VCs make a play for investment community’s collaborative spirit at Bertelsmann Badminton Championship


VCs donned sportswear and showcased sporting spirit at a badminton tournament in New Delhi to network in a fun and informal way. 

In the last decade, rapid globalisation and the boom in technology have aided young minds by giving wings to innovative ideas and making India a fast-emerging startup nation.

According to a NASSCOM-ZINNOV report, Indian Startup Ecosystem Maturing – 2016, India has the third largest startup community after the US and the UK. The report highlights that India will become home to over 10,500 startups by 2020, employing over 210,000 people.

Significant government-led initiatives like Startup India, Digital India and Make in India have given a push to entrepreneurship development, making India a startup-friendly country. Though the initiatives are creating optimism in the entrepreneurial and investment community, VCs continue to face several challenges as far as funding is concerned. These include finding worthy ideas and businesses, risk mitigation, meeting funding milestones, policy barriers and high taxation among others.

Rahul Chandra, MD of Helion Venture Partners, said: “While funding early stage startups, it’s difficult to predict how the business will do going ahead and you often need to bet on the business idea.”

Participants at the Bertelsmann Badminton Championship 2017

Though entrepreneurs often cite funding as one of the biggest challenges of the startup journey, VCs seem to hold a different view and feel that a clear business idea is crucial for fundraising.

Sandeep Sharma, Fellow at Kstart (Kalaari Capital’s seed fund initiative), said: “If you have a great idea, investors will want to invest in you. VCs are on the lookout for great ideas and businesses. Entrepreneurs need to ensure that they are communicating their vision as clearly as possible. We need entrepreneurs as much as entrepreneurs need us.”

Networking over a badminton game

VC funds are committed for a duration of 5-10 years and they compete, co-invest and collaborate during this long journey of the startup. They often meet in formal settings where ‘startup’ is the buzzword in most conversations.

To help VCs bond better, exchange ideas and network in an informal way, Bertelsmann India Investments (BII), the strategic investment arm of German media giant, Bertelsmann, organised a badminton tournament at the Squash & Badminton Stadium at Delhi’s Siri Fort on September 21, 2017. The India-specific event aimed to celebrate the spirit of collaboration in the Indian VC ecosystem.

Pankaj Makkar, MD, Bertelsmann India Investments, said: “Through this initiative, we aim to exchange ideas in an informal fashion and celebrate the spirit of the investment community. This is the second year that we are hosting the championship and the turnout has been great.”

Taking off the investor hat

Top bosses of over 10 VC firms, including Helion Venture Partners, Avendus Capital, Trifecta Capital, Nexus Venture Partners, Kalaari capital, Sistema and Sequoia, among others participated in the friendly badminton matches.

In the day-to-day activities of the startup ecosystem, VCs are found mentoring, negotiating with startups or attending high-level meetings in formal wear and wearing the investor hat. However, at the Bertelsmann Badminton Championship, they were not only spotted in sportswear but also in sporting spirit.

Jatin Bery, EVP - Corporate Development, Info Edge, said, “Normally, networking is over cocktails and drinks and not during a sporting event. So this is a one-of-a-kind initiative.”

Be it a drop or a smash, all shots by competing teams were taken in a friendly and sporting spirit. Just like competing to invest in great idea, VCs were seen arguing and fighting for points during the game. Even teams that lost were happy to be a part of the tournament and know their counterparts in a better way through the initiative.

The winners of the Bertelsmann Badminton Championship 2017 edition were Sandeep Sharma and Sumit Jain from Kalaari Capital. Jatin Bery and Maneesh Upadhyaya, of Info Edge, occupied the runner-up spot.

Team Info Edge (left - runner up) and Team Kalaari Capital (Winner)

The state of the ecosystem

The Indian startup ecosystem has witnessed a slowdown in investments last year. According to industry estimates, the number of funding deals fell from 536 in 2015 to 460 in 2016. It is also revealed that investors poured in around $2.05 billion into Indian startups in 2015, which fell to $1.5 billion in 2016.

VCs hope that the investment landscape will change for the better in the coming year.

Arpit Agarwal, Principal at Blume Ventures, said, “We can only look up and hope the scenario gets better. In 2016-2017, we saw the emergence of a lot of seed funds. In 2018, we should see the emergence of series A and B funds. Our ecosystem will become more mature only when this happens.”