My Favourite Funding News from Last Week (w20)

There is a slow recovery in the funding of early-stage startups. We are still a long way away from the heydays of 2018-19, but the growing pace of activity in angel networks & early-stage funds are promising signs.

After shortlisting the early-stage deals for week 20 from Traxcn, Inc42, and YourStory, we picked out the following as the best funding picks for the last week:

 

Name: Vernacular.ai

Amount Raised: USD 5.1 mn led by Exfinity Ventures and Kalaari Capital

What does Vernacular.ai do?

Edited from Traxcn: Vernacular.ai is an AI platform to manage customer engagement and call center automation solutions. It provides multi-lingual chatbots for automating customer service operations of enterprises using natural language processing and deep learning. Natural language processing helps the bots to extract meaning, context, and entities of incoming messages, thereby enabling companies to interact and engage in any language with customers.

Deep learning helps in pre-training the bot with domain corpus and augmenting with enterprise-specific data to achieve maximum accuracy for the same. The bots developed using the platform can be deployed to multiple omnichannel platforms, including Facebook Messenger, Twitter, Website, Mobile, among others. Some of the supported languages include Hindi, Gujarati, English, to name a few. Clients include Vistaar, Shriram General Insurance, Exide Life Insurance, and Barbeque Nation.

Why do I like Vernacular.ai?

Voice AI has enormous applications in a world where customer service standards aren’t keeping up with the expectations of customers. Customers want to get personalized treatment and in a language that they are comfortable conversing in. As an early investor in vPhrase, I have seen the vast revenue potential of applying artificial intelligence for customer communication.

 

Name: Mintoak

Amount Raised: USD 2 mn led by Pravega Ventures

What does Mintoak do?

Edited from Traxcn: Mintoak offers a POS solution called DOV that enables merchants to accept digital payments. The solution involves a POS hardware device along with software solutions. Merchants can accept various types of card payments, such as magstripe, EMV, NFC, and secure PIN. It also enables the acceptance of UPI payments. Merchants can also accept payments without internet connectivity through their patent-pending technology that allows a POS to the transaction to be completed using the voice channel, thereby improving transaction completion rates. It also offers a consolidated view of all transactions handled by the device.

Why do I like Mintoak?

Except-Jio, most mobile operators operate on seriously inadequate infrastructure to handle the bandwidth demands of India fintech companies in urban centers. I shudder to imagine how vendors in Bharat, where the network infrastructure is weaker, would cope up. Mintoak attempts to use a data-light technology to process transactions, thereby decreasing costs and improving efficiency – an actual Bharat-focussed tech play.

 

Name: MetaMorphoSys

Amount Raised: Undisclosed amount led by Good Capital

What does MetaMorphoSys do?

Edited from Traxcn: MetaMorphoSys Technologies provides a software suite for the insurance industry. It offers solutions for product development, claims management, risk management, and more. It also features software for insurance quoting, sales & marketing, underwriting, and more.

Why do I like MetaMorphoSys?

Insure-tech will be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the post-COVID environment. A CRM focussed on increasing the sales & marketing ability of insurance agents will be a need-to-have utility. Hitting a ₹50 lakh monthly SaaS revenue will be the first port-of-validation for MetaMorphoSys!

My funding picks of last week (w18)

Fundraising activity continues to slow down; therefore, my team and I had a tough time shortlisting our favorite picks with just a handful of deals to choose from. After shortlisting all early-stage deals activity for week 18 from Traxcn, Inc42, and YourStory, we jointly picked out the following as the best funding picks for the last week:

 

Name: QuillBot

Amount Raised: $4 Mn in a round led by GSV Ventures and Sierra Ventures

What does QuillBot do?

Edited from Traxcn: Millions trust QuillBot’s full-sentence thesaurus to get creative suggestions, rewrite content, and get over writer’s block. QuillBot uses state-of-the-art AI to rewrite any sentence or article you give it.

