According to a top executive at the company, 500 Startups may not put its India investment strategy on hold. The Silicon Valley based start-up fund and incubator has invested in several early stage Indian startups till date and initially planned to set up an India- focused fund later this year.
The $25 million fund named Kulfi was put on hold in January citing regulatory conditions that were then prevailing in the environment. It said,
Due to recent moves by the India government regarding tax and regulatory environment, our India fund is on hold temporarily, until we have more clarity.
However the investor had not pulled out of India and has continued to make investments in the country through its global fund according to Shalini Prakash, the current leader for investments and strategy for 500 Startups in India.
In a recent interview, she said,
Maybe at some point later in the year we will think about (the India fund)—it could be 3 months or 6 months or 9 months from now. But I don’t think we’ll be rushing into anything right now…We just want to make sure that we’re supporting our founders’ network very well and we want to ensure that they’re getting what they want. We want to keep looking for interesting companies and keep investing in India—that’s our focus right now. But hopefully at some point we will re-think and start the conversation on how we want to do more in India.
A separate India fund will allow the company to do more seed-stage investments in the country. Since December 2016, 500 Startups has already invested in at least seven early stage India startups including Spoyl, which is an online marketplace for pre-owned apparel, and Nirmai, a healthcare-tech venture. The global fund has also helped to close down an investment in an internet of things startup Stellapps along with investors such as Flipkart co-founder Binny Bansal and Blume Ventures.
Until date, 500 Startups has backed over 60 early stage startups in India including payments venture Instamojo. It has also exited from five India startups including Twitter acquired enterprise ZipDial.
Globally, 500 Startups has invested in over a thousand startups with its very first investment in July 2010 in a social marketing software company called Wildfire which was later acquired by Google for $350 million. In February 2013, founder Dave McClure said that the company usually gets successful exits from about 10-20% of its portfolio companies.
Speaking of why the India fund was frozen in November, Prakash said,
Tax issues were not the primary reason—we also sort of wanted to re-look at our strategy for India. While those conversations (at the time) were going really well, there was also a lot of uncertainty at the time, what with Brexit and the Trump election. So, we thought there was no rush in setting up the India fund—we wanted to figure out the strategy (for India) because all the investments that we’ve made in India so far have come from our global fund. So, we decided to continue doing what we were doing in India and figure out how we want to re-start India..because the goal is to do more in India, no matter what channel it comes from.