Y Combinator has, for the first time, inducted three domestic startups into its summer batch, making it by far the largest representation of Indian startups at its accelerator programme. Times of India reported that- Innov8, a co-working space; JustRide, a self-drive car rental app, and Meesho, an app for sellers on Facebook and WhatsApp, have been selected by YC, for a three-month programme based out of its Mountain View headquarters. Each cycle culminates in Demo Day, when the startups present their companies to a carefully selected, invite-only audience.
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YC typically invests $120,000 in startups for a seven-percent equity stake across two batches every year, and is considered to be a fertile ground by venture capitalists who fund emerging startups. Speaking to TOI, Sam Altman, President of YC, said,
Each of the founders from India in the current batch has personal experience with the problems they are solving, which gives them unique insights into the market they operate in. India is now only second to the US in terms of applications received from a country, higher than Canada or the UK.
While Sam Altman did not disclose the exact number of applications that came in from India, he said that Innov8, JustRide, and Meesho are focussed on building for India, an exciting and growing market.
YC has earlier funded startups — ClearTax, an online tax return filer, and Razorpay, a payments gateway, which too have India-centric products. ClearTax recently announced a $12-million Series A round led by venture fund SAIF Partners with Valley heavyweights like Peter Thiel's FF Angel, AngelList's Naval Ravikant, PayPal's Co-founder Max Levchin and Sequoia Capital, among others, having participated in its seed round. Razorpay, on the other hand, had raised $9 million led by Tiger Global in late 2015, and more recently in July 2016 announced that Mastercard had made a strategic investment in them. Another interesting entrant was Zipphone, which made its way into Y-Combinator's Summer batch of 2014.
One of the most influential early-stage investors in technology, Sam Altman is still bullish on the Indian market despite market corrections and slowdown in the market. He said,
We don't worry about short-term ups and downs in capital markets. There's talent in India, and the capital will come.
Last year, Sam had told TOI that India was capable of producing multiple billion-dollar startups and that YC was looking to be part of the country's burgeoning ecosystem. "India is one of the largest and fastest growing markets globally, and that's why we have been investing in Indian startups over the last couple of years. I think there will be multiple $10-billion-plus companies which will be started in India in the next few years and, hopefully, we will get a shot at funding some of those. Walking the talk, YC will be sending a couple of partners to India in late September to meet one-on-one with Indian teams. We'll announce the visit and office hours, sign-ups in early August,"
Vidit Aatrey, Co-founder of Meesho, told TOI, "YC has been a great resource of on-demand help for us, whether in product development, strategy or even resolving crisis situations. The advice from YC partners (and other YC startups) has made us challenge our assumptions and this intervention is extremely useful for early-stage startups like us."
An investor in Airbnb, Dropbox and Stripe, among many others, YC's broadened its investment areas and expanded into emerging markets like India after Sam took over in 2014 from legendary computer programmer and co-founder of YC Paul Graham.
Ashwarya Singh, CEO and Co-founder of JustRide, said that they were constantly tweaking their business model to reach high levels of efficiency — both in terms of operations and technology in consultation with the YC partners. "With this new war chest, expansion in India will be the immediate goal after the completion of YC and our main focus will be on JustConnect, which is our P2P arm."