Why InMobi is in Niren Shah’s anti-portfolio

Posted on by KNBT

Niren Shah, managing director at the India arm of global venture capital and growth equity investment.

Niren Shah, managing director at the India arm of global venture capital and growth equity investment.

Back in 2007, Webchutney raised its first round of institutional financing from Capital18, the private equity (PE) arm of Network18.

Apart from funding Webchutney’s growth, we had plans of incubating a couple of ventures, including an ad network, ground up.

Around that time, Sarbvir Singh, managing director of Capital18, had incidentally met a bunch of bright young boys who were raising a small round to pivot their start-up, which was originally into solving access to local information using SMS-based search to a mobile ad network.

Singh was keen on investing in them rather than do this ground up. I wasn’t interested at all. The iPhone hadn’t launched and the regular mobile internet ad inventory (WAP back then) was way too small to be at the core of a start-up idea. Or so I thought.

Without even meeting the founders, I let the opportunity pass.

We launched our own ad network. And in about six months, that ailing start-up, MKhoj, went on to raise $15 million from marque investors such as Sherpalo and KPCB, and rebranded as inMobi. Subsequently, they went onto raise $200 million from SoftBank.

While we didn’t do too bad either, selling our ad network successfully to a subsidiary of Bertelsmann a few years later, I would be lying if I was to suggest the difference in the equity we held in our ad network versus what we could have owned was over a $100 million. Live and learn!

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