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After returning from the US, Pearl Agarwal spent months speaking to hundreds of founders, asking about their experience of the entire fundraising process in India and realised that entrepreneurs often find the process cumbersome. When a startup is in the early stage with just three to five members in the team, focusing on raising capital instead of building the product can hinder growth.
Speaking to Analytics India Magazine, Agarwal delved into the investment philosophy of her firm, Eximius Ventures, and how they aim to make the capital and fundraising process seamless for entrepreneurs. She also discussed various aspects of their firm that make them stand apart from other investors in India.
“Entrepreneurs are firefighting every day to get their products up and running,” starts Agarwal, speaking about how the whole focus of their investment philosophy was making the funding process “founder-friendly”. The team focuses on bringing in the experience that the founders have into their ideas, and building and validating the problem statement they had pitched.
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The firm takes a blended approach for sectors and believes that instead of being agnostic about the sectors, focusing on a few like AI, Web3, entertainment, and gaming, where they can see the depth and emerging trends globally and in India, can be beneficial.
Founded in 2020 in Gurgaon, with another office in Bangalore, Eximius Ventures’ first investment was Eka.Care in July 2021, which is a digitally enabled healthcare ecosystem founded by Deepak Tuli and Vikalp Sahni that raised $4.5 million in its seed round.
Since then, the firm has invested in 20 companies like Fego.AI, Hood, esportsXO, iTribe, Jar, Stan, and BimaKavach, which was their latest investment that raised $2 million. Additionally, the firm is also pushing to invest in 25-30 startups in the coming years.
Agarwal has 10 companies in her personal portfolio that include Trell, GroMo, BluSmart Mobility, and Infeedo, among others. As a woman entrepreneur, Agarwal is also passionate about promoting and supporting women in the field of technology and entrepreneurship, and becoming partners in the ecosystem.
Let’s talk games
“Metaverse is not just a buzzword,” said Agarwal, elaborating on how GenZ is spending hours building and socialising within games like Minecraft and Roblox, which is very close to the idea of metaverse. “With AR, VR, and Web3, the gaming industry is heading to another level.”
Though Web3 is gaining a lot of buzz in sectors like financing and businesses, only a small ratio of gamers are interacting with Web3. According to her, from around 3 billion gamers around the globe, only 2 million are active on Web3 and she believes that the numbers should and will rise soon. There are traders on the market who provide liquidity to gaming companies in NFTs to generate profit out of games.
“If I spend four to five hour playing FIFA, and collect a lot of skills and players, I should be able to monetize it as well,” said Agarwal from the perspective of a gamer. Therefore, she got interested in the idea of Web3 in the gaming industry where players would be able to monetize the time they spend on games in the form of NFTs.
‘Our founders are our extended teams’
About 70 percent of the founders that Eximius has invested in are under 35 years of age. “There is no clear philosophy behind why this is the case, it is just the sectors we focus on, like gaming and entertainment, our approach aligns with people who have spent maybe just four to five years in the industry. And gaming is a very new industry as well,” said Agarwal.
“Building a game is not just about the service, but more like creating an art,” she said. She believes that the utility of a game is the emotions that get driven out of a particular game. “We look at the psychology of a game that we plan to invest in, and how the starting minutes you spend into a game transition into weeks and months.”
Eximius Ventures also hosts an event where thousands of people of the tech industry come together from different countries and discuss emerging technologies. “This is very different from what other firms are doing. We open up our entire network and community for developers and entrepreneurs to explore and discuss possibilities,” asserted Agarwal.
“We believe in being peers to our founders, providing mentorship and advice, and being an extension of their teams as well,” she said. The firm’s team has experts and developers who are able to contribute to the product development and spend a lot of time with entrepreneurs.
The future of the industry
“Gaming is a sunrise sector in India,” said Agarwal. There is an increase in the demand of AI products along with the gaming industry as well. But the supply of games and products from India still falls short. “The Indian audience is hungry to consume games and products that resonate with their culture and childhood,” she explained about the need for more India-based tech products in the market.
When it comes to gaming, a lot of international studios are also starting to invest in India for developing games. “The biggest bottleneck is the mentorship ecosystem in the gaming industry. It is not letting talent emerge,” Agarwal pointed out.
How to be ‘Eximius’
A problem that Agarwal constantly notices with AI, ML, Web3, or Gaming startups is that they try to oversell their products instead of taking a genuine approach. “Entrepreneurs are in the learning stage as well. To discover answers and solutions for a challenge, founders need to ask questions and not hide or cover them, in order to deal with them.”
Another rookie mistake by founders pitching ideas is the overuse of the terms “AI and ML” in their pitches instead of focusing on the end product, she feels. “Our expectation from founders is to come up with a thought process on how they want to validate their idea and why they think we are the right people to approach for this idea.”
“Stay as genuine as possible. Research an investor’s portfolio and then think if that is the way forward for you,” Agarwal signed off.