Lee Fixel, Big Bull of India VC and early Flipkart backer, to quit Tiger Global

By Joseph Rai

  • 15 Mar 2019
Credit: VCCircle

Tiger Global Management LLC’s India rainmaker Lee Fixel has decided to leave the US investment firm after more than a decade of spearheading venture capital deals related to consumer internet startups including an early bet on e-commerce firm Flipkart.

Fixel, Tiger Global’s private equity business head, plans to leave on 30 June. He had joined the firm in 2006. He will likely start an investment company, news agencies Reuters and Bloomberg said, citing a letter sent by Tiger Global to its clients. Fixel joins a string of top executives leaving their investment firms to strike it out on their own.

Under Fixel, Tiger Global invested early in Flipkart in 2009 and racking up $3 billion when US retailer Walmart Inc. bought a majority stake in the Indian e-commerce firm last year. Bloomberg said that the return on investment, in dollar terms, was one of the largest for Tiger Global's private equity business.

“We are grateful for Lee’s innumerable contributions,” the letter said. “Lee has been a driving force behind the expansion of Tiger Global’s private equity investment activities in the United States (US) and India, and he has distinguished himself as a world-class investor.”

An email to Fixel did not get a response till the time of filing this story.

Fixel’s resignation comes just when Tiger Global has swung into action in the Indian venture capital market after three long years. Ending the investment pause in December 2018, Tiger Global led a funding round in Roposo, a social platform for sharing photos and videos. This investment was announced after media reports in October last year said that Tiger Global had raised $3.75 billion for its eleventh global venture capital fund.

In February, Tiger Global led an investment in expense management startup Fyle Technologies Pvt. Ltd. This was followed by a $56 million investment along with Matrix Partners India in ride-hailing firm Ola’s electric mobility arm, Ola Electric Mobility Pvt. Ltd, in March. Tiger Global had earlier invested in Ola as well.

Tiger Global entered India in 2005. It made calculated moves in the first five years making two to five investments annually. In 2011, it took a leap and there was no stopping from then.

In 2015, for instance, Tiger Global struck 38 deals that included fresh bets on diverse startups such as Shopclues, Zostel, Grofers, Delhivery, Saavn, NewsInShorts, Vedantu and Little, and large follow-on investments in its existing portfolio companies such as Flipkart, Ola, Quikr and Freshdesk. But the company had gone quiet in India even as Fixel’s resignation from Ola in November 2017 kept Tiger Global in the news.

The American firm shot into the limelight again last year after Walmart agreed to acquire Flipkart for $16 billion, marking the biggest liquidity event for a startup in India and validating Tiger Global’s decision to pump billions into the e-commerce company.

Breaking out

Executives leaving established investment firms to start their own venture is not a new phenomenon.

Tiger Global executives Ravi Venkatesh and Edwina Yeo last year floated venture capital fund Tanglin Venture Partners, which is targeting a total corpus of $50 million (Rs 350 crore) to invest in early-stage technology startups in India and Southeast Asia.

In February, Venkatesh told The Economic Times that the venture fund had raised a significant amount from 15 limited partners, including individuals and institutions.

Global venture capital firm Sequoia’s India unit has seen the exits of key executives -- VT Bharadwaj, Abhay Pandey and Gautam Mago -- in the space of a year. They floated a fund called A91 Partners.

A91 Partners, which invests in privately held small-sized and mid-sized companies, has also managed to rope in Kaushik Anand, the India head of CapitalG (formerly Google Capital), as a team member.

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