Spark Angels Overview
Spark Angels constitutes an exclusive network of BITSian angels (distinguished alumni and entrepreneurs) and select non-BITSian partners. It is targeted at funding high potential seed stage BITSian start-ups. The investment rounds are an annual affair, with the fifth round (IR-5) slated to occur in the late summer of 2015. Angel funding is targeted towards startups that have sufficient traction, and the intent to raise seed funding.
Startups meeting the following criteria have a higher chance of getting funded. The startup must:
- Have at least one BITSian co-founder.
- Have sufficient traction to be eligible for angel funding
- Be at the seed stage, looking for funding in the range of INR 2.5 million - 20 million.
You are requested to check the FAQ section below for better clarity on the nitty-gritties of the criteria.
This year, the process is being powered by Applyifi. We will be up with the apply link very soon for startups who intend to participate in IR-5. The entire process is being carried out virtually, given the geographic spread of the team.
Process and Milestones
The past investment rounds of Spark has seen the involvement of investors like Raju Reddy, Sanjay Nath, Alok Rawat, Anand Morzaria and the like. In a bid to to further augment this illustrious list, we’re in constant touch with BITSians who want to support and invest in BITSian companies, and we expect this list to swell up in the near future. If you or someone you know would like to become an angel, please fill out this form and we’ll get in touch with you at the earliest.
- Online applications are submitted via Applyifi
- The details of the process will be put up shortly
- Steering Committee(SC) to conduct screening over Skype/WebEx & phone call
- Subsequently, SC will conduct Q&A with startups (if required)
- Finally, SC will be up with the shortlist by second to third week of June.
- Shortlisted startups to get a slot to pitch to Angels via Skype/WebEx.
- Startups will be given an opportunity to add detailed information for the final pitch
- Steering committee collects interest level from the angels using an online survey
- Final Investment Decision is made
For general queries, please shoot a mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. It is advisable to mail since it would ensure the speediest response.
What is the purpose of creating BITS Spark? Who started it?
BITS Spark was started by a core group of BITSian alumni along with help from BITSAA, the university, and faculty. The purpose is to produce and create amazing BITSian startups and entrepreneurs. BITS Spark's vision is to make BITS Pilani one of the top 3 institutes for entrepreneurship in Asia.
What role does Spark Angels play?
The aim of Spark Angels is to facilitate funding for BITSian startups seeking seed stage investment in the range of INR 2.5 million - 20 million. Spark Angels sets the stage for an intensive interaction between budding startups and angel investors, and supports the entire investment process from scratch. The angels come from diverse backgrounds and the platform is completely sector agnostic.
How does Spark Angels influence investment decisions?
Spark Angels only provides a platform for bringing together interested angel investors and startups who seek funding; the Angels support team plays an active role in facilitation and support services during the entire process.
The final investment decision is made by the investors who are a part of the angel network.
What is the range of equity, and other key agreements that are pertinent to the process?
Since this an angel network, the range of equity that the startup would have to give up would involve a discussion between the individual investors and the entrepreneurs running the startup.
Is there a non-disclosure agreement signed between the angels and the start-ups during the initial phase (pre-due diligence phase)?
No, as is common in most such angel forums. Startups are encouraged to be as open as they wish to while interacting with investors. Intellectual property concerns can, and do come up during the due diligence process, in that case the startups would seek legal advice on how to proceed.
What is the corpus size?
Spark Angels is an angel network, not a 'fund' per se, which means there is no corpus to speak of. This is how it works. A startup states a monetary requirement, say Rs. 1 crore. The Spark Angels then come together and review the final list of companies. The final amount/equity is decided during the due diligence process.
What exactly do you mean by showing traction?
Traction can be estimated by any one of these metrics :-
- User adoption
- Customer base
- Key partnerships
- Existing revenue streams
- Prior funding. Prior funding is not a requirement by any means, it's just one of the ways to show traction
Make no mistake, this is by no means an exhaustive set of parameters, but these are the ones we have most commonly employed in past..
