Stellaris raises $50 million for tech-focused fund

Bengaluru: Stellaris Venture Partners, an early-stage venture-capital firm founded by former executives of Helion Venture Partners, has raised about $50 million as part of the first closing for its new $100 million fund.

Stellaris, which was founded in 2016 by former Helion executives Ritesh Banglani, Alok Goyal and Rahul Chowdhri, plans to close the rest of the technology venture-focused fund by the end of 2017, said Chowdhri.

As part of the new fund, Stellaris has created a so-called “founder network”, which comprises successful new-age Indian entrepreneurs, corporate executives and fund managers.

About 50 executives—including Taxiforsure co-founder Aprameya R., Indify founder Alok Mittal, Helion and Fireside Ventures founder Kanwaljit Singh and Neeraj Agarwal who heads the India operations of the Boston Consulting Group—have co-invested in the fund.

“Unlike what happened between 2005 and 2010, a new founder who is starting now first goes to successful entrepreneurs or business executives to raise their first round. So, what we are building is India’s first formal founder network, which is a set of founders, business executives as well as fund managers… These entrepreneurs and executives have the best possible deal-flow in the country,” said Chowdhri.

“India currently does not have too many early-stage VC firms—if you look at the market, there are only 9-10 VC firms that do early-stage investments right now,” Chowdhri added.

Stellaris, which is based out of Bengaluru and currently has a team of eight, plans to invest in about 18-20 start-ups from this fund.

It has already made Series A investments in two startups, including mobile-based marketplace Wydr.

Stellaris plans to invest in ventures that operate in sectors such as local language online services, fin-tech, supply-chain networks, machine-learning applications and enterprise software.

“For the first cheque, we will go up to $3 million—but we will also do extensive reserve planning. The companies that do well for us, we may invest up to $15 million in those companies,” said Chowdhri.

Stellaris counts India’s second largest software exporter Infosys Ltd as one of the prominent limited partners (LPs) for this fund.

Infosys has invested Rs31.6 crore in Stellaris from its $500-million fund for start-ups.

“We have assembled a strong syndicate of LPs for our first fund. Indian tech firms are set to create $500 billion of value over the next decade, and our fund gives its investors the opportunity to participate in this value creation,” said Banglani.

In the past year, a number of leading VCs in India have raised new funds.

Last year, Sequoia Capital India, the country’s largest venture capital firm, raised a record $920 million for its fifth successive India-focused fund. In December, Bengaluru-based Accel Partners India raised a $450 million fund—also its fifth fund for Indian investments.

The fund-raise for Stellaris comes amid a relatively tough time for Indian start-ups and at a time when VCs are desperately looking for more exits from the Indian start-up ecosystem.

VCs reduced investments in 2016, compared with the levels of the two preceding years but, in general, many new and promising companies are still getting funded—that’s because most VCs raised billions of dollars in new funds over the past 18 months or so. In the absence of exits, the next fund-raise for many VCs may be much tougher than in previous years.

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