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Exclusive: Co-founder of Nexus Venture Partners - investor in Unacademy, Postman, Delhivery and Druva - steps down

Sandeep Singhal, one of India's first startup and venture capital investors, is leaving Nexus Venture Partners, the firm he co-founded and led from 2006 onwards. His exit comes even as Nexus is closing a record $500 million fund which will take its assets under management to $1.7 billion.

Mumbai / May 03, 2021 / 07:50 AM IST
Sandeep Singhal, co-founder and managing partner of Nexus is stepping down from his role

Sandeep Singhal, co-founder and managing partner of Nexus is stepping down from his role

Nexus Venture Partners, an investor in some of India’s hottest unicorn startups such as Unacademy, Postman, Delhivery and Druva is seeing a co-founder and one of India's earliest startup investors leave the firm, signaling a change of guard for one of the country’s largest startup investors.

Sandeep Singhal, co-founder and managing partner of the firm is stepping down from his role and will not be involved with the firm’s $500 million sixth venture fund it is currently raising- or any future funds, these people said, requesting anonymity.

Fifty-eight-year-old Singhal started the firm in 2006 with Suvir Sujan and Silicon Valley-based Naren Gupta, and has helped make it one of India's largest homegrown venture capital firms, managing over $1.2 billion.

Singhal’s decision to step down has been communicated to his partners and Nexus’ Limited Partners- the people and institutions that have invested in Nexus over the years. His existing portfolio will also be redistributed for other investors to manage. Singhal may become an impact investor, joining a firm or investing by himself.

His investments include Eka Software, doctor consultation firm Lybrate and food assessment firm Intello Labs among others. His exits include Netmagic Solutions’ sale to Japan’s NTT for about $120 million and Shell’s investment in solar firm d.light. Notably, Singhal hasn’t made many fresh investments the last few years and has spent more time managing his existing portfolio and in co-leading the firm.

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“Sandeep is one of the pioneers of venture capital in India, and saw the startup investment opportunity very early. He is very well regarded in the ecosystem and even founders who haven’t raised money from him respect his acumen,” said a person close to Singhal, requesting anonymity.

“He has led Nexus through good and bad times. They are in good shape right now and Sandeep thinks this is the time for him to step back and do something different. He may become an impact investor,” the person added.

Nexus did not respond to detailed queries from Moneycontrol seeking comment.

An engineer from Stanford University, Singhal earned his MBA from The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Even before Nexus, he was involved in the startup scene, first running his own startup- Medusind Solutions, before starting an investment firm- eVentures India in 1999. He was also an early investor in MakeMyTrip, one of India’s first generation internet firms which went public in the US.

Nexus’ new fund also signals a swift turnaround in its fortunes, from a time when it was struggling with high profile busts such as Snapdeal and Housing.com, to today, when its potential returns on invested capital could beat other large VC firms. Nexus’ unicorns from only the last one year- startups valued at over a billion dollars include Unacademy, enterprise software firm Postman and B2B marketplace Infra.market, while IPO-bound Delhivery and software firm Druva’s valuations have doubled to about $3 billion as well.

US-based advertising platform Pubmatic too went public last year at a $1.4 billion valuation, where Nexus holds a 25 percent stake.

According to people close to the firm, its investments in Observe.ai, content firm Pratilipi, and Hasura- a platform for software developers are also expected to do well.

Apart from the founders, Nexus’ other managing directors are India-based Anup Gupta and Sameer Brij Verma, and Silicon Valley-based Jishnu Bhattacharjee. The firm will also promote one investor from within to partner in the coming months.

Nexus has been one of India’s few cross-border VC firms, with investors based in India and the US. Its enterprise software bets have paid off handsomely and consistently, even when its consumer bets seemed to tank. However, it seems to be firing on all cylinders now.
M. Sriram
first published: May 3, 2021 07:50 am

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