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From entrepreneur to investor and now mentor, OYO’s Ritesh Agarwal to guide small town startups go big

Partnership with Venture Catalysts comes days after Agarwal had set-up his own venture fund called Aroa Ventures based in Singapore for early-stage startups.

Once backed by startup accelerator VentureNursery’s Apoorv Ranjan, OYO’s Ritesh Agarwal will now work with Ranjan’s incubator and investment platform Venture Catalysts as a startup advisor. Ritesh Agarwal will help entrepreneurs from Tier-I, II, and III cities in India in their startup journey who are otherwise bereft of the quality mentorship and guidance received by startups in metros. “I am confident that we will be able to discover the next big idea from a tier 3 or 4 town,” said Agarwal in a statement. Sharma had backed and mentored Agarwal when he started Oravel Stays in 2012 that was established as OYO in 2013.

Partnership with Venture Catalysts comes days after Agarwal had set-up his own venture fund called Aroa Ventures based in Singapore for early-stage startups. The fund will invest $500,000 to $5 million in startups with annual revenue of $1 million to $10 million and a growth of more than 20 per cent year-on-year along with “proven unit economics,” according to the fund’s website. The investment will be made in the consumer, technology, and leisure infrastructure sectors.

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Semi-urban cities and small towns have started to emerge as a potent driver of the Indian startup ecosystem. More than entrepreneurs, there are multiple startups that are making it big in India’s hinterland for instance CarDekho from Jaipur, Ampere Vehicles based in Coimbatore, Udupi-based Robosoft Technologies, Jugnoo based in Chandigarh and more. According to the Economic Survey 2019-20, as on January 8, 2020, 27,084 startups were recognized by Startup India across 551 districts out of which 55 per cent were from Tier I cities, 45 per cent from Tier II and Tier III cities.

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“Ritesh’s insights will prove tremendously valuable to entrepreneurs as we continue to execute our plan to build a robust infrastructure for startups in all the Tier 1,2,3 and 4 cities across India,” Sharma said. To enable more startups with mentoring and investment, Venture Catalysts had launched 9Unicorns Fund in August last year. The fund has a dedicated allocation of Rs 300 crore by Venture Catalysts out of which the accelerator venture fund 9Unicorns looks to invest in over 100 startups every year targeting a standard deal of Rs 60 lacs for 5 per cent equity along with further scope to invest Rs 3-5 crore more during subsequent funding rounds.

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