Every Monday, I sit with my team to review the funding activity of the previous week. From that list, I pick out a few companies that I would have loved to invest in or find founders doing similar things. Here is my rationale behind this weekly exercise.
Last week, 17 startups raised $157 million, therefore continuing a strong revival in our ecosystem's funding interest. The recent rise in COVID19 cases, especially the fear of mutant strains, does lead to a bit of concern about this growth's sustenance; therefore, it is crucial to monitor the overall situation carefully.
This week, 13 deals were in the early-stage rounds (compared to 23 last week), making my weekly analysis cut. After sifting through the news (aggregated from Tracxn, Inc42, and YourStory), I picked three as my favorite funding news from last week!
Name: Express Stores
Amount Raised: ₹8 crores from Venture Highway
What does Express Stores do?
Edited from Tracxn: Express Stores is an online platform offering groceries. Their product catalog includes beverages, snacks, spices, daily needs, etc. Some of the company's brand associations are Limca, Amul, Rajdhani, Cadbury, Oreo, etc.
Why do I like Express Stores?
I am interested in Express Stores' type ventures because they band the disaggregated and slowing dying Kirana stores to fight off their much larger competitors. The idea makes a ton of sense from the store owners' viewpoint and the customers – maybe even the brands selling through modern retail.
The store owners can get better deals from brands by negotiating through a single group, but more importantly, they can improve their visibility by sharing a single brand. The Express Stores founders' primary speed bump is to control the quality of the customer experience at the n-th store. The individual store owners have an incentive to screw the brand to make few extra bucks for themselves (read: game theory), and how the founders can solve this would decide their company's fate!
Amount Raised: $15 million from Accel Partners and Lightspeed Ventures.
What does Zolve do?
Edited from Tracxn: Cross border neo bank for individuals. It offers services such as deposit accounts, prepaid cards, money transfers, bill payments, cross-border transactions, and more. It provides tools for monitoring transactions, expense & budget management, and more.
Why do I like Zolve?
Although this space might take some time to evolve, it is fascinating.
As an Indian in the US for over a decade, it took me about 2-3 years before building enough credit history to get a credit card. Cross-border transactions are (and continue to be) costly due to the monopoly of the large banks. This asymmetry was a primary motivator for my investment in Interstellar a few years back.
Targeting the 5+ lakh Indians migrating to the US every year to study, work or move there permanently is an exciting audience. These are usually middle class to upper-middle-class folks who must spend a decent sum of money to get themselves set up in a foreign land. It would take these folks a decent sum of effort to navigate the US financial ecosystem, especially before they have a social security card. It could lead to some interesting ARPUs and stickiness in their customer base.
Whether this magic could get reflected in other ecosystems where Indians migrate to would be interesting to track!