pi Ventures leads $3.2 mn funding round in space-tech startup Agnikul

pi Ventures leads $3.2 mn funding round in space-tech startup Agnikul
Photo Credit: VCCircle
18 Mar, 2020

Space-tech startup Agnikul Cosmos has raised $3.2 million in a bridge round led by venture capital firm pi Ventures. 

Other investors that participated in the round include Hari Kumar, founder and CEO of venture capital firm LionRock Capital; early-stage investors Artha Ventures, LetsVenture and San Mateo, California-based Globevestor; IIM Ahmedabad’s incubator CIIE.CO; and returning investor Speciale Invest Advisors. 

The Chennai-based company plans to use the fresh capital for ground testing, fabrication and team expansion.

Last year, it raised $404,163 in a seed funding round from venture capital firm Speciale Invest Advisors, a company spokesperson said. 

Founded in 2017 by Srinath Ravichandran, Satyanarayan Chakravarthy and Moin SPM, the company develops space engines -- it designs and manufactures them using three dimensional (3D) printing technology. Agnikul said using the technology to develop the space exploration components enables faster production at lower costs, without impacting the structure of the components. 

The startup claims that it is the only space-tech firm to design a rocket engine using 3D printing technology. The company currently operates from a research centre in IIT Madras and is developing a satellite launch vehicle with a payload capacity of upto 100 kg. 

Earlier, Ravichnadhran, who studied both financial and space engineering, has worked with global insurance companies AXA and AIG. Moin is an aerospace engineer and also co-founded perfume manufacturing company Gin Cosmetica.

The global space industry is worth around $350 billion, the company said. It expects 2,500 small satellites to be launched by 2020, compared to less than 500 today, the company added, citing undisclosed reports. In 2018, US space agency NASA launched a project to study the effect of microbes and microgravity on the health of astronauts with equipment that will be 3D-printed in space.

“We are doing this by building nimble, reliable and modular rockets that can put small satellites in space on-demand. This round of investment from pi Ventures, Speciale Invest and others is a meaningful velocity boost to our journey and will directly help us get much closer to orbit,” Ravichandran, co-founder of Agnikul, said.

Early stage investor pi Ventures is backed by government-owned Small Industries Development Bank of India (SIDBI), Hero Enterprise Investment Office, Electronics India and In Colour Capital. Its portfolio consists of health-tech startups such as Sigtuple, Ten3t, Wysa, logistics firm Locus and business-to-business supply chain platform OweMe

Founded by IIT Bombay alumnus PN Raju, Globevestor has so far invested in Indian startups including exam preparatory platform OnlineTyari, self-drive car rental company Zoomcar and health-tech startup Doxper.

Earlier this week, IIM Ahmedabad’s incubation centre CIIE.CO and venture capital firm Arali Ventures co-led a $500,000 seed round in Bengaluru-based Unbox Robotics Labs, which operates an automation technology platform for logistics companies.

Speciale Invest Advisors, which focuses on tech-driven/deep-tech ventures, has invested in over 30 companies in India, Israel and the Silicon Valley. It has offices in Chennai and Bengaluru.

LetsVenture, founded in 2013 by Shanti Mohan and Sanjay Jha, has invested in 220 startups so far. It receives support from 6,500 investors, including micro funds and family offices, and has assets worth $19 million under management.

Before LionRock Capital, Hari Kumar worked with hedge fund sponsor TPG-Axon Capital Management and investment bank Goldman Sachs, according to VCCEdge data. In 2016, he participated in a $1 million funding round in on-demand task management platform MagicX.