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We will back deep-tech startups that also aim for social impact: Rachna Aggarwal, 92Angels

We will back deep-tech startups that also aim for social impact: Rachna Aggarwal, 92Angels
Rachna Aggarwal

Early last month, 92Angels, an angel investor network founded by IIM Ahmedabad alumni from the 1992 batch, marked its debut investment when it led a seed funding round in artificial intelligence based digitisation startup Ecobillz. The network is currently in the process of closing a second deal. 

In an interview with TechCircle, founding partner Rachna Aggarwal, currently advisor to Shoppers’s Stop and a mentor at NSRCEL, a startup hub incubation centre at IIM Bangalore, spoke about how and why the founders of 92Angels came together and the network’s investment strategy. 

Edited excerpts: 

Tell us how it all started.

92Angels is a group of friends who wanted to do something together. Most of us are from the IIM Ahmedabad batch of 1992 and hence we named it 92Angels. 

We are a group of 10 angel investors. Each of us has around 25-26 years of experience in different areas like retail, finance etc. The idea was to give back to society and help people. We thought one good way to do this was to look at really young startups, entrepreneurs, ideas that need not just money but also mentoring and networking. So that was the genesis of the idea. 

We started last year by getting together, reaching out to people, seeing what’s available. We are not raising money from people. It’s our money that we are investing. So we are not going out and raising money like a fund. 

What kind of ideas and startups excite 92Angels?

We look at ideas that are not sure where they are going to go and give a lot more support than what a venture capitalist may provide. This is much more early stage, incubation.

We also wanted to work only on ideas and thoughts that have deep-tech involvement but aim to have some positive impact in terms of health, education, poverty or resource. We want the ideas to leave some kind of footprint on society. 

The ideas started coming in around June-July last year and started getting options by October. We made our first investment in August 2019 in a digitisation startup called Ecobillz. The second one is just getting done and we’ll announce it soon. 

So, this is not a business that we are running. Most of us have other full time jobs.

How does the network operate on a day-to-day basis?

We are based all across the world in cities such as New York, New Jersey, Delhi, Mumbai, Singapore, Bengaluru, etc. We reach out to incubators such as Nasscom 10,000 Startups, IIM Ahmedabad’s incubation centre and the IIT incubators that are helping young entrepreneurs. Startups from such incubators have a deep understanding of their subject and product and by the time they come to us, they already have a basic idea in place. We help them with mentoring and networking. 

But, ours is not like a traditional accelerator programme with cohorts where startups participate in a tenure of training.

What do you typically look for in a startup?

We look at the business idea, talk to the founders and then take a call on whether to invest or not. The idea should definitely be using technology and there should be some positive impact on society.

How does 92Angel mentor these startups? 

Mentoring is mostly done by the 10 of us depending on the field of expertise. Some of us come from finance, marketing, retail, etc. We have all run businesses and managed companies. It’s our time and energy that we want to give. The whole idea of 92Angels was to help young entrepreneurs, to play the devil’s advocate, question them, make them rethink their plan and help them network.

Any specific sectors in which you like to invest?

We like health-tech, environment, energy and resource management and agri-tech. We are seeing a lot happening in ed-tech and health tech, electric vehicles, agri-tech startups using emerging technologies, drones. A lot of investors are still looking at fintech as a great opportunity. Also, cybersecurity. Everybody is looking at technology but from a different lens.

Will you also invest in startups overseas?

We are looking at startups in the US, Singapore and Europe. The idea is not to restrict ourselves from geographical point of view, although the first two investments are India based. 

What is the typical cheque size for your investments?

There's no cap as such. But if a startup needs more than what the ten of us would want to invest, we reach out to other friends in our circle who would be happy to co-invest given that we have already reviewed it and it's a worthwhile investment. 

Disclosure: Jaideep Mehta, CEO of Mosaic Media Ventures, the company that owns and publishes TechCircle, is an angel investor with 92Angels

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