As an active series A/B investor, most companies I like have been supported by great angel investors and seed funds. They help founders quit their day jobs, build a team and get to their first revenue. Having that right first investor back you is life changing—they can set the tone for many investments to come and provide you with the credibility and advice you desperately need.
Needless to say, not all early investors are the same.
Below are some people doing great work. I have categorised them in three different groups — angel networks, fundraising platforms and seed funds. If I missed you, ping me (@sandhya) and I’ll look you up.
I have not included accelerators in my list. Not that they aren’t relevant, just that there are very few awesome ones and they don’t give you much cash. Some of the ones I like are: Pankaj Jain at 500Startups, Abhishek Gupta at TLabs , Vijay Anand at theStartupCenter and Rajesh Sawhney at GSF. There are also new accelerators popping up everyday like these guys.
Indian Angel Network (IAN) and Mumbai Angels are the largest networks in the country. But factors such as how a group is run and who is in it are far more important than how many angels you can get access to. Small exclusive groups where investors themselves are easy to reach and give you quick feedback will help you make better decisions as a founder.
- Indian Angel Network (born 2006) — Padmaja Ruparel runs IAN and knows just about every angel investor in India. Don’t just submit a form on their website. Get someone to introduce you to one of their 290 members and your pitch is more likely to be read and shared and invested in. Like this.
- Powai Lake Ventures (born 2011)—The crew is almost entirely from the Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay. You will love their application process, just send them a short email. No forms, no business plans.
- Mumbai Angels (born 2006) — While they have old hits like InMobi and Myntra in their kitty, I see fewer exciting deals led by them in 2014. Their website definitely needs a revamp.
- I3N (born 2009) — Aditi Shrivastava, who runs Intellecap’s Impact Investing Network works very hard to get founders funded. If your startup has high socio-economic relevance, put Shrivastava on your fundraising list.
- Individual powerhouse angels — CEOs and entrepreneurs with a great wealth of experience are also ready to help you launch. It is not easy to get their attention but if you are looking for that perfect angel backer, start searching for them at Quora-threads and Angellist/India.
Platforms are efficient, help standardise terms and give more power to entrepreneurs. We need some of that. I already see IAN members rapidly signing up on these sites.
- Let’s Venture (born 2013) — Fabulous work by Shanti Mohan. With 23 deals closed, they are leading the charge of the platforms so far.
- Termsheet.io (born 2014) — Claim to fame: the Flipkart Bansals just invested in Ather through termsheet.io.
- Ah! Ventures (born 2012) — They have been around longer, seeding investments but launched their platform in 2012. Nice portfolio of business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) tech platforms in learning, gaming, and collaboration.
- Globevestor (born 2014)— This team particularly focuses on helping non-resident Indians (NRIs) and high net worth individuals (HNIs) abroad invest in Indian startups and have already closed five deals including Zoomcar. The good news: no commission.
Everyone’s doing seed investments at this point so nothing, apparently, is too early for institutional capital. I begin to think even Tiger Global might make a seed investment in the right team given the exuberant environment in India. If you have their attention, you are winning already and don’t need this article.
That said, here are the guys whose only job is to lead seed rounds and who will still be making seed investments when things get tough:
- Blume Ventures (born 2011) — I like where their portfolio is going. They are just flush from their Zipdial exit. Easy to reach, just tweet at@arpiit.
- Unitus Seed Fund (born 2012) — Awesome guys. They are a great fit for startups in education, health, payments and generally “inclusive” business ideas. They have just launched an accelerator program too: Speed2Seed. Best way to reach them is be introduced by someone they know but you can also try Radha over Linkedin.
- India Quotient (born 2013) — Entrepreneurs themselves, fabulously easy to reach. Use twitter or just email Anand Lunia from their website. As someone who also shares her email id on linkedin and my website and gets her inbox down to zero every week, I really respect angel/seed investors who share their contacts.
- Orios Venture Partners (born 2014) — Started by successful angel investor Rehan yar Khan, their website features many of his past angel investments like Ola. However, they are actively looking for seed opportunities. They have already made 12 investments but only announced Yumist amongst their seed bets.
- Kae Capital (born 2011) —Again, super reachable — everyone’s email addresses are available on their website.
- Seedfund (born 2006) — They were probably India’s first seed fund and have led some very successful investments with Redbus and Carwale. Not the easiest team to reach though. Try Bharati Jacob here. They have slowed down (stopped?) in 2014 so I should check whether they are raising money again.
- Jungle Ventures (born 2012) — Jayesh Parekh was an active angel investor way before he started running Jungle. Their team makes investments across Asia. Not the easiest to reach for a seed fund and possibly moving to Series A funding.