Q: How was Unitus Ventures established?
A: The three co-founders are Dave Richards, Will Poole, and Srikrishna Ramamoorthy. Dave and I go back more than two decades; he and I were colleagues at RealNetworks in Seattle. Will was a senior executive at Microsoft where he led the Windows business globally.
Srikrishna was on the investment team at the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation and also on the founding team of Ujjivan, a microfinance pioneer. In the early 2000s, Dave joined Unitus Group and helped pioneer microfinance in India. I moved back to India in 2005 and had a similar impact journey on the founding team of Omidyar Network India. I came on board Unitus Ventures in 2019.
Unitus was the first firm to raise domestic venture capital targeted at innovation for the masses.
Q: What was the plan?
A: The thesis was that microfinance that was already happening would be replicated in other products and services for the masses. This would be driven by entrepreneurship and risk capital and enabled by technology. Unitus has seen microfinance start with non-profit grant capital, then move to early-stage venture, then impact capital, then growth-stage and hedge funds, and finally quite a few companies have gone public. Unitus was among the first to recognise this innovation template would be replicated more broadly for a whole range of essential products and services targeted at the next half billion. Most of the money at the time was going to the top of the pyramid.