Sequoia Capital India unveils fifth group of startups for Surge

Sequoia Capital India has selected 23 early-stage startups for its fifth cohort of Surge, its accelerator program for India and Southeast Asia, at a time when dealflow activity is at its peak in the region.

The new cohort, Surge’s largest to date, have collectively raised $55 million, the storied investment firm said Wednesday. The group also includes 10 women founders, another record for the accelerator program which started its journey in March 2019 and has backed 91 startups to-date.

The Surge program has enabled Sequoia Capital India — which has always backed early-stage startups but historically focused more on cutting checks in Series A and beyond rounds — to more aggressively identify promising startups while they are too young and increase the probability of broadening its portfolio with more winners, investors in the industry said.

And those odds have gotten much better in recent months. As Tiger Global and Falcon Edge begin to chase early-stage deals in India, both the firms have picked several Surge startups.

Sequoia India said nearly 50% of startups from its first three cohorts have grown to raise their Series A financing rounds.

The Surge program, for which Sequoia India raised an additional $195 million earlier this year, is now “tried, tested and proven to support founders through strategic mentorship from some of the world’s best startups and business minds, hands-on company building support, and a community of founder-to-founder support,” said the investment firm, which employs over 30 people in advisory roles in the region.

Some investors also said Sequoia India, which offers very aggressive terms and a plethora of resources (App Annie subscription, for instance) to startups in Surge, that the accelerator program has diminished the significance of Y Combinator in India. (Rajan Anandan, who spearheads Surge, told me earlier this year that he doesn’t see Y Combinator and Surge as rivals.)

The new cohort, several names of which TechCrunch scooped early this month, includes 13 startups that are building services in fintech, payments, communications, logistics, and SaaS sectors, Surge said.

“We are incredibly proud of all 23 companies who have joined Surge 05 and the founders who have forged their businesses in sectors that have seen tremendous tailwinds. These leaders have displayed grit, exceptional talent, and relentless purpose in shaping the world,” said Anandan, who prior to joining Sequoia Capital India as MD led Google’s business in India and Southeast Asia.

“At this inflection point of global regrowth, we are excited to be part of the journey of our founders and their companies, many of which we believe will grow into large, enduring businesses,” he added.

The new cohort features the following startups as well as one that is operating in stealth mode.

  • Absolute is building a plant bioscience and AI-driven adaptive platform for precision agriculture that helps horticulture growers radically transform yields, grade and nutritional value of produce. The startup has also received an investment from Lets Venture.
  • ADPList is attempting to “democratise” mentorship and make it accessible for everyone through a community platform where people can find, book and meet mentors around the world.
  • ApnaKlub is an agent-led business-to-business wholesale platform for fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). The startup aims to encourage and empower people to set up their own hyper-local micro-distribution businesses by providing them with better profit margins, access to a large assortment of brands and SKUs, and supply consistency.
  • Belora produces clean, high-performance, vegan makeup — free from toxins and harmful ingredients. The startup, which has also secured investment from DSG Consumer Partners, says it wants to create makeup that doubles up as skincare, so that women can wear products that are not only dermatologically tested, but also good for their skin.
  • Durianpay is building an integrated and comprehensive payments stack that enables businesses to grow and scale.
  • Dyte is a developer-friendly real time audio and video calling software development kit (SDK). The startup, which has also secured investments from Nexus Venture Partners and Y Combinator, allows developers to integrate live video into their apps in interesting and innovative ways. The SDK is simple, offers integrations within hours, and has a large number of plug-ins and configurations. These configurations provide developers with a quick and efficient way to embed audio and video calling, AI video augmentation, and collaboration features.
  • Gumlet provides a new-age media delivery infrastructure that provides low code or no-code integration plugins, which automates the entire media publishing pipeline. Developers all over the world use Gumlet to automatically provide the lowest size images and videos with the best resolution and performance.
  • Locad is making multi-channel e-commerce fulfilment easier than ever by offering a distributed warehousing network, which reduces shipping time and costs by storing products closer to customers. The startup has also secured investments from Antler and others.
  • Mailmodo is an email marketing platform that helps marketers create app-like experiences within emails and increase conversions.
  • Mesh is a new-age people management platform that makes it easy for employees to manage goals, get timely feedback, and grow faster. Y Combinator Continuity fund and RTP Global have also invested in Mesh.
  • Multiplier is a new-age employer of record that simplifies international hiring. It counts Golden Gate Ventures, MS&AD Ventures, Picus Capital among its investors.
  • OneCode is an app that connects companies with sales agents, giving these agents access to sell the products and services to less tech-savvy buyers. The startup’s mission is to digitise 50 million sales agents across India, and bridge the gap between brands and potential buyers who may need in-person interactions and physical touch points before committing to a purchase. Nexus Venture Partners and WaterBridge Ventures have also invested in the startup.
  • Powerplay is a mobile-first, vernacular construction site management app that enables project managers and workers to communicate and collaborate more effectively. The startup, also backed by Accel, helps them track their progress, deliverables, and payments across projects.
  • Pankhuri is a social community platform where women can network, learn and shop online through live streaming, chat, and micro courses.
  • RaRa Delivery is attempting to reimagine instant delivery for e-commerce in Indonesia through data driven logistics. It also counts 500 Startups among its investors.
  • Revery is using game thinking to revolutionise wellness, and the team is on a mission to make wellness affordable and accessible to anyone with a mobile phone. The startup has also secured funds from GGV Capital and Pascal Capital.
  • TWID (That’s What I Do) is a rewards-based payment network that enables customer reward or loyalty points to be used as a payment instrument. (Beenext is a co-investor.)
  • Vah Vah! is a live, online vocational training platform that offers professional beauty courses.
  • Vara is an easy-to-use and lightweight staff management platform for SMEs across Southeast Asia. It enables small companies to effortlessly manage their attendance and payroll. The startup counts RTP Global and a number of other firms among its investors.
  • Veera Health is on a mission to help women lead healthier lives. Veera’s first offering is a digital therapeutics platform that helps women identify and navigate Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), with a comprehensive offering of therapy, coaching and specialist support. Global Founders Capital, Harvard University, and Y Combinator have also backed Veera.
  • Virtual Internships are redesigning internships for the 21st century workforce, mirroring the future of work.
  • WATI helps companies have personalised conversations with customers at scale with an easy-to-use customer engagement software that’s built on WhatApp’s Business API.

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