Unitus Seed Fund launches India BoP fund; raises $3.3 mn in first close

Unitus Seed Fund, the Seattle-based venture capital firm that invests in startups focused on opportunities at the bottom-of-the-pyramid, has raised $3.3 million (about Rs 20 crore) for its Unitus Seed Fund India (USFI). The fund has a final target corpus of $9-12 million (Rs 50-75 crore). The new fund has received approvals from the Securities and Exchange Board of India to start investment activities and will operate as a Category 1 Venture Capital Fund under the Alternative Investment Funds segment.

USFI will co-invest alongside Unitus Seed Fund, an offshore fund that raised $8 million in January this year from investors such as Mike Murray (co-founder of Unitus Labs), Vinod Khosla (founder of Khosla Ventures and Khosla Impact), 500 Startups, TV Mohandas Pai (chairman of Aarin Capital Partners), and Ranjan Pai (CEO of Manipal Education and Medical Group).

“We see tremendous opportunity to mobilize Indian investment capital by enabling investors to get in on the ground floor of exciting new businesses that are targeting the massively underserved market of 1 billion Indians who get by on under less than $3,300 annual family income but nonetheless represent enormous purchasing power,” Unitus Seed Fund co-founder and managing director Will Poole said in a press release.

The firm expects to invest in 40 bottom-of-the-pyramid ventures in India over the next four years. Some of its recent investments include GoCoop Solutions and Services, an online marketplace for cooperatives, Welcare Health Systems, an affordable eye screening services company, Bodhicrew Services, Hippocampus Learning Centers, Milaap and Villgro. It typically invests between Rs 25 lakh and 75 lakh ($50,000 and $150,000) with the potential for additional investment capital as critical progress is achieved. In terms of sectors, it targets businesses in livelihood, healthcare, education, agriculture, technology for development, and basic necessities.

Unitus Seed Fund competes here for investments with firms such as Aavishkaar, Acumen and Omidyar Network.

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