Inspector Gregory: “Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?”
Sherlock Holmes: “To the curious incident of the dog in the night-time.”
Gregory: “The dog did nothing in the night-time.”
Holmes: “That was the curious incident.”
-From Silver Blaze, The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes – by Arthur Conan Doyle
“I’m a newbie at investing,” says Nandan Nilekani. On 3 July, the man who gave India its powerful, omniscient and almost sentient unique identity project, Aadhaar, acquired an additional new identity himself—VC fund founder.
Together with Sanjeev Aggarwal, co-founder of VC fund Helion Venture Partners, Nilekani announced the launch of a new fund—The Fundamentum Partnership. It’s $50 million now but will grow to $100 million. It could also grow to $200 million.
“When I was at Infosys, we didn’t invest anywhere. When I was in the government, I didn’t invest anywhere,” says Nilekani, whose multiple identities include co-founder and former CEO of Infosys; book author; chairman of the Unique Identification Authority of India; parliamentary candidate from Bengaluru (a rare failure); and tech billionaire (Forbes calculates his current net worth at around $1.6 billion). “My only investment experience is during the last three years.”
The lessons from those three years must have come quick and fast though. Because Nilekani made 14 investments during the time, according to an analysis provided by Chennai-based Paper.vc for The Ken. His investments ranged from a few million dollars to as high as $10 million in startups like ShopX and 4tigo. The startups ranged from media, space tech and industrial robotics to eye care hospitals. “It was only after engaging with companies that I realised the challenge for many is scaling up and ‘building to last’,” he says.
And since Nilekani has probably never met a problem he didn’t earnestly attempt to solve, his answer was a new fund with the tagline “For Entrepreneurs. By Entrepreneurs.”
So far, so good. But this is where the plot twist comes in. Like the curious incident of the dog in the night-time (who did not bark), it’s what Nilekani and Aggarwal’s new fund will not do that is interesting.
- Nilekani will not invest into any of his existing investments from his new fund.
- He will not make any more personal investments directly (excluding follow-on investments into the 14 companies where he’s already an investor).
- The fund will not invest in the fintech or edu-tech sectors, or in companies that use Aadhaar significantly. This is to avoid conflict of interest with Nilekani’s work with Aadhaar.
- Though thus far Nilekani has been investing in early to mid-stage companies, the new fund is not looking to invest there.