Four novel spaces ideal for angel investing in the startup ecosystem

20th May 2016
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As a follow-up to my previous crystal ball gazing into the realm of investing trends for early-stage angels, I’d like to share some more thoughts amongst the noise of valuation markdowns, e-commerce players taking potshots at each other and social media babas revealing some hard truths in the maligned Indian startup ecosystem.

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There are a few spaces that might have potential for more players to exist or even newer ones to enter and make a mark. Here are three of them that I am looking out for (and an additional bonus moonshot) –

  1. Single vertical fully-integrated omni-channel commerce – Warby Parker, Bonobos, Greats are all prime examples of how great customer experiences can be built by cutting out the middlemen and celebrity endorsements to give affordable bridge to luxury products at competitive price points. Controlling manufacturing, design, offline touch points in the form of ‘experience zones’ has given these names the advantage of being in control of brand experience and drive heavy repeat purchases.
  2. Skill-based legalised betting – Ever since Supreme Court ruled in favour of game of rummy being a considered as a game of skill and hence forth made betting legal in it, online players have rushed to capture strong niche. For example, Adda52 (online poker & rummy). These are very huge markets and only bound to grow, and as a cherry on the top, customer lifetime value here can be anything from zero to millions.
  3. B2B fulfillment – All startups thus far have worried about fulfilling the needs of the consumer. There are businesses with much bigger fulfillment worries ranging from restaurants (fruits & vegetables etc.), daily supplies & stationary, office equipment and other procurement requirements. This can be a long-term relationship play and the churn is definitely going to be lower than any of the consumer-discounting and cashback plays.
  4. AI as a Service (AIaaS) – I am of the opinion that artificial intelligence (AI) and other intelligence-based algorithms (not core to one’s particular startup/venture) can be used to monetise their intelligence capabilities and spare service capacity, much like how AWS uses their infrastructure elastically. Opening up APIs to let other startups use your intelligence from time to time can also serve as a feed to make your engine smarter. This can open up possibilities for a whole new bunch of startups coming up in a much faster and ‘layered’ way.

These are just some of the white/wide spaces that have caught my attention recently. I believe there are plenty of other opportunities that can help India leapfrog into the category of innovative creators rather than globalisation operators. Hope this serves as a note for opening up of the playbook.

I am reachable on my Twitter account (@somani_utsav) to take discussions forward.

Update: An earlier version of this article mentioned Dream11 as a 'e-prediction sports betting' game. We have corrected this. Dream11 is a Fantasy Sports game, not an e-prediction sports betting game (e-sports is very different from fantasy sports). By being a game of skill, Dream11 is exempt from gambling laws and is not into sports betting.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)

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