’s email outburst was unprofessional and unbecoming of someone who leads one of India’s best-funded high-potential start-ups,” said Ravi Gururaj, the chairman of Nasscom’s Product Conclave. He added when someone mentioned the language of the email, he first thought it was an email relating to Yogendra Yadav of the Aam Aadmi Party. “Who would have thought an entrepreneur would use such foul language like ‘dude’, ‘brainwashing’, ‘inhumane’, ‘unethical’?” Gururaj said.
Angel investor and founder of GSF Accelerator, Rajesh Sawhney, highlighted another concern in a tweet: “Is it time for a reality check after a housing bubble and ugly display of hubris?”
Founded by 12 graduates of the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, in June 2012, Housing.com helps the real estate sector mine and analyse data. The company, which had recently attracted funds from Japan’s SoftBank, had reported losses of Rs 48.8 crore on a revenue of Rs 1.9 crore for the financial year ended March 31, 2014, according to filings to the Union ministry of corporate affairs. In an email allegedly leaked last week, Yadav accused Sequoia of doing “inhuman and unethical things” at Housing.com.
“You did the same inhuman and unethical things with large number of entrepreneurs including Ola, TFS (TaxiForSure), Flipkart, Dexetra, and many more…,” Yadav said in the email sent to Sequoia’s Shailendra Singh. “Now I just came to know you are personally and completely after Housing’s employees and are brainwashing them to open some stupid incubation.”
In a reply posted on Quora, Singh of Sequoia said, “I am deeply hurt by this e-mail. I received this at 10 pm last weekend when I was in Hong Kong with the rest of our global partnership, and it came as a surprise and a big disappointment. My best guess is that this mail has been triggered by an offer that we made to one of the Housing employes to join us as an analyst…I encourage people who have questions or concerns about any of this to reach out to me directly. Or even better, talk to any of the entrepreneurs we are privileged to be partners with.”