Why do I like QuillBot?

My team and I are Grammarly power users processing tens of thousands of words for our investment notes, meeting minutes, emails, blogs, private chats, and more. I believe that there is space for a Grammarly competitor, especially one that understands the Indianized English – also, can Quillbot (or Grammarly) build a plugin for PowerPoint, please!

 

Name: YAP

Amount Raised: $4.5 Mn led by BEENEXT

What does YAP do?

Edited from Traxcn: YAP offers a white label program management platform. They also issue a Yap Tatkal wallet, which allows their clients to provide their customers physical or virtual prepaid cards linked to their products. They also offer a QR payment solution in the mobile wallet.

Why do I like YAP?

The lockdown caught the banks with their pants down due to unpreparedness to go digital. The post-lockdown scenario is bleak for physical banking, and banks must prepare themselves to fully service their customers from the palm of their hands. YAP is building APIs to bridge that gap hence one to look out for.

 

Name: Mindhouse

Amount Raised: ~$680K from BTB Ventures, GGV Capital, Aartieca Family Trust, and Angels

What does Mindhouse do?

Edited from Traxcn: Standalone mental fitness and wellness center brand

Why do I like Mindhouse?

The COVID19 virus reserves it’s worst for those with weakened immune systems. Therefore I expect that fitness (physical or mental) will be on the priority list of most in the post-virus era. Mindhouse attempts to enter the space that mind.fit is operating in. Will it succeed?

My Funding Picks of Last (two) Weeks (w13 & 14)

After the turbulence of the last few weeks, I finally carved out the time to share my funding picks of Week 13 & 14 of 2020.

My team and I shortlisted the deals for week 13 & 14 from Traxcn, Inc42, and YourStory and we jointly picked out the following as the best funding picks for 17th March to 29th March 2020 period:

 

Name: Qtalk

Amount Raised: $1.6 million from Accel India & Lightspeed Venture Partners

What does Qtalk do?

Edited from Traxcn: QTalk is a mobile application that provides calling for friends and family members. It allows users to make affordable local and international calls using phone internet/network or WiFi technology. Its features include call recording/history/remainders, caller ID, spam blocking, calendar integration, and others.

Why do I like Qtalk?

Qtalk brings an interesting tech layer on top of a regular dialup app providing smart features like silence overrides, shared browsing, and call intent. The app offers WiFi calling, which is a much-needed feature to overcome the overloaded network infrastructure in India today.

 

Name: MedCords

Amount Raised: ₹7 crores from InfoEdge India

What does MedCords do?

Edited from Traxcn: Medcords is a medical record management solutions provider for patients, doctors, pharmacies, and lab centers. Prescriptions, bills, personal information, etc. can be uploaded to the mobile app. Doctors can view the past medical history of patients and can access other medical records of the patients. Patients can view all information related to their health, and also pharmacies and labs can access the record to provide services to patients. Also, uses analytics and provides trends to doctors and patients

Why do I like MedCords?

Maintaining medical records is painful. To aggregate one’s medical information, prescriptions, blood reports, and past medical history into one space are even more painful. MedCords aims at solving this problem. It provides a one-stop solution for one’s medical needs, and once it reaches critical mass, the data analytics layers will pay rich dividends for the investor.

 

Name: PitStop

Amount Raised: $2.5 million from Group Landmark, Blume and Goldbell Group

What does PitStop do?

Edited from Traxcn: PitStop is a closed marketplace for car service providers. It provides an estimated cost of service and offers the option for doorstep pickup and delivery. Provides status tracking after booking service. They claim to have the service done in 2 hours. Pitstop has expanded to several locations including Delhi, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Pune, and others.

Why do I like PitStop?

I am not a big fan of the fragmented vehicular maintenance space. However, Pitstop’s substantial revenues numbers put them a cut above the rest. That is the reason why it is on my list. Pitstop wants to use the data reservoir created from its vast customer base to offer services like vehicular insurance, etc. If it can continue its phenomenal growth in the post-Corona phase – this one could be one to watch out!

