Elevate Innovation Partners Announces First Close of $15 Million for its Global Venture Capital Fund

Total Commitments of $25 Million Expected by Year's End


NEW YORK, NY -- (Marketwired - Aug 2, 2017) - Elevate Innovation Partners (EIP), a New York City-based early to mid-stage venture capital fund, today announced the first close of its Venture Capital fund. Consistent with EIP's focus, the fund will seek to capitalize fintech, enterprise software, marketing analytics and new media platform startups that have validated business models and are generating revenue. The geographic focus is on the U.S. East Coast with selective investments in India, Germany and Netherlands -- all regions where the fund has local partners.

The general partners and board of EIP possess significant investment experience. Chairman and founding member of EIP's board, Sridhar Chityala, has held executive management roles at JP Morgan, Citi and Wachovia. EIP's leadership team includes:

  • Shreyas Slater Chityala, a venture capital and investment banking professional who is co-founder and managing partner with experience in financial services and energy across the U.S. and Asia
  • Thomas Rudy, co-founder, is a specialist in investment banking, venture capital, hedge funds and private equity, specifically in the sports, fintech and entertainment sectors across the U.S. and Europe
  • Chief Financial Officer Greg Brown has more than 20 years of venture capital and startup industry expertise with a focus on portfolio management and valuation

Existing fund investors include Mohandas Pai, previously CFO of Infosys; Jerry Rao, venture advisor to NEA and founder of Mphasis; and other fund managers from major private equity and hedge funds.

Sridhar Chityala commented, "EIP has already completed 21 investments and our portfolio companies are run by executives from the leading tech firms in the world including Netflix, Facebook, Google and Infosys. Up nearly 40 percent since inception, we've had two successful exits to date and expect more within the next 14 months. EIP is investing alongside leading VCs; for example, deals where we've invested as Seed/Series A are now seeing follow-on investment from funds such as Sequoia, Matrix, Softbank and RRE."

He concluded, "The combination of global investments, realized returns and exits and access to deals where the leading investors participate, distinguishes EIP among VC investment opportunities."

Shreyas Chityala said, "We are excited to be working with entrepreneurs focused on New York and the East Coast. New York is the fastest growing region for venture capital globally; this is the center of finance, fashion, media and marketing. Technology underpins innovation and evolution of business models within all these industries. With our international team and network, we help bring a global perspective to the companies we work with. Our team comes from diverse backgrounds and being a startup-VC ourselves, we appreciate the challenges of building a business that all startups face!"

Thomas Rudy described the value EIP brings, "Few other venture capital funds have such an entrepreneurial mindset as we approach deals from different angles, applying a unique skillset that is best-in-class. We can add significant value to the companies we invest in, helping accelerate exits and drive value. While many claim to have a large network, ours is truly global and relevant to the industries we focus on. Since 2015, we have generated a considerable return and continue to build on our vision: to help the most talented entrepreneurs succeed with their great companies."

Joe Rubin is one of the veterans of the New York and East Coast startup community as a Founder of FundingPost and co-founder of ARC Angel Fund -- the first Angel Fund in New York City. He is also an advisor to EIP and a co-founder of one EIP's portfolio companies, Crowded. "Working with EIP has been a fantastic experience. They have provided us with much more than capital. They have become a sounding board for management ideas and direction, an introductory resource with an extensive 'Rolodex' of potential customers, and evangelists keeping us in their conversations with potential partners and other investors. Their straight-forward approach and continued support and advice have been tremendous assets to our company," said Rubin.

The initial close of the Venture Capital fund was at $15 million. A final close of $25 million is anticipated by Q4.

More About Elevate Innovation Partners (EIP)
Based in New York City, EIP's global investments include MoviePass, Crowded, Cuebiq, Planted, GVNG, Avlino, Radius8, Ocrolus, Score Data, Aggrigator, Square Foot, Pathgather, LiftMetrix, SwitchMe, Tone Tag and YouPlus. EIP has also invested in Kabbage, Coupa, Banjo, Freedompay and Radius. Additional information is available at www.eipfund.com.


Money 20/20

The EIP team is here in Las Vegas for the largest fintech conference in the world, Money 20/20. There are over 10,000 people gathered at the Venetian this week! The following are some of the key thoughts/comments/observations that have come from the first day.

Financial Inclusion

  • 45% of global SMEs without access to credit
  • $2.38 tr estimated credit gap globally for SMEs
  • Emerging markets – lack of funding is 2nd biggest business obstacle after electricity
  • Need to get regulators, banks and mobile operators to work together to make it work instead of each defending their own piece of the pie
  • India has 900m biometric IDS Connection at the switch. Easier for KYC
    • Universal ID with biometrics is huge, plus Smartphone with biometrics, regulation moving in the right direction
  • Today there are 2 billion people that have no access to financial services
    • They use cash every day for their financial needs
    • It is “expensive to be poor: and to deal with cash
  • Gates Foundation – one of 5 big bets, increasing financial inclusion as a way of reducing poverty
  • Every country/community has its own competitive advantage. Mpesa has done great innovation, but that was appropriate for Kenya it cannot be utilized in the same manner in Bangladesh (where bCash has been successful for example)

