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The UK Government’s development finance institution CDC Group plc has invested $6 Mn in pi Ventures, an Applied Artificial Intelligence and IoT focused early stage venture fund.
The amount will be used to invest in startups with deep tech capabilities that have the potential to disrupt sectors and facilitate a lasting change in businesses and lives.
The 70-year old CDC Group has been investing in India for over 30 years and has already made 595 investments across sectors.
Founded by Manish Singhal and Umakant Soni, pi Ventures focuses on healthcare, logistics, retail, fintech and enterprise sectors.
In March 2017, pi Ventures secured an undisclosed amount of investment from venture capital fund Accel Partners. Later, in May last year, it raised another $3 Mn from International Finance Corporation (IFC), a part of the World Bank Group.
It announced the second close in January this year at $25 Mn and the fund is expected to announce their final close shortly.
Key contributors to the fund include Chairman of Hero Enterprise Sunil Kant Munjal, Electronic Development Fund (managed by Canbank Ventures), SIDBI, prominent family offices from USA, Canada, Singapore & India.
Leading entrepreneurs like Mohandas Pai, Binny Bansal, Deep Kalra, Sanjeev Bikchandani and Bhupen Shah among others also support the pi Ventures fund. The fund is co-sponsored by In Color Capital of Canada.
Manish Singhal, Founding Partner, pi Ventures added, “CDC’s confidence fuels our vision to find, fund and support the best teams who are using Artificial Intelligence to solve real-world problems. We are very happy to have their support and backing”.
pi Ventures has announced six investments so far:
CDC Group plc aims to increase capital flows to underdeveloped markets so countries can finance their way out of poverty. Their focus is to find talented teams and cohesively grow great businesses in Africa and South Asia.
CDC’s structure combines the best of private sector skills with a public-spirited mission. Their focus sectors to invest include financial services, infrastructure, health, manufacturing, food and agriculture, construction and real estate, and education, typically that which will lead to the economic growth of a country.
Alagappan Murugappan, Managing Director, Head of Intermediated Equity, South Asia, CDC Group plc, said, “We are pleased to be supporting pi Ventures for its AI-focused fund. This allows our capital to support early-stage companies that are innovating through technology to provide affordable goods and services at scale in areas such as healthcare among others.
AI is taking huge leaps in the Indian ecosystem and is simultaneously attracting both the startups as well as the investors. According to Inc42 DataLabs H12018 report, Artificial intelligence (AI), big data, edtech, entertainment, hardware, and adtech are some of the sectors that are expected to pick up the pace in the coming months.
As Manish said in an earlier interaction with Inc42, “Easy adoption of AI will lead to more VCs investing in AI-based startups and create a virtuous cycle. We definitely believe that India is the dark horse in AI and the use cases cracked here can be used to expand in the next 6 Bn markets (SE Asia, Middle East, and Africa) and not just in the US.”
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