gradCapital started by BITS/ IIMA alums launched its second fund with a total fund size of $6M to invest in student startups.
gradCapital believes in students by offering a standard check: $40,000 for 4%, and funded students get to be part of a 4-week cohort in Bangalore where they meet the people who have made a dent in the world previously. Tarun Mehta (Co-founder, Ather Energy), Shashank (Co-founder, Razorpay), Kailash Nadh (CTO, Zerodha) – are some people who advice students in their cohort.
Most companies raise their next round post gC cohort, and follow-on investors include Lightspeed & Rainmatter Capital.
They fund 20 teams a year and get around 3000 applications. Getting in is hard obviously, but it’s worth a shot.
In a statement about the fund launch, Abhishek, Co-founder & CEO said, “We are not in the business of finding and investing in deals, we are in the business of letting students be more ambitious and build a future, despite having a challenging education system. Being a student also has an unfair advantage: building with friends, not being scared of thinking big, and being scrappy/ fast with their project. How many experienced people can do that? It’s a systemic failure when ambitious students aren’t able to take off while in college, and they end up taking a job because of a loan and become too rational. After which, they are more likely to start a D2C company instead of a quantum computer, and we need more of the latter.”
gradCapital loves funding teams who have started companies from projects, especially science & engineering projects. They launched a grant program – Atomic Fellowship – where they want to distribute $5,000 grants to students with technical projects that have the potential of becoming companies. It’s supported by Emergent Ventures, which is backed by Peter Thiel. It will be run by Kshitij (Co-founder at Pixxel) and gradCapital.
In 2021, gradCapital was started by 2 friends in the dorm too, at IIMA. Then, gradCapital conducted a cohort of 5 teams to help them get into YC, and Zepto was a part of it. gradCapital then raised a $1M fund to deploy into 18 companies, and the fund is running at ~2x its initial value within 18 months.
There are few stories that were part of gradCapital.
They believe that students will change the world, if they are supported at the right time. A small event of an outsider believing in them with money and faith, can permanently change their trajectory. This can snow-ball into them creating large companies where they keep moving forward and finding bigger backers.
Naman Pushp, founder of Airbound (airbound.co), was 16 (and in school) when gradCapital funded him with $25K. He had a computer simulation of the drone he wanted to build, and an aspiration to quit college to build a large delivery company. Eventually, he dropped out from college, and by the time he was 18, raised a $1.7M round led by Lightpseed.
Ritvik, co-founder of Ripen (ripen.in), was graduating from SRCC when he applied to gradCapital. He wanted to build social apps that help people navigate adulthood despite being from a commerce college, and had to go against the norms. Heet and Aviral joined the mission and they raised a $525K pre-seed led by Good Capital and Rainmatter.
Akshay, Anesh, Akshat, and Ankit were 3rd year students in an engineering college with an MVP to help people improve their speech using AI: Stimuler (stimuler.tech). By the time they were graduating from college, they got multiple YC Interviews and raised a large seed round from investors hailing from top Silicon Valley, Japan & India investors.
The world of VC has to change – it has to be truly risk-optimised, and India has to come at the forefront of creating cutting-edge products. gradCapital is advocating for capital to a place which has been underserved but has the potential to change the world.