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Silicon Valley’s rising VC firm Menlo backs Unitary Helion

Menlo is known for its early bets on companies like ride-hailing giant Uber and eyewear brand Warby Parker, besides online pharmacy Pillpack.

, ET Bureau|
Aug 31, 2018, 08.07 AM IST
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It is not clear if Menlo has an arrangement for backing Unitary’s companies in later rounds of funding.
BENGALURU: Unitary Helion, started by former Helion Venture Partners and Kalaari Capital executives, has got backing from one of Silicon Valley’s upcoming venture capital firms, Menlo Ventures, according to three sources familiar with the development.

Menlo is known for its early bets on companies like ride-hailing giant Uber and eyewear brand Warby Parker, besides online pharmacy Pillpack, which was recently acquired by Amazon for $1 billion.

Unitary Helion is raising a $100 million fund and has also got backing of the likes of Info Edge’s Sanjeev Bikhchandani, Makemytrip’s group CEO Rajesh Magow and former Infosys board member Ravi Venkatesan, according to two of the sources mentioned above.

The venture firm was launched by former Helion Ventures managing director Rahul Chandra in May last year, who was joined by Kalaari Capital’s Bala Srinivasa a few months later. It is focusing on early-stage investments in areas like financial technology, healthcare and logistics/supply chain.

The exact amount of investment by Menlo Ventures, which has $5 billion under management, could not be ascertained. “Unitary is nearing a first close and they have already got commitments of $40-45 million,” according to one of the sources mentioned above.

It is not clear if Menlo has an arrangement for backing Unitary’s companies in later rounds of funding. Chandra declined comment while Menlo’s Venky Ganesan did not reply to an email query sent on Monday.

The backing is one of the rare instances of a new Silicon Valley VC backing an India fund after almost a decade in risk capital space, underlining appetite of new investors for early-stage startups in India. Back in 2004 and 2005 when the first wave of Valley-based venture firms were exploring India, several of them had come in as backers of early-stage funds.

Some of these include New Enterprise Associates (NEA), one of the largest VC firms in the US with $17 billion in funds under management, which had come in as the main backer of Indo US Venture Partners, which eventually became Kalaari Capital. NEA later set up an office in India in 2008 but has since then left the country after its local team decided to spin out and form Megadelta Partners.

Similarly, Seedfund, which backed companies like Carwale and RedBus, was backed by Valley VCs like Sierra Ventures and Mayfield Fund.

While the startup industry has seen active interest from a slew of new investors from China, new investors from the US have also slowly trickled in. Last year, Bain Capital Ventures had backed online rental platform Rentomojo, while earlier this year, Insight Venture Partners led a $18.5 million round in software startup ChargeBee.

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