New Sequoia accelerator to give startups US$1.5 m right out of the gate

SEQUOIA India, a branch of the technology-focused American venture capital (VC) firm, has launched a new accelerator for early-stage, pre-series A startups in India and South-east Asia.

The scheme, dubbed Surge, will invest US$1.5 million in each participant, according to plans unveiled on Thursday. Sequoia is gunning to hothouse two cohorts of between 10 and 20 companies a year.

The initial investment "provides them runway, in most cases, to last well beyond two Surge cohorts", said Shailendra Singh, managing director for Sequoia Capital (India) Singapore, in a statement.

The four-month programme will invest in the startups either in equity or convertible notes, and will eventually charge a percentage of equity as a participation fee. Participants can also make a case for more capital before curated investors, in mixers and one-on-one meetings, at the end of the scheme.

Surge will take participants to China, India, Silicon Valley and Singapore for immersion and workshops with mentors and professional services experts. Mentors who have signed on so far include Go-Jek chief executive Nadiem Makarim, Carousell chief executive Quek Siu Rui and former WhatsApp veteran Neeraj Arora, with "dozens of mentors in the pipeline that we will announce soon".

According to Sequoia, the programme is "open-architecture", with seed funds, angels investors and VC firms welcome to take part in funding rounds.

Mr Singh presented Surge as a response to regional startup founders' feedback that they are spending large swathes of time carrying out fund-raising, with their stakes heavily diluted early in the process.

He added that Surge - which is slated to launch its first cohort in March 2019 - is aimed at startups that are either based in or targeting Indian and South-east Asian markets, in sectors such as media, enterprise software, healthcare and financial services.

While it is a Sequoia initiative, Surge will have its own investment advisory committee overseeing applicant selection, programme management and operations, the firm said.

Surge participants are not guaranteed follow-on funding from Sequoia, which will still make its own direct early-stage investments in the region.