Startup incubator and accelerator Venture Catalysts has announced hitting the first close of its maiden vehicle, the 9Unicorns Accelerator Fund, at Rs 100 crore ($13.7 million).
The fund – with a proposed corpus of Rs 300 crore (around $43 million) – was floated by Venture Catalysts in August last year, with the aim of helping early-stage domestic startups expand their businesses.
In a statement, Venture Catalysts said that 9Unicorns will aim to act as the first external investor for a company, with the fund allowing startups to access its parents’ network of businesses and communities across Tier-I, II, III and IV cities in India.
While the fund did not disclose the identities of those who have committed capital, it said the first close saw participation from several Indian businesspersons.
The remaining corpus will be sourced from entities including family offices, corporations, and other institutions.
9Unicorns will function as a sector-agnostic fund and will initially offer up to $100,000 for a 5-7% equity in a startup.
These firms will then go through a three-month acceleration programme, after which certain performers will be eligible for a follow-on round of $500,000-2 million – which will be supplied by a syndicate of Venture Catalysts’ investors and other venture capital funds.
“We are witnessing a surge in startups focussed on solving Indian and global problems born out of various parts of India. I anticipate the number of unicorns in India will grow 4x, from 36 today to over 140 in the near future,” 9Unicorns co-founder and managing director Apoorva Ranjan Sharma said.
Venture Catalysts, set up in 2015 by Sharma, Anuj Golecha, Anil Jain and Gaurav Jain, invests between $250,000 and $1.5 million in early-stage startups and provides networking and mentoring to its portfolio companies.
It has made several bets despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Most recently, it invested an undisclosed sum in chit-fund platform The Money Club.
Its other bets this year have been on herbal products brand Green Cure, robotics startup Peppermint, blue-collar-focussed recruitment platform MyKaam, dietary supplement brand Power Gummies, and insure-tech startup Insurance Samadhan.
Venture Catalysts said its network of high-net-worth individual investors struck 60 investment deals and 27 exit transactions in 2019.
The incubator and accelerator also said that 2019 marked the largest number of exits for it since its inception in 2015; it had made only three portfolio exits in 2018 and none prior to that.