Japanese deep science fund UTEC partners with Blume Ventures to take Indian tech startups global
The University of Tokyo Edge Capital (UTEC), which invests in deep science and deep tech startups, and has seen several of its portfolio companies go public, is now actively investing in India. To date, it has made investments in two companies: Bugworks and Tricog. What many may not know that its journey in India is a partnership with Blume Ventures, one of India’s most sought-after early-stage investors. The two funds are going to set up Blume UTEC Deep-tecH Accelerator (BUDHA), an initiative to invest in and mentor Indian startups working in the sectors of deep science and technology.
Founded by Karthik Reddy and Sanjay Nath, Blume Ventures has a robust portfolio of tech-driven startups such as StellApps, Grey Orange, and Tricog. The fund has raised a total of $160 million over the last nine years, and also has an enviable track record for exits. Even TaxiForSure, which was acquired by Ola, had raised money from Blume. The fund has backed 131-plus startups to date and has had 12 exits. For them, the BUDHA program is all about celebrating Indian science and helping it to go global.
(L-R) Nori San, Karthik Reddy, Sanjay Nath, Goji San, and Kiran Mysore speak about the BUDHA partnership on Blume Day, the annual conference of Blume Ventures.
“BUDHA is truly a cross-border, collaborative, and strategic partnership between UTEC and Blume. Tricog, our first joint investment, is fast becoming a leader in the AI-cardiac or healthcare-tech space, with its HQ in Singapore, R&D or engineering operations in Bangalore, and an increasingly global customer base, including SE Asia, Japan, Africa, and, soon, the US. In one sense, we'd like to jointly seed, grow, and propel the "next Tricogs" from this BUDHA initiative,” Sanjay Nath says.
At a recent panel, an audience member asked Sanjay "what kind of tech innovation we'd like to see from India?" Sanjay’s answer was "the next Tesla/SpaceX".
“Yes, this is indeed wishful thinking and will require massive amounts of capital and core knowledge, but with the ambitious, deep-tech objectives of BUDHA, advances in the areas of life sciences, agri-tech, robotics and space tech could indeed be possible,” he says.
UTEC’s current investments in India include:
* Tricog Health: An AI cardiology services provider, Tricog offers accurate, real-time diagnosis of an ECG. After UTEC invested in its Series A round in 2017, with Blume Ventures leading the investment, they introduced Japanese manufacturers of ECG machines, potential business partners from Japan, and cardiologists from the country to expand Tricog’s markets and complement its scientific base. This deal became UTEC’s first collaborative example with Blume Ventures, which developed into the BUDHA programme in 2019.
* Bugworks Research: The startup designs antibiotics against bacteria with antimicrobial resistance (AMR), also known as "superbugs". UTEC led the Series A funding round in the company last year, following Bengaluru-based 3one4 Capital’s initial investment. After this investment, they introduced Bugworks to Japanese microbiologist Professor Murakami, who figured out the mechanism of how antibiotic-resistant bacteria pump the drugs out of their bodies. Professor Murakami now collaborates with Bugworks to develop innovative antibiotics. UTEC also introduced Bugworks to Japanese pharmaceutical companies for potential partnerships.
Noriaki Sakamoto of UTEC
The BUDHA initiative with Blume kicked off earlier this year, and Goji San, Managing Partner at UTEC, says he loves the name. In Hindu mythology, Budha (not to be confused with Buddha) is the son of the Moon God and the guardian of merchants. He is also the god of intelligence, communication, fine arts, humour, and wit, all of which fit in with their objective, and how UTEC and Blume are working together.
“Through our partnership with Blume and the BUDHA initiative, UTEC wants to complement Indian deep tech startups with Japanese industrial and scientific collaborations to create success cases on a global scale,” say Noriaki Sakamoto (Partner) and Kiran Mysore (Venture Partner) at UTEC Japan.
The initiative aims to pioneer the deep-tech innovation ecosystem in India by helping seed-stage startups to scale their impact through funding, hands-on advice from curated mentors, research, and co-creation with universities, and collaboration with large corporations in India and Japan. The programme is meant to help seed and pre-Series A companies commercialising science and technology in India. The sectors of interest include healthcare, life sciences, manufacturing, IoT, robotics, fintech, and AI.
Kiran Mysore of UTEC
Goji San believes the partnership with Blume can help in fundraising at all stages of the startup journey. Businesses may get funded by Blume Ventures or UTEC at any point during their cycles. The initiative aims to provide:
* Access to the Japanese market through UTEC’s corporate relationships, the Indian market through Blume, and other global markets (Silicon Valley, Southeast Asia) through joint efforts between UTEC and Blume Ventures.
* Access to science and technology experts in Asia through collaborative research opportunities with some of the best universities, including the University of Tokyo.
* Access through UTEC’s network to Japanese investorsinterested in science and technology companies.
* Mentoring in the core areas of business creation, marketing, business partnerships, regulation, and others through monthly meetings with Blume and UTEC teams.
Acknowledging the value of team and partnerships, Goji San says he is on a journey to change the world, and believes India is important to the new world order of entrepreneurial excellence.
"Deep tech is, in several ways, not one sector but a collection of many sectors and technologies. Think about robotics or biotech applied to myriad industry problems. One of the key challenges that VCs in India face when investing in deep tech companies is our collective lack of depth in technology - in a way that we can give ourselves comfort around its defensibility and scalability. Having a partner like UTEC, which brings a long history of nurturing and investing in such ventures, allows for a great reference point,” says Arpit Agarwal, Principal, Blume Ventures, who leads coverage for deep tech.