KOCHI: Though there are many successful Malayali-founded startups including the likes of Byjus, Fresh-to-Home and ID Fresh Food, there are hardly any startups that have attained that level of success from Kerala. Now, two Ivy League-graduated Dubai-based siblings with roots in Thalassery, are on a mission to identify and guide high-potential Kerala-based startups to navigate through regulatory blindspots, and handhold them from seed capital level to accessing the public markets through an IPO. The task at hand is to spot the Unicorns or billion-dollar valuation startups from Kerala.
Meet Azhan Musthafa Backer and his younger sibling Zahan Musthafa Backer, founders of Backer Ventures, a firm that not only helps founders access seed funding but also assists them to wade through the regulatory and legal maze so that the founders can stay focused on the core business. To begin with, Backer Ventures will start a liaison office in Kochi to assist the startups based out of Kerala.
“The entrepreneur eco-system here is ‘let’s startup here and scale-up somewhere else’. The good thing that Covid has brought about is, it allowed people to work, network and access funds over Zoom,” says Azhan, co-founder of Backer Ventures. The post-Covid changes that allowed people to work and access markets sitting anywhere in the world will help the Kerala startup ecosystem immensely, believes Azhan, who did his undergrad from Warwick University, UK and LLM from Cornell University, New York.
Zahan, the co-founder of Backer Ventures, who accompanied his elder brother Azhan on a four-day trip to Kerala, says they have met with some ‘interesting startups’ in Kerala in the fintech, healthcare and AI (artificial intelligence) space during the trip. While Azhan is CEO & Director (Projects & Deals) at Musthafa & Almana, a Dubai-headquartered international law firm, Zahan is director, technology and innovation at the law firm. The law firm is founded by Kerala couple Musthafa Zafeer OV and Almana Zafeeer.
Backer Ventures will help provide $150,000 to $300,000 to early-stage founders, who are going to be trailblazers in the emerging markets. “Operating at the intersection of law, tech and entrepreneurship, we are long-term allies that provide startups with the necessary tools to breakthrough in emerging venture markets,” explains Zahan, who also did his undergrad from Warwick University and LLM from Cornell University.
“Globally speaking, the money is easily available. Startups coming out with a half-decent idea and half-decent founders can easily attract funds now. Investors like us as competing. We are telling founders to allow us into your cap table, please allow us to invest in your company,” says Azhan.
Backer Ventures, he says, provide a "differentiated venture platform that demystifies a niche corner for founders that partner with us".
Will the young Turks succeed? "We are pretty confident. And hopefully, we will have some figures to back it in the next 12-18 months", says Azhan.