iSTAR raises $1.5M from MSDF, Unitus

iSTAR Skill Development Pvt Ltd, a Bangalore-based vocational skills training provider, has raised Rs 10 crore ($1.5 million) in Series A round of funding led by Michael & Susan Dell Foundation (MSDF).

Unitus Seed Fund, which has been an early investor in iSTAR, also participated in this round. Recently, it also invested an undisclosed amount in the company.

ISTAR will be using the money mainly to expand its college footprint across 10 states. A part of the money will also go towards improving the technological infrastructure and e-learning platforms, and to build new content.

”We are now poised at an exciting inflection point and are pleased to have the Dell Family Foundation and Unitus partner with us as we leverage technology to scale up our employability solutions across the country,” said Sreeram Vaidyanathan, co-founder, iSTAR.

iSTAR was set up in 2009 by Thilakan and Sreeram Vaidyanathan, both graduates from IIM-Ahmedabad. Prior to starting iSTAR, Thilakan was working with investment bank Goldman Sachs while Vaidyanathan worked with Microsoft.

ISTAR partners with colleges to equip business and commerce students with specific skill-sets to make them employment-ready after graduation. It also provides career counselling and job placement support to students to accelerate their job search process.

“Through this new investment in iSTAR and our investment in Unitus Seed Fund, the Foundation continues its emphasis on catalysing strong education and skill training start-ups in India,” said Geeta Goel, director, mission investing, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation.

ISTAR had raised its first round of funding from USF in April 2013 when it was present in 15 colleges serving 1,500 students with 12 trainers in Karnataka. Since then, the company has expanded its footprint to 150 colleges across three states and 17 districts with over 150 trainers for more than 17,000 students.

Prior to funding from Unitus, iSTAR had received early funding support from the National Skill Development Corporation and the Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship, IIM Ahmedabad.

“Technology is vital to scaling iSTAR’s operations. With this funding, their tech investments will dramatically increase their operational efficiency and at the same time deliver even more compelling student learning experiences,” said Will Poole, co-founder and managing partner of Unitus Seed Fund.

USF, a part of impact investment organisation Unitus Group, was co-founded by international early-stage investors and entrepreneurs Dave Richards and Poole. It has invested in healthcare, education, mobile commerce and value-added services, marketplaces and e-commerce, retail and distribution, agriculture, and water and energy sectors. This year it has invested in health-tech startup investment platform StartHealth, medical diagnostics device maker UE LifeSciences besides LabIbApp, among others.

In July, Richards had told that the fund is exploring the opportunity of floating a second India-specific fund.

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