Indian entrepreneur Rajat Khare recently took a stake in Astrocast and SwissDrones operating via his company Boundary Holding, as he moved to Geneva in July 2020.
BY SERGE GUERTCHAKOFF
Spending one third of his time in Europe since 2017, RajatKhare finally chose Geneva in 2019, where he visited no fewer than 80 properties. This former student of the Indian Institute of Technology in Delhi notably made his fortune in 2013 when he sold his shares in Approaching Infinity. This educational structure, which he created with friends at the age of 21 (he is now 37), offers certain subjects (robotics, cybersecurity, etc.) to students who were unable to study them in other Indian universities. Nearly 130,000 people have been able to take courses in 120 centers across India. What started as a hobby has become a large group. For the record, RajatKhare told us that he approached the Vaud-based startup Astrocast (which develops a network of nanosatellites) after his friend BalvinderPurewal discovered it by reading an article in Bilan.
How did you manage to make a fortune so young, at the age of 37?
RAJAT KHARE: Through the income from my various businesses: be it education, algorithmic trading and the data analysis business, through dividends and stake sales.
It seems that you are also active in hedge funds?
From my family office Boundary Holding, we have invested in blue chip hedge funds such as Millennium, D.E. Shaw, Palomino, Point72, among others. We have also invested in private equity funds such as Five Arrows and West Street Capital Partners.
How much have you invested in startups to date?
Almost $15 million in 15 companies, mostly in Europe.
It doesn’t seem that you are represented on the boards of the startups in question, right?
I am an active member of the board of directors of most of the companies in which Boundary Holding has a board position. Some examples: XRVision, Cerbair, Internest, RanMarine, etc. In any case, I am on WhatsApp with every single founder and meet them regularly, helping them enter the Asian market, find appropriate partners and investors and technology collaborations. If the technology innovators get the right business partners, European startups have the potential to become truly global companies. I try to bridge that gap with the founders by ensuring their business development. I prefer to side with the founders than the investors, they are the ones creating the business, not the financiers. It’s the millennials who will change, invent, recreate the products. If they are well surrounded, they will be able to change this world to make it a better place.
You always take minority shares, right?
We generally invest half a million to one million per startup with a valuation of between 3 and 100 million. Hence, our percentages vary from 1 to 20%. In only one case have we have crossed to over 40%: in the Austrian health startup 24sens. Our vision is to eventually be diluted to a level similar to other companies we have invested in, and we feel very comfortable to be a significant minority.
Why did you move to Geneva?
Geneva was at the core of my algorithmic trading business created in 2008 and called Prophecis Technologies (a company operating between India and Switzerland, with 30 people in India including students and professors from its university. One of its clients was Thierry Roussel in Nyon, the former husband of Christina Onassis and heir to the Roussel pharmaceutical laboratories). This choice can be explained by four main aspects. Firstly, being close to nature is important to me as I come from Delhi, a concrete jungle. I have also been active in Singapore, Dubai, Paris and London. In Geneva, nature helps me in my meditation and yoga practice and keeps me creative, which allows me to drive the 4th industrial revolution by supporting startups. Secondly, Geneva is in the center of Europe, which is ideal for travelling and meeting the entrepreneurs we have invested in or plan to invest in. Thirdly, it is a perfect place to manage family office investments thanks to the efficient professionals there and the Swiss companies. Finally, it is the ideal place to raise a family.
When you take a stake, what is your vision?
Our intention is to make the company successful. As long as the founder is the head of the company, we support him. I hope that some of these startups will become market leaders and that we will stay and earn dividends. Helping to build great companies is far more exciting than getting a quick return on investment. We have sometimes rejected an offer to sell our stake in companies at three or five times the value of our stake within a year following our investment.
Boundary Holding believes more in long-term investment, and it seems that you prefer to invest in spin-offs from EPFL and ETH. Why?
We have already invested in startups throughout Europe, in Israel, India and Singapore. We have found that the incubators from top universities are an important source of good startups. During my visits to these two Swiss universities and by meeting extraordinary personalities such as Patrick Aebischer and Jordi Montserrat (respectively former president of EPFL and director of the startup support platform Venturelab), I realized that these wonderful people, with the support of the government, have built Europe’s Silicon Valley and a veritable breeding ground for startups in Switzerland, with very active spin-offs in fields such as robotics, aerospace, automation, artificial intelligence, satellites, etc. This is phenomenal!
How many Swiss/foreign startups would you like to invest in?
Our goal is to invest in 50 to 60 more startups over the next three years and located in the US, UK, Europe, Israel, India…
Read More on the interview of Rajat Khare by Bilan