How Synaptic aims to help VCs find their next unicorn, courtesy alternative data

Founded in 2016, SaaS platform Synaptic aims to bring together alternative data sets to a single platform, bundle it with companies’ internal data, and generate analytics for VCs.

Venture capital (VC) is a high-risk, high-reward game. For an investor, the main questions to answer are regarding the most promising companies and if they are actually worth the investment. 

With so many investment opportunities and startup pitches, VCs often have a set of criteria that they look for and evaluate before making an investment decision. However, evaluation metrics are going beyond cold algorithms and conventional data sources like financial statements, to make funding decisions or track the shape of the existing portfolio. 

Enter ‘alternative data’. 

Alternative data, also known as external data, is information collected from non-traditional, external data sources. It could be as minuscule as app downloads, keeping track of hiring and firing, interaction with customers (tickets raised), web traffic, credit card transactions, social media sentiment, funding, and so on.

Given the volatilities in the market and the high-risk funding game, the majority of VCs are now turning to these new types of data sets to get an informational advantage over the rest of the market. 

Gurugram-based startup Synaptic aims to bring together these alternative data sets, available in the market in silos, to a single platform, bundle it with companies’ internal data, and generate analytics for VCs. 

The standardised and automated data in the form of dashboards can be leveraged by businesses and investors to source and track companies of interest, manage their existing portfolios, and for other market research. 

The six-year-old SaaS tool is used by global VC and private equity firms, hedge funds, and asset managers across markets in the US and the UK.   

Spinning out 

Following multiple stints across tech firms, IIT Kanpur alumni Anurag Abbott and Rohit Razdan in 2013 started their own software consultancy, Invelocity Labs. 

While implementing tech capabilities in companies, one of their clients, Vy Capital (an AuM global technology investment company) asked the duo to join its Dubai office and work on building its internal analytical system. The startup was eventually shut down after 12 months of operations and the co-founders, along with their team, joined the VC firm’s data and analytics vertical. 

For the first time, the techies got insights into how VCs operate and analyse their portfolios. 

“We were working on putting together an internal tool (Synaptic 1.0) for Vy Capital to help them track sentiments across earnings calls for a company. To our surprise, VCs are still not very data driven. They have access to data but you need to make it usable and provide a value proposition. We already had insights into what VCs want and hence the need for a tool to serve that,” Rohit says. 

The tool yielded the desired results and the duo saw a bigger opportunity as a lot of investors were scouting for deals in startup ecosystems, including India. 

Encouraged by Vy Capital Founder Alexander Tamas, the techies spun out Synaptic as an independent company in 2016 and moved to Gurugram. 

A snapshot of Synaptic's dashboard

A needle in a haystack

The Synaptic platform sources data from multiple third-party channels, including G2Labs, Crunchbase, and Similarweb, besides the companies’ own website, apps, social media, and financial transactions. 

The data is then fed into their proprietary tech, which uses analytics tools kits to create research workflows for investors in the form of dashboards. 

The dashboard provides over 100 performance metrics or “good signals” like web and mobile traffic, SEO data, employee data, product reviews, developer activity, search trends, funding, reviews, and so on. Investors can use filters to draw competitive analysis, financial growth, and customer trends, of both existing portfolios and new potential companies across regions. 

“There are thousands of not-so-obvious ventures across countries. Investors are actively looking to place money in such startups and we provide intelligence across the board on them. Speed is one of our biggest USPs,” Anurag says.

It is important to mention that the platform does not provide in-depth forecasting metrics for companies or reports as of yet, but only intelligence using its past and current data for real-time tracking. “The analytics provide a form of implicit forecasting,” the co-founders add. 

Amalgamating a variety of data, particularly from web and apps together, comes as one of the biggest challenges. 

Synaptic has also devised a Growth Index that lists standout companies/startups for potential deal sourcing. 

Business and revenue model

Synaptic offers its SaaS tool at a flexible annual subscription fee, value averaging around $110,000 and can go up to thousands of dollars. 

The platform is used by over 50 clients across US and UK, including global VCs having a presence in the Indian market, and is seeing demand from Latin America. It has an 80-member team spread across its three offices in Gurugram, Bengaluru, and New York. 

Most of Synaptic's customers are also its investors, including VC firms like Valor Equity Partners, Ribbit Capital, Felicis Ventures, and Vy Capital Management, besides other clients like Catterton Partners, General Catalyst, TCG, Atreides Management, Canaan Inc., and GIC. 

To date, Synaptic has raised $26 million in two funding rounds. It has registered 100 percent revenue growth in FY21.  

Team Synaptic

Competitors and market analysis 

The two industry standards for company/startup information are Crunchbase and Pitchbook, which are vastly used by the majority of VC firms. 

There are also a host of alternative data platforms that provide specific insights like Dataminr, App Annie, and 7Park Data for web/app/social media; Earnest and Second Measure for credit card transactions; Placemeter for foot traffic in stores, and so on. 

Data aggregators like Eagle Alpha, Quanton Data and Discern, also provide insights to data buyers and vendors. Besides, investors have access to market intelligence platforms like AlphaSense, S&P Capital IQ Pro, and Exabel to look at alternative data. 

Startups like Yipit recommend daily deals to investors based on their locations. Some of the Indian names in the data engineering and analytics market are Scribble Data, Finarkein Analytics, and The Math Company. 

“It's a haphazard market. The data available with investors from multiple channels is not organised. They are unable to get a broader view of the market. We look at ourselves more like an integration or a complimentary tool. We want to standardise and automate data, and build real-time analytics on top of that for investors,” Rohit says. 

As per the founders, most tools available in the market are restricted to tracking investors’ existing portfolio performance and not much is available around new potential leads or “not-so-popular” startups. Hence, Synaptic’s real value proposition would lie in providing comprehensive insights into such companies. 

Today, roughly half of all investment firms use alternative data, according to a report by the Alternative Investment Management Association (AIMA). 

The global alternative data market size was valued at $2.7 billion in 2021 and is expected to expand at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 54.4 percent from 2022 to 2030. The rising demand from hedge funds is expected to boost market growth significantly, says a report by Grand View Research.

More than 400 companies are engaged in selling alternative data to investors, thereby contributing significantly to market revenue. 

Synaptic is looking to offer its product to corporates and would explore the same in the next 12 months as it doubles down on the team. The founders say they see early traction from this segment and also plan to open an office in London and later explore the SEA market.

(The story was updated to change the blurb and the annual subscription value as shared by the company.)

Edited by Teja Lele