Corporate venturing and Startups [Part 3]

Before we start introducing the more than 40 investors who will be at HeadStart and Compute 2009, let me quickly conclude the series on Corporate venturing. Part 1 and Part 2 of the series are here.

In the last few years, I have seen some activity at large Indian corporations and even small ones like Rediff (which invests opportunistically in startups and early stage companies). While Reliance and Airtel have dedicated funds for investing in start ups, ICICI Foundation and Times Group are good to go to for specific assistance.

Reliance Technology Ventures lists technology, media and telecommunications as their focus investment areas and while I had met them last year when they probably were not as well set up, I see that they have made quite a few investments in complex technology plays such as WiMax chips. With the Reliance ADA Group having huge investments in telecoms, media and energy, RTVL is covering a few areas that is going to see very interesting new ventures in the near future.

Airtel announced a Rs 200 crore fund for investing in startups, presumably in the mobile and telecoms space. Their site does not list the team that manages this fund or give any details on how the fund is structured. With operators, issues like non-compete could be worth thinking about. An online application is here. For companies that seek access to mobile operators, the OnMobile Developer Program could be worth looking at.

The ICICI Foundation is probably a good place to go to if anyone is working on a venture that concerns providing access to healthcare, education, markets and financial services for India’s underprivileged masses. Dr Nachiket Mor who manages the foundation is a very accomplished person and I really quite like the teams the foundation has got for Elementary Education (ICEE), Child Health and Nutrition (ICCHN), Infrastructure and Environment in rural and urban areas (CDF) and access to finance for people and small enterprises. It is quite amazing that an Indian commercial bank actually does so much good work in so many areas relevant to the country; I have not seen any company doing so much with such rigour.

Times Private Treaties leverages the reach of various Times Group media properties. They have an interesting and little understood investment model but presumably it is based on how TPT can ease cash flow requirements for media planning and brand building.

Let me conclude by mentioning Intel Capital and Qualcomm Ventures. Intel Capital has a significant presence in India and they have been investing in start ups for long. Qualcomm Ventures’ India representative Karthee Madaswamy is a regular in Bangalore’s startup circuit and have recently made an investment in Mango Technologies, a company that had presented at HeadStart 2008. We expect both Intel and Qualcomm to be present at HeadStart 2009.

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