White Unicorn Ventures Intends to Deploy At Least $5M in the Seed Level This Year
White Unicorn Ventures is looking at investment in various sectors such as Real estate, IoT, logistics, QSR, SaaS, Smart-Tech, Fintech etc.
Rohit Chokhani, Principal Founder, White Unicorn Ventures
White Unicorn Ventures is an investment firm that specializes in seed funding and early-stage support for Startups. Specializing in value addition and advisory services, the venture has a sector agnostic approach. The company’s vision is to play a critical role in building and nurturing the startup ecosystem by helping young entrepreneurs in their early steps, expansion, bridge funding, as well as providing incubation co-sharing start up real estate space.
White Unicorn has signed various MoU’s with Entrepreneurship cells of various IIM’s & IIT’s to enable development of startups from an early stage and identifying future trends. Some of the IIT/IIM’s include IIM Calcutta, IIM Lucknow, IIM Rohtak, SP Jain, in addition White Unicorn is also playing a significant role in IIT Bombay’s Eureka B-Plan competition & Entrepreneurship summit.
Seeing the boom in the start-up eco-system, WUV decided to start a co-working space to help young entrepreneurs start their businesses at a very minimal cost. Unicorn Growth Centre is a first of its kind All – Suite Private is an interesting initiative by White Unicorn Ventures. This growth centre is Office’s space with advantages of utilizing the growing network of White Unicorn Ventures. The Unicorn Growth Centre, is just not a Co-Working Space, but also offers services ranging from Online Marketing to OOH Media to PR Agency to Secretarial Services to Chartered Accountancy Services to Legal Service, etc.
Sujata Sangwan Interacts With Rohit Chokhani, Principal Founder, White Unicorn Ventures and Spoke to Him
What has led to its growth?
White Unicorn Ventures was born out of the necessity for a complete management of investments, nurturing & supporting investee companies. India is a nation of 130 million people, the sheer market size makes it lucrative for ideas to succeed, if executed well. Because of the market size, there will be always scope for 2/3 players in each category of product or service. White Unicorn Ventures though a very late entrant to the game of seed investing, has made significant growth due to its frugal operations, transparent approach to investments. Furthermore 50% of the stipulated corpus is from the founder; hence at WUV we learn, adapt and evolve everyday towards Investments. One will never hear things as “You don’t fit our Investment Criteria” or similar Jhumla at White Unicorn Ventures!
Which are the companies and sectors where WUV has invested?
Till date, we have funded 18 startups. Finding talent and valuation is a very big challenge, we have to spend a lot of time with the entrepreneurs to educate them. Some of them included Routofy, JustRide, Shaadisaga, NatureNama, Azuro, GoodEd-Tech, Unstockify, Prime Squares, and Doodle Walls. Amongst these, JustRide has been chosen by Google launchpad and Y competitor- the most prestigious accelerator in the world, and recently has raised significant funding from angels and vc’s from the silicon valley.
What are the trends in the startup ecosystem?
Startups ecosystem is booming in India. The big reason behind this is the access to finance and especially the deepening of the angel, venture and private equity ecosystem in the country.
The ecosystem for the growth of startups is 55% conducive and merely 2% negative by (Economic Times Barometer). It also has depicted twice the growth since 2014. This boom has generated employment for more than 85,000 people. The start-ups are spread mainly over technological hubs of Delhi and Bangalore, accounting for 28% and 24% of activity, respectively.
Often the media praises the founders who have successfully raised a sufficient amount of funds. More often than not, the idea in which the money has been invested proves to be a result oriented proposition, however it is equally true that quite a number of ideas do not end up being game changers or even have the potential of being potential game changers for the industry.
There are certain trends that are observed in India's deepening startup ecosystem.
First, the ideas are typically too Indian centric. The ideas are reframed from west especially in case of technology entrepreneurship where the focus is on using their existing business model and reframe them in Indian context. Second, for the real success to happen, one should articulate an innovative idea taking into consideration the problems faced by people and finding solutions to those. However, we are still awaiting for excellent tech companies like Google or next Skype in India.
Third, there is always a toss on technology entrepreneurship vis-a-vis social entrepreneurship. We see that usually social entrepreneurship gets neglected which has a huge potential in a country as diverse and large as India and the kind of problems it faces. Also, it is something which can have a good impact for kind of problems faced by the Indian society. However the less known faces of the social entrepreneurship are lesser known, given lesser funds than technology entrepreneurs. Social progress will be balanced only when societal and technology entrepreneurs are given equal space in public life.
Deeper structural issues and the quality of mentorship available for both social and technology startups are some of the focal points that should be given due importance.
