Investor Outlook: Why I Bet On These Startups
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Ben Mathias, Managing Director and Head of India for Vertex Ventures, has had a long and illustrious career in identifying various innovative and solution-based startups. The alumnus of IIT Madras and Dartmouth College, Mathias was previously partner at New Enterprise Associates and on the board of directors of more than 10 high-growth companies. He believes in technology-driven ventures that have good unit economics and potential to go global.
Vertex, the venture capital arm of the Singapore Government-backed investment company Temasek, is known to be a technology-focused fund, typically targeting Series-A rounds in startups based primarily in Singapore, Indonesia, Taiwan, and India. Grab, Southeast Asia’s biggest ride-hailing startup, is their most notable funding till date. In India, Vertex Ventures’ prominent investments include FirstCry, CloudCherry, Xpressbees.
In a conversation with Entrepreneur India, Mathias tells us as an investor, what he and his company look for while selecting from a barrage of ideas and businesses.
High Point: Omni-channel Platform for enterprise retail
The Product: Ace Turtle’s proprietary product Rubicon, handles ecommerce operations of big brands to seamlessly to integrate online and offline retail channels. It allows them to have a single view of orders and inventory and offers easy integration to help build efficient marketing and sales strategies.
Fund allocated: $5mn in Series-A
Reason for Selection: When it comes to the inventory, there is a gap between what they showcase in the online and offline stores. When you visit an e-commerce marketplace, you will get see only what that particular brand wants to show.
We chose them because they provide a unified customer experience across all channels. Plus the entrepreneurs have a background in retail and they understand which problem to address. It was very unique yet relatable problem in the retail sector.
High Point: prevents manufacturing loss through Decision Sciences and Analytics
The Product: The company’s flagship software platform, Cerebra, provides diagnostics and prognostics solutions to unlock value for engineering and energy customers through machine learning and artificial intelligence. It runs operations in Palo Alto and Houston in the US, Tokyo in Japan and Bengaluru. Its clients include Henkel, Stewart and Stevenson and Sodexo, among others.
Fund allocated: $7.5mn in Series A
Reason for Selection: This was little more difficult as it falls in the category of deep tech, so you need to have a lot of domain knowledge to judge something like this. Moreover, they were considering going into large scale industrial set ups and gain access to machines that cost hundreds and thousands of dollars. To understand this highly technical domain we had to consult a lot of people in the industry and reach out to the experts.
After a thorough inspection, we concluded that it is a very tough problem and has a high return of investment for each successful deal. Moreover, the market is huge like the oil and gas industry, chemical industry, and more. Most importantly, even before they raised the series A from us they broke even and had a decent customer base.
High Point: Guarantees the service provided
The Product: Home services marketplace Housejoy, run by Sarvaloka Services On Call, offers a platform to find and book local service providers for maintenance and home repairs purposes like plumbing, electrical, computer repairs and also specialized services in beauty.
Fund allocated: Part of the $22mn Series-B raise along with Amazon, Qualcomm and Ru-Net
Reason for Selection: We’ve always had these regular household fixture issues but dealing with them always meant resorting to the unorganized market, which is typically through word of mouth. But there are often issues related to quality and guarantee in this sphere. However, we realized that the suppliers in this category are huge but the market suffered from a right match of demand and supply.
We knew that there were similar players in the market but most were aggregators, which felt more like the Yellow Book Pages. Housejoy, on the other hand, took full guarantee of the services it provides. The final decision was made when we saw that quality was top notch in terms of the supply the company provided.
From a business perspective what we liked was that they focused on a single market first, went deep in it and then decided to expand, rather than just going all over the place with expansion, without testing the model.