VC firm looks at cos in India, Israel, US

VC firm looks at cos in India, Israel, US

Mumbai: Bangalore-based venture capital firm Footprint Ventures will focus one-third of its investments on exploiting the India-US-Israel triangle. The firm will invest directly into Israeli technology firms and set up new companies in India that would have exclusive rights to the technology and distribution here and in other developing markets.

Success will ride on the firm’s co-founder Neill Brownstein, who also co-founded Silicon Valley-based, long-standing venture capital firm Bessemer Venture Partners, and founded Novak-Biddle Venture Fund. The other co-founders are Linda Brownstein, Josh Bornstein and Shalini Elassery. “We are looking to accelerate industrial technology’s entry into India," says Brownstein.

This Israel-India route is yet to be exploited by funds in India. Footprint’s strategy also demonstrates the deepening interest from abroad in exploiting India’s domestic market, as opposed to taking advantage of just the low costs here, and private equity’s role in it. Brownstein would not disclose the size of the fund, saying, “We are backed by well-healed investors."

Partners at Bessemer invested personal capital into Footprint (the firm has its own $1 billion (Rs3,940 crore) fund of which $350 million is marked for India). The firm also signed an agreement in July 2006 with Infinity—an Israeli-Chinese technology fund with $350 million in its current fund—to invest in Israeli companies and technologies that target Indian markets.

Footprint’s staple investments (the remaining two-thirds) will be in Indian firms serving the Indian market and applying existing technology to new markets. The firm looks to put $2-4 million in lifestyle, retail, financial services, security, education, clean technology and life sciences.

But Brownstein underplayed India’s hot Internet and mobile sectors, saying that the Internet is still nascent here and mobile services lose out in the profit sharing that is skewed towards operators.

Brownstein said they have looked at some 150 companies and funded two start-ups, including $2 million in, a bus ticket venture.