However, some entrepreneurs do get enrolled into entrepreneurial networks; there are deeper structural questions that need answers from all influencing bodies particularly the state. These pertain to deepening the government, university, research and entrepreneurial ecosystems and the interactions that can lead to not only more prolific but also more viable ideas and innovations.
What are the initiatives underway at WUV to mentor the startups India?
We at WUV, are committed to the eco-system development in India. Some of the new initiatives in 2017 will be opening of more co-working spaces, which will be economical, functional & practical in addition they will appeal to Small business’, individual entrepreneurs, and startups. Further White Unicorn will further consolidate its position in startups in smart cities technologies i.e. from real estate to IoT. WUV also plans to start a social initiative side fund, aimed at Women & For-Profit Social Business’. We will continue community development within our founder community, and will soon embark on the first founders retreat early next year.
Tell us about International investments in the startup ecosystem in India and why Indian investments are low in this sector?
India has emerged as the hub for the startup, hence, a huge number of foreign investors are eyeing India as a lucrative market to invest. The huge amount of foreign investments has helped Indian startups to grow tremendously, from 3,100 startups in 2014 to a projection of more than 11,500 by 2020, this is certainly not a passing trend. It’s a revolution. Indian startups raised $3.5 billion in funding in the first half of 2015, and the number of active investors in India increased from 220 in 2014 to 490 in 2015. As of December 2015, eight Indian start-ups belonged to the 'Unicorn' club (ventures that are valued at $1 billion and upwards). It is a booming trend and will only gain more traction with the time.
As the majority of Indians struggle a lot to save money due to low income level, they do not want to take much risk with their hard-earned money therefore they choose to invest in traditional investment options. Also People in India are not worried about whether the return on their investment can beat inflation or not, but they are keen to preserve the wealth by investing in assets which gives guaranteed constant return.
As of now, WUV has not made any international investments.
What is your advice to the young startups?
It is indeed thrilling to start off your own venture, but as the business progresses, even the most successful entrepreneurs face bouts of confusion.
Please find below my advice to the young startups:
Exceed Expectations – You should always make it appoint to meet the expectations of your clients. Whenever you exceed them, it is always beneficial. Impress your customers, your potential investors, your employees, yourself. Overpromising in terms of work should be avoided, where you already know you can’t deliver.
Always ask for help – No one is good at everything. Some skills take years to master, while others, you may never master at all. Being an entrepreneur, asking for help might be equated with weakness or ignorance, but seeking clarifications, knowledge and information from experts, mentors and from your team will give you invaluable insights.
Flexibility helps – You should be open to accept changes in the initial idea, concept, approach, partner, model, and works after testing it on ground. Until you finalized an idea, there is no harm into experimenting different ideas; it will help you in learning. It is very easy to get offended and “this-is-my-idea” mode, but at the same time if someone has given a critical feedback, try to accept it.
Pick your battles - Once you have a set course for your destination, pick the battles and obstacles worth fighting. This is the crucial period where in you shouldn’t lose sleep over pretty operational challenges, instead focus on the main concept. At such times convincing everyone is not a good idea, for right now, others don’t see things your way.
Be patient – Startups don’t fail; the main culprit is the founder who gives up so soon.
Disruptions, no matter how big, do not happen overnight. The golden rule of starting things from scratch is that it will take time, and the struggle will be a constant until achieving success.
Find a stress-buster – Stress is a part of life, it all depends upon how you take it. You might not be doing every task yourself, but that doesn’t mean that you are not worried stop you about it, right? You need to be able to find ways to release your stress and get in touch with yourself. It will eventually help you to prevent from getting too absorbed in the pieces to miss the bigger picture.
In which sector White Unicorn Ventures will invest and what will be the investment range?
White Unicorn Ventures is looking at investment in various sectors such as Real estate, IoT, logistics, QSR, SaaS, Smart-Tech, Fintech etc. We believe these are promising sectors and there will be a lot of momentum around these in the coming months. The range varies depending on various factors but broadly we are looking to invest from $100K to $500K per company.
How you are supporting Indian startup ecosystem apart from funding?
Micro-VC firms & investors play a vital role in the startup ecosystem. Apart from funding, we help startups scale the concept and how they can take the brand to the next level. The right mentorship plays a crucial role in helping the start-ups grow. We also help the startups tweak their business plan and business model as per the market conditions. Because we have connection with other angel investors, incubators, partners and PE’s and VC’s, we help in strategic tie-ups and help them network with people who they can do business with in the long run. We also help them identify potential opportunities to expand their operations to other cities as every startup needs to think how the business can be scaled up further. Many a times, we help them in recruitment as we believe hiring the right team is the key backbone to a successful venture.
How much funds you have allocated for this year for making the investment?
This year we intend to deploy at least $5 Million in the seed level and follow on rounds of existing investments.
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