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Doon School alum Umang Dua’s start-up secures USD 18 million in seed funding

An environment where raising funds by start-ups in the US is considerably tough has not been a deterrent for Indian American entrepreneur Umang Dua. The Doon School alumnus recently co-founded Keychain, the world’s first comprehensive marketplace for the consumer packaged goods sector, with the company announcing USD 18 million in seed fundingfrom Lightspeed Venture Partners, Box Group, Afore Capital, Ron Conway, and others, last month.Co-founder of the company Oisin Hanrahan, along with Dua, had guided their previous startup Handy to a nine-figure exit to Angi Homeservices. The first business plan of the duo, around home services, started way back in 2012 as students at Harvard Business School. Handy went on to become the largest on-demand home services brand in the world raising over USD 110 million from top global investors, before being sold to ANGI in 2018.
Now the unique business plan for Keychain is building a marketplace for the CPG sector, so that retailers can identify the right production and packaging partners within minutes without depending on brokers or manual, time-intensive vetting. “Retailers and brands are putting products made by other on the shelves. The process involves spending a lot of time and money going to trade shows or brokers. Keychain’s proprietary database will be the easiest and seamless way to match the best manufacturer of the products to the people creating the brands and putting them on the shelves,” Dua told the Times of India in an exclusive interview from New York. To start with, the focus is on the food, beverages and the cosmetics sectors for brands and retailers in the US, he added.
“The velocity of new products being launched is very high in these sectors and the manufacturing need for unique products is growing,” Dua said. And while this venture is very different from his first start-up Handy; he feels that the dynamics and business models are similar with asymmetric information and finding ways to make the processes seamless. “This venture is not about technology for the sake of technology. We are looking at adding more value and reducing time in the manufacturing industry by getting brands to the manufacturers with AI-powered technology,” Dua said. He added that having spent a decade building and running a platform for home services, and as chief revenue officer of ANGI Homeservices, he had seen how powerful those platforms can be for fragmented industries. Dua feels he is lucky that besides many top technology companies in the US; the venture capital sector too has several Indian Americans in leadership roles. “In the VC sector there are many Indian Americans who were born in India and studied and grew up there. The Indian background can help start-ups because Indian origin investors will often find people like themselves and fund their ventures,” Dua said.
Even though it’s tougher to raise funds and start something new in the US now; Dua feels that the co-founders of Keychain have been lucky that their idea resonated with some of the investors who have known them over the past 10 years and seen the business that they built. He firmly believes that entrepreneurs of Indian origin are there to stay and not going away anywhere. “I am born and brought up in India and my entrepreneurial journey in America started as a student. I went to a boarding school [The Doon School] and that made me very independent early and shaped my work ethic. It helped me take the decision to start a business in America,” he said. Dua feels that it is unfortunate that the journey of many Indian professionals in the US is rough with uncertainty over work permits and green cards. “However, many more opportunities in India now in technology is the silver lining and many Indians are moving back from America to start ventures in India,” he said.

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