 

PS: Artha Venture Fund invested in Agnikul, a deal that got announced a couple of weeks back. While I am a big fan of the team and the deal, I keep our investments outside the purview of these picks.

You can read Vinod and my reasons for investing in this detailed blog: Why We Invested in Agnikul?

Founder Playbook: Getting ahead of Covid-19

The aftermath of the pandemic spread of the Covid-19 virus has hit financial markets where it hurts the most – their ability to bank on the future.

These are unprecedented times as countries close their borders, the Italian government shuts down businesses, and schools, colleges, and universities are shutting their campuses and moving classes online. The disruption in business and how it will get conducted in the near term has created a tectonic shift that is rattling global markets.

When the most capitalized financial market in the world starts oscillating like a 5-year-old getting on a swing for the first time – it is time to sit-up and take notice.

Even we felt the tremors far away, i.e., in the venture capital ecosystem. Sequoia’s calling Covid-19 spread The Black Swan of 2020. This spread is dangerous, and the situation could spiral out of control – quickly.

Therefore earlier this week, Vinod and I had organized a conference call with Artha Venture Fund’s founders to address this growing situation and to work out how we could get ahead of the problem. Here is a brief synopsis of how our founders are tackling this issue (thank you, Arvind, for these notes):

  1. Do not panic but stay vigilant
    1. Keep an eye out for a demand drop in the next 3-6 months
    2. Respond to it quickly and decisively
  2. Remember that a typical downcycle in VC lasts for 18-24 months
    1. Survive this period, and you will thrive when the tide is back
  3. Investors are tightening their belts
    1. Be prepared for long delays in fundraising
    2. Drop-off in valuations
  4. Prepare fresh budgets
    1. Be conservative in revenue estimates
    2. Cut unnecessary & discretionary spends
    3. Find ways to control the burn, i.e., increase revenues or cut the costs
  5. Despite your best efforts if you envision run out of money in the next 6-9 months, then
    1. Raise an additional buffer right away and extend your runway to 15-18 months

As an optimist contrarian, an economic upheaval offers the best opportunity to gain on the competition. One must remember that people will continue to consume goods and services, but the way they consume it is going to change – temporarily.

A founder must watch the customer’s consumption patterns closely, prepare to pivot the business to serve his customer base, and capitalize – even in these adverse business scenarios.

A note: I do not attempt (in any way) to disregard the seriousness of this virus. The severest impact of this is on the part of the population that has pre-existing medical conditions. To me, it means that entrepreneurs are in the higher risk category due to entrepreneurial stress they undergo (I have written about in the past). The recent turmoil is just adding to that stress.

Therefore stay calm, stay positive, keep your ears close to the ground but keep your hands clean and off your face. 😊

A Pleasant Surprise on the Upside!

While redoing our website, I accidentally stumbled upon an interesting piece of information.

I wanted to create a portfolio filter that would allow a visitor to create portfolio cohorts using factors such as the year of our investment, whether we were current investors, which startups we had exited from, or which sector the startup operated in and so on.

While tagging the startups, my team discovered that 4 of Artha Venture Fund’s portfolio companies had at least 1 female founder, i.e., 66% of the fund’s portfolio! This statistic piqued my interest as I stress the importance of being gender-neutral when it came to choosing our founders. Yet our female founder representation was far higher than the 20% female founder representation reported in CrunchBase EoY 2019 Diversity Report published in January 2020.

I dug further to look into our upcoming pipeline, which told me that out of the 5 deals which were at an advanced stage of closure, 3 deals had at least 1 female in the founding teams – 2 where the female founders held the CEO position!

I still felt that my sample size was too small to form an opinion. So I widened my search. My team & I started an investigation into my previous portfolio that I had set-up through our family office, i.e., Artha India Ventures.

