Sequoia India hits record exits amid funding bull run

Sequoia Capital India has sold shares worth $1 billion through IPOs, secondaries and M&As this year, the turnaround in its fortunes more than making up for its misses in 2015. With five IPOs generating record liquidity for it, India’s biggest venture capital firm is systematically stepping up exits

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By 

Aditi Shrivastava

Madhav Chanchani

September 06, 2021

12 Min Read

March 5, 2020: Sequoia Capital sends a note to the founders of its portfolio companies warning them that Covid-19 is a black swan event that could lead to a prolonged global economic slowdown and fundamentally alter the business environment. Four months later, it raises a $1.35 billion fund, largely for India investments.

March 19, 2021: Sequoia sends another memo to its portfolio companies, saying the pandemic has changed the trajectory of tech adoption. “The current moment in our road to recovery represents an opportunity. If you feel confident about your business post-vaccine, now is the time to start carefully stepping on the gas (or accelerator pedal, if you’re driving electric),” said the firm. 

September 2021: It's been a record year for the venture fund, with five portfolio companies completing their IPOs, another half dozen filing for public share offerings, and a clutch of private market exits. 

To be sure, India’s startup ecosystem is having a roaring year. With close to $24 billion invested, over 25 companies becoming Unicorns and the local IPO market opening up, nearly all venture capital funds including Nexus Venture Partners, Accel and Matrix Partners India are seeing record mark-ups and liquidity in their portfolio firms.

What sets apart Sequoia Capital is the money it has earned for its limited partners (or fund backers) this year. The Silicon Valley firm has returned at least $1 billion through stake sales in over half-a-dozen portfolio companies, according to one source briefed on the matter and data collated by The CapTable. 

This is an important milestone. As we chronicled a few months ago, exits have been tough for venture capital firms in India, until now. 

While Lightspeed India and Accel India have returned close to $1 billion in a year to their LPs, those were largely driven by one large exit each—Oyo and Flipkart, respectively. Sequoia’s recent exit run in India has been via multiple portfolio companies, including payments major Pine Labs and Fogg deodorant maker Vini Cosmetics.

“It is a huge turnaround from 2015,” said a venture capital investor who has been active in the ecosystem for nearly two decades. “The entire venture community is doing very well and the ecosystem is coming of age. It is also benefiting because China is shut and interest rates are low.”

This comes as global investors from the likes of technology-focused players like Tiger Global Management, Falcon Edge and SoftBank to public market investors like Fidelity and Blackrock want to buy a piece of startups at any cost. 

“Investors who were on the fringes (about investing in India) are seeing that loss-making companies can provide exits. And Sequoia being the largest investor is doing well,” said the VC investor. 

Sequoia has about $6 billion in assets under management and over 200 portfolio companies in India. In comparison, Elevation Capital (earlier SAIF Partners) has $2 billion in assets under management and Accel India has $1.6 billion. This underlines why the returns Sequoia needs to give its LPs are at a much larger scale.

The CapTable deep-dives into Sequoia India’s bull run, and maps how the fund’s bets in education, food delivery and financial services have turned around its fortunes. 

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