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Former Qualcomm Ventures executive plans $50 mn Silicon Valley-based fund

LiveMint logoLiveMint 11-09-2017 Anirban Sen

Bengaluru: The former head of the Indian fund of venture capital firm Qualcomm Ventures, Karthee Madasamy, may soon launch a new $40-50 million fund based out of Silicon Valley to invest in early-stage technology start-ups, according to three people aware of the plans.

Madasamy, who stepped down from Qualcomm Ventures earlier this year to pursue other opportunities, is in the process of finalizing the structure of the new fund and is expected to launch it over the coming days and weeks, the people mentioned above said. All three requested anonymity as these discussions are private.

“Karthee has been thinking of doing a new fund for quite some time now. His decision to move on from Qualcomm did not come as a surprise to anyone, since he had been mulling this decision for nearly a year now,” said one of the three people mentioned above.

Madasamy is also in the process of putting together a team to help him manage the fund and is expected to work with executives based out of Silicon Valley, the three people said. Mint could not immediately verify whether the new fund will invest only in start-ups based in Silicon Valley or also back Indian ventures.

The size of the fund indicates it will mostly do very early-stage investments from seed to Series A stages. The fund is expected to back ventures working on disruptive technologies, although the broader strategy of the fund is still to be finalized, the people mentioned above said.

Madasamy did not respond to an email seeking comment.

A former Boston Consulting Group executive, Madasamy spent more than a decade at Qualcomm Ventures. During his stint at Qualcomm, Madasamy led investments in a number of early-stage ventures such as Waze (which was eventually acquired by Google), MapMyIndia, Capillary Technologies and Portea Medical, among others.

In the past decade, Qualcomm’s India fund has backed more than two dozen start-ups, including Ninjacart, Proptiger and YourStory. Globally, Qualcomm is estimated to have an overall corpus in excess of $500 million to invest in start-ups.

After Madasamy resigned from Qualcomm earlier this year, the VC firm elevated Varsha Tagare as the new head of the $150-million India-focused fund.

Madasamy’s plans for a new fund come at a time when global investment activity is picking up momentum, after witnessing a significant slowdown over the past two years. The VC ecosystem globally and in India has been much more active this year, especially in later stages, boosted in part by large cheques written by SoftBank’s new $100-billion Vision Fund.

A number of VC firms in India that launched large new funds last year such as Accel Partners and Sequoia have also started deploying those funds for early to mid-stage bets.

A handful of new VC firms have also been launched in the past 12 months, such as Stellaris Venture Partners (formed by former Helion Venture executives), Fundamentum Partnership (promoted by Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani and Helion’s Sanjeev Aggarwal) and Unitary Helion (raised by Helion’s Rahul Chandra), among others.

All three of them (Stellaris, Fundamentum and Unitary Helion) incidentally are looking to raise a corpus of $100 million—a sign that investor interest in India’s rapidly-growing start-up ecosystem has not waned and is likely to stay upbeat in the near term.

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