Why haven’t you given any numbers to suggest the amount of traction you are looking at?We understand that traction tends to be a rather subjective metric, given its variance across industries. And that is why we feel it best to leave it to the judgement of the entrepreneur. One obvious suggestion is to look at the facts realistically -
- How many users are you seeing?
- How do you see them growing, and how many of them pay for your services?
- What kind of strategic partnerships do you already have?
- How many of them are in the pipeline and how realistic conversions do you project?
What is the range of funding that the network is looking at providing?
The category is 'seed funding' for Indian start-ups. Seed funding in India is in the range of INR 2.5 million to 20 million. That is what Spark Angels targets as well.
All this is fine, but have BITS Alumni actually funded BITSian startups?
BITS Alumni have always been involved with BITSian startups and in fact that is what motivated us to launch a formal investment network to accelerate that process. Some startups which BITSians have funded in the recent past include redBus, Gharpay, Grey Orange Robotics, Gigstart etc.
What is the Spark Angels Steering committee and what do they do?
The steering committee comprises of 4-6 angels who have volunteered to conduct the initial due diligence and screen startups, which will finally get to pitch to the entire Spark Angels network.
How is it feasible to conduct an angel investment decision online (e.g WebEx, Skype) ?
Given that the angels are spread out geographically, we decided to conduct the investment process online using WebEx and Skype. We have already conducted 4 Investment Rounds using the same process and are confident that IR 5 will be conducted just as smoothly.
Will I receive mentoring and advice along with funding as well?
All angels come with years of industry experience across sectors. Apart from the angels, we also have a large number of BITSians who have pledged to help BITSian startups across various functional areas.
What support will Spark Angels provide through the process?
The Spark Angels team along with its strong network will help the startup in a number of ways. These include access to experienced angels, facilitating the startups in preparing their submissions, legal help, tie ups with a number of incubator and accelerators such as The Hatch, Aegis, etc.
How will the Investment Round be made a transparent process?
Spark Angels is committed to making the whole process transparent. The minutes of the meeting, the results of every round, as well as invitations/reminders of every investment round will be made public.
How many investors can participate on a single deal? How is the process conducted to decide the amount that each investor invests?
The Spark Angels steering committee will present the final shortlist of startups to all the angels. For instance, say one of the startups wants to raise INR 20 million, and it attracts exceptional interest from one of the investors. This investor then takes the lead on this investment and along with other interest angels, invests in this startup. A member from the Spark Angels steering committee moderates the process to ensure smooth functioning.
How many startups are you looking to invest in per round?
The entire process funnels the application right up to the final shortlist which will be revealed after the final round of filtering.
Who all have we helped in the past?
Since its inception, Spark has been involved in the seed level funding of BITSian ventures like Grey Orange Robotics, Exotel, Frame Bench etc. All of these startups have subsequently showcased impressive levels of traction post the seed-fund phase;
- Grey Orange is now a regular recruiter in some of the premier technical institutes of India after raising a Series A funding of USD 10 million from Tiger Global.
- Exotel has already completed its first acquisition
- Framebench’s clientele included more than 50,000 individuals and about 1,000 companies, including Unilever France, HBO and Isentia. It is slated to help the Republican Party with the 2016 US Presidential election campaign.
- SolarTown already had an installed capacity of 100 kW and had a target of 1 MW for the FY 2014-15.
- E-gmat has students from over 45 countries, and has shown a 150% YoY growth on a consistent basis.
- Tabtor raised USD 1 million in seed funding.
- Gigstart saw an investment of USD 200,000 from a host of investors that included Snapdeal co- founders Kunal Bahl & Rohit Bansal, Rajesh Sawhney(GSF) among others.
- Eltropy a B2B sales SaaS start up is slated to grow at 400% this financial year and is already serving multiple clients in the billion dollar segment.