Vinod Khosla, TV Mohandas Pai and 500 Startups have joined a group of early stage investors to put a combined $8 million into Unitus Seed Fund, the Seattle and Bangalore-based venture capital firm that invests in startups focused on opportunities at the bottom-of-the-pyramid (BoP) in India. The three investors are part of a group of 21 founding investors in the fund that proposes to make equity investments in 30-40 startups over the next four years. It has already invested in four companies — Bodhicrew Services, Hippocampus Learning Centers, Milaap and Villgro. The final target corpus of the fund is not known.
Unitus Seed Fund is the latest to follow a handful of investors here who target BoP opportunities. Others active in the space include Acumen Fund, Aavishkaar, Elevar Equity, Omidyar Network and Bamboo Finance. Such investors popularly go by the social investor tag, which implies that apart from monetary returns on investments they also seek to make significant social impact through their investments. The model is currently in its nascent stages both in India and globally. Some of the investments made by such investors in 2012 include Anudip Foundation (Omidyar Network), IFMR Rural Channels (Lok Capital) and Basix Krishi (Acumen).
The Unitus line-up of founder investors makes the fund slightly different from its peers. It draws funds from individuals who have largely been engaged in conventional venture capital investing. Khosla is founder of Menlo Park, California-based Khosla Ventures which typically invests in early stage companies in areas such as mobile, Internet, consumer health and alternative energy. Pai, earlier part of the Infosys senior leadership team, has recently co-founded Aarin Capital Partners which makes early stage investments in sectors such as medical devices, Internet and financial services. 500 Startups is a Silicon Valley-based startup accelerator and seed fund. The other investors in the founder investor group include impact investors Jeffery Clark and Norm Nontje, Bob Gay, formerly with Huntsman-Gay and Bain Capital, Mike Murray, co-founder of Unitus Labs, and Ranjan Pai, CEO of Manipal Education.
The fund plans to make 10 new investments this calendar year and intends on closing 10-12 deals per year going forward, said a press release issued last Thursday. Unitus Seed Fund was co-founded by Dave Richards and Will Poole and its activities in India are headed up by Srikrishna Ramamoorthy.
Images credit: Unitus Seed Fund