Millennium Post

Sebi okays first ITC incubator's $10-mn angel fund

In a major boost to the country's first telecom incubator 'Startup Village', market regulator Sebi has approved the Startup Village angel fund of $10 million that could go up to $20 million with a 'Green Shoe' (over-allotment) option.

The approval for the angel fund, which would address the problem of resource crunch for startup companies across the country, came from Sebi through a notification issued on 23 April, a press release here said.

The focus area of the fund will be Telecom/Internet, and it would start investing once the initial close of $2 million is achieved.

KPMG is Advisor and ILFS is Trustee of the fund.

Welcoming Sebi's approval, Kris Gopalakrishnan Infosys co-founder and Startup Village chief mentor said, 'It will act like a shot in the arm for Startup Village, which would become the first incubator in India to have its own in-house fund. It will help the Internet-Telecom incubator to get the most conducive ecosystem for product startups.'

The need to create the fund was felt as the angel investment ecosystem in India is still maturing, and for the vision of Startup Village to have a 1000 product startups by 2020, it has to influence policy, infrastructure for incubators/accelerators, angel network and angel funds, he said.

The angel fund will be investing not only in the most promising startups located in Startup Village but also in similar enterprises across the country. 'We are looking to broad-base the investor profile with a large set of angel investors, many of whom might be first time angel investors in India,' Startup Village chairman Sanjay Vijayakumar said.

Besides Gopalakrishnan, MobME, the country's first campus telecom startup, Ravi Pillai, founder of the Rs 16,000-crore Bahrain-based RP Group, and other leading angel investors in India will be part of the fund. Vijayakumar, who is also the co-CEO and co-founder of MobME, said the fund would be investing in the early stage category. It would invest between $20,000 and $250,000 into startups. For higher amounts, the fund would co-invest with other early stage funds.

'As the fund is investing at a very early stage, we would be focusing more on the entrepreneur and the team and less on the idea. A smart entrepreneur is what the fund would back,' he said.

The fund would leave the choice with the entrepreneur whether he wants to give a board seat or not. There wouldn't be tag-along/drag-along rights that the fund would take as well.

The angel fund would be highly entrepreneur-friendly where the standard investment term-sheet would be available online for startup founders to go through and suggest changes as well.'We finally aim to evolve a term-sheet, that's highly entrepreneur-friendly,' he said.

H K Mittal, Head and Advisor, NSTEDB (National Science and Technology Entrepreneur Development Board), said, 'Having an in-house fund would give Startup Village incubatees an edge in the technology startup ecosystem.'

Additionally, the fund would be a vehicle for high networth individuals (HNIs) to participate in the creation of one of the largest technology startup ecosystems in the world, said Mittal, who was instrumental in setting up the first PPP model incubator in India.

'With over 750 applications from startups in the last 12 months, Startup Village (SV) is blazing ahead in the incubation landscape in India. The 100,000 sq ft building is under construction which would make SV the largest Internet-Telecom Incubator in the world,' said Vijayakumar.

By next year, Startup Village aims to have around 1,500 applications, which itself creates a large catchment area for the angel fund, he said.
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