Unitus Seed Fund has raised $8 million in commitments for its seed-stage venture fund focused on startups serving low-income consumers in India. Founding investors include Mike Murray, co-founder Unitus Labs; Vinod Khosla; 500 Startups, and Bob Gay.
Unitus Seed Fund (USF) has secured over $8 million in investment commitments for its seed-stage venture capital fund focused on accelerating “BoP startups” – startups serving low-income consumers – in India. USF invests in for-profit scalable companies that will provide economic self-reliance, education, and basic necessities to millions of low-income people living at the base of the economic pyramid (aka “BoP”). USF has also recruited a strong group of venture advisors to provide expert support to its portfolio companies.
Several impact investing luminaries are among the founding investors of the fund: Mike Murray (co-founder of microfinance pioneer, Unitus Labs), Jeff Clark, Vinod Khosla (Founder, Khosla Ventures and Khosla Impact), 500 Startups, and Bob Gay (Former Huntsman-Gay and Bain Capital). Co-investors in India include T.V. Mohandas Pai (Chairman of Aarin Capital Partners), and Dr. Ranjan Pai (CEO of Manipal Education and Medical Group).
“We are delighted that leading investors share Unitus Seed Fund’s conviction that serving low-income customers with free-market principles and business discipline can sustainably improve the lives of those living on under $4/day and make good money at the same time,” said Dave Richards, Managing Partner of USF. “Our investees will do this by bringing products, services and income-generating enterprises directly to their communities.”
By investing in entrepreneurs who are building BoP startups that serve the 800 million low-income citizens of India, USF expects to deliver both strong financial returns and substantial social impact. One of USF’s first investments, Hippocampus Learning Centers, has expanded its rural education centers and has recently received substantial follow-on growth capital. Others in USF’s portfolio companies are making solid progress in preparation for accelerating their business growth. Building on its portfolio of four investments completed in 2012, USF anticipates making 10 new investments in 2013, and 10-12 per year going forward.
Growing businesses that must operate on narrow margins and at high volume is notoriously challenging. USF will offer the operating expertise of its founders and staff to all portfolio companies. Additionally, USF has recruited its first twelve “Venture Advisors” to help companies thrive. These venture advisors have a wide range of skills in corporate and entrepreneurial settings, and are passionate about serving the base-of-pyramid in India.
About Unitus Seed Fund
Unitus Seed Fund is part of Unitus, an international group developing innovative market-based solutions to sustainably and scaleably bring opportunities for self-reliance to the four billion people living at the base-of-pyramid (BoP). USF operates out of Bangalore and Seattle and plans to make equity investments in 30-40 early-stage “BoP startups” in India over the next four years. USF was co-founded by Dave Richards and Will Poole, global early-stage investors, entrepreneurs and operators with strong networks and experience in India. USF’s efforts in India are headed up by Srikrishna Ramamoorthy, an experienced impact investor and startup operator.