Utsav Somani, a well-known name familiar in Indian start-up environment is strengthening the investor ecosystem in India with yet another early stage fund. Somani who is already being credited for bringing AngelList to India, is now all set to launch his own micro fund ‘iSeed’ to help Indian startups to get their initial investments.
Somani revealed, “The fund is going to be sector agnostic but will invest mainly in startups leveraging technology for SaaS, remote work enabling tools and tech enterprise software. The new fund is going to invest in around 32 to 35 Indian startup at an average check of $150K. The fund will be deployed for around three years.”
Bridge between Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and Indian founders
iSeed is named as a bridge between Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and Indian founders. The Silicon Valley entrepreneurs are those already established entrepreneurs and Indian founders are those who are in search of money as well as expertise and knowledge of startup.
Somani added, “Founders of Silicon Valley can interact with their peers in India while Indian founders can get the expertise. The aim of iSeed is to build a bridge between these two. We are not talking only about capital but also about knowledge sharing.”
Not only capital but knowledge sharing too
The US market has a good lot of investors who are in a place where they can easily write from $100K to $500K cheques for Indian startups. Many of them have been eagerly waiting to participate in Indian tech boom so that they can access the early stage deals.
“Investors selected based on their knowledge, network and willingness to help portfolio companies scale. These investors can also guide Indian startups looking to target International customers and investors.” Somani said.
Some of the notable investors in iSeed include AngelList Naval Ravikant, Hike founder Kavin Bharti Mittal, Thumbtack’s co-founder Jonathan Swason, WikiHow’s CEO Jack Herrick, Polychain Capital’s general partner Niraj Pant. DSG Consumer Partners MD Deepak Shahdapuri, eDreams co-founder James Hare, NBA star Matthew Dellavedova, 500 FinTech founding partner Sheel Mohnot, and Spearhead’s partner Jake Zeller have backed the fund. Bolt’s Eric Feldman, Flutter founder Josh Hannah and TaskUs confounders Bryce Maddock and Jaspar Weir, along with senior leaders at DST Global, Matrix Partners India and Xiaomi also pooled their capital in the fund mop-up.
Somani said “iSeed is powered by AngelList back office, which makes it easy for full time founders to run venture funds on the side. My day job remains CEO of AngelList India while I run iSeed on weekends.”
COVID-19 pandemic and the side effects
“I would have raised more funds if it would have launched your earlier as investors have also taken hit in their investments in public markets, portfolio startups and private placements.” Somani on how covid-19 situation has complicated fundraising for iSeed.
Somani considered himself lucky because the investors have trusted his judgement to some extent which helped iSeed raise funds for the next couple of years or three.
“I have already invested in more than 40-50 startups personally and this fund powers me to give larger cheques in 30-35 startups. Raising the fund was much easier than what’s coming next.” Somani said.
However, a larger fund would have spread the investments and would force Somani to step out of his comfort zone which is to work with VCs and angels rather than compete. ” I think I like this space where I operate $100K to $150K cheques. That’s a sweet spot to play,” he added.
‘Crisis never stops innovations.’
Somani urged startups to use this time to build while focusing on continuity and creating market value.
“Crisis never limits innovations but it’s actually the opposite. The last decade was exemplary of capital abundance but now people need to make Ventures where they a don’t buy users but will make products that users will love to buy without much incentive attached to them. It was a much-needed reset for the ecosystem.”