Addressing founder pain points, WaterBridge Ventures’ ‘FastForward’ aims to accelerate the process of seed funding

The dedicated seed program invests up to $1 million into early-stage startups with the promise that all founder applicants receive a response in seven days.
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Fundraising is a challenging process and not one for the weak-hearted. Founders are subject to a long-drawn, indecisive, and unsettling process as they look to convince investors to give wings to their ideas. Multiple conversations, unclear intentions and opaque evaluation processes means it could be weeks or even months before founders hear back from investors on potential investment fit.

This problem is more acute in the seed stage, where the growing set of considerations is amplified into a make-or-break point in the company’s life. Move fast, break things is every startup’s mantra but VC funding often seems to lag behind.

Smart, early capital for entrepreneurs

Early-stage venture capital fund WaterBridge Ventures with $250 million AUM has invested in Unacademy, Doubtnut, Atlan, CityMall, MagicPin and Chalo. WaterBridge has built a differentiated approach to seed funding with clear emphasis on quicker turnaround times and faster decision making.

“Engaging with VCs is often a daunting and long-drawn process, but we hope to bring more transparency and decisiveness to the decision making process with FastForward. Founder time is the most precious commodity in our world, and we want to be very respectful of that so we can provide teams with as much forward momentum as possible”, says Nilesh Balakrishnan, Associate Vice President, WaterBridge Ventures.

FastForward was first launched just as the pandemic hit in March 2020 and is currently launching its third iteration on February 1. The program portfolio of 9 startups over two editions boasts exciting breakout companies like OneCode, EloElo, BitClass, among others.

Cutting the chase

Digital first and Zoom powered, the FastForward program application process prides itself on being transparent with detailed sector preferences and term sheet templates published on the WaterBridge website. The application front loads vital questions and data points any investor would ask and founders are encouraged to upload a quick video to humanise the founder journey and help expedite the evaluation process.

“Investing into companies remotely is a tricky process. The application helps us better engage with the team and get to the core evaluation process faster. At the seed stage, metrics, revenue, and business models are all secondary. The most critical factor to communicate is founder-market fit and the ability to grow and scale with the venture,” shares Nilesh.

While fundamentally sector-agnostic, the FastForward program has published a set of ‘positive’ sectors which can expect a higher velocity in terms of evaluation. Negative lists are a no-go.

“While we will never say never to any idea, it’s powerful to talk about sectors that we are bullish on and spaces where our value-add construct can play a critical role in future growth. As thesis-driven investors, we are firm believers that the next decade of growth in India across these sectors will produce massive companies,” he states.

With clear evaluation checkpoints and timelines, the FastForward process is built to be transparent and communicative through the entire evaluation process.

“While it’s always painful to say no, we strive to convey our point of view on every application and when possible - outline clear/actionable steps that can help founders better position their startups for institutional fundraising. We’ve seen companies not make the cut at the time of evaluation but come back to us a few months later with a much stronger proposition. We like to stay in touch,” says Nilesh.

Completed applications stand a higher chance of acceptance and by filling in as much detail as possible, founders can best showcase their entrepreneurial personality.

WaterBridge’s FastForward Portfolio and the total funding raised till date

Collaboration: An ecosystem approach to fundraising

WaterBridge partners with the best accelerators, seed/angel syndicates, and early-stage VCs. While WaterBridge takes the lead position on all FastForward deals, this ecosystem approach encourages active collaboration and better feedback loops.

“Built on a shared view of the world, we look to collaborate with our investment partners on every FastForward deal. This construct helps founders to engage with multiple investors through a single application, build a stronger cap table, and close larger rounds faster,” he explains.

Applications to the FastForward program open from February 1-28 and can be accessed via the WaterBridge website along with additional information and program specifics.


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