The team keeps granular information on my past performance to report to institutions and family offices that need the information as a part of their due diligence. It took a few hours to figure it out, but 22 out of the 69 startups I had previously invested in had one female founder, i.e., almost a 33% representation!

MicrosoftTeams-image

The team went deeper to uncover that the female founder cohort delivered a 41% IRR with 4.3x multiple on invested capital in comparison to an overall portfolio IRR of 56% with a 4.6x investment multiple. Though the female cohort performance is lower than the overall performance; it does not tell the entire picture.

Our 330x multiple in OYO skews the numbers in favor of the XY chromosome cohort, but several of our female founder companies are raising new rounds of capital. One of them is months from becoming a unicorn, so it is a matter of when (not if) when the female cohort will be the alpha for the portfolio. While an eye-opener, I am not proud of beating the gender bias – not this way.

What I am proud of is that diversity happened without gender bias in favor of the XX chromosome. I am very vocal in stating that we do not favor a particular gender in our employees or founders. I believe that being entrepreneurial is a gender-neutral trait, and to invest in someone because they have or lack a Y chromosome is foolhardy.

Despite these results, I continue to stand up for what I said in last year’s blog post, Why I refuse to promote Women’s Entrepreneurship. 

The moment that I start treating a founder differently because they are women, it means that I do not see them as equals. I will skew my thoughts to cater to my bias, and it will hurt them as much as it will hurt my bank balance.”

To investigate if my lack of bias was something I felt or did it percolate down to our treatment of our female founders, I asked my XX founders whether they felt any bias from our end. Besides, I asked them why they gave a seat to Artha for their entrepreneurial journey. This is what they had to say:

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WhatsApp Image 2020-03-09 at 7.24.53 PM

The diversity of the artha eco-system is felt in all the events we come together with Artha- where we meet entrepreneurs working on awesome ideas - pushing through- without feeling any differenc

In closing, while global reports state that the penetration of female founders in startups is very low, I have little concerns for the same. People whose investment lens has a filter against a particular group of people due to their color, country, or chromosome will lose out – lose big.

I am glad that our lens is crystal clear and that my team chooses the best people for the founder’s job. We follow an incredibly meticulous approach when it comes to choosing our founders.

Not always do we have the most qualified founders, but we attract the most passionate founders’ with a deep internal drive for the problem they are solving. We trust in our process of channelizing a founder’s energy to win one battle at a time and create category-leading companies.

Now if that means that our winning portfolio has a disproportionately high number of female founder companies – then so be it!

My funding picks from last week (w05)

There were 15 deals in week 5 of 2020 that were available on Traxcn, Inc42, and YourStory,
I sat with our funding team, and after some enlighting discussions, I have shortlisted my picks to:

Name: InterviewBit
Amount Raised: $20 million
Investors: Tiger Global Management & Sequoia India
What does InterviewBit do?
Edited from Traxcn: InterviewBit is an online platform for tech interview preparation. The platform offers gamified lessons with video tutorials, primer problems, and guided solutions for programming, scripting, databases, system design, puzzles, etc. The platform also enables the candidates to get connected with the right companies worldwide based on skills and preferences.
Why do I like InterviewBit?
I like focussed vocational plays. Last year I had picked out GreyAtom as a funding pick as it provided an upskilling platform for data science and web development employees. Therefore picking it isn’t a surprise that InterviewBit got selected even though the $20 million round from Tiger & Sequoia is bigger than a typical Series A round in India.
InterviewBit solves an exciting problem of finding, interviewing, and evaluating tech talent, which is the Achilles heel of the best of Indian start-ups. The CAC for such plays is quite high, but considering the 18-35 lakh rupee salary bracket they target, the rewards may outweigh the costs.
Only request – can someone create a platform for finance and accounting employees! 😊

