The Indian arm of global early-stage investment platform Antler, which focuses on pre-seed start-ups, aims to deploy $75 million across 100 start-ups by mid-2025.
Speaking with Businessline, Rajiv Srivatsa, co-founder and partner at Antler India, sheds light on the venture capital firm’s investment strategy, which includes running a residency programme. Excerpts from the interview:
What does Antler India’s portfolio currently contain?
We launched about two and a half years ago, and we focus on the pre-seed stage of investing. To date, we have completed nearly 40 investments, with 28 companies receiving funding and the rest currently in the final stages of documentation. Our investments span a range of sectors, including SaaS [software-as-a-service], consumer services, Web 3, and fintech. Some notable examples include ApniBus, Bold Finance, Bookee, Cricinshots, Finverv, Flint, and Gladful.
Tell us about your India fund. Do you have any preferred sectors for investments?
It’s a ₹600-crore ($75-million) first Antler India fund. We have invested approximately ₹100 crore in more than 40 start-ups. We expect the full amount to be invested by mid-2025. Additionally, we have continuity capital of $75 million (₹600 crore), which will be invested in the companies over the next 3–4 years. As far as sectors are concerned, we are truly sector-agnostic.
What is the average cheque size of your investments?
As a pre-seed-focused firm, our average cheque size is around $300,000, and we take 7–9 per cent of the company.
Which is your preferred exit route?
It’s not a very straightforward rubric by which you can say which company you will exit; but, ultimately, as a pre-seed fund, we anticipate initiating exits within five to seven years. Do we need every company to be a unicorn before we exit? No, not really. Hence we will exit some of our positions by at least a Series B or C [round]. Hopefully, at least a few of those will be unicorns.
Can you tell us more about your investment approach?
We focus on two things: a residency programme and a ‘thematic direct’ approach. Through the residency programme, we help people find their co-founders using a cohort-based approach. We do that twice a year, and so far we have made around 10 investments through the residency programme.
In the thematic direct approach, we pick a particular theme — for example, ONDC [Open Network for Digital Commerce] — and try to go deep into it. We create a lot of activity, content, community, and stuff, and try to make at least six to seven investments under that theme.
What insights do you draw from the current momentum in the start-up ecosystem?
In the early-stage segment, we have started seeing a good momentum compared to last year. However, in the case of late-stage start-ups, activity remains relatively restrained, and a complete resurgence is still awaited.
How is your Antler India Fellowship progressing?
The fellowship has seen excellent progress; we’ve made six investments across sectors, including SaaS, agri, Web3, consumer, and gaming. As we approach the fund’s closure, we anticipate making approximately 10 to 12 investments in all.