Vinod Khosla Keynote

  • What Khosla is most excited about
    • Nexus that has enabled innovation
    • Analytics, sophisticated machine learning – makes traditional credit risk scoring ancient (like FICO and BOA)
    • Blockchain – changing transaction cost of services
  • Regulation as a barrier
    • In this case, regulation generally favors the startup, its meant to increase innovation
    • Traditional banks/institutions are smart/astute but are trying to protect their large profits. Though they are testing and trying
  • What’s the Value that Khosla Ventures provides to portfolio companies
    • When dealing with innovation, an investor can help since they can run numbers
    • For most innovative early stage startups, there are no numbers to run. When investors try to do that, it leads to sub optimal outcomes
    • Startups need advice and help more than money
      • Who to recruit?
      • Strategic pathways?
      • Network to build partnership?
      • Credibility?
    • Most investors due to proclivity of investing, tend to hurt companies.
    • Board members should only be there if they have been entrepreneurs themselves. They need to have earned the right to be there
  • Lessons
    • Build great teams. There are never too many great people
    • Smart entrepreneurs have passion for a vision and obstinate about vision, but are flexible about their tactics
      • Smart entrepreneurs innovate on their strategies and tactics, they iterate on their tactics
      • Be obstinate about vision, flexible about tactics, keep iterating
    • Establish base camp. Find a place, build with a smaller vision, and then they expand it
  • EMV
    • EMV is a bastardization. When many large banks get together and agree on something, its usually a compromise
    • EMV experience for consumer is not a great one
    • Believes NFC will takeover within 5 years and make EMV irrelevant. Does the same thing and its better for merchants

The World of Payments, Powered by BLE

By Shreyas Chityala and Sridhar Chityala
(Originally written for PaymentWeek)

The words Payments, Disruption, and Interest seem synonymous.
Very few business domains have attracted as much interest as the world of payments.
Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook and even Starbucks to some extent have all entered the payments game and yet their core business is anything but payments.
What is spurring this momentum?
The prolific growth in mobile payments is a clear driver in conjunction with the broad reach of smart phones and message capable conventional mobile phones. The mobile payments market is expected to grow from about $14 billion in 2013 to $280 billion by 2018.
Also look at the announcements of PayPal, Starbucks, Amazon and Square on volumes of mobile payments processed by them in 2013 and the first quarter of 2014 and the numbers are very compelling. The dollar value of payments processed is in the billions.
Transaction volume is driven by a number of technologies that are at play here.
These include mobile apps, card readers in mobile devices called dongles that can process card based payments (Square, Amazon etc), mobile wallets with the much touted NFC capability, mobile wallets with HCE (Host Card Emulation) capability (being pushed by Google), and the emerging Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).
Apple (iBeacon) and PayPal (Beacon) are behind the BLE push and they’re rapidly gaining interest in the marketplace. There are over 300 million iPhones that can connect to Apple’s iBeacon platform excluding millions of Android phones.
What is BLE technology and how does it drive a payments transaction?
Bluetooth Low Energy is a communication frequency that runs on a smartphone and has a range of 40 to 50 meters (as compared to a NFC phones which are narrow band). The BLE enabled phones are immediately recognizable when a customer walks into a store or venue that has an antenna or antennas installed there.
As an example I walk into Wal-Mart or a CVS Pharmacy that is BLE equipped and at both these venues, Apple’s Passbook app or PayPal Mobile app is able to immediately recognize the signal of the iBeacons or Beacon.
This capability opens a new vista into the world of payments.
Think of the Apple’s App store on your mobile device. You buy a book, software or subscribe to a sports channel or buy a ticket.
At checkout, you enter your credentials and your payment is initiated and processed. You get an email confirmation of the purchase. There is no physical interaction, and the payment between the merchant and Apple happens in the back end.
Extend this into the world of retail.
Imagine Wal-Mart and Apple or PayPal and Wal-Mart have a partnership to accept payments through BLE.
When a customer walks up to checkout for goods and says that he wants to pay with his iTunes account or PayPal account, all he does is enter his details on the mobile app and the confirmation of the payment goes to the merchant register. A receipt is sent to the customer and the customer collects the receipt for his goods at the store and walks away.
There are no scanners, no physical usage of the payment card, no swiping, no transport of data between the POS device to the processor, etc.
The technology sounds very intriguing and given that between Apple, PayPal and Amazon, there are hundreds of millions of customers registered with a payment method combined with the enormous trust that has been built with these brands makes this model extremely attractive.
The data that is collected can now be mined and in partnership with the participating stores, a range of marketing and loyalty offers can be presented to the client. Payments, marketing offers, discount coupons, special promotions, and location based services – we are probably at the precipice of a new ecosystem.
Let’s also examine the economics and operational aspects of this model.
From a customer vantage point – there’s no extra cost. Smartphones are equipped with BLE technology, they’re already a registered PayPal or iTunes account holder and they have the mobile app.
From a merchant vantage point he has to install the BLE antennas and they are very modestly priced. They fully integrate with Apple, or PayPal or Amazon, and these companies are testing this platform today.
For illustrative purposes I have used Apple and PayPal but there is nothing limiting financial institutions and tech companies who desire to play in this new BLE beacon ecosystem.
The technology offers great potential and is one that may find resonance with all players in the ecosystem – merchants, customers, service providers, processors, issuers and even networks.
Payment networks may look at this with some skepticism, namely whether this could open up a new world with a different payment scheme that bypasses their model – this remains to be seen.
The operational model of accepting and supporting payments from many players including Apple, PayPal, Amazon, Facebook or any other provider is perhaps being addressed.
The adoption models for any new payment scheme is driven by simplicity, convenience, ubiquity, trust, security, reliability and the experience reflecting an integral part of their daily lives.
Finally the cost to the customer and merchant to deploy the model seems low enough to be very promising.
Both Apple and PayPal enjoy a loyal customer base that supports this model. They have the intrinsic ability to market and execute. The next wave of retail revolution and payment enablement may begin with BLE.