Name: AdonMo
Amount Raised: Rs. 21.4 crores
Investors: Bace Capital, Astarc & Mumbai Angels
What does AdonMo do?
Edited from Traxcn: Adonmo provides an in-transit cab advertising platform for advertisers to reach their target audience. It enables advertisers to place their ads on top of the cab and select the target location and relevant time slots to display advertisements and track their ads in real-time. It uses a proprietary computer vision and hyper-local technology to identify its viewers and advertise.
Why do I like AdonMo?
It was unbelievable that I had created a business plan to provide contextual ads based on geo-location on top of taxis during a 6-7 months stint in Kolkata in 2012 or 2013. I had reached out to taxi-top display manufacturers in China who could provide the hardware required for this service. These plays were very popular for advertisers in Africa as most homes did not have electricity – therefore, taxi-top displays were the primary distributors of advertising. But AdonMo is precisely doing what I could not i.e., EXECUTE on the idea.
I am excited about AdonMo as it disrupts the hold billboard owners have enjoyed for several decades. A moving billboard provides better and deeper reach to advertisers with exhaustive reporting and must work out to be of much better value than a billboard.

Name: YoloBus
Amount Raised: Rs. 4.28 crore
Investors: Undisclosed
What does YoloBus do?
Edited from Traxcn: Yolobus provides an online-based platform for booking intercity tickets. Users can book tickets by giving details like location, date, time, etc. It offers features like real-time tracking, in-cabin Wi-Fi, Toilet, Pantry, CCTV cameras, etc.
Why do I like YoloBus?
There are several intercity bus services. So what is interesting about just another intercity bus service?
There are several intercity bus ticket booking platforms – So what is interesting about just another intercity bus ticket booking platform?
India is home to the world’s largest and fastest-growing middle-class population. India’s growth pulled 271 million people out of poverty between 2006 and 2016. It is only a matter of time before India’s per capita income will cross $4000 with and a majority of the Indians will belong to the middle to upper-middle class i.e., aspirational class.
This vast majority of people will have a very different consumption basket and preferences compared to the sustenance living Indian, and services like YoloBus cater to a growing section of the Indian audience.
While Yolo may get considered a bit ahead of its time, if it can keep its costs of operation and customer acquisition in control and sustain – there is a big market for it to capture!
One question, though – why are the investors undisclosed? The first time for me to see a release in which the amount gets disclosed but not the investors!  

My funding picks from last week (w03)

There were a lot of excellent deals last week for me to choose my picks. After shortlisting 15 deals from Traxcn, Inc42, and YourStory, I sat with our funding team, and after a lot of enlighting discussions, I have shortlisted my picks to:

Name: Numocity Technologies
Amount Raised: undisclosed
Investors: Ideaspring Capital, Rebright Partners, and ABB Technology Ventures

What does Numocity do?
Edited from Traxcn: Numocity Technologies is an early-age tech enterprise focused on providing digital solutions for electric mobility infrastructure. The company offers products for EV fleets like fleet chargers, central management systems, and battery swap programs.
Why do I like Numocity?
EVs are the future. I have a sizeable exposure to mobility tech through Everest Fleet, Rapido, and Oneway Cabs. I want us to grow our portfolio in EV, especially in the charging infrastructure space, which should do exceptionally well in the times to come – especially for large EV fleets like the one Numocity is targeting.

Name: Instoried
Amount Raised: Undisclosed
Investors: SOSV

What does Instoried do?
Edited from Traxcn: Instoried is an AI-based content optimization tool that evaluates writing standards. The platform analyses your written content provides a scorecard and feedback on how you can improve their written communication. The platform aims to monetize this through paid subscriptions.
Why do I like Instoried?
I am a Grammarly power-user, and I will refuse to write an email, blog post, or media article until Grammarly will approve it. Grammary offers a contextual scanner telling me whether my written post is information, official, negative, positive, or casual. What I like about Instoried (from its explainer video) is that it goes one step ahead and points out which words the scanner is getting its context from and how that can be improved. It is an intelligent tool but will have to see if it can be an intelligent company too!
 
