Image credits: Peak XV Partners
AI and other deep technologies are dominant themes of Peak XV Partners’ new startup cohort, as the largest venture capital fund focused on India and Southeast Asia ramps up its research opportunities in a sector that is generating international frenzy.
Ten of 13 startups in Surge’s latest cohort, Peak XV’s hugely influential startup program, specializing in AI and other deeptech sectors, the fund said Monday. The unveiling of Surge’s ninth cohort – and the selection of its startups – comes at a time when growing global sentiment suggests a lack of depth in India’s AI startup landscape.
Y Combinator’s newest group includes more than 200 startups, more than half of which focus on AI, for example. Despite the considerable size of the cohort, less than 10 startups are based in India, sparking speculation that the venture capital firm and India could part ways.
“Would I like to see more AI startups? The answer is yes. But do we see zero? No, we’re seeing some pretty interesting things that we’ve chosen and invested in,” said Shailendra Singh, CEO of Peak XV, in an interview with TechCrunch.
“I think as the quarters, six months and years go by, India is becoming a more and more fertile market with greater expertise,” said Singh, who also oversees all other stages of investments in venture capital within the company. “What has been consistent over the last 18 years that I have been investing, it can sometimes seem slow, sometimes there are market cycles, but if you take a vintage over two or three years it is very clear that there is an acceleration.”
The new batch – which includes startups working on a range of problems from identifying and solving early brain decline to transforming the world of processor design and developing the hydrogen economy – includes several founders with doctorates and international professional experience, Singh said. “Could we have found this cohort five years ago? I think it’s quite unlikely, even if we had wanted it,” he added.
“I think we will start to see more fundamental innovation in India and more applied science to solve problems.”
The Surge 09 cohort
- Dozer — founded by Matteo Pelati and Vivek Gudapuri — is an open source data infrastructure platform that aims to help data scientists and engineers build highly scalable real-time data APIs in minutes.
- Elivaas — founded by Karan Miglani and Ritwik Khare — serves as a luxury villa and apartment management platform, allowing owners to monetize, monitor and maintain their vacation homes in India.
- Ethereal Machines — founded by Kaushik Mudda and Navin Jain — operates in the advanced manufacturing sector, specializing in the production of precision engineering components via its multi-axis CNC machines.
- Quantum Computing Horizon — founded by Joe Fitzsimons — develops software development tools designed to unlock the capabilities of quantum computing hardware.
- InCore — launched by Arjun Menon, Gautam Doshi, GS Madhusudan and Neel Gala — is a fabless semiconductor startup that builds RISC-V-based processor solutions for various industries, including industrial automation and consumer electronics .
- Thanks — created by Elliott Gibb and Jascha Zittel — functions as an employee engagement platform, making it easier to hire, train and engage frontline teams within companies.
- Mindgrove — founded by Sharan Srinivas J and Shashwath TR — designs cost-effective and scalable microprocessor technology, designing SOCs that combine all electronic components on a single chip.
- Neurowyzr — founded by Pang Sze Yunn and Navdeep Vij Singh — operates in the health technology sector. It specializes in developing advanced technologies to alleviate the early signs of brain decline.
- New trace — founded by Prasanta Sarkar and Rochan Sinha — is a climate technology startup attempting to manufacture innovative electrolyzers for the efficient and affordable production of green hydrogen.
- Pix.ai – developed by Alvin Li, Raven Gao and Veronica Liao – is an AI-powered animated art generator, which provides users with a suite of tools and templates to create custom animated art.
- AI relevance — founded by Daniel Vassilev and Jacky Koh — is a machine learning startup that attempts to help businesses automate workflows with a no-code AI workforce.
- ZeroK — founded by Mudit Krishna Mathur, Varun Ramamurthy, Samyukktha Thirumeni and Shivam Nagar — is an AI platform that helps developers resolve production incidents faster by performing intelligent checks that guide them to the root causes, thereby reducing break time.
- There is also a startup, which has chosen to remain in stealth mode for now, that operates an AI platform aimed at increasing the productivity of software teams. It provides contextual answers tailored to their codebases.
Surge, which will complete its five years of operations in early 2024, has become the most influential early-stage investor in India and Southeast Asia. The program, which also invites other select investors from the ecosystem to evaluate and participate in funding startups in the cohort, has to date supported more than 140 companies that have collectively raised more than $2 billion in funding from follow up.
Surge, which deploys two cohorts per year, maintains a measured portfolio size for each batch. This allows Peak XV partners and other team members to collaborate closely with founders, offering advice on a range of topics from product strategy to the startup’s mission statement. A Surge startup raises up to $3 million in seed fundinga feature that, coupled with access to an extensive and arguably unrivaled set of resources, sets the Peak XV program apart from other offerings on the market.
The new cohort also comes at a time when many other venture capital funds in India are also trying – or trying again – to create some version of their own Surge programs. Singh said increasing competition among venture capital firms would be a good thing for founders and the ecosystem.
The new fund, first since the separation of Peak XV from Sequoia US, also presents two Australian startups. This isn’t the first time Surge or any other arm of Peak XV has backed an Australian startup, but Singh confirmed it’s a country the venture capital firm is actively evaluating, particularly for software publishers.
“Our skills in helping companies go to the United States and launch overseas – we have over 100 investments in software companies, where we’re trying to help them build global businesses – those same skills are very applicable to software startups in Australia. Almost all software startups in Australia also have ambitions to build global businesses. For this reason, they consider us a good candidate, which improves our calibration and gives us exposure to a new market where we find high quality companies in general,” he said.