‘Investor-founder community lost the discipline in raising capital. Time to bring it back’

‘Investor-founder community lost the discipline in raising capital. Time to bring it back’

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Madhav Chanchani

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Madhav Chanchani

105 reads

Hemant Taneja, General Catalyst’s managing partner, shares insights about all that’s right and flawed about the venture-capital world, Indian market’s potential and his firm’s strategy for making bets in the country

March 31, 2022

13 Min Read

General Catalyst, a venture-capital firm based in Silicon Valley, has made a slew of investments in India in the past three years. For managing partner Hemant Taneja, who operates from the US and has been with the firm for over two decades, this will be its second coming in the country. 

The firm had first backed some Indian startups more than a decade ago, with clean energy a key focus area. These bets, however, did not work out, as most investments in its cleantech portfolio. In 2011, Taneja moved from Boston to Silicon Valley to spot early opportunities in areas such as consumer internet and software. 

He subsequently led a seed-stage round in payments giant Stripe, which is now the world’s most valuable startup with a worth of over $100 billion. His firm was also an early backer of Snap and Airbnb. 

Besides the more flashy consumer internet bets, General Catalyst is a big investor in healthcare. In fact, Taneja counts medical data-science company Livongo, which was sold for $18.5 billion in 2020, as one of their biggest wins. These deals have helped him move to rank 32 on the ‘Forbes Midas List’ of top tech investors. 

But Taneja wears many hats. He is an author and has five degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At one point, he wanted to be an academic. He has gone against some of the maxims preached in the startup world. A case in point: his 2019 takedown of Mark Zuckerberg’s “move fast and break things” in the wake of the Facebook scandal.

As a managing partner of General Catalyst, he is now overseeing its India expansion. In the past three years, the firm has done more than a dozen deals in the country, including backing unicorns like fintech Cred and automobile sales platform Spinny. 

What makes Taneja more confident about the India approach this time is the addition of Deep Nishar and Anand Chandrasekaran to the team. Nishar, who was at SoftBank, and Chandrasekaran, who has worked at Snapdeal and Bharti Airtel, bring local understanding to the firm. 

General Catalyst’s India push also comes at a time when the market has started to cool down after record fundraising and valuation jumps of 2021. But this is unlikely to stop the firm, which is in the process of raising $4.6 billion. 

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