International Finance Corporation (IFC), a part of the World Bank Group, has invested US $3mn in pi Ventures’ maiden fund, India’s first Applied Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning and Internet of Things (IoT) focused early stage venture fund. This amount is intended to be invested in companies leveraging technologies such as applied AI, machine learning and IoT across various sectors.
IFC is making investments through the ‘IFC Startup Catalyst programme’ which aims to build local ecosystems to drive innovation and entrepreneurship. With an aim to support early stage entrepreneurship globally, IFC would be investing in sustainable seed-stage funding mechanisms, including accelerators and seed funds, through this programme. IFC is both a direct investment practise and also a Limited Partner to to local PE and VC funds.
Consumer internet, edutech, healthtech, cleantech and emerging technology solutions based on data analytics and AI are some of the major focus areas by IFC and has in the past invested in India in projects including online grocery major Big Basket, edu-tech start-up Byju, Portea- a company providing affordable home-care and more.
Ruchira Shukla, Regional Lead, Venture Capital, South Asia, IFC said “This investment is aligned with IFC’s objective to act as a catalyst to spur entrepreneurial activity and support technology start-ups that drive innovation in India and globally, and solve complex problems across industries.”
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pi Ventures has till now made four investments in healthcare & energy-efficiency space, namely Sigtuple, Zenatix, Ten3T and NIRAMAI. SigTuple is using deep learning in the medical diagnostic space, while Zenatix is a data-driven energy efficiency company that uses advanced machine learning based models to improve upon energy efficiency. Ten3&, another startup backed by Pi Ventures, has developed a solution for continuous monitoring of medical data like ECG in real time and NIRAMAI is building revolutionary non-invasive, non-touch, non-radiation approach to detect breast cancer.
Manish Singhal, Founding Partner, pi Ventures, said, “Getting IFC to back us in our journey is very meaningful to us. Not only do they bring a wealth of knowledge but also a world-wide network which can be very useful for our invested companies. We appreciate IFC backing disruptive product companies in the Applied AI space via pi Ventures.”
With a committed portfolio in India of over $5 billion as of June 30, 2016, India is IFC’s top country exposure globally. In FY16, IFC committed $1.1 billion in new investments in the country. In addition to strengthening local capital markets in India, IFC is focused on boosting financing in infrastructure and logistics, promoting financial inclusion, helping create conditions to attract increased private capital, and helping structure public-private partnerships.