‘Geeks on a Plane’ get Moneyball approach to Indian tech start-ups


Based on a Michael Lewis book, the 2011 Brad Pitt-starrer Moneyball brought to screen the real-life story of a low-budget baseball club that used data analysis of players to assemble a successful team — rewriting in the bargain the big-spending economics for winning in American major league baseball.

First-generation Indian-American investor Paul Singh is now using the Moneyball theory to invest in technology start-ups across the world, particularly economies such as India and Brazil.

Among the US President's innovation fellows this year, Singh, 34, is an "entrepreneur in residence" at the White House, trying to streamline immigration processes for entrepreneurs.

It started in December 2011 as a technology-investment prospecting trip, with Singh and his partner, David Mclure, coming to India with their "Geeks on a Plane" programme. In the year since, their venture fund, 500 Start Ups, has set up a full-fledged office in Delhi and added 10 Indian firms to its 420-company portfolio — marking the advent of significant American money into early-stage funding of technology companies in India.

In February 2013, the "Geeks on a Plane" are set to return, including 40 to 50 Silicon Valley tech investors, founders and technologists, all of who who travel around the world prospecting the investment climate for tech start-ups.

Singh, whose origins lie in Ludhiana, actually travels to Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai or Bangalore every 45-60 days scouting for start-up diamonds in the rough. Recently too he was in Bangalore talking to start-up founders and giving tips on how to use data metrics to assess fortunes of their firms.

Singh confesses that the "burgeoning" scene in India took them by surprise. "Last December we got Geeks on a Plane here and, to be honest, I did not really know what we were looking at. But it was apparent very quickly that there was this burgeoning huge tech start-up scene here and that was where the interest really started to take off," he told The Indian Express.

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