Several impact investing luminaries are among the founding investors of the fund: Mike Murray (co-founder of microfinance pioneer, Unitus Labs), Jeff Clark, Vinod Khosla (Founder, Khosla Ventures and Khosla Impact), 500 Startups, and Bob Gay (Formerly Huntsman-Gay and Bain Capital). Co-investors in India include T.V. Mohandas Pai (Chairman of Aarin Capital Partners), and Dr. Ranjan Pai (CEO of Manipal Education and Medical Group).
“We are delighted that leading investors share Unitus Seed Fund’s conviction that serving low-income customers with free-market principles and business discipline can sustainably improve the lives of those living on under $4/day,” said Dave Richards, Managing Partner of Unitus Seed Fund. “Our investees will do this by bringing products, services and income-generating enterprises directly to their communities.”
By investing in entrepreneurs who are building innovative companies that serve the 800 million low-income citizens of India, USF expects to deliver both strong financial returns and substantial social impact. One of USF’s first investments, Hippocampus Learning Centers, has expanded its rural education centers and has recently received a substantial follow-on growth capital infusion. Others in USF’s portfolio are making solid progress in preparation for accelerating their business growth. Adding to its portfolio of four investments completed in 2012, USF anticipates making ten new investments in 2013, and 10-12 per year going forward.
Commenting on the opportunities Unitus Seed Fund will pursue, Vinod Khosla, Founder, Khosla Ventures and Khosla Impact commented, “The under-served populations of India represent not just a development need, but in fact form a series of large markets with significant and often untapped potential. Unitus Seed Fund will bring the early-stage investing needed to develop the teams and technologies capable of serving these markets. In the process, investors, entrepreneurs and businesses can create wealth for themselves by providing value to the masses.”
Building businesses that must operate on narrow margins and at high volume is notoriously challenging. USF will offer the operating expertise of its founders and staff to all portfolio companies. Additionally, USF has recruited its first twelve “Venture Advisors” to help companies thrive. These individuals have a wide range of skills in corporate and entrepreneurial settings, are passionate about serving the base-of-pyramid in India. Learn more about USF’s venture advisors here.