Responding to a popular request, we are now sharing transcripts of our investor podcast interviews in this new series. The following interview with Brij Bhasin of Rebright Partners was recorded in January 2018.
Brij Bhasin, Principal and India Investment Lead at Rebright Partners, which is a Japanese Venture Capital firm, discusses their India strategy. The conversation encompasses broader trends in the Indian startup market.
Sramana Mitra: Tell us about your investing focus. How big is the fund? What sized investment do you make? Let’s familiarize our audience with you activities.
Brij Bhasin: Rebright Partners is a Japanese venture capital fund. It started investing in India about three years back. That’s when I came on board to manage their portfolio locally. We are a seed to Series A fund. We invest anywhere between half a million to $1.5 million.
We typically invest in companies that are, at least, a proof of concept and are now looking to scale and experiment further before raising growth capital. We have two funds that we manage in India. The fund that we started with was a $15 million fund. Of which we’ve done eight investments. Most of these have been focused on the internet economy businesses including e-commerce, consumer internet, consumer healthcare, logistics to support e-commerce.
Our second fund, which we have just launched, is deep tech-focused. We’re investing in companies that are building specific IP-based tech across the world. The fund size would remain about the same – about $15 million. That brings our total commitment to be about $30 million.
Sramana Mitra: You said you like the proof of concept to already be in place. What do you look for in terms of customer validation? What level of validation are you looking for before you’re willing to come in? Are you looking for revenues? Are you looking for paying customers? What is the sweet spot?
Brij Bhasin: I would say it varies by industry. For example if you are building something in the consumer internet space and you’re building a mobile app or a gaming company, and you have built a certain amount of top-line scale and good retention, but you haven’t really started monetizing, we would still consider that because you can actually show a very engaged user base.
If you’re building an e-commerce marketplace, we want to see some transactions because the idea is, do you have enough liquidity in the marketplace? Do you have buyers and sellers? Are they transacting? Then if you move onto something more specialized, let’s say you’re building a deep tech product in computer vision or chip design where the product building and gestation time is a lot longer, your POC itself requires significant capital and team. We work with those types of companies even from day zero. We will give them a little bit of money, maybe help the founders apply for patents. We may help them build an advisory base and then go ahead and help them raise larger amounts of money to build a full POC that they can take to market.
Sramana Mitra: What about geography? Are you focused on just the big cities in India? How do you think about it?
Brij Bhasin: Out of the 10 investments that we’ve made, majority of them are based in Bangalore. Seven of them are in Bangalore. One is in Mumbai and two are based around the Delhi ecosystem. We have looked at companies in smaller cities. It just turned out that we haven’t made any investments. We’re definitely open to considering teams that are building solutions for India bringing access to digital content for the wider India population.