Manish Singhal, founding partner of Pi Ventures
Image: Selvaprakash Lakshmanan for Forbes India
Pi Ventures started out with investing in AI (artificial intelligence) startups, and over time, evolved into a backer of “disruption” across deeptech, including hardware companies—notably space rocket venture Agnikul.
“We like to be the first institutional investor in a startup. Sometimes we’re second, but that’s fine… we go in as early as possible,” Manish Singhal, founding partner at Pi Ventures, says.
Singhal himself is a bona fide techie, who started out with a degree from IIT-Kanpur in 1992, and who’s done cutting-edge work in video compression. And his more-than-30 years of experience spans the multiple transitions from techie to operator to angel investor to VC partner.
Pi Ventures has some 22 investments from its two funds so far. The second fund, the current one, is about $85 million. While much has been said about deeptech on the cusp of being the next sunrise sector, as they like to say in business, much work remains in making everyday operations easier for both the startups and their investors, Singhal says. Also read: Celesta Capital: At a sweet spot in India's deep tech startup landscape
“India is hurting actually, not many people realise this,” Singhal says. “Maybe 15-20 years back we had one problem. We used to call it brain drain. Today we are actually on the cusp, and I’m already seeing it, of facing another issue—it’s intellectual property drain.”
While this isn’t specific to deeptech companies, it’s a problem we need to address urgently, he says. Talk to any tech startup, and they’ll say it’s better to register overseas, he says. “What is that doing? Basically, the entire IP is getting created in India, but it is getting captured in a headquarters outside. This is a red flag for our startup ecosystem.”