Scouting for investments in internet ventures:SoftBank invites Urban Ladder,Yepme and Swipe to Tokyo

Japan's SoftBank has invited three Indian startups to travel to Tokyo later this month to continue negotiations that could lead to a round of funding, said three people directly aware of the developments. Online furniture retailer Urban Ladder, fashion portal Yepme and low-cost tablet maker Swipe were among 15 companies that met with SoftBank chairman Masayoshi Son and vice chairman Nikesh Arora during their visit to India last month.

"These three companies have been chosen to visit Tokyo for the next round of negotiations," said a source, adding that no firm dates have been set for the proposed meeting. SoftBank declined to comment. Son, who last month had said his group would invest up to $10 billion (Rs 61,000 crore) in Indian companies in the next few years, appears to be moving swiftly. During their time in India, Son and Arora announced two investments -$627 million in online marketplace Snapdeal and leading a funding round of $210 million in taxi services aggregator Ola.

"SoftBank has been focused on fast-growing sectors and has chosen to go global, which is smart and allows them to deploy lots of capital while not dramatically increasing risk," said Kartik Hosanagar, professor of ecommerce at The Wharton School. "A calculated approach and sector experience helps a lot." Son and Arora met several entrepreneurs from a number of sectors including technology, ecommerce and telecom. "The difference between India and advanced countries won't be that much when it comes to technology platforms.

It is a great opportunity here," Son told ETin an interview during his visit. The Japanese conglomerate, which is estimated to have booked a gain of $5 billion from the listing of Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba where it holds stake worth more than $70 billion, is actively scouting for investments in Asian internet ventures.

Bangalore-based Urban Ladder, set up in 2012, has until now raised $27 million from Hong Kong based hedge fund Steadview Capital, SAIF Partners and Kalaari Capital, the last round coming as recently as in July. "We are not looking out for funding actively for the next one year, but the kind of value Masa and Nikesh bring to the table is a crazy influence for any entrepreneur," said Rajiv Srivatsa, cofounder of Urban Ladder. He declined to confirm that his company had been invited to Tokyo by SoftBank.


Yepme which sells apparel, watches, spectacles, footwear and follows the fast-fashion model where the process from design to sale takes less than six weeks, has so far raised about $ 20 million of venture funding. Apart from the two online retail companies, SoftBank has also chosen to invite a low-cost tablet maker Swipe that founded by nano-technologist Shripal Gandhi. In April Pune-based Swipe received about Rs 30 crore in funding from Kalaari.

Swipe is growing at a pace of 300% and plans to raise its next round of investment in the next six to 12 months. This financial year the company is eyeing revenue of Rs 300 crore. Executives at both Swipe and Yepme declined to comment.

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