India is a nation brimming with entrepreneurial energy. Last year, more than $5 billion was pumped into the ecosystem across more than 300 deals. Startups are maturing and entering a growth stage but there is a big chunk which is still in its infancy. “The Indian startup ecosystem is still nascent -- we have young entrepreneurs, lots of energy, great ideas but little experience building companies. Having spent 20 years in Silicon Valley, bringing the Valley professionalism to India was something we were passionate about,” says Shripati Acharya, one of the managing partners at AngelPrime, a seed-stage Venture Capital Fund based in Bangalore.
AngelPrime is a fund focused on building disruptive product companies out of India by bringing a combination of first-hand entrepreneurial experience, operating expertise and meaningful capital. The partners Shripati Acharya, Sanjay Swamy, Bala Parthasarathy and Amit Somani have a truck load of experience building technology products in the Valley and in India. “Our role model is Andreesen Horowitz in the Valley which started in 2009 but now is the number one VC firm in the US. It did that with a deep involvement model,” says Shripati, who is described in a few words here -- IIT engineer, Stanford computer scientist, Harvard MBA, entrepreneur, and business leader. Sanjay and Bala have similar profiles and very recently, they got Amit Somani on board as a partner. Amit is a venerated product guru who has a lot of operational experience with MakeMyTrip.
“We realize that building a successful company is a lot more than just a product. It requires business partnerships, networks, right funding strategy, and right initial hires. And to pull all that off for a couple of young founders is very difficult. Being an active and helpful sounding board for the founders thus made sense for us,” says Shripati.
This is the philosophy AngelPrime stands by and one could very well see that with their partnership with ZipDial. Sanjay Swamy is on the board of ZipDial and both the teams worked closely together all the way till ZipDial got bought out for around $40 million. It is a great success story for everyone in the ecosystem and Ezetap seems to be on the same path in the payments space. “At heart we are entrepreneurs -- having done companies before, we don't want to be pure financial investors. Getting our hands dirty is something we enjoy, and felt doing it this way makes us a highly differentiated seed investor,” says Shripati.
Congratulating Amit on the move, Deep Kalra, the CEO of MakeMyTrip, said, “Amit Somani made a material contribution to MakeMyTrip from a strategy, growth and execution point of view through, and beyond our IPO. He continues to play an active advisory board role with us.” Amit has been very active with the startup ecosystem in India and helped dozens of startups over many years. The AngelPrime approach of not just investing but working closely with entrepreneurs at the formative stages of their companies is something what excited Amit. He recently spoke to entrepreneurs at YourStory's TechSparks as well:
ZipDial, Ezetap and HackerEarth are the three companies AngelPrime has come out openly in the Press with but it has made seven investments till now. Smartowner is an AngelPrime company which is a real estate site for property investors. Headed by Vikram Chari along with Shripati and Bala on board as co-foudners, SmartOwner is a startup in the online real estate sector which has remained very low key. There are two more undisclosed investment names which will be revealed once the company reaches a market fit.
Chennai-based Nimble Wireless recently joined the AngelPrime portfolio by raising $500k. Nimble Wireless specializes in IoT and M2M technologies helping customers to wirelessly connect, control and manage their remote assets. The company provides state-of-the-art M2M and connected wireless products and cloud-based software services encompassing cellular, GPS, Bluetooth and Zigbee technologies. Started by Siva Sivakumar in 2007, Nimble Wireless has a presence in India and the US and will use the funding to develop new technologies, expand research and development capabilities and also for marketing to enable faster growth.
The partnership with AngelPrime comes at a stage where the company is working on launching its next generation products and solutions with more advanced features and technologies such as advanced environmental sensors, BLE, industry leading battery life, location accuracy and user friendly mobile and web applications. Nimble Wireless will leverage AngelPrime to target global markets such as the US, Europe, Asia and Africa.
The first fund was worth $10 million for AngelPrime and is now looking to raise its second fund of $25 million. Does that mean more investments in the coming times? “No, the deep involvement model doesn't work with lots of investments. It has worked very well for us so far and we want to continue with a formula that has been successful!” says Shripati. The early-stage funding support in India has always been a topic of discussion – BlumeVentures stormed into the scene with a lot of investments and then pausing to help portfolio rise further and is now in the process of a second fund raise. The Morpheus was the first accelerator in India that invested in 70+ startups before backing out of early-stage investing to focus on a different model, Rajesh Sawhney's GSF making a flurry of announcements and a lot more. There will always be questioning and there's no one way forward but with the maturing ecosystem, AngelPrime will play a key role in carving out startup success stories.