Google’s Sunil Rao joins venture capital firm Light speed
Sunil Rao has quit Google to join early-stage venture capital firm Light speed Venture Partners as partner. Rao was the head of strategic partner development, VCs & startups, in Google India. Light speed’s appointment of Rao coincides with the launch of its Bengaluru office. The venture firm, which counts Oyo and Fresh menu among its portfolio companies, already has offices in Delhi. Rao will be partner of business services and community, responsible for proactively supporting Light speed’s portfolio companies and engaging with the startup community, including accelerating technical recruiting by running hackathons for them. “I had always been keen to join a global fund. I will be tapping into my network to help the founders (of portfolio companies) dive deep into technology, UI and UX and look at new geographies to expand to. Our plan is to expose these portfolio companies to the global best practices and new technologies at a very early stage, but we will always leave the decision of what to implement to the founders. We want to position ourselves as a founder friendly company where we will be able to value add across the entire value chain and help startups grow and scale faster,” said Rao. Rao spent five years in Google, where he was instrumental in driving its mentoring programme – Google Launchpad – focused on areas like product strategy, user experience (UX) and user interface (UI), technology, marketing, business development and presentation skills. He played a key role in its accelerator and the more recent Sandhill programs at Google for later stage startups. Lightspeed’s Bengaluru office also has Akshay Bhushan, VP, and Harsha Kumar, principal. “Sunil will leverage his experience along with Lightspeed’s global knowledge base and network of relationships to proactively support Lightspeed portfolio companies and help develop the Indian startup ecosystem,” said Bejul Somaia, MD at Lightspeed India Partners Advisors. Last year, Light speed raised a $135 million India-focused fund. The firm has invested in Indian companies since 2004. It invests between $1 million and $25 million into a startup. The firm manages over $4 billion of committed capital and is currently investing out of Light speed X, a $635 million fund, and Light speed Select, a $430 million fund. One of Light speed’s successful exits was from online education venture Tutor Vista, which was acquired by UK’s Pearson.