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Bharati Jacob on Seed Investments and what it takes to build the Indian Startup Story?

Team YS
6th Apr 2011
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Having returned to India in the early 90s with an MBA from Wharton, Bharati was part of the start up team at Infinity Venture Fund, one of the first early stageVC funds in India.  Infinity made some brilliant investments in Indiabulls, Indiagames and a couple of other successful startups and was an early believer in India’s growth story.After the tremendous success and high return exits from Infinity came Seedfund, jointly founded by Bharati, Mahesh Murthy and Pravin Gandhi. During the last four years, Seedfund has occupied a special place in India’s early stage startup story with popular investee companies like Redbus, Printo, Carwale, Vaatsalya, EduSports and several more.

With a new round of capital in their kitty, Seedfund remains bullish about early stage startups and has offices in Mumbai, Bangalore and New Delhi.

Yourstory recently met up with Bharati and here’s an excerpt of the conversation:

You have been an investor for over a decade now. How have you seen the Indian startup eco-system evolve?

The eco-system has evolved really well over the last 10 years – it is a lot more mature, has many more players in the eco-system. And the entrepreneurial zeal is growing by leaps and bounds which augurs very well for the economy. We have seen entrepreneurs evolve over a period of time… from doing “copy+paste” of US models to thinking differently and developing models that work in India. People are willing to take lot more risks today with the business models than they did earlier. Similarly, I think venture investors have also matured over this time period and are less swayed by “hyper” and trends than their own beliefs and convictions.

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Please tell us about your Investment philosophy? What prompts you as a fund to invest in one startup vis-a-vis another?

At Seedfund, we are very clear on what we bring to the table. For us, its not a transactional approach to investments but a long term commitment to creating value and meaning in the ventures we invest in. I would say that the alignment with this kind of thinking from an entrepreneur is an important criterion.

On the kind of investments we will do, it will be in technology and technology enabled ventures across sectors. We like unorganized spaces and want to create market leaders in niche and evolving sectors. Also we look at investing in capital-efficient businesses that can be scaled easily. Our focus remains on Indian startups that have early markets in India.

Apart from the funding, what else can startups expect from Seedfund?

Working at ground level with entrepreneurs, we know exactly what the challenges or needs of an early stage entrepreneur are. Early-stage companies typically need advice, connections and the benefit of experience much more than they need cash. We do give cash. But what we bring to the table is years of experience across sectors and an entrepreneurial mindset to resolve challenges and scale up businesses. Seedfund is an entrepreneurial journey for us as well and I think we bring entreprenreurial empathy to bear on our interactions with the founders.

Please tell us about your journey through these years and what keeps you so driven?

I have always done what I believe is right and what I enjoy as opposed what the environment around me thinks or expects me to do.  After my Wharton stint, I decided to return to India. But everyone around me was shocked and doubted my decision. They tried to convince me to stay back in the US. But my heart was set and so I came to India.

As a person I think have a “startup” mindset. I never related to a 9 to 5 job in a corporate set-up. I always wanted to do my own thing. I made mistakes and learnt from them. I like to be around people who are hungry to prove themselves. Luckily, the last ten years have been a tremendous learning experience and a very meaningful personal journey. I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting a very diverse set of entrepreneurs and listening to their passions, dreams – many have gone on to create very meaningful enterprises.

If you are a Startup looking at raising capital then get intouch with Bharati at bharati [at]seedfund [dot] in

 

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