Harvard alumni Raj Chinai and Ramesh Shah, in collaboration with Harvard University, have recently co-founded and launched Harvard Business School Angels of India (HBSAI), an India-centric angel investing organisation. Incidentally, HBSAI happens to be the country’s first international angel network. It was first started with a Northern California chapter in 2007 and is currently present in nearly half a dozen countries across the globe.
HBSAI is also supported by Harvard Innovation Lab and Arthur Rock Center of Entrepreneurship, established by the legendary venture capitalist Arthur Rock who was an early investor in technology companies like Intel and Apple Computer, according to a statement.
The angel network strives to support Harvard’s mission, which is to “educate leaders who make a difference in the world.” While the group is sector-agnostic, it is likely to have a skew towards technology and technology-enabled start-ups, and will invest approximately $250-500K per deal.
While Chinai and Shah are based in Bangalore, the core team also includes investors from Delhi and Mumbai. What’s more, Pan-India entrepreneurs, regardless of their affiliations with Harvard, can submit their plans to HBSAI.
HBSAI will differentiate itself from other angel groups present in India through its global network of senior executives, investors and entrepreneurs; sector expertise in areas like e-commerce, mobile, education, healthcare and clean tech; and access to subject matter experts and select faculty members from Harvard University (across its various schools). Furthermore, members of HBSAI can access deal flow and selectively invest in companies outside India through this network. Overseas members also have the opportunity to invest in India-based companies.
According to Chinai, HBSAI will focus on sourcing and investing in exciting seed-stage companies across India and will opportunistically explore working alongside existing networks, including Indian Angel Network (IAN) and Mumbai Angels. But unlike the existing networks, HBSAI will be working with them while leveraging its global reach and resources.
Both Chinai and Shah are Harvard alumni who have completed their master’s degrees in 2004 and 2009, respectively. Chinai, who was earlier working with SVB India Capital Partners, is a Principal at the early-stage venture capital firm IndoUS Venture Partners. Shah, who is a serial entrepreneur, is the founder & CEO of the RK Group, a textile trading company and distributor. He is also an angel investor, having backed companies like ZipDial, Hotelogix, Mobiquest and Sparsha, among others.
HBSAI has just started assembling its network of angel investors in India that will primarily include the Harvard alumni. It will also invite select angel investors who are not affiliated with Harvard. The network has already roped in Rajan Anandan, one of the most well-known angel investors in India.
HBS Angels started in 2007 as a special interest group of the HBS Association of Northern California and grew to 400 active angel investors seeing over 100 deals per quarter. By 2009, HBS Angels was also launched in Paris. With Harvard’s goal of being the top school for entrepreneurship, HBS Angels was officially approved as a global alumni club in December 2010. Since then, the group has expanded across 14 more regions such as Africa, Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, the UK (London) and the USA (Austin, Boston, Chicago, New York and Southern California).
HBS Angels has backed several start-ups outside India. One example is the mobile payments player enStage, which was backed by its Northern California team in May 2009. The company raised $5 million in a series B round, led by Intel Capital India last month. Incidentally, enStage, with offices in Silicon Valley and Bangalore, is also backed by Accel India and Footprint Ventures.
Some other companies globally backed by the HBS Angels network are SleepQuest (sleep disorder healthcare services), Seawax Marine Coatings (environmentally safe antifouling products for boats) and Cytopherx (medical device company), among others.