Exclusive: LetsVentureâ€‹'s Manish Singhalâ€‹ launches VC fund to back AI startups
LetsVenture founder Manish Singhal is floating an early stage venture fund called Pi Ventures with entrepreneur Umakant Soni.
Besides founding LetsVenture,an online networking platform for startups and investors, Singhal has invested in companies such as Ecosense, India College Search, GoCoop, AdSparx, Bluegape, Frrole, FlipClass and AdPushUp. An IIT Kanpur alumnus, he has earlier worked at Sling Media, Ittiam Systems, Motorola India and Tata Elxsi. Singhal quit LetsVenture in 2014 due to differences with the companies' co-founders.
Soni, who is also an IIT Kanpur alumnus, had earlier founded Vimagino Solutions, a tech platform that helped brands enhance consumer experience. He has also invested in last mile delivery service Opinio.
The fund size of Pi Ventures could not be ascertained at the time of writing this report.
According to Pi Ventures' website, some of the investors and advisors in the fund include Bhupen Shah, Badal Malick, Raghu Tarra and Sanjeev Bhikchandani.
Shah is an active angel investor and has previously invested in venture funds such as Tandem Capital, Jungle Ventures, Saama Capital, The Fabric, and Blue Point Tech Venture Fund.
Malick has been a strategy consulting professional and has also invested in several startups. At present, he is the founder of acceleration platform for B2B startups called Gravity. Malick has also made investments in locus.in, daybox.in, ziploan.in, kapitalbond, footprint, and Switch.vc portfolio. Earlier, he was vice-president â€“ omnichannel at Snapdeal.
Tarra is chief product officer at GigSky Inc, which provides mobile data solutions for international travellers. He has invested in companies such as Qikwell technologies, Flyplist Inc, Hachi Labs, AppartmentADDA, and others.
Bhikchandani is the founder and chairman of Info Edge Ltd., which runs platforms such as Naukri, Shiksha, 99acres, among others.
Advisors to Pi Ventures include Prashant Pathak, CEO of Ekagrata Inc, Carey Kurtin, principal at Colour Capital, and Sharad Sharma of iSPIRIT. Amit Ranjan, who founded SlideShare, which was later sold to LinkedIn, is a part of the Tech Council.
The Bangalore-based fund is yet to make its first investment. It will make focussed investments in startups operating in sectors such as internet of things, drones, machine learning, artificial intelligence, and electronic and hardware products.
Pi Ventures is one of the daughter funds in the Electronics Development Fund. Others in the list include Maitreyi Capital, Unicorn India Ventures, YourNest Fund, Parampara Capital, and Indeaspring Capital.
Early stage venture capital funding has been on the decline in India, even as new venture funds have cropped up. There have been only three Series A stage investments for Indian startups in the first 20 days of this month, according to VCCEdge, the data research platform of News Corp VCCircle. This compares poorly with close to dozen deals that were accomplished in each month of the quarter ended June.
Maitreyi Capital, a business advisory firm floated by former executives of Aditya Birla Private Equity and Reliance Jio Infocomm, has garnered an initial commitment from investors for its maiden private equity fund to back digital technology companies in India. The firm is aiming to raise as much as Rs 1,500 crore ($222 million) under Maitreyi Digital India Fund.
Most recently, RNT Associates, the privately held investment firm of Ratan Tata, announced that it is partnering with University of California, to jointly fund startups and early-stage enterprises in India. Tata is also an advisor to two other VC firms â€“ Kalaari Capital and IDG ventures.
In April, angel investors Naganand Doraswamy and Prashant Deshpande launched Ideaspring Capital, which is backed by Arihant and Amit Patni. The fund will invest up to $450,000 (around Rs 3 crore) in early-stage tech startups, besides participating in pre-Series A/Series A funding rounds where it will pump in up to $750,000 (around Rs 5 crore) as a co-investor.
This article has been updated to correct some factual errors.
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