Bengaluru: Venture capitalist Lee Fixel, a prolific investor in Indian startups, is leaving New York-based fund Tiger Global, the firm announced on Thursday, prompting his chief beneficiary, Flipkart, to advise employees of his continued involvement.
Tiger Global-backed Flipkart’s chief executive and Fixel’s aide Kalyan Krishnamurthy said in an email to Flipkart employees that the 39-year-old American will continue to be on the board of Flipkart despite his departure from Tiger Global by the end of June.
Fixel, through Tiger Global, was one of the early backers of Flipkart, first investing $10 million in late 2009. The Flipkart bet paid off in a big way—the company sold 77% of its shares to US retail giant Walmart Inc. for $16 billion last year.
“Lee will continue to serve on the board of directors of Flipkart, as he has done since 2009, ensuring there is continuity in the board’s deliberations and strategic direction," said Krishnamurthy in a letter seen by Mint. “So there is no change to our execution charter or the path forward for the business," he said.
Krishnamurthy did not say how long Fixel will continue to serve on the board of Flipkart, in which Tiger Global holds around a 5% stake.
The New York-based hedge fund sent a letter to its investors on Thursday saying Fixel, who was head of Tiger Global’s private equity business, was leaving after a 13-year stint. It said Fixel plans to invest his own money and “may start an investment firm in the future".
Tiger Global, advised by Fixel, was one of the most active investors in India’s consumer internet companies, making early bets not only in Flipkart, but also in Ola (ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd) and Quikr India Pvt. Ltd. Starting late-2015 until early 2018, Tiger Global looked to have pretty much pulled the plug on Indian startups, displaying a diminished interest in the India market.
It stepped up startup investments last year, but this was nowhere near the heady levels seen in the 18 months starting in May 2014 when it invested more than $1.5 billion.
Tiger Global not only pumped more funds into its existing portfolio of companies, but also invested in SaaS (software as a service) startup Facilio, backed by Accel. Tiger Global also participated in a ₹400 crore investment round in Ola Electric, the electric vehicle arm of cab-hailing platform Ola.
Some startup investors are concerned that Fixel’s exit may signal a slowdown in Tiger Global’s investments in the Indian startup market.
“We don’t know if Tiger Global will continue to be active in India after Lee’s exit," said a venture capitalist, requesting anonymity. “But it will definitely have an impact because Lee was the one who had the most insight on Indian startups."
According to the letter from Tiger Global to its investors, Scott Shleifer and Chase Coleman will continue as co-managers of the private equity portfolios with Shleifer taking over as the company’s head of private equity. However, who will handle the India investments is unclear.
The fund’s India portfolio includes Ola, Delhivery, Grofers, ShopClues and Quikr.
Ravi Venkatesh, a former Tiger Global executive, also left the firm around six months ago to start his own fund, Tanglin Venture Partners.