My Funding Picks For Last Week (W29)

Every Monday, I sit with my team to review the funding activity of the previous week. From that list, I pick out three companies that I would have loved to invest in or find founders that are doing similar things. Click here to know about my rationale behind this weekly exercise.

It has been several weeks since our ecosystem breached the 2 deals/day average with 17 startups raising $106 million last week. The bear market rally in the global stock markets has increased investor’s liquidity positions, and many are looking for options outside of the listed spaces. Founders must start thinking about how to make deals while the running is hot!

Out of the 17 deals, 16 were in the early-stage rounds (compared to 10 last week), which made the cut for my weekly analysis. After sifting through the news (aggregated from Tracxn, Inc42, and YourStory), I pick these three as my favorite funding news from last week!

 

Name: GigIndia

Amount Raised: $975k from Incubate Fund India, Beyond Next Ventures, S. Ramadorai, Ravi Nigam, Sakshi Gudwani, Shantanu, Kiran, & Shashank Deshpande, and Dr. Pratap

What does GigIndia do?

Edited from Tracxn: GigIndia is an online student network and micro-jobs platform. Users can get paid by completing micro-jobs called gigs for companies like writing a blog, designing a logo, or completing a survey. Students can also search for internships, perform tasks, and get hired after evaluation. GigIndia also offers a platform for students to connect with mentors and learn about various career opportunities.

Why do I like GigIndia?

With several parts of our country going through fresh lockdowns, the days of WFO (Working From Office) are a dream that is far from materialization. Companies, big or small (Indian or global), are looking for ways to cut fixed costs and rationalize spending through a project or task-specific costs. This new paradigm is where a GigIndia type platform comes in. In contrast, one could argue that there are several competitors like Fiverr, TaskRabbit, etc. I like GigIndia’s problem-specific solutions for businesses, like marketing, operations, sales, recruiting, and others. They aid businesses in breaking down a complex task into smaller gigs and then help owners manage them.

An interesting approach that we might try out for ourselves and our startups!

 

Name: Decentro

Amount Raised: Undisclosed from Y Combinator, Plug and Play, Upsparks, and other notable angel investors from the Indian and APAC community.

What does Decentro do?

Edited from Tracxn: Decentro provides open banking API solutions to banks and financial institutions. It offers APIs for KYC & onboarding, AML & compliance, digital lending, online payments, and more. It enables banks to build products such as neo banks, lending platforms, finance management, and more.

Why do I like Decentro?

I am a fan of open banking APIs as I have previously liked YAP and an early investor in Karza. Therefore, Decentro is on this list as I believe that Indian banking is not only broken; it is holding Indian businesses back.

Must I explain more why I am interested in platforms that solve this broken experience? 🙃 

 

Name: Zomentum

Amount Raised: $4.1m from Accel and SAIF Partners

What does Zomentum do?

Edited from Tracxn: Zomentum provides client relationship and sales process management software. It allows users to design and process sales process, retain them, and improve client relationships. It enables users to manage personalized reminders, set metrics and track performance of the teams, and share leads with other teams. Other features include sales funnel management, catalog management, branding, and identity management.

Why do I like Zomentum?

At Artha, we use Pipedrive and Salesforce to manage our sales processes. It does an excellent job for us, except that we must pay a lot of third parties to automate our sales processes. These addons significantly increase our monthly bills, and we must monitor the addons for errors, especially if the APIs are updated.

While I haven’t had a chance to test drive Zomentum (yet), I like their fully integrated approach. If it reduces my monthly costs and my operational overhead – I’ll switch!

My Funding Picks For Last Week (W24)

Every Monday, I sit with my team to review the funding activity of the previous week. From that list, I pick out three companies that I would have loved to invest in or find founders that are doing similar things. Click here to know about my rationale behind this weekly exercise.

 

As most of India reopened, so did the funding lords! There was a marked increase in the number of startups that raised capital with 19 startups raising $92 million. Out of the 19 deals, 13 were in the early-stage rounds, which made the cut for my weekly analysis.

After sifting through the news (aggregated from Tracxn, Inc42, and YourStory), I picked out these three as my favorite funding news from last week!

 

Name: Cube Wealth

Amount Raised: $500k from Beenext and Asuka Holding

What does Cube Wealth do?

Edited from Traxcn: Cube Wealth is an automated investment management app which, offers personalized recommendations from financial advisors. Users get provided with an option of goal-oriented financial management. Users can set their financial goals, and Cube Wealth saves for the same via EMIs. It invests the money in diversified asset classes, including liquid, MFs, equities, P2P lending, and gold. The app is available for iOS and Android platforms.

