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Start-ups expanding their horizons: Venture Catalysts co-founder

Amrita Nair Ghaswalla Mumbai | Updated on January 16, 2018 Published on October 12, 2016

Apoorv Ranjan Sharma, co-founder and President, Venture Catalysts

Facilitated by a burgeoning early-stage support infrastructure: Apoorv Ranjan Sharma

Augmenting and supporting the growth of promising start-ups across the country is a passion for Apoorv Ranjan Sharma, co-founder and President, Venture Catalysts, a seed investment and innovation platform. Looking to address all start-up requirements, from funding to networking, Venture Catalysts even provides office space to promising entreprises.

Sharma insists the aim is to raise the country’s innovation quotient. Though the company’s headquarters at Andheri in Mumbai closely resembles a traditional merchant bank, Sharma’s entrepreneurial perspective adds a distinctive focus and ethos to the firm’s workings.

“I have established over two dozen incubators, and have sat with a couple of angel networks as a venture partner,” says Sharma. “I have almost done a PhD in incubation, since all my initial years have been entrenched in incubation programmes,” says Sharma, speaking of his tryst in the Netherlands, where he worked with an IT company. “In 2002, I came back to India and got involved in the incubation programme started by the Centre, under the Department of Science and Technology.”

Sharma was responsible for “executing and establishing the incubator”

Then followed a five-year stint at Amity Innovation Incubator, a not-for-profit organisation run by Amity University. The equity-based incubator is associated with over 60 start-ups.

At his next stint at Indian Angel Network, Sharma decided to spread his wings.

As Partner at VentureNursery, which mentors and accelerates over a dozen start-ups a year, Sharma relied on its ‘Angel-in-Residence’ model that provides businesses infrastructural support.

In December 2015, Sharma co-launched Venture Catalysts with co-founders Anil Jain, Anuj Golecha and Gaurav Jain. The firm has a network of over 1,200 individual and institutional investors spread across Mumbai, Delhi, Surat, Raipur and Ahmedabad.

Global solutions

“Over the last five months, we have done some 10 investments, four of which are in Artificial Intelligence. Indian start-ups are evolving above and beyond a localised approach,” Sharma said, adding that most were delivering solutions that could be applied “to any and every global scenario. This is driven by a burgeoning of early-stage support infrastructure that nurtures and develops promising start-ups.”

Backed by his personal expertise in mentoring start-ups, Sharma said he has identified three areas: “An astute strategic assessment of a business’ competence, where the background of the entrepreneur is checked as also his energy level — whether he can make the business come alive.

“Then we look at the sectors they are investing in, what they are developing, ‘Is there any disruption in that space?’, and we look at the competitive environment. If we are satisfied and understand their business model, we deploy our own funds and bring about a robust alignment of our execution and management capabilities.”

Portfolio

Venture Catalysts’ portfolio of start-ups includes train discovery platform ConfirmTKT, photography curation venture Siftr Labs and driver analytics firm Vahanalytics.

Vahanalytics, a tech-driven start-up that aims at making Indian roads safer, is a case in point. Venture Catalysts invested ₹1.3 crore in the firm this May. “Algorihtms are powerful; data is ultra powerful,” says Sharma, adding that through smarter data and machine learning, the start-up generates a report about driving habits, and asks the driver to take corrective action.

“The platform captures real-time data about driving habits and road conditions using smartphones, which is then processed via big data to garner useful insights. It is amazing how companies can now analyse unstructured data.”

Eager to enhance the start-up support ecosystem across Tier II and III cities, Venture Catalysts secured an undisclosed amount from Zaffiro Ventures this July. Venture Catalysts was valued at ₹40 crore during the investment process.

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Published on October 12, 2016
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