Stellaris hits first close for $100m maiden fund


MUMBAI: After a year of breaking away from Helion Venture Partners -one of the country’s oldest venture funds -Ritesh Banglani, Alok Goyal and Rahul Chowdhri have managed the first close of their $100 million (Rs 680 crore) maiden fund which will back domestic early-stage startups. Stellaris Venture Partners has racked up $50 million from the likes of Infosys, various family offices, a string of entrepreneurs and high-net worth professionals, creating an interesting mix of limited partners (individuals and institutions who invest in funds).

The fund expects to make its final close by end of the year. Stellaris is one among the few venture funds to tap a largely domestic pool of capital, as it’s registered in India, a trend which is just about starting to gain traction in the country . Indian affiliates of Silicon Valley funds rely on foreign capital for raising their corpus at a time when returns from the local market have been trifling and the pressure for making exits has only increased these among partnerships.

Stellaris said its Fund I has secured capital from financial institutions, corporates, entrepreneurs, and family offices in the United States, Europe and Asia with as many as 50 startup entrepreneurs and business professionals pitching in with commitments. While talking to TOI, Banglani said founders like TaxiForSure’s Raghunandan G and Aprameya R, Indify founder and Canaan Partners’ Alok Mittal, Capillary Technologies founder Aneesh Reddy; along with Kanwaljit Singh, founder of Helion and Fireside Ventures, had participated as LPs in the fund.

Infosys has put Rs 31crore from its Innovation Fund in Stellaris, as announced by the IT major earlier.Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), is also among the domestic LPs in the fund, it is learnt. “We have been harnessed our founder networks and been able to get some of the best entrepreneurs in the country to not only invest in the fund but also advise companies which we will back going forward,” Banglani said.

With a focus on Series A investments, Stellaris will scout for opportunities across consumer technology , online small and medium businesses (SMBs) and ventures in the global SaaS space. Its first two investments were in Wydr, an online wholesale shopping for wholesale buying and selling along an enterprise startup. The three former Helion partners had collectively invested in more than a dozen companies between them, including Big Basket, Livspace, Shopclues, Truly Madly, Housing and Toppr, among others.

Banglani said Stellaris has now built an eight-member team with additions like Nitin Gupta, co-founder & CEO of digital payments firm Pay, who has joined the fund as an entrepreneur-in-residence.

As reported first by TOI , in December 2015, Banglani along with Goyal and Chowdhri split from Helion, in what was seen as a rare instance of a top-level management departure in the Indian venture industry. Banglani, who joined Helion in 2010 from IDG Ventures India, had been elevated as a partner along with Chowdhri who had earlier stints with Microsoft, marketRx, and BCG, and constituted the young guard at the firm. Helion has since the departure of the trio not been able to raise its new fund.