- India’s GDP in 2022 stands at USD 3.5Tn with 850Mn Internet users (up 6x from 140Mn users in 2012).
- Online retail spend has jumped 35x from USD 2.1Bn in 2012 to USD 70Bn in 2022.
- Total online advertising spend in India in 2022 was USD 6.5Bn (up 20x from 2012).
- Digital transactions worth USD 22.2Tn took place in India in 2022 alone.
These 4 metrics signify that even if 2022 was the so called “Winter Year” — over a longer term, India is on the right trajectory and the land of opportunities with still a lot of headroom to grow. With more than 75,000 registered startups in India, making it the 3rd largest in the world, the ecosystem has the potential to contribute 4–5% to the country’s GDP over the next 4–5 years. We are optimistic about India’s startup economy and all our decisions are guided by the long-term considering avg 3–4 years of holding period in our portfolio.
With this long-term lens, you need to see the deeper currents and cut a lot of noise which you hear when you are standing at the beach near shallow, muddy waters.
How was 2022 for us?
The world might remember 2022 as the year of high inflation, high interest rates, Russia-Ukraine war, crypto meltdown, massive tech lay-offs, Elon Musk buying Twitter and ChatGPT,. However for us 2022 was the year when we reached the ~USD 10Mn Fund I target raise. Post March, we shifted focus on deployment and re-igniting our networks in the ecosystem. Soon enough, ‘Funding Winter’ was upon us and deal flow reduced drastically. We even slowed down our investment pace to absorb what was happening around and to “wait and watch”. We were in no hurry to make investments in a 7 year product like ours. From April to Sept, we got time to retrospect and build thesis. By Sept end, deal pipeline started to pick up at seed and pre-seed stages.
Portfolio by numbers (since inception)
2022 Key Highlights
Investments in 2022
- We invested in Showroom — an online vertical focused B2B marketplace connecting apparel manufacturers and retailers from Tier 2+ cities in India. A $1M pre-seed round led by Strive VC and co-led by us.
- We invested in Pay3 — an instant payout infrastructure similar to Visa for credit cards leveraging digital currency networks across public, regulated and permissioned networks.
- We invested in Kredmint — embedded payment and credit partner to MSME distributors and retailers. We are one of the two VCs along with other marquee angels in the $2M pre-seed round.
Scout Program — We launched it in 2022 and have 8 scouts as of now, who help us in deal sourcing and are incentivized on successful deal closure. In 2023, we plan to add a few more scouts at Gemba Capital
Partner Stack — We now have 33 partnerships, which is worth ~USD 100K of free credits for all our portfolio startups. It includes the likes of AWS, Google, Segment, Hubspot, Notion, Freshworks etc. This is a continuous process, and we will add more relevant logos in 2023.
Team — Aditya joined us as full-time Analyst and all our Venture Partners have a played a vital role in evaluation of deals as per their domain expertise.
Content — We published 6 blogs, spoke on one Forbes India podcast, wrote 4 newsletters in 2022. We could do better, hopefully we will up our content game in 2023.
Reflections on early stage investing
Every deal we evaluate can have two opposing states at the same time — like Superposition in quantum mechanics. It can be good and bad at the same time. So how do we take a decision, fully aware of our own biases and conflicting viewpoints?
One way we try to do it is by first isolating the tree from the forest.
Analyzing the tree in detail, its structure, health etc. This gives us a good starting point. Then we add the tree in the middle of the forest and see it in the same frame.
The tree gave us the details, but it’s the forest that gives us the depth.
We adjust our focal lens to keep our tree sharp and at the same time show us the farthest tree possible in the frame. This depth of field gives us a complete perspective, shows us the big picture (market) while focusing on the details (deal). Training our vision to see this better perspective comes with experience and awareness. Key here is to know when to zoom-in (focus, details) and when to zoom-out (wider field of view). But reality is still going to be different, with black swan events, uncontrollable factors — hence in a forest storm, the tree which has the highest probability of surviving is the one with the deepest, widest roots and not the tallest. We want to back founders who understand this and not in a hurry.
If you ask me what is the biggest challenge for micro-VCs in India? My answer would be “to think and act like an institutional investor and not like an angel investor with a bigger check” Many emerging fund managers, who have been angel investors in the past, face this constant struggle in their mind when they deploy their first fund. Many are not able to raise their Fund II, because they fail to understand the nuances of difference between angel investing and VC investing. We are aware of this distinction and constantly remind ourselves.
In early-stage investing “What you do not know is the only thing you know”. Consider every deal as a new territory, which you do not know anything about. It is akin to seeing all the same chess pieces but always in a new game. For 2023, we will not make any bold predictions or trends — what we will do is stick to first principles and continue to be a student of the Game.
A token of gratitude
A big heartfelt thank you to all our founders, LPs, lawyers, fund admin, accounting teams, employees, venture partners, scouts — all of whom who have helped us in our mission in 2022.
Onwards and upwards from here as we strive to build one of the most respected domestic micro VC Fund in India.
We wish you all a great 2023!
From all of us at Gemba Capital.
Disclaimer: This blog is a Year in Review performance blog and not a solicitation of any kind for anyone and neither it is a part of any marketing docket/collaterals/documents of Gemba Capital.