Name: GoFloat Technologies
Amount Raised: 9 lakhs
Investors: Jito Angel Network
 
What does GoFloat do?
Edited from Traxcn: Manufactures and exports flotation and other water safety devices for emergency rescue situations. Their tools are compact, portable, and cost-efficient in comparison to life jackets.
Why do I like GoFloat?
Since there isn’t a demo product or video available on their website, the idea could be pre-product, and with the small funding round, I should have kept this deal out of this week’s list. But I can see a market for a GoFloat due to my love for water sports, liveaboards, and cruises as an avid scuba diver.
 

My Funding Picks from Last Week (W01)

The first week of 2020 was understandably slow for deal announcements with Yourstory reporting a 73% drop in funding from last week. It was slim pickings for me to choose my funding picks, and I decided to choose just one.
Aeron Systems raised ₹2 crores from Bharat Forge
What does Aeron Systems do?
Copied from Traxcn: Aeron Systems focuses on the development of technology, applying its expertise in embedded electronics to domains encompassing aerospace, automotive, renewable energy, and agriculture. The company offers products in two technology segments, Inertial Sensors, and M2M devices. The IoT solutions include wireless data loggers, wireless data gateway, vehicle health monitoring systems, and a wireless weather monitoring system.
Why do I like Aeron?
Artha manages 5 renewable energy projects, and for a long time, I had an analyst to log weather data sourced from weather.com with each daily generation report. We would find trends that gave us a good idea of the next day’s generation. However, the weather.com data wasn’t accurate as it did not capture the weather at the project location but from their closest available weather station.
Therefore and in all honesty, it was their Weather Monitoring Station for Solar Power Plants that lured me into learning more about the company. I asked the Artha Energy Resources team to reach out to them and get a demo for our current and future projects and see if it is cost-effective.
Looking at their product portfolio, getting investment from Bharat Forge is a masterstroke!

I liked FarmERP investment as I am interested in Farming as a Service. However, there was nothing shared on the amount of financing, and since the company is over 14 years old it outside the contours of how I would define an “early-stage” start-up.

My Funding Picks for Last Week (W47)

I am starting a new section for my blog.
Every Monday, I will share my favorite early-stage startups that have raised money (i.e., <Series C) in the last week. This exercise is a win-win on several levels:

  • It helps me develop the right habit of reviewing deals that took place last week.
  • I am going to write this blog every Monday so that the news is fresh and relevant.
  • It offers perspective to the founders (that read my blog) on the themes that I find interesting; therefore, I expect (fingers crossed) to create a new deal sourcing mechanism!
  • I’ll attempt to connect the start-ups I discover here, with the start-ups in my portfolio; it opens up the possibility that both startups could work together for mutual benefit

Several platforms provide weekly reports on funding news, but I am going to concentrate on YourStory, Inc42*, and Tracxn. These three sources offer the best-researched information on Indian start-ups; therefore, if I utilize all three, there are remote chances of missing out on exciting funding news.

  1. Svami – $1 million

I learned about Svami from my friend and co-investor, Nikunj Shah. A month back, he was raving out about Svami when we met at our offices. At that time I regretted it was too late for AVF to get into the company as the deal was beyond the fund’s investment mandate. Even then, I continue to track the venture, that just raised a $1m round led by Rukam Capital Trust.
Svami team’s branding strategy and their passion for their product is something that other D2C brands could emulate. They have opened up a blue ocean in the premium beverages space with their tonic waters. I recognize that I may have a bias on Svami as I see synergies in distributing their drinks through Daalchini’s smart temperature-controlled vending machines, or through VistaRooms’ to the luxury home rental’s customers.