Why do I like Cube Wealth?

The Indian wealth & investment management space is broken. A user must struggle through a multitude of apps to gain a full understanding of their exact financial positions. The decentralized information works against the middle class as they cannot seek better deals for their investments. Besides, the power of wealth aggregation that the larger family offices platforms utilize to get access to closet deals or better negotiation terms aren’t available to a middle-class family. Platforms like Cube seek to address this imbalance by using technology & scale to provide premium services at an affordable cost. With 500 million people set to enter the Indian middle Cube has a bright future ahead of them!

 

Name: Credgenics

Amount RaisedUndisclosed from Titan Capital

What does Credgenics do?

Edited from Traxcn: Credgenics offers cloud-based debt recovery solutions to banks and lenders. Its features include collection strategy, analytics for profiling & collection, automated communication for customer engagement, and more. It provides solutions for alternative dispute resolution, insolvency & bankruptcy, fintech laws, and more.

Why do I like Credgenics?

Collections are an art, and while it is easy to lend money, not every fintech company can build a strong collections team. Therefore I am excited that there are startups like Credgenics that we can get our fintech companies to outsource their collections operations too. And it isn’t a surprise that bad debts make excellent business sense!

 

Name: IVF Access

Amount Raised: $5M from Vertex Ventures SEA & India

What does IVF Access do?

Edited from YourStory: IVF Access is a Bengaluru-based healthcare startup focused on providing In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) treatments in India. Led by an experienced management team, IVF Access is setting up a chain of IVF centers in India, providing Assisted Reproductive treatments such as IVF and IUI. They offer nationwide access to IVF treatments with an innovative technology platform and state-of-the-art labs.

Why do I like IVF Access?

Babies are a multi-billion business opportunity. Therefore, it is not a surprise that the business of making babies is massive. Due to lifestyle-related issues & an increase in the age at which couples have babies, there is a marked increase in IVF clinics. While the market IVF market size is small, it’s going to grow to $1.50 billion by 2026.

IVF Access is an early player in providing a single brand for IVF clinics and could capitalize on a deeply fragmented space!

My Funding Picks For Last Week (W22 & 23)

Every Monday, I sit with my team to review the funding activity of the previous weekFrom that list, I pick out 3 companies that I would have loved to invest in or find founders that are doing similar things. Click here to know about my rationale behind this weekly exercise 

 

Another week for the lockdown to end (probably more for metro cities) should improve investment spirits. Deal activity continues to temper, but it hasn’t completely stopped. Last week saw 13 startups raise $50 million. Out of the 13 deals, 11 were in the early-stage rounds.  

I expect deal activity to pick up over the next few weeks as the economy reopens with founders and funders finally get to their rubber meeting the road moment.  

After sifting through the news (aggregated from TracxnInc42, and YourStory,) I picked out these 2 as my favorite funding news from last week!  

 

NameRemedo Clinitech 

Amount Raised: Undisclosed from AngelList, Mohit Satyanand, Mitesh Dagaand Aditya Vij 

What does Remedo do? 

Edited from TraxcnRemedo Doctor is a cloud-based platform for medical record storage. It allows patients, doctors, and clinics to connect with each other and access relevant data. It enables patients to upload and store their medical records online. Available on Android and iOS platforms. Also, it allows doctors to generate insights through dashboards based on analytics. 

Why do I like Remedo? 

My thesis on telemedicine and recordkeeping has undergone a significant shift during this economic lockdown and its aftereffects. Platforms such as Remedo will become the mainstay of Indian healthcare as we practice social distancing but with better record keeping and tabs on our health.  

 

NameSwifLearn 

Amount RaisedUndisclosed from Stellaris Venture Partners and Venture Highway  

What does SwifLearn do? 

Edited from TraxcnSwiflearn is an online platform that provides live tuitions for K-12 students. It offers classes in small batches of 5 students. It offers crash courses for math & science for the upcoming year-end exam. 

Why do I like SwifLearn? 

Another product accelerated to the market due to the COVID lockdown. I like their premise, i.e., replace the in-person tutor experience by creating the same experience online. It increases the productivity of the tutor (and they don’t have to leave home!) but also provides them a more significant reach.  

There is better control over the learning experience online, and the broader reach makes it affordable for students. Their pricing policy is exciting too. Definitely, one to watch out. 

Flashback Friday: CarveNiche Technologies

As I approach my personal goal of personally investing in 100 startups within 10 years, it was time to reminisce. Each new investment gave me a new experience, sometimes good, sometimes bad and sometimes ugly. Last week I wrote about my first angel investment, United Mobile Apps. This week is its investment #2!

