Lightspeed’s bet on India going global

Earlier this month, I wrote about Indian technology startups finally finding their feet globally. Especially in the US. Going global is not a novelty anymore. Indian founders and companies are ambitious and want to go overseas faster and sooner.

It’s hard to get the US and international move right the first time for most founders. They have a lot to contend with. Not only do they have to move their families, adjust to a new country and way of life, they also have to get the first senior US hire right and meet the right people so they can grow their business. To this heady mix of responsibilities, founders need to often recalibrate PMF and get the GTM team built out. This is a lot to do for the most experienced, grey-haired founders. For those starting up for the first time, it can be overwhelming. To solve this, these founders need a special skill set. Most often, these skills can’t be hired right away.

We believe venture funds need to be more proactive. Our capabilities have to expand to match founders’ ambitions.

We here at Lightspeed India have deliberately chosen to solve international expansion for our founders. And so we are adding the San Francisco Bay Area to our Lightspeed India locations. We support founders with Lightspeed’s existing knowledge and networks in the US. And we broaden founders’ reach in the US, be it through executive talent sourcing, customer introductions, branding/ narrative building/ marketing, strategic partner introductions, angel investor introductions, growth financings, or strategic input.

I like to call this role a bridge. To build this bridge, I moved to the Bay Area in mid-2021. Nothing changes in my role. I continue to spend all my time with Lightspeed India, as I have been doing for the past decade, including a significant amount of time on the ground in India. I will continue to invest exclusively in companies in India & Southeast Asia.

My past three investments had a large India to global component to them. (Pepper, Lio, and Scrut, for those who are curious). But it’s not just these three. Many of the companies we work with have this international component. Some have moved headquarters to the Bay Area, some have this global component to their business with frequent trips and teams built out in the US and elsewhere, including Acceldata, Byju’s, Darwinbox, Hubilo, Innovaccer, Mason, Nextbillion, Pixxel, Rattle, Revv, Yellow.ai, Zetwerk, and Zolve.

My story

My own backstory feeds into this. I’ve moved back and forth a bunch of times along this India-US corridor. I flew to the US in 1990 for college and a two-year work stint. Then, business school with a summer internship in Bengaluru in 1997 with a startup and a fund which started me on my journey towards India.

In the early 2000s, I co-founded a startup building a developer platform for mobile apps in Silicon Valley. We had great talent and got, shall we say, a lot of learnings. Eventually, Covigo was acquired by NYSE-listed Symbol Technologies, after which I spent six years in venture capital in Silicon Valley, with the first investment I worked on being Slideshare, another US-India corridor company, subsequently acquired by LinkedIn.

I then moved with my family to India in 2011 to join my HBS classmate Bejul Somaia who was part of the Lightspeed India family several years earlier. I believed (and continue to believe) that there would be a decades-long opportunity with the Indian startup ecosystem and its potential to accelerate India’s progress as a country.

The next decade in India was a dream for me. From 2011 to 2015, we operated out of one location with a small team. Starting in 2015, we raised three sets of Lightspeed India early-stage funds and also deployed growth capital from Lightpeed’s growth funds into India and Southeast Asia. Fast forward to now, we have a ~25 person investment and business services team with offices in Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, Singapore, and (now) San Francisco and ~75 portfolio companies spread across seed through early revenue through expansion stage and post-IPO.

The growth has been a true learning experience for me, not only in how to build a high-performance team and culture at Lightspeed India but also in supporting our founders in a very fluid environment across sectors, business models, business cycles, and geographies.

So, now what?

Going global is not a novelty anymore. But there’s a lot more to come in this accelerating trend 📈 over the next decade.

Things have started to move. After being forced to shelter in place, people have started to travel again. I see Indian founders, investors and executives flying out to the US once more. And I am excited to meet people in person again. If you’re in the Bay Area or visiting and want to catch up, DM me on Twitter or Linkedin to get the conversation going. Alternatively, we’ll meet in Bangalore or Delhi!

Lightspeed Possibility grows the deeper you go. Serving bold builders of the future.