It’s not often that you hear about a series D round in India. Startup success stories are just starting to emerge and the news about Vuclip, a mobile video content site that serves more than 20 million video clips, raising a $13 million series D round made our eyebrows rise up. Nickhil Jakatdar, the co-founder of Vuclip has had a luminous career. Having graduated from University of Pune in Maharashtra, India, Nickhil went to the US for his Masters and PhD. from University of California, Berkeley and started up his first company in his third year of his Ph.D. based on his thesis.
Setting up a company from college and getting acquired in a couple of years, Nickhil knew that he had this insatiable startup bug. He went on starting up companies and selling them and in the process has raised money around 40 times! “The fact that I was in the Valley during the Dot Com boom stoked my entrepreneurial fire and I started up. The initial success was a huge confidence boost and landing up on exciting ideas and executing them has always thrilled me,” shares Nickhil. Praesagus (a MIT incubated company), Command CAD and Timbre technologies were some of the illustrations of companies that Nickhil help build and then sold off. Vuclip was started in 2006 and Nickhil invested in the company but he was involved in multiple activities at the time. “I joined Vuclip full time late in 2007 and the journey since then has been fabulous,” shares Nickhil.
5 Years of Growth
Vuclip, at its core provides video content on mobile and concentrates on the emerging markets where consumption on mobile is rising exponentially. Started at a time when mobile still hadn’t picked up, Vuclip had a good head start. “Devices did not support videoback then, the iPhones of the world weren’t there, carriers pretty much controlled everything,” informs Nickhil but all was about to change. Vuclip serves more than 20 million video views daily now and has a very strong user base. Vuclip is a 120 people strong team with offices in Delhi, Milpitas CA, Singapore, Beijing, Dubai and Shenzhen. The times have changed, Nokia is no longer the most selling phone, mobile is the first screen for millions and videos are in.
“From the very early on, we believed the ‘Browser based’ approach is the way to go for masses. Applications have just started to pick up in the emerging markets. Our decision to stick to the browser has paid off really well so far and now we are going heavy on applications as well,” says Nickhil about their strategies.
Picking B2C over B2B
“This has been a debate in many of the startups I’ve been involved with from more than a decade,” says Nickhil. Drawing from his experience, Nickhil adds, “B2B is valid when technology has a long term differentiation. Otherwise, the pricing becomes the issue and someone will come in at cheaper rates and can take the game away.” B2C is all about building a brand. It is hard but it is something that is very hard to snatch away from you. “Tough to build but once done, others cannot catch up. Look at YouTube on the desktop, we want something similar with Vuclip on the mobile and are fast approaching it,” says Nickhil.
Trends in the Mobile Market
Vuclip has dominance in many of the developing countries like Indonesia, Phillipines and Latin America but Nickhil picks India as a case study. “There are three key trends that are shaping the mobile market,” says Nickhil.
- “The sub INR 5000 smartphones are causing the revolution. The Asha series, the cheaper android phones and the likes are the ones that 90% of the mass will be using. Mobile is the first screen for them and these people like videos”
- “Until a year back, people used to use internet via pay-as-you-go model and this was costly. The INR 98 for a 2 GB package has changed the game. People use the net freely now.”
- “TRAI regulations have also cleaned up to an extent. This has built up a lot of consumer confidence as well.”
On Raising Four Rounds and Personal Investments
Nickhil Jakatdar with his terrific track record is not someone who’d have to look for funds. But he attributes the raising of funds a lot to timing as well. “In January 2008, when we raised the first round, the mobile video market was really really heating up! We raised the round in two days!” shares Nickhil. Subsequent round was during terrible times in 2009 and in a time most of the startups were shutting down. Vuclip managed to raise the money in 6 months which by Indian standards is average time taken for a deal to go through in good times! Round 3 took about 3 months and the recent final series D took around one and a half months to close in spite of the thorough due diligence.
On a personal front, Nickhil has invested in about 20 companies in the Valley, India and China. He plans to make more investments and will travelling to India later this year.
We’ll bring you more about Nickhil’s investments and work at Vuclip. Stay tuned and if the mobile space really interests you, don’t forget to join us for Mobisparks on November 24th in Bangalore.