CarveNiche is an innovative EdTech startup. They developed advanced EdTech products such as beGalileo (India’s largest personalized after school math learning program for K-12 education), Wisdom Leap (free online source for K-12 education), and Concept Tutors (personalized 1:1 tutoring focussed on the international market).

CarveNiche created a niche in the EdTech space. It is the first to develop a product using the latest technology, such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), to teach a subject like Maths. The flagship brand, beGalileo, recently became India’s first after school Math learning program to be available as a Windows App.

At present, they have over 750 women entrepreneurs who are running their centers through CarveNiche. The renewal rates exceed 90 percent, which shows the value they provide to the students and parents.

Founder: Avneet Makkar Total funding raised INR 5.5 crore
2020 status: Operational with HQ in Bengaluru Number of rounds 3
Co-investors: Lead Angels, Mumbai Angels, Calcutta Angels

 

  1. Why did we invest in CarveNiche?

CarveNiche’s initial business model was to deliver a superior classroom experience for the school students by utilizing the latest digital hardware with a customized software platform. The platform provided instructors the ability to track the progress of each student and personalize the student’s teaching plan based on how well the student grasped the subject. The platform also offered a messaging service to connect parents & teachers so that they could track the progress of their students at school & home.

I liked the founders. It was a known fact that Indian schools lacked modern equipment to upgrade the delivery of instruction in the classroom. Looking at the massive size of the market, I decided to invest based on the broad target market, solid team, and their clear understanding of the problem and its solution.

 

  1. What were the risks involved with an investment in CarveNiche?

The risks presented themselves in three ways.

    • Long sales cycles: The company had a tiny window to sell its offering to school administrators, their boards, and their trustees. Next, their team must negotiate contracts, find financing to help the school purchase the required equipment. After that, CarveNiche would implement the solution and train the instructors on how to use their platform. If the company could not complete all these steps before the start of the school (academic) year, the sales decision, the invoicing, and the revenues from it would get postponed to the following year. The company must continue to fund its sales team for long periods before they could see the results of their efforts or get feedback to innovate on the product.
    • Providing subprime debt: Most Indian schools do not have a profitable business model. They must regularly fundraise to meet their budgetary needs. Therefore, most schools could not afford the hardware for CarveNiche’s solution – unless provided with equipment financing.

With most of these schools running operating deficits funded by government grants, donations, and trustees, these schools had an inferior debt profile.

To survive, the company had to come up with an equipment leasing/purchasing plan, and they approached us for that financing. We gave subprime debt to a few schools to evaluate their ability to repay, but most of the schools defaulted on their obligations to CarveNiche and us. That experience burned a severe hole in CarveNiche’s bank account, forcing them to abandon this product offering and the selling to schools’ business model.

 

  1. How long did you plan to invest in CarveNiche?

At the time of the investment, it seemed like CarveNiche would scale quickly and get acquired by a larger player like Educomp. However, our investment coincided with the start of the demise of Educomp, and even though the company raised a couple of follow-on funding rounds, they had to (thankfully) pivot to a B2C business model.

 

  1. Would you invest in a similar startup today?

I learned from CarveNiche’s experience that trying to build a massive business that sells to institutions that possess inherently unprofitable business models is like living in a fool’s paradise. The Modi government invests 4.6% of GDP in education, so I know there is money to be made in EdTech.

However, I find that the B2C plays must spend a lot to acquire a customer, and their LTV / CAC ratios stay <1.

In B2B, I have not found a group of founders that understand the pain that CarveNiche went through and have developed a business model that addresses those issues; therefore, we have cautiously stayed out of this space.

CarveNiche’s new business model providing online tutoring has promised, even if it was a bit niche. However, it has scaled beautifully in the COVID19 era. The company has turned around and raised a new round to aid its growth. Avneet has stayed the course despite several setbacks, so she deserves every bit of the luck that comes her way.

In conclusion, I would not invest in the original CarveNiche business model – but I would invest in Avneet.

 

  1. What are your learnings from the pivots that CarveNiche has made over the years?

CarveNiche was my 2nd angel investment, and it taught me many lessons that continue to guide me today. I’ll share a couple of them:

    • Follow-the-money: It is essential to understand how long it will take a business to convert billed revenue into money in its bank account. If the path to getting the money is long and fuzzy – avoid that business model. As a founder or an investor.
    • Avoid investments in long working capital plays: If it takes a long time to close a sale, then a long time for to invoice for sale, and an even longer wait to get the money from that invoice into your bank account – what is getting utilized to keep the lights on today?

If the answer is venture capital, then I would not invest in that business.