Micro VC Pearl Agarwal is Bullish on Fintech, Gaming, Health-tech & Web 3

Micro VC Pearl Agarwal is Bullish on Fintech, Gaming, Health-tech & Web 3

By: WE Staff | Saturday, 23 July 2022

The corporate world can be an ageist space, especially for women. Younger professionals are often underestimated and not taken too seriously. Age is however just a number. It is one’s skill, knowledge and capability that ultimately matters. Ask Pearl Agarwal, the Founder and MD of micro VC fund, Eximius Capital and she will tell you her story, “in the initial days, often I would be mistaken for an analyst or associate on the team. Often people I met for the first time would ask me my actual role in the organization; some couldn’t fathom that I was in a decision-making role.”

Pearl’s professional journey is a testament to the adage, ‘never judge a book by its cover’. The seemingly young woman has built a company in 2021 with an objective to help entrepreneurs gain access to the funds they deserve and need. Eximius Capital  raised its maiden fund of $10 million in March 2021. The company has launched the Gaming Lounge, a platform that brings together founders & funders in the community and Student Venture Partner Program. Pearl’s initiative has helped her build a solid portfolio that includes companies from across fintech, health tech and gaming to name a few.

The Genesis & Underlying idea  

Pearl grew up in a Tier 4 town in Orissa and her inspiration to become a facilitator for entrepreneurs came from her early experiences. “Growing up in a Tier 4 town in Orissa, I had seen micro and solo entrepreneurs around me trying to make a life by setting up small businesses. Their zeal and passion had always inspired me to pursue entrepreneurship but at the same time, I knew that the opportunities available to them were not enough to make a dent in the ecosystem. I wanted to help these entrepreneurs with access to more opportunities to pursue their dreams.”

Pearl pursued higher education and eventually went on to work in established organziations such as Merrill Lynch. She gathered a decade long experience of investing across multi-billion companies in the US and UK. in February 2020, Pearl made her way back to India with the sole aim of making fundraising seamless for entrepreneurs in India. Shortly after Eximius came into being. 

Speaking about her firm’s fundamental values, Pearl says, “We go beyond being an investor. As a micro VC fund, we believe that relationships can be formed, not forged, and work on building a long-lasting relationship with our portfolio founders where we prioritize authentic conversations over formal business updates. In addition to that, we make decisions quickly, keep the process simple for founders, and also reserve capital for follow-on rounds.”

Eximius now aims to be the first institutional cheque in a company with equity cheques of up to $500,000 and invest in emerging trends within fintech, health tech, and gaming. 

Portfolio Companies & Key Sector Areas of Investment 

The Indian startup ecosystem has matured immensely and so have the entrepreneurs. Unlike a decade ago when entrepreneurship was more about an interesting idea, the whole game has evolved and intensified today. Entrepreneurs of this generation have the maturity and depth that they bring to the table which has come as a positive surprise for Pearl. “Most entrepreneurs of this generation have built companies before or scaled companies as a part of founding teams of high-growth start-ups, and understand what it takes to succeed in this space. For us, the biggest learning has been being able to identify these resilient entrepreneurs, who are willing to stick around and build despite the market challenges,” explains Pearl.

When asked about picking a few telling examples from Eximius’ portfolio companies, Pearl doesn't shy away from answering. “If I had to pick a few, I would talk about Eka Care (Healthcare), Stan (gaming)  and Jar (fintech),” she says. 

Boom in Gaming Sector & The Gaming Lounge 

One of Eximius’ sectors of interest is gaming. Speaking about the industry’s growth potential, Pearl explains, “Gaming has a huge potential in India over the next 5-10 years. There are over 400 million gamers and 50 million paying gamers in India. Over time these gamers are becoming more sophisticated and looking for games with deeper storylines, advanced game mechanics, and local content. In addition to it, we have also seen the popularity of genres such as Esports increase massively in the last 2 years, especially among the younger generations.” 

Pearl also observes that there isn't enough supply of local games currently to satisfy the needs of an average Indian gamer. “In the next few years, we will see innovation across gaming genres (casual, mid-core, AAA games) and the emergence of new gaming studios, publishers, and infrastructure companies to promote the development of games out of India.”

Eximius’ gaming syndicate, The Gaming Lounge has also shaped up to be a key player in the gaming industry. Pearl started the platform to further promote the gaming community in India. “The Gaming Lounge brings together founders and funders in the community to interact with each other through events, and content and facilitate capital to promising start-ups,” explains Pearl. Through the Gaming Lounge syndicate, Eximius has made an investment in Esports XO, an online esports tournament management and discovery platform.

Going forward the firm aims to continue making 3-4 investments from the Syndicate each year as well as organize events to boost participation in the ecosystem. “We have a couple of events that we’re planning for the global gaming ecosystem in September and December, respectively.” adds Pearl. 

Fund 1 Success 

Other than the success of The Gaming Lounge, Eximius’ Fund 1 has also seen a promising journey so far. “We raised our maiden fund of $10 million in March 2021. We aim to deploy this across 25-30 companies in fintech, health tech, and gaming,” says Pearl. 

So far Eximius has made a total of 16 investments from the fund. “Out of these, in 10 cases capital has been deployed and 6 where we have provided commitments. Out of these, 8 investments are in Fintech, 1 in Healthtech, and 7 across Media, Content & Gaming (including 2 across web 3),” informs Pearl.

Some of Eximius’ notable portfolio companies include Jar (raised from Tiger Global at a valuation of $200 million after our investment), Eka Care (raised Series A from Hummingbird Ventures and Mirae Asset after our investment), Zorro (raised from 16 other unicorn founders), etc.

In order to catch talent young and early, Eximius has launched its Student Venture Partner program. It aims to facilitate entrepreneurship on college campuses. “We launched an initiative through college representatives to invest up to $500,000 in student entrepreneurs building ambitious businesses,” says Pearl. 

In addition to the above initiatives, Eximius has also led multiple community events, participated in industry forums related to Fintech, gaming, and web 3, and is constantly looking for ways to encourage more entrepreneurs to come forward.

Web 3’s Impending Growth

Pearl is also bullish on the growth of Web3 in India going forward. She further explains, “Though in the initial stages of development and user adoption, web 3 as a technology is here to stay.” 

“It essentially allows users to retain control over the data that they generate and utilize it as they deem fit. Over the last few years, we have seen several companies emerge to solve the basic engineering problems within web 3 such as the facilitation of transactions and play-to-earn games. However, there are still a host of problem statements that remain unsolved, which will make user adoption and interaction a lot more seamless. We are looking forward to the next generation of builders solving these, and India continues to remain at the forefront of these innovations,” Pearl adds. 

Investment Focus for 2022

“At Eximius we are quite excited about the next year,” exclaims Pearl. She further explains that it will be time for real builders to come to the market and build for the long run. “Some of the most promising companies in the past have come out of troubled times. Efficiency and lean building can often position a company for success in the long run. We will continue to invest in fintech, gaming, and health tech along with web 3. In addition to these segments, we have also started to look into climate tech, especially climate + fintech opportunities. We aim to make about 8-10 investments,” Pearl concludes.