  1. myHQ – $1.50 million

I am personally extremely bearish on the coworking/co-living space. My pessimism stems from the numerous co-working pitches that I have heard from the founder, real estate groups, and family offices. Each of them claims that they will achieve a pole position in the coworking space within the next 3-4 years with 1 million seats. Unfortunately, when I hear this promise so many times and from so many people that it is easy to see the space over-capacity and low realizations in the future for this space.
What concerns me the most is that none of these promising founding teams has kept tabs on the number of seats their competition is building. I suspect that in the next 12-18 months, there will be a slew of shutdowns consolidation and belt-tightening.

If I am this negative on the space, then it is a pertinent question as to why have I put this round led by India Quotient on this list?

What aroused my interest is the Work Cafes model on the myHQ site. While not precisely similar, it reminds me of the Anticafé model that I saw in several places in Paris. Their concept is simple. They charge their users by the hour that includes food and drinks effectively, making it a coworking café. I found the idea intriguing enough to attempt incubating the idea in-house but could not find the right people to get it going.
Therefore I chose myHQ because of the Work Café model because, in my opinion, it is an idea worth exploring!

  1. Perfios – $50 million

It is difficult to call a 12-year-old company a “start-up,” but I like Perfios’ tech stack that makes credit assessment, monitoring, aggregation, and fraud detection easier for banks and NBFCs.
As an early investor in Karza Technologies, I understand and appreciate the pain point addressed by Perfios, and it is the leader in its space. The new round led by BVP and Warburg, the company, shall be utilized to expand Perfios’ geographic reach and to make acquisitions. I believe that Perfios and Karza could provide a killer product for banks and NBFCs if they worked together as the former utilizes company data to make assessments and Karza uses proprietary databases for the same.

  1. WMall – 64 crores

I am intrigued by the influencer marketing and social commerce space, and WMall offers the best of both worlds. As an early investor in Coutloot, I have followed this space for the past few years, and it will be interesting to see who will dominate this space.
*I am an investor in Inc42 through Artha India Ventures

Navigating the Indian Seed Landscape

No one can doubt that the Indian PE/VC ecosystem is going through a golden run. The amount of money flowing into the ecosystem is breaking records –records set just the previous year! If I narrow the PE/VC down to just “start-ups” then Indian start-ups have raised $11.3 billion this year – up from $10.5 billion raised last year – the good times are truly here.

This massive influx of money and strong tailwinds make it seem as though raising capital is getting easier. But, with the number of start-ups growing as fast (if not faster) than the money supply, the real picture for a start-up raising money today is – disconcertingly different. The discussion of what metrics does it take to raise a round, what the different stage VCs focus on when you raise, etc. is a polarizing topic. One that I regularly have now with founders who are raising, founders who have raised and with funders of all stages – but there isn’t a silver bullet.

Therefore, when Yuki Kawamura shared Pear VC’s report, aptly titled, Navigating the New Seed Landscape, he could not have sent it at a more opportune time. Mar Hershenson, Managing Partner of Pear VC, created this report analyzing the US VC ecosystem but there are several parallels we can draw for our ecosystem here. For example:  

  • It confirms something that seed investors have long known, i.e., the time, amount and metrics required to raise a Series A round has increased, therefore;
    • The money needed to get a venture ready for Series A has also increased
    • Series A investors want to see positive unit economics and traction before putting in growth rounds
  • Traction has a direct correlation to valuation
  • Second time and successful founders get a premium valuation
  • Where you locate your start-up does affect its initial valuation

There are several other learnings in the report, but the one slide that stuck with me is:

Just replace the names of columns (from the left) with Seed, Pre-Series A (or Angel), Series A, and Public to translate this to our ecosystem’s lingo. However, the vertical order in those columns stays the same
  • A seed investor (like me) backs the team
  • The angel investor backs the traction, and
  • The Series A investor backs the market.

The report then gets into further details as to what your start-up must emphasize when you are raising a new round. It provides a founder the VC view on where your venture must be before attempting to raise that the Seed, Angel, or Series A round. I believe that this presentation is manna for founders. I Whatsapp’d it to my founders in the morning. Now I share it with you!