World Bank’s IFC wants to Sign Up at Start of Story

The Economic Times - - Disruption: Startups & Tech - Taslima.Khan@ times­group.com

Ben­galuru: World Bank arm IFC is plan­ning an ag­gres­sive foray into star­tups at Se­ries-A level, as part of its re­cent push to­wards early-stage in­vest­ing in In­dia.

Till now, it has backed more ma­ture star­tups like Byju’s, Len­skart, Big­bas­ket and Black­buck, with ticket sizes up­wards of $5 mil­lion at Se­ries-B stage and on­wards.

The IFC has, of late, been bullish on ex­pand­ing its ven­ture cap­i­tal port­fo­lio, with its ven­ture in­vest­ment port­fo­lio stand­ing at around $500 mil­lion till mid last year.

Over the past five-to-six years, the en­tity has made in­vest­ments to the tune of $700 mil­lion both in di­rect ven­ture in­vest­ments and in ven­ture cap­i­tal funds across 15 coun­tries.

“We are ac­tively scout­ing for co-in­vest­ment deals along with other early-stage fo­cused ven­ture funds in ver­ti­cals such as con­sumer in­ter­net, health tech, edutech and fin­tech. We are also eye­ing emerg­ing tech ar­eas such as AI and ma­chine learn­ing. How­ever, we are go­ing slow since these are rapidly evolv­ing across the world,” said Ruchira Shukla, Re­gional Lead for Ven­ture Cap­i­tal and Pri­vate eq­uity, South Asia.

“The cut­ting edge IP led work that is com­ing up in AI (ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence) and ma­chine learn­ing, which has ap­pli­ca­bil­ity across health­care, fi­nance and fin­tech, is what is ex­cit­ing us,” said Shukla who de­nied putting a num­ber to how many early-stage deals the en­tity will be do­ing this year.

Also, part of its early-stage strat­egy is to in­vest in In­dian early-stage fo­cussed ven­ture funds and ac­cel­er­a­tors, where it is set to close its first In­dia in­vest­ment, which will be an­nounced in a cou­ple of weeks. Glob­ally, IFC has al­lo­cated $30 mil­lion to­wards its Startup Cat­a­lyst pro­gram as a sub pro­gramme of IFC’s Ven­ture Cap­i­tal Group.

As part of the pro­gramme, IFC will in­vest be­tween $1-3 mil­lion in early-stage fo­cused ven­ture funds and ac­cel­er­a­tors and has al­ready in­vested $4 mil­lion in two fin­tech-fo­cused en­ti­ties — Ar­gen­tine Ac­cel­er­a­tor NXTP Labs and Flat6Labs of Egypt.

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