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16 Questions For pi Ventures – The Fund For AI/ML/IoT Startups

Contrary to headlines, the size of the fund is not 200 crores, but 195 crores. Investors in the fund include founders of MakeMyTrip and “…Investors are moving from market share led thesis to intellectual property (IP) … led thesis.”

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Manish Singhal, founding partner at pi Ventures tells us more about their investing strategy and what kind of entrepreneur they are looking for.

1. How many months has pi Ventures been active as an investor?

We have been meeting startups for the last 9 -10 months. Started looking actively at investments around September 2016.

2. Sectors of interest to invest in?

We are sector agnostic. However we will be focusing on applied artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and IoT across sectors. We are seeing more activity in healthcare, logistics and fintech to name a few.

3. Size of fund?

195 crores

4. Notable startups invested in and/or mentored?

We have announced one investment in ten3T, a wireless electrocardiogram (ECG) company

5. What’s the next big trend you think will hit the Indian startup ecosystem?

We are at the cusp of a change - investors are moving from market share led thesis to intellectual property (IP) based product led thesis. This will lead to a new wave of innovation led ecosystem getting created.

6. What one big thing must Indian startups do to become sustainable?

Startups should continue to innovate and create intellectual property (IP) led products which address market needs in a holistic manner.

7. The best way to exit a startup is:

a. To be acquired
b. IPO
c. Prefer to maintain shares in startup if it becomes successful enough to reach IPO status

For early stage investors, most of the exits either come from mergers and acquisitions (M&A) or secondary transactions in bigger rounds.

8. What’s preferred: a single founder or a cofounder team?

In general, multiple founders are preferred although there is no hard and fast rule. In case of a single founder, if the initial core team can address the basic needs of the startup, then they are in good shape.

9. How many startups would you typically like to have in the portfolio?

We are actively looking to invest in 18-24 startups in the tenure of the fund.

10. What’s the one big thing an entrepreneur can do to convince you to invest in their startup?

Show a compelling product/prototype with some early validation from their customers.

11. Best way to contact pi Ventures:

a. Email
b. Head to the office directly
c. Thru a referral
d. Phone call

Referrals are the best way to reach us. Else write to us directly via email.

12. Is it a waste of time and money for novice entrepreneurs to pay to attend networking events and startup conferences?

There are too many events/conferences these days. It is better to choose specific ones which are useful.

13. pi prefers to invest in sustainable business models selling a product with proven demand (like clothes and food for instance) or innovative, slightly wild ideas with a bit more unproven risk?

We are looking to invest in disruptive intellectual property (IP) led product startups.

14. How do you deal with write offs and losing money?

We will try and do the best for the company. If nothing is possible, you take it in your stride.

15. One piece of advice to novice investors

Do not get carried away with the flavor of the season. Look for differentiated and scalable ventures.

16. What’s the best thing about working as an investor in startups?

Every startup I meet brings an opportunity to learn something new.

Working with them helps me stay engaged and contribute towards building and launching innovative products.

That is what keeps me going as an investor.

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