Sherpalo & KPCB Leave India, Team Sets Up $90 mn Lightbox Ventures

The team behind Sherpalo Ventures is starting a new India focussed $90 mn fund called Lightbox Ventures to back technology companies, as Google board member Ram Shriram and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) pull out of the country to focus on the United States.

Sandeep Murthy, who moved to Mumbai to lead Sherpalo Ventures in India in 2005 and made investments for Kleiner Perkins in India will head Lightbox. Murthy had led investments on behalf of them in companies like InMobi, Cleartrip, and Greendust.

Lightbox : The New New Fund
Lightbox : The New New Fund

In the last 9 years, Sherpalo has invested in 10 Indian companies. Lightbox has bought out the stake owned by Sherpalo and Kleiner Perkins in 6 out of the 10 companies, Murthy said. Lightbox now has Greendust, Zoomin, MapMyIndia, PayMate, FutureBazaar and Kotak Urja in its portfolio.

Travel management company Concur has bought Sherpalo & KPCB’s stake in Cleartrip.

The fund has closed $25 mn in first sale and is targeting to close all of $90 mn by June this year. Lightbox will operate two separate funds, the first for the 6 companies it took over from Sherpalo and Kleiner and the second to back new companies. Lightbox will invest $3- $5 mn in technology companies and closely work with them to grow the business.

Prashant Mehta the CEO of Komli Media, Sid Talwar, formerly of NIIT, Sunny Rao, CEO of Zoomin and Jeremy Wenokur, an early Googler are also part of the team.

“We will pick only a few technology driven companies and make a significant capital investment. Our partners have deep operational capabilities and we will work very closely with the companies,” said Murthy, who has helped build InMobi and Cleartrip while he was at Sherpalo.

What’s NextBigWhat For Lightbox

Here is a QnA with Sandeep Murthy:

What’s Lightbox’s Investment Philosophy?

We will invest an average of $3-5 mn in a company because it is important for companies to be well capitalized in the beginning. We will take a lot of responsibility and ownership to help build these businesses. We are very clear that its the entrepreneurs company but we don’t just invest.Therefore, aligning on a vision is very important for us.

We will be very operationally engaged. We are raising a $90 mn fund of which we’ve closed our first $25 mn. We will invest very early and have a small portfolio of tech and data related companies. While we have a $90 mn fund, we are only going to have about 9 companies in our portfolio.

Why India focussed?

The last tech boom in India was mobile. It was all about access and devices. We saw large billion dollar companies like Bharti Airtel come out of it. The next wave, is with smartphones and Internet. Granted that Google of India is Google and Facebook in India is Facebook. But there are areas where it is harder for the global player to be the immediate winner. There is a chance to build many billion dollar businesses.

What Changes For Sherpalo & KPCB?

For Kleiner, it is a return to focusing on a market where they have direct partners involved, which is largely the US. They continue to evaluate opportunities in India from time to time. I have a great relationship with Ram and we will continue to keep that while he is not an investor in Lightbox. This is the culmination of 9 years of great partnership with Ram & Kleiner.

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