Bangalore: Steve Jurvetson, managing director of US-based venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson (DFJ), is known for his talent of spotting so-called disruptive technologies, or innovations that improve a product or service in unexpected ways.
Jurvetson, who has invested in companies such as Hotmail (acquired by Microsoft Corp.), which offered the first free Web-based email, is now looking at opportunities in life sciences, clean technology and energy. He is visiting India for the first time to scout for companies that could help DFJ’s portfolio start-ups.
DFJ, which recently raised $350 million (Rs 1,596 crore) for the Draper Fisher Jurvetson Fund X, may invest 15% of the corpus in the country, Jurvetson says in an interview. Edited excerpts:
How important is India in DFJ’s investment plans, particularly as emerging markets are becoming increasingly competitive in terms of attracting investments?
I am here for our portfolio, which is ever-growing. There is nothing like visiting a facility to get a sense of how companies work. We are meeting companies that we have been having conversations with but haven’t invested in. There are many companies in the US and China who want to work with start-ups here. Corporate houses and big companies can be meaningful distribution channels for start-ups.
Has the Indian market panned out as well as it was visualized by you?
While we cannot tell the future, what we do have is a general sense of how things work. In India, we have a wonderful entrepreneurial network, age demographics and domestic market, pointing to a burgeoning opportunity that entrepreneurs can leverage.
While there are huge opportunities in India, start-ups here are actively looking at going global. The rate at which Internet, consumer Internet, payment systems, e-commerce is developing, we are a bit behind. The scope of technology opportunity is high. Five or six years ago, there would be debates if life sciences, energy, clean tech would be happening in a big way in India. It’s all here. It’s a new perspective. There’s an interesting diversity.
Considering India is not big on exits for venture capital firms as yet, how do you see exits shaping up?
Seriously, if a company is growing and is doing well, it does not matter when an IPO (initial public offering) happens. Exits is something I never had to worry about in the past and will not worry (about) in the future as well. You have to build businesses for longer term. An exit for the company is a non-important event. Investors may care about it but companies should not. I have never sold a share of a DFJ company. Personally, I do not look at IPOs for an exit.
What are your India plans? Any plans for an India dedicated fund?
There is no remarkable change in our strategy. A bit of diversification that we may do may include some late-stage investments like iYogi but by no means would we change our strategy. A country-specific fund is not interesting. Honestly, it could happen if you think forward on a long-term basis. There could be multiple funds in India and China. We have something on mind about a corpus for India from our $350 million fund and it’s very opportunistic. So the way we manage it is that 15% could go to India.