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April 22, 2010

VC Interview: Venetia Kontogouris of Trident Capital

Venture Intelligence recently spoke with Venetia Kontogouris, Managing Director of Trident Capital. The US-based VC firm has invested into six companies with significant operations in India including Elucido, Microland, MingleBox, Neilsoft, AirTight Networks and Outsource Partners International. (This interview first appeared in the Venture Intelligence India Venture Capital Report of Q1 2010)

Venetia Kontogouris of Trident Capital

Venture Intelligence: Is Trident Capital cutting its exposure to India?

Venetia Kontogouris:
The business environment is slowly getting better but it is still a challenge for young companies to generate revenues. As a result, most VCs are being more conservative. We are on hold until we get a better idea of the direction of the Indian markets and valuations.

VI: In general, what sort of businesses are you looking at?

We look to invest in technology, Internet, software, business services and payments space over the next 6-12 months.

VI: Which sectors will you stay away from?

Hardware and real estate

VI: What attracted you to Minglebox and Elucido – your two most recent investments?

Through Minglebox we are directly servicing over 4 million Indian students. This platform lets students provide information and communicate with each other. If a student, based anywhere in India, needs information about colleges in Bangalore, other students on Minglebox can help him. We are going to come out with ratings of colleges to help students make the right choices. We are also working with employers to help make better choices when providing jobs. In the case of Elucido Media Networks which provides digital media solutions, we have got the first clients and we are shaping the strategy for 2010. We are looking at recruiting additional board members and additional talent both for India and the US. I see Elucido going public in next 24 months.

VI: How much do you look to put into a company over the life of the investment?

We look at investing about $3-15 million. We have invested over $40 million to date.

VI: What will make pure Indian plays more attractive for you?

With its fast growing economy and young population, India will continue to offer interesting opportunities in many areas. The key will be political stability as well as continued favorable tax treatment for offshore investors and infrastructure development.
VI: According to you, where is the venture market going – both in the US and India?

VK: Smaller funds, smaller investments, more focused investment thesis. There is generally less capital available for new ventures and therefore VCs are becoming much more selective in placing their bets. More funds and management time are required to fund and manage existing investments, making new investments less of a priority.