Huddle is a Gurugram-based accelerator that invests in pre-seed to pre-Series A startups across sectors like mobility, food, consumer goods, creator economy, healthcare, and climate tech. In the four years since it was established, Huddle has made 52 investments, 18 of which were closed in 2021. And, last October, Huddle established a USD 6.7 million accelerator fund to back startups in 2022.
In an interview with KrASIA, Sanil Sachar, founding partner at Huddle, discussed how he catches consumer trends early on and backs founders who are building solutions for the consumers of 2025.
The following interview has been edited and consolidated for brevity and clarity.
KrASIA (Kr): What kind of early-stage companies do you back?
Sanil Sachar (SS): We back companies that are disrupting or aiding traditional sectors. We believe themes like the circular economy, climate tech, D2C enablers, work from home, alternative nutrition, and the metaverse will become mainstream between 2025 and 2030. Therefore, we are working with startups that facilitate the journey of consumers who will have stronger purchasing power by 2025.
For instance, in mobility, we look at electric vehicles and drone tech ventures. In food, we look at brands that are healthier for consumers. India is one of the most diabetic countries in the world. In 2018, we began catering to diabetic consumers with a keto diet through a company called Ketofy. We then realized that the same audience has chronic ailments such as sexual wellness problems. Hence we are backing men’s health platform Bold Care.
We start tracking solutions across industries very early. Even before we identify founders, we have the infrastructure ready for solutions of the future. We create contextual operational support for our ventures to help them with product development, distribution, and branding. The capital that we co-invest is a top-up to everything.
Kr: How has the early-stage startup ecosystem evolved since the beginning of the pandemic?
SS: The pedigree of founders who are starting to emerge has massively improved. Many early team members in successful startups learn, evolve, and gain an appetite for risk. Then they start their own ventures. They know where the problem is, and when to start working on the problem. So there are founders thinking about problems before they become a need.
Founders who have survived the pandemic have realized the value of being agile and having multiple revenue channels. They have become good mentors. We are going to see more second-time founders coming in and partnering with first-time founders in 2022.
Many great founders are also investing in companies, which means there is a lot of mentoring happening.
Kr: Are there any interesting trends in the early-stage startup ecosystem that stand out?
SS: We have started seeing micro solutions. For instance, in the EV sector, battery management software solutions are emerging because the number of battery swap stations in the country is increasing. There are also companies that are creating electrification kits for vehicles.
Similarly, in e-commerce, our portfolio company NeuroPixel is using an AI-based solution to tackle the cataloging problem for online fashion retailers, cutting down the time it takes to list apparel online. Instead of 30 to 45 days, it takes only two to three days. Product trial platform Smytten offers product samples to consumers for free to enable sales.
There will be more and more solutions like these, which target specific and niche problems, but their market size is big. D2C is going to be a major theme for micro solutions.
Kr: What are the areas that you are excited about in 2022?
SS: We are looking at the enablement of D2C brands and the creator economy. We also want to create solutions in the consumer sector using drone technology.
Climate tech is another important area. Aside from EVs and agritech ventures, we want to support solutions that cater toward air and water management. Huddle will partner with other VCs and corporations to start an accelerator program specifically for climate tech startups. We have done that for EVs and D2C brands.
Moreover, being an investor in gaming, we’ve been tracking the metaverse. There will be more companies building virtual worlds and the assets that fit in them.